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Nearly half of Europeans unhappy with EU's COVID measures, poll finds

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a media conference on the Commissions response to COVID-19 in Brussels on Wednesday, 17 March, 2021.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a media conference on the Commissions response to COVID-19 in Brussels on Wednesday, 17 March, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo
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Nearly half of European respondents are unsatisfied with the EU's measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new survey has revealed.

It found 49% were unhappy with measures taken by the bloc, while 43% were satisfied and 8% undecided.

The highest proportion of dissatisfaction was found in Greece, Luxembourg and Belgium, the Eurobarometer poll found.

Satisfaction down since summer

The findings, which stems from a survey conducted between 12 February and 11 March across the 27 EU countries and 12 other countries outside the EU, including the UK, showed dissatisfaction with the EU over coronavirus was up by five percentage points since last summer.

It also compares to 43% of people who said they were satisfied with the EU's COVID-19 measures - down two percentage points since the summer - and 8% who said they "don't know" how they feel about the EU's coronavirus response, down three percentage points.

Satisfaction with EU COVID-19 measures among Europeans (Eurobarometer)

Within the EU, 13 member states saw a majority of residents express satisfaction with the bloc's handling of the pandemic, down from 19 member states in the summer.

The highest proportions of satisfaction were found in Denmark (68%), Lithuania (67%) and Portugal (66%).

Meanwhile, 12 member states had a majority of respondents express dissatisfaction, with Greece leading the way at 68%, followed by Luxembourg (63%) and Belgium (61%).

In Spain and the Netherlands, public opinion was evenly divided, with 44% satisfied and 44% not satisfied in the former country and latter seeing the same, but at 43%.

Levels of satisfaction with EU response by country (Eurobarometer)

Europeans more disappointed with own governments

While many Europeans expressed dissatisfaction with the EU's coronavirus response, even more people said they were "not satisfied" with the measures taken by their own national governments.

A clear majority of 56% said they were not impressed with the measures being undertaken by their own governments, representing a rise of 19 percentage points since the summer.

Petros Giannakouris/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Primary school teachers protest for more safety measures in schools in Athens, Friday, 15 January, 2021. Greece led the way in dissatisfaction with the EU's COVID-19 response.Petros Giannakouris/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Meanwhile, 43% said they were satisfied, down the same number of percentage points, while just 1% said they did not know how they felt.

"Satisfaction has deteriorated spectacularly since summer 2020, when the situation was the opposite, with 62% 'satisfied' vs. 37% 'not satisfied'," researchers behind the Eurobarometer wrote in a report on the study's findings.

Residents of Latvia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia appeared to be the least impressed with their governments' coronavirus response at 79%, 76% and 75% respectively.

Meanwhile, satisfaction appeared highest in Denmark, Luxembourg and in the Netherlands at 79%, 73% and 71% respectively.

Trust in the EU to 'make right decisions' in future still high

While satisfaction with the measures implemented by the EU and by individual governments has decreased since the summer, it appears that general trust in the EU is stronger than it has been in more than a decade.

Close to half of Europeans said they trust the European Union (49%) in the survey, marking a sharp 6-point increase since the summer.

The findings also represent the highest level of trust registered since spring 2008, researchers said.

At the same time, however, trust in national governments was at 36%, four percentage points down since the summer.

Meanwhile, trust in the EU's ability to make the "right decisions in the future" when it comes to the pandemic response, was also relatively high.

"When thinking about EU’s response to the pandemic, close to six in ten Europeans trust the EU to make the right decisions in the future," researchers said, with 59% of Europeans saying they trust the bloc to do the right thing in the future, down by 3 percentage points since the summer.

Less than four in ten said they did not trust the EU to make the right choices, with 39% making this determination, up by three percentage points.

Meanwhile, 2% said they did not know how they felt on the matter, the same proportion that expressed the sentiment in the summer.

Trust in EU to do right in the future on pandemic (Eurobarometer)

"At least half of the population trust the EU to take the right decisions in the future in 24 countries, and more than three quarters do so in Portugal (89%), Malta (79%) and Hungary (77%)," researchers found.

"At the other end of the scale, majorities do not trust the EU to take the right decisions in the future in Greece (55%), Czechia (53%) and Austria (50%)," they said.

Meanwhile, compared with the summer, trust in the EU to make the right decision in the future deteriorated in 17 countries, with Germany leading the way at 50%, down 11 percentage points, followed by Belgium at 55%, also down 11 percentage points and Latvia at 61`%, down 10 percentage points.

Health and economy top concerns

Much of the concern Europeans have at the moment circulates around health and the economy, the Eurobarometer survey found.

Close to four in ten EU citizens said they see health as the most important issue facing the bloc right now, with the issue taking first place ahead of economic concerns.

Of those surveyed, 38% said they believed health was the most important issue, representing a surge of 16 percentage points since the summer.

Meanwhile, 35% said they see the economy as the primary concern, with the proportion remaining unchanged from summer 2020.

Christophe Ena/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
A man receives Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Paris, Saturday, 6 March, 2021. For many, health is a top concern amid the coronavirus pandemic.Christophe Ena/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

The state of member states’ public finances fell into third place, with 21% of mentions, down two percentage points, while the environment and climate change continue to take a back seat at 20%, which has not changed since the summertime.

While "health leads the ranking of main concerns at [the] EU level," researchers noted, they said that the "economic situation is the only issue that appears in the top three concerns in all EU member states.

So, while health may be the primary concern as the coronavirus pandemic plays out, the economy is certainly on Europeans' minds.

In fact, more than six in ten Europeans said they believe their country's economy will only recover from the impact of the pandemic in 2023 or later, at 61%.

Less than a quarter said they felt the economy could recover in 2022 at 23%, while just 5% think their economies could bounce back by the end of this year.

Nearly one in ten further expressed fears that their country's economy may never recover from the impact of the pandemic, with 8% sharing in that perspective.

A far more optimistic 1% of Europeans, however, said they believe their country's economy has already recovered, while 2% said they simply do not know what the economic future will hold.