News Item, , Berlin/Gütersloh: Study: Germans expect continuation of European Integration

Almost 50 percent expect Turkey and Ukraine to become a full member of the EU

Germans expect European integration to continue, in the form of a political deepening and geographical expansion of the EU. Those are the results of a survey on the future of the European Union carried out on behalf of the Bertelsmann Stiftung among 10,000 residents in 13 EU member states.

Germans expect European integration to continue, in the form of the EU’s political deepening and geographical expansion. Those are the results of a survey on the future of the European Union carried out on behalf of the Bertelsmann Stiftung among 10,000 residents in 13 EU member states.

Overall, 45 percent of Germans believe that by 2020 the EU will be governed based on a joint constitution, with 24 percent foreseeing a continuation of existing treaties. In contrast, only 16 percent think that the current status quo will endure. When asked about the chances of various policy areas being realized, 59 percent of Germans expect a common European economic policy within the next 15 years. Even in those realms traditionally regulated by national governments, a large part of the population believes that common European policies will be in place by 2020: 38 percent think that a common social policy will be the norm by then, with 32 percent foreseeing the existence of a European army.

More than two-thirds of the German population expect that the EU will have more than 27 members by 2020. Almost half believe that Turkey and Ukraine will be full-fledged members of the EU within 15 years time, with 47 percent of Germans saying that Turkey will have acceded to the EU by 2020 and 45 percent foreseeing Ukraine as a member.

The expectations found among Germans mostly reflect those found among other “old EU” countries. The survey results reveal, however, that on average only one European in three believes that Turkey and Ukraine will become full members of the EU.

At the same time, the 13 nations in which the poll was carried out evince a range of opinion. According to the survey results, most “Euro-optimists” can be found in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. In the newer Eastern European countries of Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia, in contrast, expectations for the future are markedly less positive.

Surprisingly, those countries that most expect the EU to be governed per constitution in the future are France and the Netherlands, the nations that recently rejected the EU’s draft constitution in national referendums. In France, 57 percent of the population believes that a constitution will be ratified in coming years, with 50 percent of the Dutch holding the same belief. Only some 10 percent think that current agreements will remain in effect. No other European country was as optimistic about a coming European constitution as France. On average, 40 percent of Europeans believe that the EU will have a common constitution; in the newer member states, one in three thinks this will be the case.

The British public was, surprisingly, much less skeptical about the EU than is commonly held. In the UK, 52 percent of the population believes a common EU economic policy is on the way, with 54 percent saying they foresee a common social policy. More than half of the British think Turkey and Ukraine will become full members of the EU.

In general, according to the survey results Europe’s younger generation can expect a EU that will continue to grow and whose members will work even more closely together. Overall, no conflicting expectations or competing outlooks are evident among the surveyed countries.

“The citizens of Europe are, on the whole, convinced of the validity of the current vision of the EU and of a continued deepening and expansion of the Union,” commented Josef Janning, the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s expert on European affairs. “The public believes that many of the topics that have been contentious in the past have now been resolved. EU policy must begin to reflect this, with policymakers developing new strategies for the EU’s expansion, to name one example. In addition, new large-scale projects must be undertaken to provide Europe’s citizens with tangible evidence that they are all moving in the same direction.”

Europe’s future will be one of the focal points of this weekend’s International Bertelsmann Forum (IBF) in Berlin. Numerous high-ranking European politicians will be attending the event, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, EU Commission President José Manuel Durão Barroso, as well as the prime ministers of Belgium and Hungary, Guy Verhofstadt and Ferenc Gyurcsány. Chancellor Merkel has announced that she will open the conference with a speech on the state of European politics.

Together with the Munich-based Center for Applied Policy Research (CAP), the Bertelsmann Stiftung has assembled a strategy paper, which will serve as the basis for discussions at the forum.

The Bertelsmann Stiftung survey was carried out by the tns/EMNID research institute in August and September among 10,000 residents in 13 EU member states. The countries surveyed account for almost 88 percent of the EU’s total population and represent all of its geographic regions. Both old and new member states were included, as were net-payers and net-recipients.

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