Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

The EU Economic Crisis - Reflections in the Opinions of Citizens and Experts

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

The EU Economic Crisis - Reflections in the Opinions of Citizens and Experts

Article excerpt

Abstract: Perhaps one of the most important challenges that the EU is currently facing is that of building public support for the Union project as the economic crisis develops, confidence in the EU future is weakened and member states turn to their own boundaries. Therefore, this research aims at identifying the public opinion on the economic future of the European Union in the particular context of the euro crisis, given the fact that utilitarian considerations represent a key driver for the Europeanization process. At the same time, we compare expert opinions about the impact of the crisis on the future of the European Union, as well as the perceptions of ordinary people. To accomplish the research goals, we conducted expert interviews with 11 of the most prominent economic experts in Romania and a national survey (N = 1002)'. The study supports the perspective that citizens' opinions about the economic evolution of the European Union are largely based on their sociotropic and egocentric economic assessments. The crisis influences the perspectives on the EU, but only by tempering optimism, turning it into a moderate view. This result can be extended to other Central-Eastern states as well, due to their resembling paths. Also, experts indicate various scenarios when referring to the impact of the crisis on the EU's future, but beyond the variations, the prospects are neither optimistic, nor pessimistic, but rather moderate.

Keywords: European Union, economic crisis, euro, the EU's future, Central and Eastern Europe, Europeanization

Introduction

The article aims at understanding the impact of the crisis on people's expectations and estimations about the future of the European Union. At the same time, we compare experts' opinions about the impact of the crisis on the future of the European Union, as well as the perceptions of ordinary people. To this end, we conducted expert interviews with 11 of the most prominent economic experts in Romania and a national survey (N = 1002), with the purpose of identifying economic experts opinions about the future of the European Union and people's opinions about the EU future in the context of the economic crisis. The research was constructed so as to allow for a comparison between the opinions of elites and ordinary people. We believe that, within the public sphere, both experts and ordinary people should be heard, in order to be harmonized and to create a real debate space.

Especially in the euro crisis context, there is a growing need for citizen involvement, for critical debate on EU topics, for deliberation in order to form public opinions that should have an impact on present and future policies. However, for people to be able to debate and get involved the EU should become a largely discussed topic in national media, and all the events, measures and decisions at the level of European institutions should be disseminated at a large scale. At the same time, elites' views and people's attitudes and opinions regarding the changes, the policies or the expectations regarding the EU's future should be equally covered, since both dimensions have important contributions to developing and consolidating a Europeanized national public sphere. The Europeanization of national public spheres is an essential milestone within the Europeanization process and it contributes to reducing the current deficiencies and flaws in EU policies, especially the democratic and legitimacy deficits. Additionally, it constitutes the framework for political integration by providing a common space for debate and opinion formation (Crowley & Giorgi, 2006: 1-2).

The euro crisis, the intensification of transnational relations within the process of globalization, the growing power of supranational bodies and, at the same time, the return to nation-state protectionism, the mixture of identities are all factors that make the process of Europeanization a lengthy and difficult one. Perhaps one of the most important challenges is that of getting public support for the Union project in the context of the current crisis which has diminished the level of confidence in EU's future and has led Member States to retract to their own boundaries when it comes to measures and economic recovery, to increase the valorisation of the national problems over those of Europe. …

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