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Most Europeans believe the EU could fall apart within the next two decades, according to a new study.
Research published this week showed that levels of support for membership of the European Union are high – but so is pessimism about the future of the bloc.
The survey, conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and YouGov, had more than 60,000 respondents across 14 EU member states.
It found that in every member state except Spain, the majority of voters believe the EU will fall apart within the next 10 to 20 years.
In France, 58% of respondents said it was realistic that the bloc would collapse within two decades, with 57% of Italian and Polish voters agreeing to that. Even in Spain, 40% of respondents said it was a realistic possibility that the EU could fall apart.
The data showed that most Europeans saw the collapse of the single market as the biggest loss should the EU break down, followed by free travel across borders and the freedom to live and work in other countries.
Significant proportions of people surveyed also said a war between EU countries was a realistic possibility over the next decade.
Austrians were most likely to believe a European war was possible, with 38% saying it could happen within 10 years, followed by 35% of French respondents and 31% of Romanians.
The belief was also particularly strong among younger people. In Austria and Romania, half of those aged between 18 and 24 believed a war between EU members was possible, while 46% of the youngest respondents in France agreed.
According to the report, there was a greater tendency to hold this belief among supporters of far-right parties, particularly Rassemblement National in France, the Freedom Party of Austria, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, Jobbik in Hungary, and Golden Dawn in Greece. However, many who supported mainstream parties also thought a European war was possible within 10 years, the study found.
Across all the countries included in the survey, a minority of voters said they believed young people had more economic opportunities than older generations.
There was also a widespread insecurity among respondents that they were doing less well financially than people living in other EU nations. In Greece, more than 70% of people felt they had fewer economic opportunities than people in other European countries, while just over half of respondents in Romania, Spain and Italy believed they had an economic disadvantage.
Respondents in Denmark and Sweden were the least likely to hold the same views.
Earlier this month, research from Eurobarometer showed 68% of European voters outside the U.K. felt their country had benefited from EU membership – the highest level since 1983. The view was shared in all EU countries aside from Italy.
According to Eurobarometer's report, close to 70% of respondents would vote to stay in the EU, with an absolute majority of voters in 25 member states saying they would vote to remain. A relative majority would likely be won in Italy, Czechia and the U.K., researchers found. However, the number of respondents who said they were undecided on how they would vote in a referendum has risen, with respondents in Italy – where a third of people did not know how they would vote – the most uncertain in the EU.
YouGov's survey polled EU voters in Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden between March and April.