Friday, January 27, 2023

HomeEnergy & MeDo Europeans approve the EU's energy crisis response?

Do Europeans approve the EU’s energy crisis response?

Two weeks ago, we presented our analysis of the EU’s policy response to the ongoing energy crisis. This week, we take a look at the views of EU citizens, particularly those from the CEE region, to understand the impact of the latest measures on the lives of Europeans as we put 2022 in the books.

Earlier this month, Eurobarometer, the independent EU tool for gauging public opinion across the continent, published its latest data on the Union’s “response to the energy challenges”. More broadly, it found that “a large majority of EU citizens are positive about recent EU actions to tackle the energy crisis”. Overall, 82 per cent of EU citizens agree that the bloc should continue to “take actions to reduce its dependency on Russian fossil fuels”. Whilst an “overwhelming majority” of respondents (83 per cent) believe that Russia’s war against Ukraine makes it more urgent to invest in renewable energy. The data also shows that the EU’s measures as part of its response to Russia’s aggression continue to get “robust support” among citizens.

Has the EU passed the “energy crisis test” for citizens in CEE?

In terms of “satisfaction with the response to the war in Ukraine”, there seems to be overall support in the region. Most respondents were “rather satisfied” in Lithuania (51 per cent); Poland (47 per cent); Romania (45 per cent); Estonia (49 per cent); Croatia (39 per cent); Slovenia (38 per cent); Czechia (34 per cent); Hungary (34 per cent); Slovakia (32 per cent). In Bulgaria, the response is split between “rather satisfied” (31 per cent) and “rather not satisfied” (32 per cent). However, Greece recorded strong disapproval with a majority of respondents (49 per cent) “not at all satisfied” and only 20 per cent “rather satisfied”.

Looking specifically at the bloc’s energy policy, a majority of Polish citizens “totally agree” (57 per cent) or “tend to agree” (33 per cent) that the EU should continue to take actions to reduce its dependency on Russian gas and oil as soon as possible. Even stronger support for the EU’s energy ‘paradigm shift’ from Russia is seen in Lithuania: 59 per cent “totally agree” and 27 per cent “tend to agree”. Overall, the EU average provides a similar outlook: 50 per cent “totally agree” and 32 per cent “tend to agree” on moving away from Russian fossil fuels.

Interestingly, the country most dissatisfied with the EU’s overall response (Greece), is broadly in favour of moving away from Russia’s oil and gas imports: 37 per cent “totally agree” and 26 per cent “tend to agree”. However, 18 per cent “totally disagree” with the continued steps towards lessening dependence, in comparison to the 6 per cent EU average. In fact, greater disapproval is seen in Slovakia, which despite seeing a majority of respondents with a tendency to agree (30 per cent), noted 22 per cent of respondents who “totally disagree” and 16 per cent who “tend to disagree”.

Conflict as a key driver towards renewables?

When asked about support for accelerating renewables – the war in Ukraine makes it more urgent for EU Member States to invest in renewable energy, 47 per cent of Europeans “totally agree”, 36 per cent “tend to agree”, whilst only 8 per cent “tend to disagree”, 4 per cent “totally disagree” and 5 per cent “don’t know”. This is particularly important due to the context of armed/geopolitical conflict explicitly included in the statement, which provides further insights into the growing relationship between global security and climate change.

Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many countries in the region like Lithuania had persistently underlined the strategic value of renewables in the context of energy interdependence. In the latest polling, its citizens arguably gave a strong single of support for this course of action as 85 per cent of Lithuanians either agree “totally agree” or “tend to agree” with the urgent need for greater investments in renewable energy amid a volatile European security architecture.

Whilst not implicitly asked, the above data may signal, in particular regarding moving away from Russian energy, that the areas upon which the EU’s post-24/2 energy policy is built – for example, diversification of supplycompetitiveness and solidarity indicate strong support, not merely from experts and policymakers from CEE but the wider European public. Looking at the future energy policy landscape, this continent-wide support may be an important aspect in strengthening the EU’s post-24/2 identity from a long-term perspective, making potential attempts at policy u-turns or backtracking increasingly difficult to succeed.

Sign up to our biweekly newsletter

    Most Popular