Financial and economic crisis, threatening "Grexit", refugee question, "Brexit" - and anti-European and nationalistic sounds from different parts of Europe: Actually the EU is the subject of relentless criticism. But a majority of the young people in Central and Eastern Europe backs it and appreciates it as a guarantor for peace.
This year the EU celebrates its 60th birthday. Actually it consists of 28 countries. From 2004 to 2013 some Central, Eastern and Southeastern European states came along - especially because of security and economical benefits the EU could bring them. But actually the cohesion of the European Union is threatened by different crises.
In parts of Europe nationalistic sounds are popular again. In Austria the FPÖ was close to provide the next federal president, in Germany last year the AfD got some seats in federal parliaments, in the Netherlands Geert Wilder's PVV was second in the general elections and in France the polls say that Marine Le Pen from Front National has good chances for the second ballot for the presidential election. In some Central and Eastern European states the stirrers already have the power. In Hungary the government under Viktor Orban agitates against minorities and the EU. The Polish government, where former prime minister Jarosław Kaczyński still plays an important role in the background, does the same. In Prague and Bratislava anti European sounds can be heard too.
A majority of the young Poles, Hungarians, Czechs and Slovaks has a different opinion, our new survey shows. They and their contemporaries in Germany and Austria back the European Union.
For a clear majority of the young people in Central and Eastern Europe their country's EU membership is a good thing. They especially appreciate the European Union for preserving peace. Also the the opportunity to study, live and work in other EU member states is seen positive by a majority. Islamic terrorism is deemed to be the biggest challenge the EU has to face.
Clear majority of the young people in Central and Eastern Europe says that the EU membership is a good thing
In all six countries over 70 percent of those polled say that the EU membership of their country is a good thing. Most skeptics are in Slovakia. Here circa 30 percent say it is a bad thing for their country to be in the EU.
Indeed a clear majority of the young people in Central and Eastern Europe backs the EU. But 60 to 77 percent expect that the European Union develops further and that it will be reformed politically and economically.
Peace, the opportunity to study and work without borders: Young people appreciate the EU in different ways
For 75 to 81 percent of the young people in Central and Eastern Europe the EU is especially important as a guarantor for peace on the European continent. 61 to 65 percent also appreciate it to have the opportunity to study in another EU member state and 60 to 72 percent like the possibility to live and work there. Furthermore for 46 to 63 percent it is important that because of the Schengen Agreement inner European border controls have fallen away.
For 48 to 70 percent of the young people in Central and Eastern Europe common European efforts to prevent the climate change are important. For 37 to 58 percent it's also crucial to support economically weaker member states with EU funds.
For young people Islamic terrorism actually is the biggest problem for the EU
For a majority of the polled young people Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism is actually the biggest problem for the EU. Second is migration and the refugee question. Third is pollution, the climate change and the natural disasters that follow. But also unemployment, insecure jobs and the gap between rich and poor are worrying young people in Central and Eastern Europe.
"Peace and freedom are inextricably linked with the EU, but must not be taken for granted", Aart De Geus, Chairman and CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, sums up our survey. "If we are to continue the EU's success story for another 60 years, we need to protect and promote these values together with all Europeans", says De Geus.
Please find the complete survey with detailed results for all six countries here (only in German).