Europeans turn against EU in greater numbers

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The Independent Online

Fears over the effects of globalisation and worries about the impact of the enlargement of the EU on local job markets emerged as strong themes in the pan-European poll commissioned by the European Commission. But there is widespread support for the EU to do more in matters such as the fight against terrorism and organised crime.

The survey will also encourage supporters of the European constitution to try to revive the document.

The survey of almost 25,000 people showsevidence of scepticism among countries that joined the EU in 2004, despite the fact that they will gain millions of euros in subsidies.

Britain has been dislodged from its position as the EU's most sceptical nation by Latvia, where only 29 per cent of citizens believe that membership of the 25-nation bloc is a good thing. Austria has the second lowest figure at 31 per cent, followed by the UK at 33 per cent. Several of the new, ex-Communist states appear disenchanted with the EU, with less than half of Hungarians, Estonians, Slovenes and Czechs believing membership to be a good thing.

The poll appears to support the decision by the European Commission to keep a focus on the economic agenda and to pursue growth and job creation.

But the findings will also intensify the debate about the frontiers of Europe. France wants EU heads of government to discuss the future of enlargement amid mounting anxiety over Turkish membership talks.

Overall, 47 per cent of Europeans were worried about the impact of globalisation on jobs. Moreover, 63 per cent of interviewees said that further enlargement of the EU would increase problems in their country's job market. In France, only 42 per cent of people see enlargement on the whole as good, the second lowest after Austria at 40 per cent.

The survey will give some heart to those who want to revive the European constitution rejected by voters in referendums in the Netherlands and France last year. The constitution is currently on hold and no concrete initiative will be taken until after next year's French presidential elections. But, given a list of options, one quarter of all Europeans selected a common constitution when asked what would be helpful for the future of Europe.

Asked to rank the EU's performance out of 10, voters gave it more than 5.5 in just four of 15 policy areas. But, more than half of those questioned want more decision-making at EU level in anti-terror measures, the fight against organised crime, research and innovation, environmental protection, health issues, energy, social rights, agriculture and promoting economic growth.