The spread of COVID-19 represents the worst crisis we have experienced in recent history, affecting millions of people all around the world. Health services and economic systems are struggling to cope. National and supranational institutions are taking vital decisions for the years to come.
Citizens are experiencing the first results of those decisions and have started questioning the effectiveness of governments’ measures and the power of science. Even consolidated beliefs have started to waver, such as the foundations of the European Union. In the very first phase, the principles of solidarity and cooperation among member states were neglected because of uncertainty and fear.
This wavering has been perceived as a dangerous tear into the European fabric, and that’s why European Generation decided to ask its supporters some questions about their perceptions of the current “health” of the European Union. We issued a survey on our Instagram page which had great support from a large spectrum of nationalities and age groups. In particular, we involved people of 22 different European nationalities (except Cyprus, Estonia, Lithuania, Malta, and Slovenia) and in an age range that goes between 14 and 60 years old.
First of all, we wanted to examine the sentiment that people have about the Union and the following results show that the majority of the respondents feel European and would be willing to express their faith in Europe in a hypothetical referendum (96.9% would vote to remain in the EU).
Next, we asked how they judged the response given by the European institutions and over 60% replied that it was adequate or above-average. The rest considered it ineffective or very ineffective.
One possible explanation for why we observe such a division in opinions is that we collected the answers during the tough negotiations among member states and this may have influenced the results. Nevertheless, 86,5% of the respondents agreed that a common European strategy was needed to face the crisis.
The respondents were also encouraged to come up with suggestions that could be given to the Commission. We listed some of them below:
Issuing eurobonds as a joint financial instrument. (Unfortunately, the recent debate has shown that this hypothesis is unattainable because it would take several years to set up this legal structure.)
Suspension of the Stability and Growth Pact, because a Keynesian stimulus will be needed for economic recovery.
Pushing for a common fiscal response in order to address a common “re-construction” process.
Finally, we asked the respondents about the future of the European Union. Over 90% agreed that the EU needs to undergo significant reforms in the wake of this crisis. The changes suggested by our respondents included:
Making the European Union more citizen-based;
More communication between the European institutions and its citizens;
Giving broader power to the European Parliament and to the Commission, in order to have quicker approval to the policies;
Revoking the rule of unanimity;
Implementing fiscal coordination;
The Spitzenkandidat system should be codified;
Parliament groupings should be allowed to run as single parties during the European elections so that they are not based on national issues but on issues that the Parliament can impact;
The crisis should be used as an opportunity to increase integration, with the goal of achieving a true federation.
These proposals highlight a clear necessity felt by European citizens (those who took part in the survey): more European integration. It means that more power should be given to the EU institutions (“sacrificing” a part of the national sovereignty) in order to let the European Parliament become more receptive to citizens’ choices and therefore more democratic – while at the same time, reducing the bureaucracy that slows down any process fostering coordination.
Crises tend to be the occasions to rethink current structures that have proved themselves incapable of facing the challenges of tomorrow; European citizens are asking the EU to take this opportunity and improve the “rules of procedures”.
There is faith in the European project, it must be realized in its whole. The overwhelming majority of our respondents are ready to welcome it.
Cover image by: European Commssion