Challenges and values - conference on the results of the Project Europe Research in 2022

Challenges and values - conference on the results of the Project Europe Research in 2022


Since 2016, Századvég Foundation has been conducting a public opinion poll with the aim to examine the opinions of European citizens on the issues that most affect the future of the EU. The aim of the autumn 2022 survey of this unique series of research studies was again to map public attitudes towards the most significant 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 migration crisis, in line with the new challenges facing Europe, the defining themes of this year's opinion poll was the Russian-Ukrainian war, the energy crisis, energy supply, and family policy. The results of the 2022 research were presented at the conference Challenges and Values – The results of the Project Europe Research in 2022, with the participation of analysts and renowned public figures.

Kinga Kenyeres, Chief Executive Officer, Századvég Konjunktúrakutató Zrt.

The conference was opened by Kinga Kenyeres, CEO of Századvég Konjunktúrakutató Zrt. In her speech, she presented the details of the research, said that public opinion was examined in 38 countries (in addition to the European Union, the United Kingdom, Norway, Switzerland, Moldova, Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina) with the participation of 38,000 respondents, and this extended, not exclusively EU public opinion shows an even more accurate picture of Hungary and its environment. What is the main purpose of the research?

Kinga Kenyeres put it this way: "(...) Decisions must be made in a previously unprecedented situation, while everybody is extremely tense and we are being squeezed by a multitude of ideological debates. In such a complex and uncertain situation, mistakes are less likely to fit in, and decision-makers definitely want to make good decisions.  And good decisions can only be made if they are duly substantiated. In this situation, it is not enough to rely on our impressions or expect certain answers on ideological grounds, we need to know what people think."

The CEO emphasized that this year marks the 30th anniversary of Századvég, which is a good opportunity for renewal, as a lot of knowledge has accumulated during these three decades, in which, for example, the results of the conference also provide insight. He added that Századvég is determined to share the knowledge gained over 30 years as much as possible and with as many people as possible.

Tibor Navracsics,  Minister for Regional Development

Europe cannot exist without European citizens, and a European internal policy must emerge that not only represents the European institutions but also the European people, as Tibor Navracsics,  Minister for Regional Development, stressed in his opening speech. He added that the EU institutions also need to change concepts. According to the minister, the UK's withdrawal from the EU was a wake-up call that clearly signalled the need for EU institutions, together with citizens, to rethink the future of Europe.

The migration and climate crisis, the war in Ukraine and the ensuing energy crisis have created tensions within the cooperation, which are present not only in the cooperation between the EU and the Member States, but also in the lives of European citizens.

Today, European citizens look to the future with uncertainty, with existential fear. The generations that are now growing up will be the first generations in post-World War II Europe to face more modest financial and progress opportunities, said Tibor Navracsics.

“So Europe is going through tough times, but this is not against the European Union, it's in favour of it.” We need to come together in trouble, and the lesson of the last seventy years of the union is that it can overcome all obstacles and crises if the EU institutions do not look for what separates them, but what unites them," the minister said.

Áron Hidvégi, Vice President of the Századvég Foundation

After that, Áron Hidvégi, Vice President of the Századvég Foundation, presented the main results of the Project Europe Research. He explained that one of the aims of the research was to map whether the European political elite faithfully represents the interests of citizens and to paint a true picture of European public opinion free from any political influence. He said this research explores all topics that are relevant and of concern to people. The deputy chairman presented with data what people think about sanctions, the management of the economic crisis, the energy situation, and the war in the current situation.

"The novum in this research is that it also brings to the surface differences of opinion and the different will of the electorate. This provides a very good basis for decision-makers in a given country, because it highlights problems that need to be talked about. On the issue of sanctions, for example, we can see how different the interests, the positions of the people and governments are. Each country has different geographical, social and geopolitical conditions, and that is why a single package of sanctions cannot be imposed on them, because it may put them at a disadvantage within the Europen Union that weakens the unity of the entire EU", Áron Hidvégi summarized the importance of research.

He also said that the Project Europe Research revealed the critical points, not only in relation to the war conflict, but also to the gender issue and the migration crisis. However, the most surprising result of the research is that in terms of arms deliveries, there is a huge difference between the reactions given by the government of a given country and what is expected by the public in that country.  

"In addition, of course, we can also shed light on how the fears of certain factors are built into our daily lives, and how painful and palpable the change in the area of energy is, and how it is integrated in our everyday life. How people feel the price increase and insecurity. Despite this, the European political elites make decisions that do not prevent it but even make it worse,” said the deputy chairman.

dr. Péter Pillók, Director of Századvég Foundation Social Science Research Group

After Áron Hidvégi, dr. Péter Pillók, Director of Századvég Foundation Social Science Research Group gave his presentation. In his illustrative presentation, he talked about the opposition of liberal and conservative worldviews in 21st century Europe. He presented how liberals and conservatives think about different social issues, revealed which issues are most divergent between liberal and conservative opinions, and which are the ones where there is essentially a consensus between the metaphorical laagers.

Péter Pillók emphasized that the results of the research show that the issues of security, work, and environmental protection are important for both conservatives and liberals. And although some differences can be perceived, there is also a fundamental consensus on freedom of speech, the family, equal opportunities, the protection of the fetus, the involvement of international organizations, the promotion of national culture, and individual freedom. However, there are marked differences in nine statements. While liberals consider it important to help refugees, the diversity of cultures, the support of gender equality and sexual minorites, for conservatives it is important to develop the army, regulate immigration, protect traditions, have strict laws, and preserve Christian culture.

André Palóc, senior analyst at Századvég Foundation

André Palóc, senior analyst at Századvég Foundation, then spoke about the development of the economic situation in Europe and its challenges in the light of the results of the research. He said that the year 2022 was defined by the Russian-Ukrainian war, but at the moment the European population is primarily concerned about economic problems and not the security risks of the war. The outbreak of the war, the energy crisis and the resulting increase in production costs, as well as the difficulties in supply chains, have all placed a heavy burden on the European economy, which could not even fully recover from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. An important question is how individual European countries can handle this situation and how the European Union will get out of the economic crisis caused by the war.

Dr. Olivér Hortay, Manager, Energy and Climate Policy Division of Századvég Konjunktúrakutató Zrt

The presentations were closed by Dr. Olivér Hortay, Manager, Energy and Climate Policy Division of Századvég Konjunktúrakutató Zrt., who talked about the transformations in Europe caused by the energy crisis. In his presentation, he covered topics such as energy poverty, security of supply fears, and sanctions policy.

He said that the energy crisis part of the Project Europe Research had two important questions: one related to the fear of power outages and the other to excessive energy prices. For both questions, the number of worried respondents has almost doubled since 2016, especially since the energy crisis.

In connection with energy poverty, Olivér Hortay stressed that the most important thing is to provide energy to the widest possible range of society without problems, i.e., that people do not have difficulties with heating or paying bills. The results of the research clearly show that, in terms of the European average, the rates in Hungary are better than the average, which can be explained by the officially fixed prices.

In relation to the sanctions imposed, data show that they are harming both Russia and the EU economy. These results suggest that it would definitely be worthwhile to change the EU's sanctions policy, the head of division pointed out.

This was followed by two roundtable discussions.

In the first one, European Union resources: adapting to the challenges, Dr. Szabolcs Ágostházy,  State Secretary for EU Development, talked  with Petra Halkó,  senior analyst, and André Palóc. The main thrust of the discussion, as indicated by the title, was how the allocation of EU funds is changing in the changed economic situation and how countries are adapting to challenges and changed environments. And how the results of research reflect this, what European citizens think about the work of decision-makers.

Roundtable discussions: European Union resources: adapting to the challenges

Roundtable discussions: Energy policy perspectives

In the second roundtable discussion Energy policy perspectives Attila Steiner, State Secretary for Energy and Climate Policy, and Dr. Ottó Toldi, Senior Research Fellow of Climate Policy Institute, talked with Olivér Hortay. It was mentioned in the discussion that despair currently prevails in energy policy within the European Union (for example, there was a decision that was adopted in six days), as shown by the hectic decision-making. Due to high prices and great uncertainty, everyone is remarkably economical; a 17 percent drop in consumption was measured in Hungary. Regarding the fuel market, Attila Steiner said that the supply in Hungary will be uninterrupted due to the negotiated exemption, but the introduction of a new sanction may cause price increase in European markets. He reminded that Hungary was exempted from the sanctions on the import of crude oil coming from Russia via pipleline.

Source: Századvég edit based on MTI and Origo

Results of the Project Europe Research - Áron Hidvégi's presentation: 

You can watch the presentations of the conference here.

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