Europeans have never been wild about the European Union. With the region sapped by the euro crisis, confidence in the institution and the benefits it was supposed to provide is flagging faster and further than ever before, according to an influential opinion survey released Monday.
The results of an annual survey by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan organization based in Washington, show a deepening disillusionment with the union in major member countries.
The results of the survey suggest that more citizens than ever could end up opposing the transfer of more power to European Union institutions that may be vital for transforming the euro into a viable currency over the long term.
"The effort over the past half-century to create a more united Europe is now the principal casualty of the euro crisis," according to a report that Pew published with the survey results. The title of the report summed it up: "The New Sick Man of Europe: the European Union."
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The poll pointedly noted that, "No European country is becoming more dispirited and disillusioned faster than France." Last year, 60 percent of the French surveyed said they had a favorable impression of the European Union. This year only 41 percent did, a decline of 19 percentage points that was the biggest annual drop among the countries surveyed.
The results corresponded to some degree to the health of a nation's economy. Only Greeks and Italians professed less belief in the benefits of economic union than the French, according to Pew. In Germany, 60 percent held a favorable impression of the union.
That could have everything to do with the listless economy in France, which is on the verge of joining much of Southern Europe in recession and has an unemployment rate of 11 percent. The German economy has fared better and has a relatively low unemployment rate of 5.4 percent.
"French and the Germans differ so greatly over the challenges facing their economies that they look as if they live on different continents, not within a single European market," the authors of the Pew report wrote. As a result, the "French look less like Germans and a lot more like the Spanish, the Italians and the Greeks."
The gloomy view is understandable given the economic crisis in Europe.
"The limits of the European Union institutional architecture are perceived more directly by the citizens now," said Enzo Moavero Milanesi, Italy's minister for European affairs, in an interview. "They have always been known, but citizens expected a more rapid and efficient response to the crisis and ended up complaining about the lengthy procedures, the many meetings, the difficult discussions.
"But it's a paradox," said Mr. Milanesi. "The E.U. has made great steps toward further integration and a strengthened monetary union. We even started discussing forms of possible political union, but people are still disappointed."
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One of the smallest declines in sentiment — two percentage points, to 43 percent — was in Britain. But the economic union has never been popular there.
"We should try and renegotiate our relationship with the European Union," said William Drake, co-founder of the investment advisory firm Lord North Street in London, expressing an opinion shared by many in his country. He added that many regulations were "not being properly discussed and debated by our own democratically elected Parliament. It sort of feels like we don't rule our own country anymore."
The polls were conducted during March in Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Poland and the Czech Republic, by telephone or in person, with between 700 and 1,100 adults in each country. Each poll has a margin of sampling error of either three or four percentage points.