Brexit boosts EU popularity: study

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-19 03:48:22|Editor: Yurou
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BERLIN, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- The European Union's popularity amongst its citizens has surged in the wake of the United Kingdom's decision to leave the bloc, a study by policy matters, a German opinion research institute has found.

The center-left think tank based in Berlin conducted surveys in eight EU nations between May and June for the report that was commissioned by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

The study indicated that concern over the implications of "Brexit" amongst European citizens still persisted but was outweighed by neutral and positive assessments of the vote's effect. Forty percent of respondents believed that Brexit would weaken the EU, compared to 34 percent who did not expect any consequences, and 16 percent who said that the Union would even be strengthened as a result.

According to policy matters, the findings contradict fears that the loss of one of the European Union's major economies could lead to its complete dissolution as citizens of the bloc balk at the related difficulties faced by Britain.

"The significantly improved assessment of the EU was certainly also related to Brexit, given the resulting intensified debate over its (the EU's) pros and cons," a spokesperson for policy matters told Xinhua.

"A domino-effect, in the sense that citizens of other EU states also demand more national sovereignty does not appear to have been caused by Brexit," he added.

Sixty-one percent of those polled want the EU member states to intensify their cooperation. Support was strongest in Germany with 79 percent, followed by Spain (74 percent) and Slovakia (68 percent). The Czech Republic was the only country where a majority of respondents opposed deeper EU integration (47 vs. 41 percent).

A similar study commissioned by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in 2015 shows less support for initiatives to transfer national competences to the supra-national EU level. Public support, especially for foreign-, security, fiscal- and trade policy, has grown across nearly all policy areas.

Despite its overall encouraging findings, the survey highlighted significant differences in opinion within the bloc. Although 43 percent of total respondents indicated that the refugee crisis was the most urgent issue facing the EU, far ahead of unemployment, terrorism and economic growth (10 percent each), there was a clear East-West divide on the issue.

Seventy-six percent of Czechs and 75 percent of Slovaks attached the utmost urgency to the solution of the refugee crisis, while the comparative figures for Germany and Spain were only 30 and 10 percent respectively.

Eastern Europeans also disagreed with Western Europeans on whether refugee policy should be a national competence. Seventy-two percent of Czechs and 69 percent of Slovaks wanted national governments to be in charge of the issue, while 73 percent of Germans and 67 percent of Italians thought it should be a joint European responsibility.

Martin Schulz, chairman of the Social Democratic Party has prominently announced during his ongoing election campaign that he was in favor of freezing EU subsidies for countries which acted in violation of the Union's core values and refused to share the burden of the refugee crisis.

The study authors noted that support for right-wing populist parties had fallen in most countries, underlining the downward trend experienced by Eurosceptic parties which have recently been dealt electoral defeats in Austria, the Netherlands and France. Nonetheless they perceived "authoritarian tendencies in some Eastern European states" which they said was a source of concern.