Note: This article originally appeared at OneEurope.
In a past article for OneEurope, I discussed the falling trust in the European Union and revealed figures from the Eurobarometer survey that show EU citizens are at an all time low as far as faith in Europe goes. Citizens feel that Europe doesn’t represent them. They feel that it is a technocracy and that it doesn’t relate to daily problems.
The follow up question then, is exactly how this can be fixed. How is Europe going to gain back the trust of its own people? Amid debates are discussing the United Kingdom departing from the Union and talk recently of Greece or Ireland leaving the single currency. How long can it be before citizens begin to question the very foundations of the single market, the Euro and eventually, the political Union itself?
Dissatisfaction within Europe
In Ireland, 91% of people felt that things were going badly nationally in 2012. In the UK, that figure was 74%. Both were higher than the EU average of 72%. In Poland, by comparison, 65% of people felt things were deteriorating, but in Belgium, the very heart of the EU institutional body, the figure rises to 79%.
On the other hand, just 46% of those in Denmark believed that things were going on the wrong path at home. In Germany, 75% of people believed that things were generally going well. Germany, in fact, presents as a sort of panacea. Where every other member state quotes unemployment as a significant issue (usually, in fact, tallying in first place), Germany quotes Government debt as its most important issue.
Germany has emerged from the economic crisis relatively well overall. Recognised as a core leader in the efforts to fix the rest of us, Germany’s conceptual notion of difficulty is clearly going to be different from others who find themselves in worse places. Yet, to quote a contrast, in Lithuania 70% of people believed things were good at home, but unemployment still tallied as the most important issue.
Unemployment as a major concern
After following the data through and applying it logically to the situation, the facts lie thus: Unemployment is a concern for every single member state, in some more than in others, but always is high on the agenda, save in Germany. Countries with high rates of unhappiness on a national scale, like Greece, Cyrpus, Spain and Ireland also show extremely high concern for jobs.
The problem is that this isn’t getting any better and it is not confined to the EU- Croatia, due to become the 28th member state of the European Union, registered similarly high levels of unhappiness at home (97%), and similar difficulties (72% registered unemployment as a core concern).
Across Europe, we have lost jobs en masse and we have lost faith in our national governments. These two things tie together right across the board. But for several countries, since the economic downfall began, there have been significant elections and changes in regime. Even so, we remain unhappy nationally. Clearly, changing government is not the sole answer, in fact, it may not be the answer at all, when stability seems to be the prevailing aim of the medium term.
Many respondents to the Eurobarometer in Croatia highlighted the fact that the European Union provides the freedom to travel, work and study anywhere in the EU. In EU member states, almost universally, respondents quoted the free movement of goods and services as the core strength of the Union. Not only is it something Croatia looks forward to being a part of, but it is something Europe celebrates on a universal level, through all of its diversity of culture and norms.
Restoring faith in Europe is going to be extremely difficult. The saying goes that all politics is local- no matter what work is done on a vague level on Europe, more than a tenth of its citizens aren’t employed. In its creation, the European Union has enabled more people to work in more places and to have the freedom to do so as they so choose.
The answer to restoring faith is actually in front of us. It’s not vague, it’s not hard to see, not even a surprise. We need to get Europe back to work.