Attempting a balanced view
As well as being a huge publisher, the German media company Bertelsmann has a strong presence in international surveys, and it is in this role that it has recently been canvassing European opinions on a range of hot topics.
Some of these findings run counter to popular perceptions in many parts of Europe, particularly in the UK.
On the refugee situation, for example, a December 2015 survey of 11,410 respondents in 28 European member states finds that 79 percent of EU citizens want a European response to the refugee crisis, strongly rejecting the idea of individual countries acting unilaterally. Some 70 percent also support the idea that those states which refuse to accept their share of the responsibility should receive less money from EU coffers.
The survey finds a big difference in attitude between the old and the new EU member states. Some 85 percent of respondents in the old member states think that the burden of asylum seekers should be fairly distributed, but only 54 percent in the new member states support that view.
Around 80 percent of the respondents want to see the freedom to travel within the EU safeguarded, and consider the Schengen area as the European Union’s second most important achievement, just behind the internal market.
And whilst on the subject of the EU itself, an earlier study from July last year of 12,000 people across all member states found that 71 percent of the respondents say that if a referendum were held today they would vote in favour of continuing EU membership for their country. Controversially, 59 percent feel that the Union’s political and economic integration should be increased.
According to the survey’s respondents, the key tasks facing the EU are ensuring peace and security (61 percent), ensuring economic growth (53 percent), reducing social inequality (47 percent) and addressing the issue of immigration (42 percent).
As for Germany’s role within European policymaking, 55 percent said it is “good” or “very good” that the country takes on a leadership role. Of the six largest EU member states, the highest approval levels can be found in two countries bordering Germany: Poland (67 percent) and France (65 percent). The lowest approval levels are found in Italy (29 percent) and Spain (39 percent). Britain sits in the middle, at 48 percent.
Read more about Bertelsmann Stiftung here.
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