The Pew Research Center’s latest survey on Europeans’ attitudes toward EU politics and economics brings across one message loud and clear: Europeans are not happy. People from every major country report extreme dissatisfaction with the economy and their political leaders. Increasingly, they also share a sense that the European Union and economic integration were mistakes for their countries: only 45 percent now view the EU favorably, down from 60 percent in 2012.
The one notable exception is Germany, whose people remain the most optimistic about the European project. Despite Germans’ hand-wringing about their spendthrift neighbors, they gave the EU a 60 percent approval rating, with 54 percent believing that economic integration has strengthened their economy. This may have something to do with the fact that Germans think the EU offers the best chance for controlling reckless spending by their neighbors; Germany is the only country where support for giving Brussels more power is over 50 percent.
Perhaps the most shocking result of this poll is just how quickly things have changed in France. In 2012, 60 percent of French people supported the EU; a year later, that number has dropped to 41 percent, and support for further economic integration has fallen to 22 percent, making the French even more euroskeptic than the British. The French are also deeply depressed about the performance of their domestic leaders (Hollande’s marks are truly dismal), but the EU is clearly sharing in the blame.
The Franco-German axis has been the centerpiece of the European project since its beginnings in the aftermath of World War II. This was still true as little as two years ago, in the midst of the euro crisis. Now French attitudes on Europe are much closer to those of Spain and Italy than to those of Germany.
The euro and the European project were meant to bring these countries together. Now it is driving them apart.
[Euro image courtesy of Shutterstock]