From time to time it is likely that individual EU member states may face a crisis and require assistance from their neighbours. People in all 13 EU countries tend to support giving «major help» to another EU country that had been stricken by natural disaster, an epidemic or public health crisis, or military attack. Additionally, all countries except Finland would be willing to help in the event of a climate change-related problem.

The picture is more mixed when it comes to helping countries affected by a refugee crisis or left behind technologically, while people in most countries tend to be against helping out when it comes to unemployment or a debt crisis.

Southern and Eastern European nations are noticeably more likely to be willing to help than their Northern and Western counterparts. Almost all Southern/Eastern countries were willing to help in all circumstances (except Hungary for major debt or unemployment crises).

By contrast, in none of the Northern/Western countries are people willing to offer assistance in the event of a major debt crisis. With the exception of Lithuania, they are similarly unwilling to help in the event of a major unemployment crisis.

Most are also reluctant to help neighbours left behind by technological advancement.

Co-ordinate activity

It is clear that Europeans think that the EU should serve to co-ordinate activity on behalf of members to assist other member states. In all examples, people would vastly prefer to give assistance through an EU-led initiative, rather than their country acting unilaterally.

Likewise, in all cases almost all countries prefer to assist via a permanent system set up to help EU members finding themselves in these kinds of crises, instead of providing help on a case-by-case basis. The Dutch and the Danes were often closely split on this issue.

There is a notable division between the countries surveyed on whether they would expect to be net beneficiaries of such structures. In Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, people expect that their country will end up paying in more money than they get out. In Greece (66%) and Spain (63%) in particular people believe these structures would hand back more in assistance to them than they had contributed.

All of these questions were asked about a hypothetical EU member state. But there is reason to believe that sentiment will differ wildly depending on which country becomes stricken by catastrophe.

For instance, while people in almost all of the EU countries surveyed (Finland being the exception) would be willing to give financial help to Italy and Spain – and by wide margins – people are much more reluctant to help countries like Romania and Hungary.

These results also demonstrate quite how far the UK has alienated its European neighbours. Of the 35 countries we asked people whether they’d be willing to assist, the UK comes joint 33rd – tied with Tunisia and above only Colombia.

Only in Greece, Denmark, Poland and Romania do more people than not say they would be willing to give the UK financial aid in the event of a major crisis.

This is not simply the case that the UK is a rich country and so people won’t donate on the basis that the UK can afford to look after itself: people are far more willing to provide financial assistance to the other top wealthy European countries Germany and France.

All of the data described above has been on people’s opinion about offering assistance in exceptional circumstances. When it comes to doing so as a matter of routine, i.e. through redistributing money raised through taxation across the EU, Europeans are far less reluctant.

When asked whether or not they would want some of their tax money being spent on helping people in other EU countries, almost half or more in every country (48-72%) said no.

By contrast, when asked the same question about some tax money being spent helping people in places like Africa, the results were more mixed. In seven of the 13 EU countries the most common response was that people would be happy for the government to use their tax money in foreign aid.

This could indicate that people see Europeans as too well-off to be worthy of financial assistance, in contrast to poorer places across the globe.

None of this to say there is no appetite for a redistributive EU. When asked on a 0-10 scale how far money should be spent exclusively by member states or pooled by the EU, the proportion answering «10 – Spend resources equally on all countries and all people in the European Union» was fairly substantial – as high as 27% in Romania, 23% in Greece and 22% in Italy and Poland.

Nevertheless, in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the Nordic countries in the study, only 5-9% of people felt the same way.

At the same time, however, there is very little appetite to exclusively hoard resources: only 5-11% of people in each country answered «0 – Spend resources only on own country and own people».

What should the EU be: more active?

Asked what areas they would like to see the EU be more or less active, in net terms the most welcome areas for greater EU activity are immigration and «the economic situation», as well as climate change and health and social security.

The areas in which people tended to be want the EU doing less were taxation, housing and energy supply.

Only 1-5% answered «none of these» for areas where the EU could be more involved, while 11-24% didn’t want the EU less involved in any area.

It is perhaps no surprise to see people most likely to want greater involvement when it comes to the economic situation and climate change, given that these are the areas where countries trust in the EU performs most favourably when compared with trust in national governments.

In seven of the 13 EU countries people are more likely to say they trust the EU on climate change than they are to say they trust their national government, with Greeks also exactly tied. This is also the case for five countries when it comes to «the economic situation».

This is less obviously the case for immigration, the area Europeans most commonly want the EU to be more involved. This could possibly indicate a perceived failure of EU attempts to help in this area so far, or a recognition that the EU’s pro internal migration stance runs counter to many peoples’ own stance on immigration.

Nevertheless, it is clear that people across Europe see NATO as important to national defence. In most countries a majority of people say NATO is still very or fairly important to their country’s defence. The only country where people tended to see it as unimportant was Finland, which is not a NATO member.

There is, however, division on whether a stronger NATO or greater EU defence integration is the best path to take. Given their opposition to an EU army, the British and Danes are unsurprisingly more pro-NATO on this question. In this they are joined by Romania, Lithuania, Poland, the Netherlands, Hungary and Sweden (even though this latter country is not a NATO member).

Greece, Germany, France, Spain, Finland and Italy all prefer to develop European Union defence systems further, asks YouGov in a research study.

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