According to conventional wisdom, the Eurozone crisis has reduced citizens’ trust in the European Union – and in European institutions in general – across all member states. Several recent reports have claimed that the German public, in particular, has turned its back on Europe.
For example, a recent briefing note by Open Europe claims that German citizens tend to trust the European Parliament less than their national parliament and detects a trend of declining German trust in EU institutions since the start of the crisis. Similarly, a commentary by the European Council on Foreign Relations states: “Trust in the EU has plummeted across the continent. Both southern debtors and northern creditors feel like they are victims.” And a Pew Research Center report released in May, entitled “The New Sick Man of Europe: The European Union,” concludes: “The European project now stands in disrepute across much of Europe.”
This narrative is simply wrong. In fact, Germans’ trust in the euro has been increasing throughout the crisis, and, though their trust in EU institutions was falling until a couple of years ago, it has now recovered.
Return of the Mark?
The best indicator of Germans’ attitude toward the euro is provided by a regular poll conducted since 2002 that asks a simple question: “Would you like to have the Deutsche Mark back?”
In recent years the proportion of those who would like to have the DM back has steadily declined, and now stands at only about 35 per cent. By contrast, the proportion of those who would rather keep the euro has increased steadily throughout the crisis and is now around 50 per cent. In fact, the trend of increasing acceptance of the euro began in 2008, with the onset of the global financial crisis, and continued its upward trajectory with the onset of the Eurozone’s sovereign-debt crisis in 2010.
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