Pew Research reveals European views on EU foreign policy

The EU is divided over what sort of foreign policy it should have. Image: Alamy

The EU is divided over what sort of foreign policy it should have. Image: Alamy

13 Jun. — The American “fact tank” Pew Research Center published the results of an international survey on Europeans’ views regarding the foreign policy of their own countries and the European Union. The research found notable and numerous differences of opinion.

The survey was conducted in 10 European countries from early April through early May. (Exact dates varied in different countries.) Samples ranged from 999 to 1,460 people. Respondents were asked questions about how they see their country’s foreign policy, its components and place in the system of international relations; and the place and role of the European Union.

On average, 74% of those polled are in favour of the EU having an active role in the world. Advocates of this view were found most of all in Spain (90%), France (80%) and Italy (77%) while the fewest were in Poland (61%), the Netherlands (58%) and Great Britain (55%).

At the same time, the results noticeably varied when the question was about individual countries’ priorities rather than common  European objectives. Involvement in global processes appeal to the majority of respondents in Germany, Spain and Sweden. On the contrary, the number of those who think national issues should be resolved as a priority was higher in Greece, Hungary and Italy.

The Europeans’ varying views were also evident in relation to existing challenges. The Islamic State predictably leads in the list of threats, 93% of respondents considering it a threat (aggregate for the choices of “major” and “minor” threat). In second place is climate change (also 93%).

For the typical European inhabitant, the difference between the two threats has only to do with priority: ISIS is seen as the major threat by an average of 76%, with climate change seen at 66%.

In third place was economic instability at 91% (60% as the main threat). Then there are cyber attacks from other countries, refugees, and tensions with Russia.

The last question establishes the most dramatic difference of opinion between Europeans. Russia is feared most of all in Poland (71%), and the indicator there is nearly twice that in all other countries. The lowest proportions of those viewing Russia as the main threat are found in Great Britain (28%), Italy (26%) and Hungary (23%).

Overall, 51% of those surveyed think that the European Union is conducting itself inappropriately in relation to Russia. But, interestingly, while agreeing with this statement, respondents are expecting almost entirely contradictory actions. So, if in Greece (where 69% are unhappy with the EU’s position) the majority is in favour of developing economic relations, then in Sweden (55% displeased), to the contrary, the majority is for a tougher response.

Concerning the place of human rights in foreign policy, the majority of Spanish, German and Swedish inhabitants are in favour of it being a priority. In Hungary, Greece and Poland, they are inclined to think that other issues are more important.

Finally, opinions also differ as to the application of force against terrorists. Residents of the Netherlands, Germany and Greece overwhelmingly think that this sort of approach will only lead to increased hatred and greater violence. In Poland, Italy and Hungary, however, people are convinced that it is the only way to defeat the terrorists.

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