The latest poll conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found the plurality of German respondents ambivalent about whether there should have been more economic aid given to other EU member states affected by coronavirus.
Indeed, while a plurality of the German public (40%) agree with this sentiment, their agreement is limited in comparison to other major European countries: 64% of respondents in France, 74% in Spain, and 78% in Italy agreed that there should have been more economic support during the pandemic to the member states most affected by it. Nevertheless, although the German proportion who agrees is lower than in the rest of Europe, it is still the view held by a reasonably strong plurality of German respondents. At the same time, it is important to note, here, that a considerable number of respondents selected ‘neither agree nor disagree’ or ‘don’t know.’
This comes at a moment that the European Commission has approved a fiscal plan to take out a collective loan shared across EU member states, which would provide economic support to some badly-affected Southern European countries, particularly Spain and Italy, and would be effectively shouldered by Northern European countries, such as Germany.
However, before this fiscal plan was approved, any plans involving shared EU debt had been opposed by Ursula von der Leyen, the current President of the European Commission, feeding into the common complaint that the Commission is biased in favour of the EU’s northern European members and their policy preferences. Indeed, 51% of Italian respondents and 53% of Spanish respondents agree that if the current President of the Commission was from a Southern European country (rather than Germany, where von der Leyen is from), the EU would have already provided more economic support to Southern European countries affected by coronavirus.
A plurality (42%) of German respondents, meanwhile, selected ‘don’t know’ and ‘neither agree nor disagree’ to a statement declaring that if the President of the European Commission was from Southern Europe, then countries such as Italy and Spain would have already seen much more economic support to help them deal with the fallout from the coronavirus crisis.
And yet, when it comes to what areas respondents think the EU should prioritise in the coming months, the German public is most concerned about supporting the economy (41%), followed by preserving the stability of the euro (33%), and supporting the healthcare systems of member states (30%).
The German public is in favour of keeping the EU and the Eurozone afloat, and is ready to commit fiscal resources to that aim. When asked if they would vote to stay in the EU if there was a referendum in the future, 68% of respondents in Germany said they would vote to stay, compared to just 50% of respondents in France and 51% of respondents in Italy. Only Spain had higher support than Germany, with 70% of respondents indicating they would vote to stay.
Support for staying in the single currency Eurozone was slightly lower than support for staying in the European Union. 61% of respondents in Germany indicated they would vote to stay, compared to 53% of respondents in France and 52% of respondents in Italy. Again, Spain had the highest support with 68% of respondents indicating they would vote to stay in the Eurozone.
In terms of the long term impact of coronavirus on the integrity of the EU, 22% of respondents in Germany said the pandemic has strengthened arguments for the EU, whereas 34% of respondents said it weakened arguments for the EU and 35% said it made no difference. The high level of ambivalence among respondents may be because coronavirus mounted a reduced threat to Germany compared to other European countries such as France, Spain and Italy where only 26%, 26% and 18% of respondents said that coronavirus made no difference to arguments for or against the EU.
Economic fallout from the coronavirus continues as the EU faces its biggest challenge yet. The German public is currently somewhat in support of increased economic aid to be given to members badly affected by the coronavirus but, if the EU’s current bailout plan is not enough, it remains to be seen how the German electorate will respond.