France's EU captaincy brings fears for future, but hopes of stronger solidarity

By Amanda Morrow - RFI
DEC 1, 2021 LISTEN

One month before France takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union, an opinion poll published Wednesday revealed that while French people aren't sure if the EU has what it takes to meet future challenges, they expect to see more political solidarity over the next six months.

Commissioned by RFI's parent company, France Médias Monde, as well as Radio France and France Télévisions – and carried out by pollster ViaVoice – the survey is intended to act as a barometer on how the French perceive Europe as Paris prepares to take the helm on 1 January. 

Sixty-three percent of recipients said they wanted France to remain in the EU, although only a third said they felt the bloc had done a decent job managing the Covid crisis. Two thirds of people doubted the resulting economic downturn would improve anytime soon.

Most of the 2,000 French people surveyed worried the EU was becoming more fragile, and that France needed to make improving solidarity a priority – especially in the areas of climate policy, immigration, economy and health.

EU seen as 'essential'

Despite feelings of disappointment, a majority of French said the EU remained an essential political project to guarantee peace and "defend fundamental rights". 

But they also expected Brussels to get serious on the climate crisis, with 73 percent in favour of a European energy policy and 68 percent hoping to see a carbon tax at Europe's borders.

The French also believe the EU has a role to play in protecting its citizens. The idea of a European army, refuted by many leaders, was supported by 63 percent of recipients.

People also said they'd like to see tougher action on tax – perhaps in the form of a common European tax.

Among the most optimistic respondents, 20 percent came from rural communities and 30 percent from communities with more than 100,000 inhabitants. 

Thirty percent of executives and 22 percent of intermediate-level professional workers expected an improvement in European relations under France's leadership.

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