EU coronavirus pandemic survey shows Italy disdain for Brussels

The results clearly indicate disenchantment with the EU among Italians. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Opinions on how governments handled the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic varies hugely in Europe, a survey showed Thursday (Sept 17), with hard-hit Italians especially disillusioned with the EU.

The poll was carried out on behalf of activist group "More in Common" in late June and July, but the data was made public on Thursday after being seen by top officials in Berlin, Paris, Brussels and London.

The survey hints at what helped bring about the landmark and unexpected decision by divided EU member states to jointly finance a massive recovery plan for Europe.

The results clearly indicate disenchantment with the EU among Italians, who felt a stinging lack of solidarity from their EU partners as the crisis unfolded, especially from the Netherlands which only reluctantly accepted the plan after a fierce summit debate.

With far-right and anti-establishment parties already strong in the country, the Italian data would have raised alarm bells in EU capitals that euroscepticsm was worryingly on the rise in one of the bloc's founding members.

In the poll, only 33 per cent of respondents in Italy said EU membership was a good thing, with 44 per cent of respondents saying their trust in Brussels had worsened with the crisis.

The poll also revealed that the emotional response to the crisis differed in the European countries surveyed: Germany, France, Italy, Poland and the Netherlands, as well as non-EU Britain.

A majority of respondents in Britain (62 per cent), the Netherlands and Germany (both 57 per cent) said the "pandemic has shown me that most people in our country care about each other." In France, the number was just 40 per cent.

France also reported negative opinions on whether the national response to Covid-19 "made me feel prouder of my country".

Only 39 per cent in France and Britain said they felt proud.

In contrast, national pride reigned in Germany and the Netherlands, where roughly two-thirds of those surveyed said they were proud of their country's handling of the pandemic.

Asked whether the government was "competent" in fighting the crisis; 72 per cent in Germany agreed. In France and the UK, 40 per cent said this was the case.

When looking to the future, the French government failed to convince, with just 35 per cent of respondents answering that they were "confident of the government's ability to tackle the challenges ahead of us." In the Netherlands 67 per cent had faith in their government, while Germany's figure was 60 per cent.

Asked whether the pandemic upheaval should be used "to make important changes to the country," about 60 per cent in France and Britain said this should be the case.

Hunger for change was weaker in Germany, where 51 per cent agreed, and the Netherlands, at 46 per cent. Poland was the most reticent to change with 40 per cent.

When it came to choosing policies to embrace, a huge majority in all countries said governments should make plans "to bring back manufacturing industries and jobs that have been moved overseas in recent decades."

Even in export powerhouse Germany, 74 per cent of respondents said the government should commit to shifting jobs back from overseas.

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