Brussels has called on EU Member States to phase out subsidies on utility rates immediately, even though their abolition would have serious social consequences. The energy crisis is not over, and countries that do not protect their populations from market prices are facing severe energy poverty, according to research by Századvég Europe Project.


The European Commission, led by Ursula von der Leyen, has called on Hungary to scrap its rationing programme in a recent country-specific recommendation. The reasoning is that low rates do not provide sufficient incentives for energy efficiency investments and, according to the Commission, it is unnecessary to maintain subsidies at current market prices.

However, prices on European energy exchanges remain well above pre-crisis levels, leaving EU Member States that have phased out retail subsidies (or not sufficiently protected their consumers from market prices), as previously called for by Brussels, in an utilities trap. The increase in utility rates (beyond a certain level) no longer provides a meaningful additional incentive to invest in energy efficiency, but at the same time creates serious social tensions.

Századvég’s Project Europe survey shows that Brussels’ explanation is unfounded and that the phasing out of discount rates would cause extreme damage to citizens across Europe.

The survey results show that 23% of EU citizens are already experiencing difficulties with heating and 25% with paying their bills.

The country-to-country comparison shows that the countries that are able to prevent a dramatic increase in the proportion of citizens in energy poverty are those that have strong public policies to protect citizens from market energy prices. It is telling that both heating and bill payment difficulties affect Hungary the least (7% and 14%, respectively), the country with the most favourable official rates. It is also instructive that, at current market prices, higher average incomes do not necessarily provide sufficient protection: In France, for example, almost one in three respondents have difficulties paying heating and other utilities bills.

Thus, by accepting the Brussels call, Member States would further deepen an already very serious problem, and Hungary, like others, would be trapped in an utilities trap. The most urgent challenge facing the European Union is not to phase out subsidies on rates, but to reduce energy poverty.

• The Project Europe Research

In the first half of 2016, the Századvég Foundation conducted a public opinion survey covering the 28 Member States of the European Union to examine the views of European citizens on the issues that most affect the future of the Union. The Project28 public opinion survey was the most extensive ever, with a unique survey of 1,000 randomly selected adults per country, totalling 28,000. The main objectives of the survey were to gauge public sense of prosperity and to explore public attitudes towards the performance of the European Union, the migration crisis and rising terrorism. Following the surveys of 2017, 2018 and 2019, the Századvég Foundation, on behalf of the Hungarian government, continued the research since 2020 under the name Project Europe, which continued to reflect on the most dominant topics in European political and public discourse.

Once again, the 2024 survey aimed to explore public attitudes to the most important public issues affecting our continent. In addition to the public sense of prosperity, the performance of the European Union, the energy crisis and the migration crisis, and in line with the new challenges facing Europe, the main topics of this year’s public opinion poll are the rising geopolitical tensions, the perception of the media and religion. The 2024 survey covered the European Union, the United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland, and a total of 30,000 randomly selected adults were interviewed using CATI between 14 February and 15 April.