Europeans harden views towards US and EU after pandemic

"Trust in Trump's America is gone." The coronavirus crisis has caused a dramatic deterioration in the European public perception of the US and left many believing the EU had become "irrelevant", new polling finds.

Europeans harden views towards US and EU after pandemic
Europeans have hardened their views of the US. Photo: AFP

The new survey by the European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR) says the pandemic has traumatised Europeans and left them “feeling alone and vulnerable”.

The survey studied the views of Europeans towards the EU and notably its response to the coronavirus crisis and the results did not make for positive reading.

“There is a powerful sense among citizens of almost all surveyed member states that their country was largely left to fend for itself in dealing with the pandemic,” read the study.

“Few respondents to the survey had a positive view of the EU's coronavirus response. In no surveyed country do a majority of them see a positive change in the performance of EU institutions during the crisis,” the survey found.

Some 63 percent of Italians, 61 percent of French people, and 52 percent of Spaniards said that the EU has not lived up to its responsibilities. 

“Finally, and perhaps most damningly of all, a large plurality (and, in some cases, a majority) in every surveyed member state described the EU as having slipped into irrelevance in the coronavirus crisis,” it said.

But that did not mean there is an increased desire to see the European project fail.

In fact a majority in all countries surveyed believed there was a need for greater European cooperation after the pandemic.

“The share of respondents who held this belief was as high as 91 percent in Portugal and 80 percent in Spain. But perhaps even more noteworthy was the response in less Europhile member states. In France, Sweden, and Denmark, more than half of respondents approved of greater cooperation at the European level. In Italy, 77 percent did,” read the survey.

The survey revealed that one of the impacts of the crisis was the desire by many Europeans to see greater border controls.

“A substantial share of the population in surveyed countries – ranging from 48 percent in Denmark to 73 percent in Portugal – supports stricter border controls. This is a powerful signal of Europeans' current sense of vulnerability,” it read.

Europe's views of US deteriorate


Strikingly the survey also revealed a steep deterioration in the European perception of Donald Trump's America.

More than 60 percent of respondents in Germany, France, Spain, Denmark and Portugal said they had lost trust in the United States as a global leader.

Forty-six percent of French respondents, and 42 percent of Germans, said their view of the US had worsened “a lot” as a result of the coronavirus crisis (the highest results among all surveyed countries).

“Now, Europeans' trust in Trump's America is gone. Many of them have been appalled by the country's chaotic response to Covid-19; the lack of solidarity it showed with Europeans in the March 12th closure of its border to members of the Schengen area; and its lack of leadership in tackling the coronavirus crisis at the global level – or even engagement with the issue (beyond a war of words with the World Health Organisation),” the study wrote.

“Europeans have accepted the fact that Trump's America is not necessarily a friend of Europe in a time of need.”



Europeans' view of China has also worsened since the pandemic.

“More than 60 percent of respondents in France and Denmark reported that their view of China had worsened. In eight of nine surveyed countries, the share of respondents who have adopted a more negative view of China in the past year has increased by between a factor of two and a factor of ten,” the study read.

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Sweden’s Moderates open to revisiting euro debate as support for ditching krona grows

Interest in Sweden for joining the euro may be growing, and although multiple parties have ruled out a new referendum, the ruling Moderates haven't closed the door entirely.

Sweden's Moderates open to revisiting euro debate as support for ditching krona grows

Over a third of Swedes (34.4 percent) want to swap the krona for the euro, according to a recent survey from Statistics Sweden, up from 30.6 percent a year prior.

Despite the fact that a majority are still against a currency change, support for joining the euro has seen a stable increase over the last ten years, with an extra boost seen in Statistics Sweden’s last two yearly surveys.

In 2022, only 22.6 percent were in favour of joining the euro, with support at its lowest level, around ten percent, around 2012-13. The increase in support is most likely due to the fact that the krona has seen a substantial dip in value over the same period.

Right-wing parties generally in favour

The Moderates, who are currently in government alongside the Liberals and Christian Democrats, with the support of the Sweden Democrats, believe that the increased interest in joining the euro shows that Swedes have “slightly more appetite than previously”.

According to party secretary Karin Enström, the party is open to considering the issue more closely.

“It’s a long time since we looked into the issue,” she said. “Maybe it’s time to start doing so.”

She said that it was “far too early” to start discussing a new referendum – Sweden last held a referendum on joining the euro in 2003, where 55 percent voted against changing the currency and 42 percent voted in favour. But she didn’t close the door completely.

“We’ll have to get back to you on that issue,” she told the TT newswire.

The Liberals, whose voters are more positive to joining the euro than any other party’s, did not want to comment on whether a referendum could be on the cards.

“We’ll have to look more closely at that of course,” party secretary Jakob Olofsgård said. “But it’s clear that opinion is changing and there are a lot of high-profile names in favour.”

In general, right-wing voters are more in favour of joining the euro, with men and the elderly more positive than young people and women. Among men aged over 65, almost 46 percent are in favour, while only 25.6 percent of women under 30 would vote yes to swapping the krona for the euro if a referendum were to be held today.

Sweden Democrats and opposition generally against

The Sweden Democrats are against the idea.

“We’ve had one referendum and there was a clear ‘no’, and there’s not yet any support in parliament for a new referendum,” party secretary Mattias Bäckström Johansson said.

Among the opposition parties, the Left and Green parties, whose voters are most negative towards the euro, still think there are strong arguments against switching currencies, while the Social Democrats are slightly more open to the idea.

“But if there’s going to be any kind of change, the Swedish people need to be part of the process and the decision,” said Social Democrat party secretary Tobias Baudin.

The Centre Party and the Christian Democrats did not immediately comment.

‘Krona has made us poorer’

Both the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) and the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO) did not want to comment on whether Sweden should join the euro or not at an organisation level, although the former’s head economist Sven-Olov Daunfeldt believes that the positives of dropping the krona are starting to outweigh the negatives.

“But of course, there are risks, so it’s important that there’s a balanced discussion,” he said, calling on politicians to launch an official inquiry.

“The Swedish krona has made us poorer, it’s noticeable when we travel,” he added, when asked why he thought support for switching to the euro has grown.

“The feeling of national identity linked to our banknotes has probably declined too, we barely see them anymore.”

“I think that’s actually not an insignificant factor.”