Nearly two-thirds of the respondents (61%) think that trends in their countries are moving in the wrong direction, with 28% of them strongly convinced of this, and 33% somewhat convinced. However, about one third of the respondents (32%) are strongly or somewhat convinced that trends are moving in the right direction.
Among the 28 Member States pessimists are in the majority, but there is some divergence between certain countries. In some countries people feel that trends are moving in the right direction, such as Malta, Luxembourg and Ireland. In Malta 66% of the respondents are optimistic, in Luxembourg 59% and in Ireland 55%. In Portugal and Estonia around half of the population feel this way: for example, 48% of Estonians are satisfied, while 46% of them are dissatisfied.
According to the survey data there were countries in which the population was especially dissatisfied. High levels of dissatisfaction with the direction of trends were seen in the following countries: Austria (77%), Finland (76%), France (69%), Germany (68%), Slovenia (71%), Spain (66%), Sweden (71%) and Greece (86%). The opinion of the Greeks was most critical: 58% of them feel strongly that trends are moving in the wrong direction, with 28% of them agreeing to a lesser extent.
On the whole, society across the European Union is especially pessimistic about the future prospects of the EU. This is not uniform, however, as in certain societies the tendency is to see a more positive future, while in others the feeling is one of economic decline. The highest percentage of respondents who feel that the economic situation of the EU will improve was found in Malta: 59%. More moderate positive forecasts for the EU economy are expressed in Spain (38%), Romania (35%), Ireland (36%), Hungary (39%), the Czech Republic (40%) and Bulgaria (36%). On this issue people are the most pessimistic in Estonia, France, Latvia, Poland, Sweden and Greece – the latter two more affected by the migration crisis. In Greece feelings of weakening are obvious: 72% of those asked thought that the economy will decline (17% thought that it will not change). Those in Latvia and Poland, on the other hand, are more inclined to see stagnation in the years to come: 38% and 31% respectively.
With regard to the performance of the EU, in general it can be stated that those dissatisfied with the economy and the way the migration crisis is being handled outnumber those who are satisfied with the EU in these respects.
Most people felt that the EU is doing poorly in terms of the military defence of Europe. Overall, the worst results received by the EU were for management of the migration crisis: 77% of the respondents said that in this regard the performance of the Union is weak, with only 3% saying it is excellent, and one sixth saying it is good.
Negative answers were typical in the majority of the countries. Nevertheless, people in some countries – such as Malta, Croatia and Portugal – evaluate the overall performance of the EU more positively. Forty per cent of the Maltese population think that the EU is handling the migration crisis well, and another 9% claim that its performance is excellent. Four per cent of the population of Croatia rated it as good, and 3% thought that it is excellent. In Portugal 29% of respondents evaluated it as good, and 7% as excellent. Some countries, however, saw weakness as the most typical feature in the handling of the immigration crisis. In five countries the number of those who mentioned this weakness was above 85%: the Czech Republic (85%), Italy (86%), Poland, Greece and Slovenia (87% each).
Europeans see the fight against terrorism and the prevention of terrorist attacks as the second most poorly executed and resolved of the EU’s activities. The European Union’s performance was seen as weak by 49% of the respondents, with 38% thinking it is good, and 7% saying that it is excellent.
A major difference between countries can be observed. Ratings in the two countries most exposed to terrorist attacks – Belgium and France – are different. Responses in Belgium are close to the overall average. French respondents are more critical than Belgians, with 57% of them saying that the EU is weak in the fight against terrorism. Greece (60%), Latvia (59%), Lithuania (60%), Slovakia (59%) and Slovenia (59%) are similarly critical of the Union. In this area Hungarians are the most critical: 66% see the performance of the EU in the fight against terrorism as weak. Two countries greatly appreciate the European Union’s performance in the fight against terrorism: 19% of Romanians said that its performance is excellent, and 17% of those from Portugal also gave it the highest rating.
The third activity that people were asked to evaluate was development of the economy. According to 5% of the respondents the EU does an excellent job in this field. Another 38% of them said that economic development in the EU is good, but 50% said that in this regard the performance of the EU is poor.
The three countries most critical of the EU were Finland, France and Greece, with 72% of Finns, 71% of the French and 79% of the Greeks saying that the EU is performing poorly in improving the economy. The group of optimists is much larger, with six countries in which the percentage of those saying that the EU is performing well at or above 62%. These were Bulgaria (62%), the Czech Republic (67%), Hungary (62%), Malta (73%), Poland (69%) and Romania (66%). Overall the survey shows that the Maltese are most appreciative of the performance of the EU, while the Greeks and the French are the most critical of the Union.
Reviewing the work of the EU as a whole, military protection and defending European interests were judged to be the best-executed tasks. The work done by the EU to provide military defence for Europe was assessed as excellent by 6% of the respondents, and as good by 42%. It is important to note that the number unsure or unwilling to answer was highest for this question, which shows that it is the one about which Europeans have the least information: 13% of the respondents did not answer this question.
In this category only four countries seeing especially poor performance are also dissatisfied with some other activities of the EU, with 49% of Austrians, 46% of French, 49% of Greeks and 45% of Italians evaluating the military defence of Europe as poor. At the other end of the scale are the Maltese again: here 16% of them thought that the performance of the EU is excellent. Some other countries also rated it as excellent: 10% of Croatians, 11% of Irish, and 12% of Lithuanians.
In the area of safeguarding European interests the EU is mostly seen as doing a good or excellent job, with 6% of those asked stating that the performance of the Union is excellent; another 43% see its performance as poor (8% did not answer).
As with some other questions, some countries were critical, among the most critical being Greece, with 61% of the Greeks thinking that the performance of the EU is poor in this field. More than half of the respondents from Austria (53%), Italy (53%), Slovenia (55%) and Spain (51%) expressed the same critical viewpoint. Croatia and Romania seemed to be the most satisfied: less than a quarter of them were critical of the EU on this.
We asked about the effectiveness of Europe’s border controls. The statement in the question was the following: “Do you agree/disagree that the EU should protect Europe’s external borders more effectively?” Eighty-three per cent of the respondents agreed with this.
The distribution of those who agreed ranged from 72% to 96%. The Swedes agreed the least, but the Hungarians agreed the most that the borders of Europe should be protected more effectively. The Czechs, Poles and Romanians agreed with the Hungarians in similarly high proportions.
In our questionnaire we looked beyond the European Union, and examined opinions relating to current foreign policy issues. One of the important topics in the study was the perception of the Ukrainian–Russian conflict, which we examined from two viewpoints. One was the continuation of sanctions against Russia, and the other was possible military action in order to protect Ukraine. Forty per cent of the respondents agreed with the continuation of sanctions against Russia, whereas 28% agreed with the deployment of the military. For both questions the number of those who did not answer was high, so on continuation of sanctions against Russia 17% of those asked were unable or unwilling to give an opinion. With regard to the Ukrainian-Russian conflict this proportion was 18%.
There is a significant divergence in the distribution of responses in each country. In four countries at least two-thirds of the respondents disagreed with the continuation of sanctions: Bulgaria (71%), Cyprus (69%), Greece (71%) and Hungary (70%). There was an outstandingly high level of uncertainty among the Swedes, with more than a quarter of them not giving an answer to this question (28%), and 52% in favour of continuing the sanctions. Denmark (57%), Lithuania (58%), the Netherlands (58%), Poland (71%) and the United Kingdom (58%) showed the most support for continuing sanctions.
We also asked what the people in the EU thought about the necessity of deploying the military against Russia in order to protect Ukraine. Only slightly more than one quarter – 28% – approved of this idea, more than half of them rejected the necessity of such action, and 18% did not express a views on this question.
With regard to military intervention, those who disapprove of it are in a majority in most Member States. However, the answers in three countries differed significantly from all the other countries. In Hungary people rejected this option almost unanimously, by 85%. There was no other country with such a large proportion of negative answers. In contrast with Hungary, in Ireland 48% of people agreed with the military intervention. The Swedes seemed to be the most unsure, with one third of them not answering.