Better since Brexit? How Europeans feel about the EU

Europeans are less positive towards the European Union than they were a year ago, but on the whole views of the EU are mainly far more positive than a decade ago and more optimistic than before Brexit, a new survey has revealed.

EU flags in Brussels
How do Europeans feel about the EU? (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

Some 45 percent of respondents to the EU-wide Eurobarometer survey said they have a positive image of the EU, which reflected a 7 percent drop compared to a year ago, but higher than in 2013, when only 31 per cent had a positive image of the bloc.

Some 17 percent of people in the EU had a negative image of the EU, a rise of 5 percent compared to a year ago, but again the proportion of people with negative views was lower than a decade ago when it stood at 28 percent.

Countries where people had the most positive views towards the EU were Ireland (72 percent) and Portugal (70 percent), followed by Luxembourg and Sweden (both 64 percent). At the other end of the scale were Slovakia and Greece (31 percent), and France, Austria and Czechia (35 percent).

Views of EU membership changed after Brexit

The survey revealed a general positive perception of EU membership, with 61 percent of respondents viewing their country being part of the bloc as a ‘good thing’. Although that figure reflects a drop from the 65 percent who viewed EU membership as a good thing one year ago.

The figure has increased however since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, when it stood at 53 per cent.

Ireland again, together with Luxembourg and Lithuania (all at 84 per cent), top the list of countries where people view EU membership positively. Slovakia, Greece and Romania are at the bottom of the list.

The positive trends are seen, at least partly, as a result of Brexit.

“We saw this in 2016, we saw it in 2019 again, in the individual data throughout the countries, that yes, Brexit had this impact on how citizens see the European Union. You might even go a step further and say that certain political narratives that might have been present in a number of countries until the exit of the United Kingdom very quickly disappeared afterwards,” said Philipp Schulmeister, the European Parliament’s Director for Campaigns, at the press conference to present the survey.

The parliament’s spokesperson Jaume Duch Guillot said that Brexit had a smaller impact in countries like Spain and Portugal and “in countries that historically have always been in favour of being members”.

But the impact of Brexit was seen more in those states where there was already a public debate about being in or out of the EU.

The survey was published to mark one year until the next European Parliament elections, which is planned between the 6th and 9th of June 2024 depending on the country.

When it comes to the future of the EU, more than half of citizens in all EU countries are optimistic, except in France and Greece, where the share is 45 percent.

Overall, 54 per cent of respondents said they are satisfied with the way democracy works in the EU and 71 percent said the EU had an impact on their daily lives.

However, 50 per cent saw a decline in the living standards and 65 per cent were not happy with the measures taken by their own country to tackle the cost of living crisis.

In terms of priorities for the future, respondents want the European Parliament to focus primarily on poverty and social exclusion (38 percent), public health (33 percent) and climate change (31 percent).

This article was published in collaboration with Europe Street news.

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EU court ruling ‘could stop Denmark turning away some foreigners at border’

A new EU court ruling could stop Denmark turning away some foreigners at the German and Swedish borders, even if they have no right to be in Denmark.

EU court ruling 'could stop Denmark turning away some foreigners at border'

The ruling, made on Thursday by the Court of Justice of European Union, means that so long as a non-EU citizen has legal residence in at least one EU country, they cannot be turned away at Denmark’s border with Germany or Sweden, even if they have no right of residency in Denmark, Danish newswire Ritzau reports.

The court found that such foreigners are protected by ‘Returns’ Directive, which means that any non-EU citizen illegally staying in an EU country cannot be turned back at a border with another EU country without a formal return decision, giving them time to at first leave the country voluntarily. 

“That also applies where… the person concerned has been apprehended at a border crossing point on the territory of the Member State concerned,” the judgement reads. “Indeed, a person may have entered the territory of a Member State even before crossing a border crossing point.” 

Jens Vedsted-Hansen, a law professor at Aarhus University, told The Local that the judgement was about the procedure for turning away a non-EU citizen rather than about member state’s right to deny them the right to stay.   

“First of all, this judgment is not about the right to refuse entry,” he wrote. “This right in and of itself is not up for discussion in this case, but more the way in which such a refusal can be enforced. What the court is saying here is that in the case of refusal of entry at internal borders, the procedure laid down in the Returns Directive must be respected, as the possibility of exemption from this procedure can only apply in certain cases at external border controls”.   

Anders Vistisen, an MEP with the far-right Danish People’s Party said to news wire Ritzau that the ruling means that any foreigner who has, say, a visa to Poland, can no longer be turned away at the German border if they are stopped by Danish border police as a result of the current temporary border controls. 

Vedsted-Hansen added that although Denmark has an opt-out from the Schengen Borders Code or the EU’s Returns Directive, it had implemented these EU directives into national law and was as a result indirectly committed to complying with them. 

“This means we are indirectly bound by the interpretation determined by the EU Court of Justice,” he said. 

The court case was brought by several French rights groups, including Association Avocats pour la défense des droits des étrangers (ADDE). The groups wanted to test the legality of an order amending the Code governing the entry and residence of foreign nationals and the right of asylum (Ceseda) before the French Council of State.