Europe’s voters fear collapse of political union

EU voters are fearful for the future of the European project despite unprecedented support

epa07578457 A woman drops in her absentee ballot for the European Parliament elections, at the newsroom of the magazine 'Der Stern' (lit: The Star) in Hamburg, Germany, 17 May 2019. Elections for the European Parliament will be held on 26 May 2019.  EPA/DAVID HECKER  ATTENTION: This Image is part of a PHOTO SET
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A week from the start of the next round of European elections, EU citizens fear collapse of political framework and war between member states, a major new poll released Thursday has found.

The survey carried out by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and based on YouGov polling in 14 member states identifies a paradox amongst voters.

While two thirds of Europeans have positive feelings towards the EU, according to Eurobarometer, a majority of voters fear the EU could collapse in the next 10 to 20 years, and as many a third of voters in France and Poland and over a quarter of voters in Germany believe that war between EU member states is a “realistic possibility” in the coming decade.

The challenge, the ECFR argued, is therefore to use this paradox to mobilise the silent majority and ensure that anti-system parties are not the only ones to prosper.

Almost 92 per cent of voters think they would lose out if the EU collapsed, with many fearing losing the ability to trade, travel and work in other EU countries. Unity on security and defence matters, as well as having enough cumulative political weight to counter the United States and China, were also concerns at the top of the list.

The think-tank argued that fears about war in Europe should be seen as sign that the political system has become dominated by the “logic of conflict”. “This conflict is driving disconnection with the political system,” ECFR argued.

In France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Spain the majority of those planning to abstain, and significant proportions of those planning to vote for anti-system parties, believed war in the EU is a possibility.

The highest proportion of voters fearful of conflict in the EU fell within the age brackets 18-24 and 25-34 – with 46 per cent of young voters in France, ages 18-24, worried about this scenario.

ECFR identified three key areas where pro-Europeans can focus to win over voters in the last weeks before the elections: fear of nationalism; climate change uncertainty; economic uncertainty.

“There are seven days to resolve the paradox at the heart of the European project,” co-author and Founding Director of ECFR, Mark Leonard, said. “Support for EU membership is at the highest level since 1983 – and yet a majority of voters fear the EU might collapse. The challenge for pro-Europeans is to use this fear of loss to mobilise their silent majority and ensure that it is not just the anti-system parties who get their say on 26 May.”