Danes are generally lukewarm towards the EU – its benefits must be more obvious if that trend is to change

Summary Over the last year, the Danes have become lukewarm and hesitant about the European Union. More Danes doubt whether the EU is good for Denmark and there is no longer a solid majority that thinks the EU cooperation is good for the country or that it should be strengthened. The convinced EU advocates are losing ground in selected areas and far more citizens are unsure of their position. However, up until now this transition has occurred without reinforcing the harsh EU scepticism.

The above is evident in a new poll conducted by YouGov for Think Tank EUROPA among 1018 Danes aged between 18 and 74 years. The survey shows a number of trends. Overall, there is growing doubt and more hesitation than was indicated in a poll conducted by Megafon for Think Tank EUROPA in September last year. A large number of Danes worry about loss of sovereignty, and a majority believes that Denmark does not have enough influence in the EU. A large majority wants to keep the opt-outs on the euro and in the area of defence, but at the same time, the Danes have a pragmatic, even positive, attitude to greater cooperation in several areas.

The Danes are ready to strengthen the cooperation in legislation. This is evident from the solid majority that wants to abolish the opt-out on judicial and home affairs or replace it with an opt-in. At the same time, the poll establishes that the Danes do want a strong EU in the fields of environment, energy, economy and foreign policy.

There is a growing gap between the generations in their view of the EU. Young people’s ambivalence towards the EU has increased over the past year and more now answer that they are unsure or “don’t know” about different points raised in the survey. At the same time, people above the age of 65 are generally far more positive towards the European project.

Main conclusion
  • The Danes have cooled on European integration during the crisis. Since last year, the majority who thought that the EU was good or very good for Denmark has disappeared. Far more Danes now doubt the value of EU cooperation.
  • The Danes are not abstract Europeans, but practical ones. This means that the benefits of cooperation must be obvious and substantial. A large group are hesitant and decide on whether or not to support the project on a case-by-case basis. Only one-third of the population believes that that the EU cooperation should be strengthened overall, but at the same time a large majority favour strengthening the cooperation in specific fields such as environment, energy and legal affairs.
  • The Danes still show a sovereignty-based defence mechanism when asked if they want to abolish the 22-year-old opt-out on judicial matters, but a large majority are ready for increased cooperation with the EU within the confines of an opt-in.
  • A new generation gap is appearing in the view of EU. Older citizens aged 65 years or over are much more pro-European than younger citizens, who do not have the same historical recollection. Young people are generally more hesitant and many answer that they do not know what they think of the EU.
  • Many Danes request a greater focus on the EU in the media and if a referendum was held tomorrow, they would search for information through news broadcasts in TV and radio before turning to other sources.

Tænketanken EUROPA indtager ikke holdninger som organisation. Denne tekst repræsenterer alene – som alle udgivelser fra Tænketanken EUROPA – forfatterens/forfatternes betragtninger.