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Europe — 92% of Europeans believe that labour markets need to be modernised

27 August 2010

75% of Europeans think that stronger coordination of economic and financial policies among EU Member States would be effective in fighting the economic crisis, according to the Spring 2010 Eurobarometer, the bi-annual opinion poll organised by the European Union (EU). The survey was conducted in May at the height of the European debt crisis and published yesterday.

72% of Europeans support a stronger supervision by the EU of the activities of the most important international financial groups, an increase of four percentage points from the last Eurobarometer in autumn 2009. Europeans' main areas of concern in the crisis were the current economic situation (40%, unchanged compared to autumn 2009), unemployment (48%, -3 percentage points) and rising prices (20%, +1percentage points). The crisis also had an influence on citizens' perception of the EU: 40% of Europeans associate the EU with the Euro (+3), 45% with the freedom to travel, study and work anywhere in the EU (-1), and 24% with peace (-4).

Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, who is also in charge of Communication, said "the clear majority for enhanced European economic governance shows that people see the EU as a decisive part of the solution to the crisis. Our spring survey, conducted at the height of the crisis, reflects the difficult times and challenges that Europeans faced during the past months. Since then, the EU has taken important and bold steps to restore confidence. As a result, the euro has rebounded and we are now seeing the start of growth in Europe's major economies. It is certainly too early to declare victory. However, we now have a chance to shape European economic governance, as favoured by EU citizens, so that Europe can help address their concerns."

Most Europeans are aware of the important challenges all EU countries are facing at the moment: 74% agree that their country needs reforms to face the future (+1 compared to autumn 2009), and 71% are ready to face reforms for the benefit of future generations (unchanged). Europeans are unsure about how to best stimulate economic recovery: 74% believe that measures to reduce national public deficits and debt cannot wait (85% in Sweden, 84% in Hungary, 83% in Germany, 82% in Belgium and Cyprus, and 80% in the Czech Republic, Greece and Slovenia). Meanwhile, in the EU-27, 46% also support the use of public deficits to stimulate economic activity (compared to 36% who are against and 18% who do not know). In the 16 countries of the Euro area, the result is different: 42% are against the use of public deficits, whilst 41% support it.

A majority of Europeans confirm that the EU has set the right priorities in its economic recovery strategy "Europe 2020". 92% share the view that labour markets need to be modernised with a view to raising employment levels and that help for the poor and socially excluded should be a priority. 90% support an economy that uses less natural resources and emits less greenhouse gases.

When asked about the benefits of EU membership, 49% of Europeans said in May that EU membership of their country was a 'good thing' (-4 compared to autumn 2009). Public support for EU membership was still higher than in 2001, when following the downturn after the burst of the 'Internet bubble', public support for EU membership stood at 48%.

The survey also found that in May 2010 trust in the EU institutions remained higher compared to national governments or national parliaments (42% vs. 29% and 31%, respectively), even though confidence in the EU fell at the height of the crisis (to 42% from 48% in autumn 2009). Trust was most pronounced in Estonia (68%), Slovakia (65%), Bulgaria and Denmark (61%), whilst it was lowest in the United Kingdom (20%).

In view of the accession talks that the European Council started with Iceland on 27 July 2010, the Spring Eurobarometer also included face-to-face interviews with 526 Icelanders for the first time. The people of Iceland were asked about their general attitudes towards the EU. In May, 35% trusted the EU and 29% thought that Iceland would benefit from being a member of the EU.

To read the full survey please click here



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