Since the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict, the Western political elite, both in its communications and in its proposals, has placed more emphasis on punishing Russia than on facilitating peace talks. Much of Brussels' sanctions and foreign policy efforts have pushed the chances of an agreement between the parties and a quick end to the war further away. In the framework of the Project Europe Research of Századvég, it examined the attitude of Europeans to war and peace negotiations.
Europeans want peace, not sanctions
The European Union's attitude to the Russian-Ukrainian war is a key priority area of the Community's foreign policy. The intensity of the fighting is constantly increasing and, in addition to the warring parties, the burdens on Europe placed by the sanctions are also increasing. Despite this, the intention of bringing those affected to the negotiating table is not pronounced in Brussels’ efforts. However, based on the results of the research conducted by Századvég, Europeans would expect their leaders to work towards a peace agreement as soon as possible and a quick end to the war.
Two-thirds of Europeans are worried about war
Looking at the average of the European Union, 68 percent of those surveyed are concerned about the war, and more than a third find the conflict very worrisome. The highest rates are found in Hungary (very worrisome: 62 percent, rather worrisome: 31 percent) and in Germany (very worrisome: 51 percent, rather worrisome: 30 percent). Based on the results, the differences between the Member States are primarily influenced by historical background and trade relations with Russia. Presumably, the former is responsible for the fact that the population of the Baltic states and the latter is responsible for the fact that the population of the southern Member States involved in oil supply are more worried about the conflict.
The only Member State with a majority of those who do not consider the war to be of concern is Slovakia, where a total of 48 percent marked the answers of very and rather worrisome (18 and 30 percent, respectively), and the highest proportion (41 percent) marked the answer of rather not worrisome. The division of the respondents is surprising, since Slovakia is a neighbour of Ukraine and, moreover, has trade relations with Russia in several areas. One possible explanation for the results is that the attention of the Slovak population is being captured by other, internal problems.
An overwhelming majority in Europe is pro-peace
Across the EU, 82 percent of respondents agree that Russia and Ukraine should be forced into peace talks in order to end the war. The differences between the results in the Member States reveal a clash between the pro-sanctions approach aimed at punishing Russia and the sanction-critical attitude of urging to make peace as soon as possible. The southern Member States (91 percent in Cyprus, 89 percent in Portugal and Greece) which have not accepted many of Brussels' previous proposals for sanctions packages are the most likely to agree with the forcing of the negotiations. In Hungary, which is also critical of sanctions, 88 percent of the population is pro-peace.
Although in all the countries examined there is a majority of those who call for negotiations as soon as possible, in the pro-sanctions Member States this proportion is lower. The issue mostly devides the Baltic countries and Poland: 42 percent of Estonians, 36 percent of Latvians, 31 percent of Poles, and 29 percent of Lithuanians disagree that peace talks should be forced to end the war as soon as possible.
The Project Europe Research
In the first half of 2016, the Századvég Foundation conducted a public opinion poll survey covering all 28 European Union Member States, with the aim to analyse the opinions of EU citizens regarding the issues that most affect the future of the EU. In a unique way, Project 28 conducted the widest possible survey of 1,000, that is a total of 28,000 randomly selected adults in each country. Gaining an understanding of society’s sense of prosperity and mapping the population’s attitudes towards the performance of the European Union, the migration crisis and the increasing terrorism were among the most important goals of the analysis. Following the surveys in 2017, 2018 and 2019, on behalf of the government, the Századvég Foundation has been conducting the research under the name of Project Europe since 2020, which continued to reflect on the topics that most dominated the European political and social discourse.
In 2022, the aim of the survey is again to map the population’s attitude towards the most important public issues affecting our continent. In addition to society’s sense of prosperity, the performance of the European Union, the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, and the perception of the migration crisis, in line with the latest challenges affecting Europe, the dominant theme of this year’s poll has been the Russian-Ukrainian war, the energy crisis, energy supply, and family policy. In addition to the European Union Member States, the 2022 research covered the United Kingdom, Norway, Switzerland, Moldova, Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and surveyed a total of 38,000 randomly selected adults using the CATI method between 13 October and 7 December.