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Source: European Parliament

EU response to the coronavirus pandemic: Citizens’ views and expectations

17-12-2020

Citizens’ expectations regarding European Union (EU) policy involvement and spending in healthcare and economic growth were already increasing before the coronavirus pandemic. These rising expectations created a gap between their demands and their evaluation of current EU action. At the same time, trust in the EU is at its highest level for a decade, and higher than the average level of trust in national governments. Apart from the direct consequences for health, the pandemic caused a wide spectrum of financial difficulties for people in the EU. A fear of future loss of income and widespread uncertainty became the prevailing emotional status of Europeans, although the level of hope is also considerable. The EU response to the pandemic aligns with citizens’ preferences for areas of priority action and spending, especially with the introduction of the Next Generation EU (NGEU) recovery package. However, neither the scope of EU competences, nor the flexibility of EU finances, allow for immediate and full closure of the gap between citizens’ preferences and their evaluation of EU action. Citizens’ evaluation of the measures implemented by the EU to combat the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences are almost equally divided between the positive and negative. In the context of the pandemic, there is a significant change of preference among Europeans regarding the size of EU financial means. An absolute majority of Europeans would like the EU to have more competences (66 %) and greater financial means (54 %) to fight the pandemic. This leads to the hypothesis that a lack of sufficient EU competences is a factor contributing to a degree of popular dissatisfaction with the EU in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Citizens’ expectations regarding European Union (EU) policy involvement and spending in healthcare and economic growth were already increasing before the coronavirus pandemic. These rising expectations created a gap between their demands and their evaluation of current EU action. At the same time, trust in the EU is at its highest level for a decade, and higher than the average level of trust in national governments. Apart from the direct consequences for health, the pandemic caused a wide spectrum of financial difficulties for people in the EU. A fear of future loss of income and widespread uncertainty became the prevailing emotional status of Europeans, although the level of hope is also considerable. The EU response to the pandemic aligns with citizens’ preferences for areas of priority action and spending, especially with the introduction of the Next Generation EU (NGEU) recovery package. However, neither the scope of EU competences, nor the flexibility of EU finances, allow for immediate and full closure of the gap between citizens’ preferences and their evaluation of EU action. Citizens’ evaluation of the measures implemented by the EU to combat the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences are almost equally divided between the positive and negative. In the context of the pandemic, there is a significant change of preference among Europeans regarding the size of EU financial means. An absolute majority of Europeans would like the EU to have more competences (66 %) and greater financial means (54 %) to fight the pandemic. This leads to the hypothesis that a lack of sufficient EU competences is a factor contributing to a degree of popular dissatisfaction with the EU in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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