Germany’s Role in the World

A Presentation of the Pew Research Center's poll of public opinion and foreign policy in Europe

20/06/2016 | 12:30 - 14:00 | DGAP Berlin | Invitation only


Category: Germany, German Foreign Policy

European partners disagree about how to respond to Europe’s current political challenges, to say nothing of the challenges facing its neighboring countries. The Pew Research Center’s newly published survey “Europeans Face the Word Divided” gives insight into how divided European citizens are in their views concerning the role of their governments and the European Union in the world. A few days before the Brexit referendum, Bruce Stokes gave an exclusive presentation of the report at the DGAP.

© DGAP/Dirk Enters

Bruce Stokes (left) and Jürgen Trittin

The Pew Research Center’s survey analyzed and compared the opinions of 11,494 citizens of ten different European states, including Germany, about the European Union and the relations of their countries to the EU. The opinions about the functionality and stability of the EU differ markedly. The entire survey of the Pew Research Center can be found here.

Bruce Stokes, Pew’s director of global economic attitudes, presented the different results of the survey and emphasized the difference in opinions that occurred on a national and cross-national level. Referring to the Brexit vote (which was still three days away), Stokes shared one result of the survey that he regarded to be of utter importance: Merely 18.8 percent of European citizens surveyed believed that the EU should play an essential role in coping with complex challenges on a global scale. Other results showed that the majority of respondents expressed a negative perception of the EU. However, Stokes elaborated that idealism was tangible it comes to the EU’s role in maintaining peace. He also noted that younger and more educated people had a more positive opinion of the EU.

Referring to Germany, the results shed light on a severe difference in opinions between French and German citizens. Even though the public opinions of those two countries had been rather similar in the past, lately they have stated to drift apart. The difference is particularly tangible when it comes to how satisfied German and French citizens claim to be with the EU and with European economic policies. 47 percent of Germans expressed satisfaction with the EU’s economic policies, whereas only 27 percent of French citizens took a positive view of the policies.

The majority of Europeans polled regard the approach of the EU to the refugee crisis in a rather negative way. The question of how the EU should interact with Russia caused greater divisions among the respondents: 43 percent of respondents stated that they support a firm treatment of Russia by the EU.

Following the presentation of Bruce Stokes, Jürgen Tritten – Green party Bundestag member and member of the Bundestag’s committee on foreign affairs – commented on the survey and expressed his hopes that the “Remain” camp would win in the upcoming Brexit referendum. Trittin also expressed satisfaction with the survey’s findings that a majority of Germans support the EU and favor a strong integration of Germany into multinational structures. Trittin demanded that more should be invested into the EU and warned that Germany and France should overcome their differences of opinion in order to secure the stability of the EU.

Henning Riecke, head of the DGAP's USA/Transatlantic Relations, moderated the well-attended discussion. The DGAP gratefully acknowledges the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung for its support of this event, which was held in English.

Bruce Stokes
Director, Global Economic Attitudes, Pew Research Center


Jürgen Trittin, MP
Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Alliance 90/The Greens, German Bundestag

Dr. Henning Riecke
Head of Program, USA/Transatlantic Relations, DGAP

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