The European Union’s sanctions policy is reasonably expected to cause more damage to Russia than to Europe. As punitive measures have not been able to speed up the end of the war (in fact, the armed conflict is deepening) and the EU’s prospects are deteriorating, there is growing criticism of the Community’s previous efforts. EU heads of government are expected to decide on the future of the EU’s sanctions policy early next year, so Századvég assessed the extent to which European public opinion believes that the original expectation has been met.
Only a tenth of Europeans believe that sanctions primarily harm Russia
Looking at the European Union average, the majority (53 percent) of those who responded said the sanctions had harmed both the European and Russian economies. It is telling that almost four times as many people (37 per cent) believe that punitive measures primarily harm the EU economy as those who see Russia as the primary loser of the sanctions. The former are in the majority in all EU Member States compared to the latter.
The differences between the Member States are well explained by the different attitudes of the countries towards the Community’s sanctions policy. In the largest proportion, the sanctions-critical southern Member States (Greece: 55 percent, Cyprus: 54 percent) and Hungary (52 percent) consider Europe’s damages to be greater than the Russian costs. In pro-sanction countries, the rate is smaller but significant: 19 percent in Denmark, 20 percent in Finland and 24 percent in Estonia and Poland. Based on the results, it can be stated that, according to European public opinion, the original expectation of sanctions – that they should hurt Russia more than the EU – has not been met.
Most of Europe expects a recession
As a result of the trade conflict between Russia and Europe, the EU economy is in growing trouble, which can also be seen in the Europeans’ sense of prosperity. Almost three quarters (72 percent) of those who responded expect a recession by 2023 and 23 percent say that a significant decline in economic activity was already a problem at the time of the survey (between 13 October and 7 December 2022).
The proportion of those who think that next year’s recession can be avoided is only 5 percent on average in the EU, the lowest in Italy, Portugal, and Sweden (4 percent in all three countries). The results show that European public opinion believes that punitive measures are excessively damaging to Europe and pushing the Community into recession, so it would be advisable for the heads of government of the Member States to change the EU’s sanctions policy.
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.