Imagine Europe… And do it fast.

By Camy Roch

This week, the Forum for European Journalism Students took place in Utrecht, where 100 participants discussed the topic Imagine Europe. I was not there, so I’m not very sure about what they imagined. Instead, I was surfing here and there to see what was said this week about this big Europe thing. And, oh surprise! The brand new Eurobarometer 2012 was out!

Not that I particularly like statistics. As a matter of fact, it’s kind of reminds me of my years working as a telephone operator. That sweet time where I could skillfully piss someone off by only saying “Good evening, Sir!” Anyway, I figured that in the case of the Eurobarometer statistics, hopefully, some conscientious people would have done their job and done it right. So I’ve checked out those stats to see a bit what actually people think and whether it confirms, like some would say, the fact that this Union might be slowly going to its end.

As a matter of fact, EU does have an end (Cabo da Roca, Portugal - western most point of Europe)

As a matter of fact, EU does have an end (Cabo da Roca, Portugal – westernmost point of Europe)

So, those are the rough tendencies that one can find while going through this report. One big issue: the huge gap between countries regarding the current situation of the economy at a national level. Surprisingly enough, 2/3 of the population in Luxembourg, Germany and Sweden claim the situation of their country is “good” against only 5% in Greece and Spain. Shocker, huh? But the gap is smoothly narrowing says the report. Optimism before everything. On the whole, the main concerns of the members remain the unemployment, the economic situation and the inflation. And are people full of hope concerning the coming future? Not really, since the majority do not expect a change for their financial and employment situation within the next year. On the other hand, they are 40% to fear for both, national and European economy, and to think that it will soon worsen.

Until that point, nothing but very basic stuffs. Problems appear when it comes to trust. Do people trust the EU as an institution? Well. Apparently they DON’T. Even though the report seems to keep it cool on this point, claiming that there is a small – but nonetheless present – increase since one year. Less democratic, less modern, less protective, but on the other hand more technocratic, the image of the EU seems in free fall since the beginning of the crisis. Distrust has spread as the majority position in no less than 20 countries led by Greece (81%), Spain (72%), the UK (69%), Cyprus (64%), Sweden (62%), the Czech Republic (60%) and Germany (59%) – seriously even Germany? The Guardian needed no more to instantaneously call for a continental Euroscepticism, mentioning for the occasion the similar decrease of confidence registered in France, Italy and Poland. The euroscepticism, a gangrenous disease spreading around the continent?


So yeah. Such results may at least nurture the debate on austerity, populism and nationalism. But with no more trust, nor enthusiasm, the Europe project might be somehow in a dead end (and I’m not talking about the one in Portugal this time). Alright, maybe not completely, but with the trust of one third of its citizen only, perhaps it would be time to stop imagining and pulling effective actions (like a facebook group or a football team maybe). Well, this is of course as long as you consider this poll – or let’s say the whole statistics in general – as a valuable and highly democratic tool.

Speak that beautiful mind of yours!

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