- Neil Hall/Reuters
Europeans are largely in agreement on the top threats that face the European Union – and if you’ve been following the news as of late, you can probably guess what they are.
Eurobarometer published a report in August showing that despite ongoing concerns like rising inflation and member states’ finances, economic issues aren’t necessarily at the top of most Europeans’ lists of fears.
The survey was carried out in late May, and EU citizens were asked to identify the two most important issues facing the EU at the moment.
Here’s what they were most concerned about:
10. The environment
- Reuters/Philippe Wojazer
The environment is seen by 6% of those surveyed as one of the top issues facing the European Union, with people in Sweden and France being the most worried.
Concerns about the environment and climate change are palpable across the world. Earlier this year, each EU member state joined nearly every other nation in the world in signing the Paris Agreement on climate change and pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The only holdouts to the agreement were Syria, Nicaragua, and the United States – although it’s worth noting that Eurobarometer’s survey was conducted before President Donald Trump announced in June the US would pull out of the agreement.
9. Rising prices/inflation/cost of living
- Reuters/Neil Hall
Just 7% of Europeans were concerned about the rising cost of living, although that number could rise in the future in the United Kingdom in particular, due to the impact of Brexit.
The UK’s Office of National Statistics announced in March that the annual rate is the highest it’s been in more than three years.
8. Climate change
- Benoit Tessier/ Reuters
Although it’s unclear whether Europeans view “climate change” as a separate issue from “the environment,” which just 6% expressed concern about, another 8% said climate change was one of the top issues facing the EU.
7. The European Union’s influence in the world
- Reuters/Christopher Furlong/Pool
The issue is of particular relevance in 2017, after British Prime Minister Theresa May in March signed a letter invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, formally triggering the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU.
Concerns about the EU’s standing in the world affected 9% of survey respondents and was more frequently mentioned in countries like the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK.
- Reuters/Eric Vidal
Crime was mentioned as a top issue by just one in 10 EU citizens, reaching its highest scores in Croatia, Austria, and Belgium.
- Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett
Unemployment is the top concern for 15% of Europeans and has been on a steady downward trend throughout the European Union since early 2013.
Overall in the EU, unemployment dropped to 8% this year from 8.7% in March 2016. In the Eurozone in particular, unemployment fell to 9.5% this year from 10.2% the previous spring.
4. The state of EU member states’ public finances
- Reuters/Francois Lenoir
Just 17% of Europeans were most concerned about the state of EU members’ public finances, although 30% of respondents in the Netherlands ranked it as the most important issue.
3. Economic situation
- Reuters/Costas Baltas
Fewer than 20% of Europeans believe that Europe’s economic situation is among the most crucial issues today.
Greece, however, which is still reeling from a years-long economic downturn and stringent austerity measures, unsurprisingly ranked the issue much more highly than other Europeans did, with 31% of Greek respondents citing the issue.
- REUTERS/ Yannis Behrakis
As Western countries continue to grapple with policies regarding how many immigrants and refugees should be permitted to enter, and how best to integrate them, a large number of Europeans said immigration is one of the most important issues confronting the EU.
The issue, however, has been steadily declining in importance since 2015, according to Europeans. While 38% rank it among the most important issues facing the EU now, that number has declined by 7% since fall 2016, and an additional 12% since fall 2015.
Immigration was of particular concern to people in Estonia, Hungary, and Denmark, whereas Portugal was the only country whose residents didn’t list immigration as one of their top concerns.
- Reuters/Gabriele Sciotto
For the first time ever, terrorism is perceived by Europeans as the most important issue confronting the European Union. Nearly half of all survey respondents, 44%, now say they believe it to be the most pressing issue – in the fall of 2016, just 32% thought so.
The survey showed that the issue was deemed most concerning by people in Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, and Malta.
The finding follows a slew of terror attacks across Europe within the last year, and particularly around the time when Eurobarometer was conducting its survey. Here are some of the incidents that may have set Europeans on edge:
- An attacker plowed a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, on December 19, 2016, killing 12 and injuring 56. A terrorist with a machete rushed a group of soldiers guarding the Louvre Museum in Paris, France, on February 3, 2017. One of the soldiers was wounded. An attacker mowed down pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge on March 22, 2017, killing five and injuring 49. A man plowed a hijacked beer truck into a crowd of shoppers in Stockholm, Sweden, on April 7, 2017, killing four and injuring 15. A gunman armed with an assault rifle shot and killed a police officer in a shootout on the famed Champs-Élysées boulevard in Paris, France, on April 20, 2017. A suicide bombing outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, on May 22, 2017 killed 22 and wounded dozens of concert-goers. A group of attackers killed eight people and injured 48 others when they plowed a vehicle into pedestrians on London Bridge on June 3, 2017, then took to the nearby Borough Market, wearing fake explosive belts and armed with 12-inch knives, to stab passers-by.