RIGA - Public support for the European Union (EU) and the European Parliament in particular has significantly increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new Eurobarometer survey that has been published on Tuesday.
The European Parliament's spokesman in Latvia Janis Krastins told LETA that nearly one in three respondents in the poll, or 32 percent, see democracy as the most important value to defend, followed by freedom of speech and thought (27 percent) and the protection of human rights (25 percent).
In Krastins' words, Europeans are concerned about rising extremism, spread of disinformation and weakening of the rule of law, according to the Future of Europe survey released by the European Parliament and European Commission in January 2022. In this survey, nine out of ten Europeans agree that there is still work to be done to strengthen democracy in the bloc.
In Sweden, Germany, Finland, Italy, Denmark, Austria, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Germany protection of democracy has been named as the main priority, with the Czech and Hungarian respondents also mentioning the protection of human rights. Meanwhile, respondents in Latvia named human rights as the most important value to protect in the EU and the wider world (35 percent), followed by solidarity among EU member states and regions (33 percent) and the rule of law (32 percent).
In terms of policy priorities, citizens put public health first with 42 percent, followed by poverty and social exclusion (40 percent) as well as climate change (39 percent). Young people put the fight against climate change as their top priority for the EU Parliament.
Respondents in Latvia prioritized support to the economy and job creation (52 percent), followed by the fight against poverty and social exclusion (49 percent), as well as public health (46 percent).
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 percent 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 percent) as well as on what the EU is doing to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic (29 percent).
Krastins noted that 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 European Parliament in particular has largely increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. A large majority of EU citizens (58 percent) 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 percent, including an uptick of 3 points since 2019.
Meanwhile, 45 percent of respondents have a neutral view on the European Parliament and only 17 percent have a negative image. This positive standing of the EU Parliament 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 percent) see their country’s EU-membership as a good thing, with only 9 percent saying otherwise, for the second year returning the highest result since 2007. Nearly three quarters of respondents (72 percent) say that their country has benefitted from EU membership. In this line, a majority of respondents (63 percent) says they are optimistic about the future of the EU.