BRUSSELS, BELGIUM— The number of Europeans who distrust the European Union has doubled over the past six years to a record high, with bailed-out Greeks and Cypriots having the least faith in the bloc, according to a new EU poll.
An economic crisis, record unemployment and five euro zone bailouts have taken their toll on the standing of the European Union that last year was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize but is increasingly viewed as an overbearing, cumbersome bureaucracy.
Sixty percent of Europeans “tended not to trust the EU,” according to Eurobarometer, a public opinion service of the European Commission, the EU executive, which released its spring findings this week.
That compares to the 32-percent level of distrust reported in early 2007 before the onset of the 2008/2009 global financial crisis and the ensuing euro zone debt crisis.
Cyprus, which was bailed out earlier this year in a controversial rescue that forced losses on wealthy depositors, showed the most distrust of the European Union at 83 percent.
In Greece, which is suffering from an economic depression and where painful job reductions and spending cuts have been ordered by the EU, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, the level of distrust was 80 percent.
Britons also showed steadily growing disillusionment, with 68 percent of citizens saying they had little confidence in the bloc of 500 million citizens that London joined four decades ago. Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed Britain hold a vote by 2017 on whether to leave.
Britain's support for the euro, the single currency shared by 17 EU nations and of which Britain is not a member, was also the lowest in the bloc at 15 percent.
Almost half of all Europeans said that they were pessimistic about the future of what is now a 28-nation bloc, the poll found, up from a quarter in late 2007.
That marks a worrying trend for a bloc designed around an ideal of “ever greater union” to deepen the benefits of cooperation in areas ranging from trade to health and the rule of law, and as European influence wanes in the world.
Elections to the European Parliament next May could see a surge in anti-EU parties and Britain's Eurosceptic party, UKIP, believes it can win the largest share of British votes.
In April, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned of “political extremes and populism tearing apart the political support and the social fabric” of Europe and called for unity, but many citizens see EU institutions as pernicious and overbearing in national public life.
The Eurobarometer poll was carried out between May 10 and May 26 and interviewed 32,694 people across the European Union.