Citizen support for the European Union and the European Parliament in particular increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey released on Tuesday. One third of EU citizens also want the European legislature to defend democracy. At the same time, freedom of expression and thought, the protection of human rights, public health, poverty and social exclusion, as well as climate change are among the political priorities that Europeans consider important and defensible.
A near third of respondents (32%) chose democracy as top European value to defend, followed by freedom of speech and thought (27%) and the protection of human rights in the EU and worldwide (25%), according to the new Eurobarometer survey commissioned by the European Parliament.
Rising extremism, spread of disinformation, and weakening of the rule of law cause concern for the European citizens.
This mirrors results from the latest Future of Europe survey, published by the European Parliament and Commission in mid January 2022, where nine in ten Europeans agree that there is still work to be done to strengthen democracy in the EU.
Eleven Member States put the defence of democracy first: Sweden, Germany, Finland, Italy, Denmark, Austria, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Czechia and Hungary. Respondents in Czechia and Hungary also put the protection of human rights in shared first place.
European Parliament new President Roberta Metsola, said about the survey: “As the citizens rightly point out, defending democracy is the most important European value above anything else. We cannot take democracy for granted; extremism, authoritarianism and nationalism are today rising threats for our common European project.”
Overall, European citizens see Public Health with 42% as continued top policy priority for the Parliament, followed closely by the fight against poverty and social exclusion (40%) and action against climate change (39%). On EU average, young people put the fight against climate change as their top priority for the Parliament.
There is a sustained interest from European citizens to learn more about the work of the EU. According to the present survey, information about how EU funds are concretely spent would be most interesting for 43% of respondents. Citizens also want to learn more about the concrete consequences of European legislation in their country (30%), the concrete activities of their national MEPs (29%) as well as on what the EU is doing to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic (29%).
“Citizens want and deserve more information about the concrete impact of EU policies and decisions in their daily life. People should know where the money is spent”, said the EP President.
The European Parliament has made clear that the disbursement of the EU Recovery Funds should be based on clear and approved plans, be subject to consistent control and transparency and be dependent on the respect of our core democratic values.
Citizens’ support for the EU and the EP in particular has largely increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. A large majority of EU citizens (58%) support a more important role for the European Parliament in the future, while the share of EU citizens with a positive image of the European Parliament has grown by 12 points since 2015 to 36%, including an uptick of 3 points since 2019. 45% of respondents have a neutral view on the European Parliament and only 17% have a negative image. This positive standing of the EP is also reflected in the last European Commission Standard Eurobarometer 95.1, showing that citizens trust the European Parliament most among all EU institutions.
A majority of EU citizens (62%) see their country’s EU-membership as a good thing, with only 9% saying otherwise, for the second year returning the highest result since 2007. Nearly three quarters of respondents (72%) say that their country has benefited from EU membership. In this line, a majority of respondents (63%) says they are optimistic about the future of the EU.