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'Environmental protection top priority for EU citizens'

November 27, 2019

European citizens expect incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to make environmental security a priority in the coming years, according to a survey by the Bertelsmann Foundation.

Anti climate change demonstration in Hamburg, Germany
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/G. Wendt

In a survey published by Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation on Wednesday, 40% of respondents from 27 EU member states cited environmental protection as the most pressing issue. Job protection followed with 34% and social security with 23%.

For its survey, Bertelsmann interviewed 12,123 people that were representative of 27 EU member states, excluding the UK. The study also looked at individual EU states — Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Poland.

According to the study, 49% of respondents in Germany want climate protection to be the government's priority, whereas 35% of Poles and Dutch see environmental protection as an important topic, followed by Spaniards at 32%.

Read more: Germany's average temperature has risen 1.5 degrees: report

Job security and living costs

When asked about their personal concerns, increasing living costs featured highly with 51%. In France, which has witnessed large-scale "yellow vest" protests since the end of 2018, 61% of people considered a spike in living costs a major issue. In Germany, however, only 44% shared the view.

"Protecting the environment is important for Europeans but they are also worried about rising living costs," said study director Isabell Hoffmann.

Apart from the Netherlands, job protection was more important in the other four countries individually. Italians (60%), Spaniards (40%) and French (40%) considered employment security as paramount. The percentage of German citizens who deemed job security an important issue was much lower than the other five EU nations interviewed in the survey.

Read more: Why religious narratives are crucial to tackling climate change

Will the EU continue to exist?

Nine out of 10 survey respondents believe the European Union will continue to exist in one way or another, however more than a third (35%) of Europeans expect further Britain-like exits in the future.

Other issues featuring prominently in the study include health and political radicalism.

Read more: UN: Greenhouse gas levels in atmosphere hit new high

shs/se (AFP, dpa, EPD)

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