One of the key areas of Project Europe research is the public perception of the European Union. The second data collection wave of the 2022 survey shows that Europeans have a fundamentally positive view of the European Union as an idea. The commitment to European cooperation is shown by the fact that the majority of EU respondents (53%) had a positive opinion of the European Union, while only 28% had a negative opinion. However, this positive picture is nuanced by a number of factors.

It is important to emphasise that in times of crisis (including the threat of war), citizens tend to turn to larger entities and communities for security, while European citizens are more critical of the day-to-day activities of the EU bureaucracy than of the European Union as the embodiment of the European ideal. Thirdly, public perception of the European Union varies considerably between Member States: Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic and Greece are among the least satisfied Member States. Interestingly, in Hungary, satisfaction with the European Union is clearly reduced by political pressure from the EU administration. This is the reason why the perception of the EU in our country is declining compared to the previous “peaceful years”.

Compared to the assessment of the European Union as an ideal, the assessment of the activities of the EU bureaucracy is much more negative. More than two-thirds (67%) of EU citizens expressed dissatisfaction with EU action to curb inflation and energy prices, and negative views were dominant in all Member States surveyed. While EU sanctions policy is more divisive among the European public, it is also an area where there is more dissatisfaction (49%) than satisfaction (43%) among the EU population. EU countries are divided into two blocs on the issue of punitive measures. For historical, geopolitical and societal reasons, some countries have a high level of support for sanctions (Nordic countries, Baltic States, Poland, Romania), while other Member States (including Hungary) have a much lower level of public satisfaction with punitive measures.

From time to time, the idea of a much closer integration, of a “United States of Europe” that would marginalise nation states, emerges in the European political arena. The “test” of this proposal is the mapping of whether the citizens of each Member State support a globalist or sovereigntist position in the relations between the European Union and the nation states. It should be stressed that public opinion in 22 out of the 27 Member States was in favour of sovereignty, i.e. in these countries the percentage of those who would give the Member States more power over the EU is higher than the percentage of those who would give the EU more power over nation states.