EP survey: EU recovery funds should only go to countries respecting the rule of law

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In the latest public opinion survey, four out of five respondents (81%) say the EU should only provide funds to Member States that respect the rule of law and democratic values.

The Maltese are strongly in favour of this, with 83% totally agreeing or tending to agree.

A Eurobarometer survey published today by the European Parliament ahead of the State of the European Union event on 15 September shows clear public support for transparency and effective control of EU funds disbursed in the framework of the NextGenerationEU programme.

According to the survey, across the EU, 53% of citizens fully agree that there must be effective control, with a further 32% tending to agree. Only 8% of respondents on EU average do not share this opinion. In Malta the opinion is decidedly in favour, with 69% fully agreeing and 26% tending to agree, whilst only 2% tend to disagree, and 3% don’t know.

This is a position shared by the European Parliament, that is currently closely assessing the national plans with the Commission to ensure these funds are used in line with the objectives of a greener, more digital, and resilient European society.

Citizens assess the premise of the European Union’s 800 billion Euro recovery programme positively: three out of five citizens (60%) believe the NextGenerationEU projects will help their country to overcome the economic and social damage brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. 59% of citizens also say that the programme will help their country to be better prepared for future challenges. Malta tops such thinking EU-wide with 78% opining that the NextGenerationEU projects will help pandemic recovery, and 80% that these will help in being prepared for future challenges.

In this light, the survey also shows 53% of European citizens have a positive image of the European Union, with only 19% having a fairly or very negative image. The Maltese have more positive image than the average, with 64% viewing the EU positively, whilst 11% have a negative image.

Yet survey results suggest concerns in a range of EU countries on how well national governments will actually use these additional EU funds. While on average 45% of citizens trust their national governments in this regard, 41% of respondents express doubts, showing significant differences in trust levels across the EU. In Malta, 51% express trust.

Public opinion also clearly supports the position taken recently by the European Parliament in the debate on the need for conditionality, control and transparency.

This is reflected in citizens’ continued support for the respect for the Rule of Law as a condition for the provision of EU funds. Four out of five citizens (81%) agree that ‘the EU should only provide funds to Member States conditional upon their government’s implementation of the rule of law and of democratic principles’. In Malta 83% share this opinion.

Survey results show a uniformly high level of support for this position throughout all EU Member States with comparatively few variations. Respect for the rule of law is a major concern for the European Parliament.

President David Sassoli:  “This latest survey of public opinion confirms that Parliament’s and citizens’ views are aligned in insisting that the EU Recovery Funds, aimed at rebooting the European economy in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, must be used effectively and on condition that the beneficiary countries are respecting our core democratic values and the Rule of Law.”

Changing political priorities

Asked which issues the European Parliament should pursue as its political priorities, respondents put actions against climate change back in first place, backed by 43% of citizens.

This is the case also for Malta, where action against climate change tops the priority list with 64%, whereas migration is a priority for 43%, whilst for 30% it is the fight against terrorism and organised crime.

Across the EU, further priorities considered by respondents (which match Parliament’s priorities for the post-pandemic recovery) are measures to fight poverty and social exclusion (32%), support for the economy and to create new jobs, as well as the fight against terrorism (both 31%). 

Public health, as well as migration and asylum, come in joint fourth position with 27% each. It is noteworthy that citizens of Hungary and Poland put the item ‘democracy and the rule of law’, which on EU average comes in eighth position, at the very top of their priorities for the Parliament (2nd in Poland, 3rd in Hungary).

In Malta, democracy and the rule of law are joint fourth priority together with measures to fight poverty and social exclusion, whereas public health is in sixth place.