On Saturday, we liveblogged the European Commission’s “Debate on the Future of Europe” event in Brussels; a townhall-style debate with the Vice-President of the European Commission, Viviane Reding. An audience of ordinary citizens (i.e. not just the usual crowd from the “Brussels bubble”) had the opportunity to grill Reding over the (seemingly) permanent economic crisis in the EU and, more generally, the future of Europe.
We will put the video of the event online soon, but in the meantime you can see a few words about the debate from Viviane Reding below (as well as reading our liveblog here).
We’d like to continue the debate online here, so today we’re asking you if you trust the European Union (though, according to the opinion polls, most of you won’t). Since the beginning of the economic crisis, Eurobarometer has recorded plummeting levels of trust in the European Union, from a high of 57% in 2007 to only 31% last year.
However, despite the huge loss of trust this represents, only a minority of people (18%) think EU membership is a bad thing for their country, whilst 47% think it is a good thing. Furthermore, slightly more people are optimistic (49%) than are pessimistic (46%) about the future of the EU. Is this glimmer of public support enough to sustain the European project?
During the townhall event on Saturday, the audience were asked if they supported stronger “political union” in Europe. An overwhelming 91% voted in favour.
True, Belgium is one of the countries with the highest level of trust in the EU (49%), and Brussels is the “Capital of Europe”, so this was never going to be a representative sample. Still, Viviane Reding closed the event with the remark that she will “continue fighting for a political Europe, and those who want a stronger Europe are those who will ultimately win the day,” and this is a message that she (along with several other EU Commissioners) will be taking to citizens from across Europe in a series of townhall events like this one. Whether this will help build trust in her and the institution she represents is a different question altogether.
What do YOU think? Do you trust the EU? Will Europe come out of the crisis stronger? And do you want a stronger political union in the EU? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.