Southern States Want More Europe, Northerners Wary

Support for ever-closer union remains high in Europe’s south. Northerners want powers back.

Map of Europe
Map of Europe (Chad Miller)

A recent Opinium poll reveals a stark divide between member states in the north of the European Union and those in the south about the future of the continent’s integration.

According to the survey (PDF), support for “ever-closer union” is as low as 14 percent in the United Kingdom.

Arguably the most Euroskeptic member state, Britain will seek a formal exemption from deeper economic and political integration before it votes in a referendum on whether to stay in the bloc at all before 2017.

But countries in the historic core of the European community have grown wary as well. In the Netherlands, only 17 percent say they want more cooperation between member states and a further transfer of powers to Brussels. In Germany, Europe’s largest economy, 30 percent say they do. In France, the second largest, the figure is 24 percent.

French apprehension about closer union is especially noteworthy since President François Hollande, a socialist, called last month for an economic government of the eurozone.

In Italy, where the ruling left-wing party endorsed Hollande’s proposal, nearly half of those polled said they wanted closer union: 47 percent.

In Portugal and Spain, the numbers were even higher: 54 and 56 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, only one in around five respondents in each of the countries polled said they were content with the status quo. Nearly half of the British, 42 percent of the Dutch and a third of the French said powers should be repatriated from Brussels instead.

At 28 percent, the Germans are most satisfied with the present level of integration. But even 24 percent of them said the European Union had gone too far.

At least part of the reason is that northerners feel they are putting in more than they are getting out. Financially, that is true.

France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are all net contributors to the European Union’s budget. But so is Italy, the bloc’s fourth largest economy.

Portugal and Spain are net recipients, meaning they get more from Brussels than they pay in. The former also got a €78 billion bailout from other European nations and the International Monetary Fund when it could no longer borrow affordably on its own in 2011 while Spanish banks received some €41 billion in support the following year.

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