People in Germany still more than willing to show solidarity with EU countries in crisis

Press Release of October 4, 2016

A study by DIW Berlin shows that almost half the adult population of Germany believes helping EU countries in crisis is the right course of action—around 30 percent oppose it—cuts in welfare spending in the crisis countries are also criticized

Contrary to the image often presented, many people living in Germany support German aid for EU countries in financial crisis. In the second half of 2015, 48 percent of adults considered it to be the right course of action for Germany to help other EU member countries. Around 30 percent opposed this and 20 percent were indifferent. These are the findings of a joint study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) and Leipzig University, based on data from the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP). Compared with earlier surveys by Eurobarometer, popular support has not diminished since 2010. Authors Holger Lengfeld, Professor of Sociology at Leipzig University, and Martin Kroh, Deputy Head of SOEP, said that, “Although the financial crisis escalated considerably in some southern European countries during this period and in some years, notably during the Greek crisis, there were a whole host of negative headlines, people are still very willing to show solidarity.”

People less willing to provide assistance to non-EU countries

Respondents clearly distinguish between aid recipients inside and outside the EU: the survey in 2015 found that around 55 percent would oppose providing assistance to European crisis countries outside the EU. The authors went on to say that, “A strong sense of solidarity with the EU is obviously still prevalent in Germany. The majority of people here see European integration as a solidarity project.” In 2015, a good third of respondents even said they would be willing to pay a hypothetical European tax of 0.5 percent of their income for the benefit of EU partner countries in crisis.

In return for this assistance, people in Germany expect austerity measures and reforms to be implemented in the crisis countries. However, the study also shows that cuts in social spending are not only criticized in the affected countries, such as Greece, but in Germany too. While two-thirds of respondents in Germany were in favor of pay cuts for civil servants in the crisis countries and 57 percent agreed with selling state assets, only 18 percent approved of cuts in pensions and only one-quarter endorsed general cuts in social benefits. “The majority of respondents showed empathy and favored a responsible attitude in dealing with people of countries in crisis,” said Lengfeld and Kroh.