Covid-19 has created some potentially long-lasting divisions across the European Union (EU), with people in southern and eastern countries reporting personal or financial problems due to the pandemic, according to a new study cited by Euronews.
The poll, published this Wednesday by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), concluded that Europeans in general feel less free than they did two years ago (before the pandemic), which could have serious consequences. Implications for politics in the old continent.
The majority – 54% – of the 16,200 people surveyed by Thinktank, which is based in Brussels in 12 EU member states, say they have not been affected “at all” by Covid-19.
But not everyone has felt the public health crisis in the same way, with Europe divided in what the study authors describe as a “story of two epidemics.”
More than half of respondents in the six northern and western countries surveyed – Denmark, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Austria – said they had not been affected by the pandemic.
However, in the six southern or eastern countries – Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain – the proportion has fallen to less than 50%, with the majority of respondents reporting that they are physically or financially ill.
Two other sections were also identified through the survey. The first is the generational divide: Nearly two-thirds of respondents over the age of 60 said they had not reported any personal repercussions of Covid-19, compared to just 43% of those under 30.
Age also affects how people feel about who is to blame for the outbreak. 51% of people over 60 blame individuals, while Europeans under 30 blame governments and other institutions (49%).
The latest big divide the study revealed relates to the idea of freedom: Only 22% of respondents said they felt free, compared to 64% before the pandemic. However, the percentage of people who say they don’t feel free has increased from 7% to 27% compared to 2019.
The loss of freedom is particularly acute in Austria and the Netherlands, where the proportion of people feeling free has fallen by more than 60 percentage points in the past two years, to 15% and 19%, respectively.body.
Mark Leonard, founding director of the ECFR and one of the research co-authors, warned in a statement that the “blatant divisions” that have emerged over Covid-19 “may be as severe as they were during the euro and refugee crises.”
He concluded that “this creates a fragile climate in many parts of Europe, and for national governments and the European Union, it could pose a problem as they seek to restore personal liberties and launch plans to recover from the Covid virus.”
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