Despite Brexit, Trump and other crises, 60 percent of EU citizens wish for closer cooperation in Europe. In Germany, this figure even amounts to 80 percent. This is a conclusion of a representative eight-country study conducted by the organisation “policy matters” on behalf of the Friedrich–Ebert-Stiftung.

“Citizens have moved far more ahead than we generally assume, and they have a clear idea of what we can and cannot achieve in Europe. What we need is a debate on Europe based on the concerns and needs of the people. This creates confidence, but it also constitutes a major challenge for politics,” said Kurt Beck, Chairman of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES).

According to the study, the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the EU appears to strengthen the cohesion between the remaining member states. Brexit causes concern but no panic. A relative majority of interviewees does not expect negative effects but rather a strengthening of the EU.

In comparison with a survey conducted in 2015, this study suggests that Brexit has made people appreciate the advantages of the EU more.  Now, two out of three Germans express this conviction, sharply up from only one in three just two years ago. The number of people who believe that EU membership holds advantages for their own country has also risen in all eight countries. In contrast to 2015, a majority of citizens has once again come to associate the EU with the notion of “opportunities” instead of “risks” as well as “growing prosperity” instead of “declining prosperity”.

In all eight countries, the survey shows an increased willingness to transfer additional competences and power from the national to the European level.  However, there are also limits: citizens largely agree that budget policy as well as labour market and pension policies should remain with the realm of the member states. Moreover, people approve of the idea of a double veto right against EU laws: both national parliaments and citizens by means of referenda should be able to overturn far-reaching EU decisions.

The study is based on a random selection of people eligible to vote in Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the Czech and Slovakian Republics, who were surveyed about their perceptions of the European Community and their expectations of the EU.

The study can be downloaded here: http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/id/ipa/13506.pdf

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