A huge majority in the European Union say Russia’s war in Ukraine has or will hit their living standards, a new survey has revealed.
It comes as rising energy prices fuels record inflation across the Eurozone.
The European Parliament’s latest spring 2022 Eurobarometer also saw support for the European Union and its actions rise since Russia’s invasion.
Democracy is increasingly seen as a key EU value worth defending, while voting is also considered more important, particularly in European elections.
Notably, EU citizens’ perception of Russia has changed, with just 10% of respondents seeing the country positively, down from 30% in 2018.
Ukraine war: Support for democracy — and fears for the cost
The European Parliament’s Eurobarometer complements recent data published by the European Commission, which found that almost six in ten citizens approved of the EU’s response to the Russian invasion, while 80% supported the economic sanctions against Moscow.
Democracy is seen as the most important value the European Parliament should defend — with 38% putting it top, a rise of six percentage points since autumn 2021.
Indeed, nearly six out of ten people (59%) prioritise the defence of values such as freedom and democracy over containing consumer prices, the barometer finds.
However, a significant majority in some countries — notably Bulgaria, Hungary, Malta, and Romania — price stability is prioritised. Overall, the survey finds that defending values is mentioned more among those who say they are ready to face price rises, and by those who feel less impacted by the war.
Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic had already left people feeling worried and uncertain over their economic prospects.
According to the Eurobarometer survey, a huge majority of European citizens (87%) say the war has already or will affect their living standards.
Around 60% of Europeans say they are not confident that life will continue unchanged after the war in Ukraine, while 40% say their standard of living has been impacted amid inflation and the rising cost of living.
Nearly six in ten people say they do not feel ready to face price rises in energy and food.
There are significant variations between member states, however — with people in countries such as Greece feeling particularly vulnerable, while those in Denmark expressed relative resilience.
EU membership ‘a good thing’
Nearly two-thirds of Europeans see EU membership as a “good thing”, the highest percentage since 2007, the survey says.
In all EU countries, a majority of people agree, apart from Greece and Slovakia, where more respondents view it as “neither a good nor a bad thing”.
The increase in positive views is particularly strong in Lithuania (up 20% since late 2021), Malta (+12%), and Estonia (+9%).
Seven in ten Europeans say they believe EU membership is important (+9%), a figure seen across almost all member states, with the increase in individual countries often reaching double digits over the six-month period.
Particularly relevant given the question of Ukraine’s candidacy, a majority of people (58%) agree that the EU should speed up its efforts to let new countries join (36% disagree).
The figures mask a wide discrepancy between countries: the difference is often marginal, but in several nations a large majority (over 70%) backs the idea, rising to 80% in Poland.
EU’s image on the rise
The proportion of people with a positive impression of the European Union is also at its highest level for 15 years, at 52% (+3% since autumn 2021).
In most countries the positive view is dominant — apart from Greece, Austria, and Slovakia, where more people declare their view to be neutral. In Cyprus, positive and neutral impressions are on a par.
For the first time in a decade, more people believe the EU is going in the right rather than the wrong direction.
The European Parliament also has its highest rating since 2007, with 39% of people having a positive impression, and a decline in those with a negative view.
As well as the parliament’s role in defending democracy (see above), 38% list the fight against poverty and social exclusion as the top political priority they expect MEPs to address.
Voting in the EU is seen as increasingly important, with a majority (53%) agreeing that their vote does count, a rise of eight points in six months. Nearly six in ten now believe voting in EU elections is “highly important”, with 71% saying they would vote if an election for the European Parliament was held next week.
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