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Germans far more optimistic than EU neighbors

September 6, 2017

Germans see their country on a more favorable path than other Europeans see theirs, according to the Bertelsmann Foundation. With a meager 13-percent satisfaction rating, Italy ranks as Europe's most pessimistic country.

Deutschland Bildergalerie Kleingärtner 70er
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Brüchmann

When it comes to their country's development, democratic process and economic wellbeing, Germans are markedly more optimistic than their European neighbors.

According to a to the "eupinions" study released on Wednesday by Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation, some 59 percent of German citizens said they considered their country to be developing in the right direction. No other cross section of EU citizens rated their country as highly.

Read more: German life satisfaction atlas scores high

In a true sign of Germany's economic might, an overwhelming 77 percent of those surveyed said their financial situation had either improved or remained the same over the past two years.

Infografik Bertelsmann Wahl über EU Mitgliedschaft ENG

And when it comes to political views, 63 percent of Germans said they believed democracy functioned well, while 80 percent said they identified with the center of the political spectrum — again markedly more than in any other country.

According to the study's author, Isabell Hoffmann, events such as Brexit, the election of US President Donald Trump and dramatic campaigns in the neighboring countries — France, the Netherlands and Austria — had "made an impression on many Germans and convinced them that the situation in their country was relatively good."

The study was based on a survey compiled in July of 10,755 people across key EU nations.

In stark contrast to Germany's optimistic mood, only around one in eight Italians (13 percent) saw their country on a positive path. Italy ranked as Europe's least optimistic countrywhen it comes to their country's future, below the UK (31 percent) and France (36 percent).

Infografik Bertelsmann Zufriedenheit mit der Richtung der EU ENGTitel: Infografik Bertelsmann Zufriedenheit mit der Richtung der EU ENG

Resentment towards the EU

While Germans may be happy with the country's path, not nearly as many are pleased with how the European Union has developed as a political bloc. Some 72 percent said they were unhappy with how the EU had developed, a rate only topped by Italy, where 83 percent expressed a critical stance towards the EU.

"There's an odd, skewed perception that everything is going well in Germany but going badly in the rest of the EU," Hoffmann said. 

Read more: EU begs citizens to reject extreme nationalism on European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism

Marcel Fratzscher, the president of the German Institute for Economic Research, said this development could be viewed two ways. First, it shows that "satisfaction in personal economic wellbeing contrasts with the displeasure Germans feel in the face of social injustice," he said, implying that solidarity and social cohesion were key markers in Germans' overall optimism. 

However, according to Fratzscher, this growing criticism directed at Europe could also be the result of a growing nationalist movement. "Many politicians, including in Germany, are abusing Europe and the euro currency as a scapegoat for their own mistakes," he said. 

dm/ng (KNA, dpa)

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