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Half of Europeans think EU is heading in 'wrong direction': Survey

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Half of Europeans think EU is heading in 'wrong direction': Survey

EU flags outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
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REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
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Half of EU inhabitants believe the bloc is heading in the wrong direction, a survey revealed on Wednesday. However, a vast majority declared they'd vote to remain in the union if a referendum were to be held in their country,

According to the EU Parliament's Eurobarometer Parlemeter survey, the percentage of EU inhabitants believing the 28-country bloc is going in the wrong direction has increased by 8% since April to reach the half mark.

This represents a "sudden reversal of trends", the report notes, as that metric had been progressively falling since the 54% high recorded in September-October 2016. Meanwhile, the number of people thinking the EU is going in the right direction dropped 4% to 28% since last April — the first decrease in three years.

The view that the EU is going in the wrong direction now constitutes a majority in 18 member states with increases for this opinion recorded in 26 countries — the only exceptions being Hungary (stable at 42%) and Croatia (-4 percentage points to 42%).

Perhaps more worryingly for the bloc, two of the three largest increases were recorded in France (59%, +13pp) and Germany (52%, +13pp) which are considered to be the motors of EU integration.

Economic factors do not seem to explain the shift, according to the report, which instead states that "political factors might possibly corroborate the decreasing trend."

Greater support for EU membership

But it's not all doom and gloom for the EU.

Across the EU, 68% of inhabitants considers that their country has benefited from being a member of the union. Italy is the only country where more people believe their country did not benefit from membership (45% vs 43% "benefited").

The most often expressed reason for those who believe their country benefited from membership is that the "EU contributes to the economic growth of their country".

EU membership is also seen as a positive thing by 62% of the bloc's inhabitants — up 2% since April and 4% since 2007. The view represents an absolute majority in 24 member states ranging from Slovakia (51%) to Luxembourg (87%).

Greece, Romania and the UK were the countries were the largest proportion of negative views of EU membership were recorded at 20%, 21% and 22% respectively.

These positive views are reflected in the fact that 66% of Europeans said they would vote for their country to remain a member of the EU if a referendum was held. Only 17% said they would vote for leave, with 17% showing as undecided.

Support for remain among young people was very high at 71%, but it was also strong among the 55 years and above at 61%.

In the UK, where 51.9% of the electorate backed leaving the EU in a June 2016 referendum, 53% of respondents (aged 15 and above) would vote in favour of remain, according to the Eurobarometer survey, while 35% would vote to leave.

EU Parliament elections

Finally, the survey shows that awareness for the May 2019 European elections has risen but flags that 44% of respondents could not say when the next elections would take place — a result that should be "seen as a wake up call."

Furthermore, while 31% of respondents said they would certainly participate in the ballot, and a further 18% stated they were likely to do so, 33% said they will most likely not participate.

Topping the list of the most important topics for voters are immigration (50%), economy and growth, and combatting youth unemployment (both 47%).