Heroine seeks happy ending

Published on 22 January 2010 at 13:51

"Would you say that you are optimistic about the future of the European Union?" In October and November of 2009, 58% of Europeans in 30 different countries, who were questioned by Eurobarometer, acknowledged that they were. An even greater majority (75%) were convinced of the need for the EU, which they see as "indispensable in coping with global challenges." However, a hefty 46% of those same Europeans believe that the EU "lacks new ideas and projects," and a dispirited 61% also thought that "in the future, today's children will face a more difficult life than the one we have now."

These contradictory responses outline the portrait of a Europe that has much in common with the protagonist of a Bildungsroman: a heroine full of ambitions and contradictions, who battles with the trails and tribulations of a capricious destiny. In this roman-fleuve, those who look back with contentment on their recent history joyfully adhere to the values of the "extended family." That is the case of the 57% of those questioned who affirm that they have benefited from their country's accession to the EU: the most satisfied being the Spanish, the French, and notwithstanding the current economic crisis — or perhaps because of it — the Irish. However, for other members of the clan (31%) the question of Europe is more likely to prompt a strained smile or even a hostile look, particularly among the Latvians and the British.

The question of who is to blame for these mixed feelings ought to remain a subplot, while the main theme should be the ongoing effort to reinforce the unity of the family. In its failure to respond in a truly collective manner to the 12 January earthquake in Haiti, the EU has missed a major opportunity to address the expectations and doubts of its citizens. But that is not to say that we should abandon all hope in common initiatives. At a time when fears for the future of the European car manufacturing business have highlighted the impact of the economic crisis, there are few doubts about where these are needed: 69% of Europeans believe that the restoration of economic prosperity should be "the main priority for the European Union in the years to come."

Iulia Badéa-Guéritée

Receive the best of European journalism straight to your inbox every Thursday

Was this article useful? If so we are delighted! It is freely available because we believe that the right to free and independent information is essential for democracy. But this right is not guaranteed forever, and independence comes at a cost. We need your support in order to continue publishing independent, multilingual news for all Europeans. Discover our membership offers and their exclusive benefits and become a member of our community now!

Are you a news organisation, a business, an association or a foundation? Check out our bespoke editorial and translation services.

Support independent European journalism

European democracy needs independent media. Join our community!

On the same topic