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Public opinion and EU foreign policies: exploring the expectations gap

Written by Clare Ferguson,

A recent Eurobarometer survey looked at the perceptions and expectations of Europeans regarding EU action, including the foreign policy, and global promotion of democracy and peace policy fields. The survey, commissioned for the only directly elected European Union institution, the European Parliament, identifies the gaps between citizens’ expectations and EU performance in related policy fields, and identifies possible areas for additional EU action.

Foreign policy

Public expectations and EU commitment on foreign policy

EU citizens are split on whether EU engagement in foreign policy is sufficient or not enough, and on some specific issues, the expectation gap is clear. The EU’s ability to act internationally, however, depends on whether it has sole responsibility, or shares responsibility with Member States and other international bodies such as the UN or WTO, to tackle a particular question. The fast-paced context of global issues with multiple impacts has encouraged the EU to move towards more integrated strategies and away from compartmentalised aid, development and trade. Coordination between all stakeholders is challenging but vital, not only to respond to natural and manmade shocks, but also to prevent risks.

The promotion of democracy and peace in the world

Public expectations and EU commitment regarding the promotion of
democracy and peace in the world

In contrast to foreign policy, fully two thirds of European Union citizens are in favour of stronger EU involvement in the promotion of democracy and peace in the world. These fundamental values guide all EU external actions. Using both diplomacy and the financial leverage afforded by both development aid and trade with third countries, the EU supports good governance, fair elections and the democratic involvement of civil society and a free press throughout the world. The Parliament has already stated ‘there can be no human security in a society without a democratic and accountable government’. However, the EU could be more effective in helping to prevent conflict and its aftermath.

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See other policy areas covered with this Eurobarometer.


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