France: Citizens want ‘more sovereignty’ according to expert
The survey, commissioned by the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank through Alpha, AnalitiQs, Dynata, YouGov and Datapraxis in 12 EU countries, found that the majority of EU citizens in at least six countries have lost confidence in the EU. The bloc’s sluggish vaccine rollout and the inability of EU leaders to come to a unified internal border policy during the pandemic were at the heart of the criticism expressed by those surveyed.
Majorities in France (62 percent), Germany (55), Italy (57), Spain (52), and Austria (51) now hold the view that not only was the pandemic handled badly, but the “European project” as such is “broken”.
The report reads: “The fact that two of the EU’s largest and most influential states – France and Germany – are the least convinced about the need for European cooperation underlines the urgency with which the EU needs to up its game.
“Both countries have important national elections coming up in the next year, which may present a challenge for the EU’s leaders – with Euroscepticism having increased due to EU institutions’ poor handling of the vaccine roll-out.
“Our polling data indicates that the EU has used up its second chances now that trust in EU institutions has weakened.
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“Though there is greater disappointment with the political system than when we surveyed EU citizens last year, Europe’s political leaders need to be clear-eyed about the choice in front of them regarding the European project.
“The embattled belief in the need for European cooperation will not hold through further failure. At this critical moment in time, Europe’s leaders need to ensure that EU institutions do not overreach or over-promise.
“They should focus on playing a role where they can genuinely enhance national governments’ efforts, and in which the European public want to see them engaged.”
The survey was conducted in April, 2021, with an overall sample of 17,231 respondents.
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It comes just a few days after the latest Eurobarometer showed that only 15 percent of French people now support the EU as it is.
France, which is historically one of the most eurosceptic countries in the bloc according to past polls run by the bloc, has once again topped the list of the most dissatisfied.
France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune claimed the figures show “there has been a long-standing French disappointment with Europe, but this can change because in practice Europe is becoming more French in its concerns and actions.
“It is up to us to show it.”
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He also told Politico’s Playbook that in France “indeed there is an expectation of reform more than elsewhere in Europe”.
Almost 27,000 people across the EU were surveyed between March and April for the poll.
The result is particularly worrying for the EU as French people prepare to go to the polls next year.
A poll last month saw 25 to 34-year-olds lean heavily towards National Rally leader Marine Le Pen in next year’s presidential election.
The leader of the far-right party is set to win the first round of voting when France heads to the polls next year, according to a survey by French Institute of Public Opinion for Le Figaro.
Support for Ms Le Pen increased by three points in the last month and the poll suggests she would win up to 30 percent of the first vote.
The survey suggests, in the second round run-off vote, French President Emmanuel Macron would go on to win a second term in office with 54 percent support to Ms Le Pen’s 46 percent.
Mr Macron has divided opinion in recent months, attracting criticism for his handling of the pandemic and his security bill proposals.
Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, said France will use its EU presidency in the first half of next year ahead of the French presidential elections to “promote its ideas of Europe”.
But, Mr Grant warned officials will need to produce “concrete deliverables” to help Mr Macron win.
Mr Grant wrote: “France will use its EU presidency in the first half of 2022 to promote its ideas on Europe.
“Fortunately for Macron, many of the key people in Brussels are sympathetic to France.
“Ursula von der Leyen, the Commission President, Charles Michel, the European Council President, and Josep Borrell, the High Representative for Foreign Policy, owe their jobs to Macron’s support.”