Read the report's findings here.
On Tuesday, June 14, 2016, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted Bruce Stokes, director for Global Economic Attitudes at the Pew Research Center; Richard Tibbels, head of the United States & Canada Division at the European External Action Service and Rosa Balfour, senior fellow at GMF for a panel discussion of the latest survey results on international threat perception, global security and economic engagement among EU and US citizens. The discussion was moderated by Ian O. Lesser, senior director for Foreign and Security Policy at GMF and executive director of GMF’s Brussels Office.
Bruce Stokes opened the event by briefly presenting the results of Pew’s survey among citizens in ten European Union countries, comparing them to their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic. Fuelled by the refugee crisis and the difficult economic climate the results showed a growing towards national isolationism – especially among Southern and Eastern member states. While Euroscepticism has increased over the past years, a majority of Europeans are still in favour of a globally active and economically engaged European Union. Similar to the population in the United States, Europeans identify the Islamic State as the biggest threat to their security. Generally speaking, the results on both sides of the Atlantic indicate that young adults are more outward-looking than the older generations.
During the discussion that followed the introductory remarks, Rosa Balfour pointed to the division among Europeans on important questions of foreign policy and partly attributed this to “the absence of public space within the EU system to discuss such issues.” Moreover, she urged the audience to see Euroscepticism in the context of a wider global trend among developed liberal democracies that are unable to close the widening gap between political elites and citizens.
“The world has become more complex, citizens want to find solutions on the global level, but don’t give the mandate to their politicians to find solutions on such [supranational] level,” she said.
Richard Tibbels suggested that the main challenge nowadays is bridging the divisions within the populations of the EU and US—which are both generational and ideological. Although Tibbels reiterated the importance of the transatlantic partnership, he at the same time warned that “this is no time to be complacent about transatlantic relations.” Bruce Stokes emphasized the need for governments to reverse “the disconnect [among citizens] between inward-looking attitudes and the need to tackle global, external threats.”
The discussion was followed by a question and answer session. The participants of the event included policymakers, experts, and journalists. There was agreement among the discussants and participants that, as Tibbels put it, “transatlantic relations must be at the core” of EU foreign policy heading forward. Moreover, making better use of the EU’s institutional capacities to tackle the multiple challenges it faces and a greater involvement of the population in this process is indispensable for ensuring political stability in the future.