If the European member states and Greece cannot find a solution for the Greek debt problem until Sunday, an ejection of Greece from the Eurozone will no longer be avoidable. While in Germany voices supporting a Grexit have become louder over the last weeks, the German attitude may differ from public opinions in other EU member states. Therefore, today we want to take a closer look at the people’s opinion towards the Greek debt problem throughout Europe.
A survey conducted by YouGov at the end of June revealed that in the northern parts of the EU most countries favoured a Grexit over a scenario were Greece remained part of the Eurozone. While in Germany a majority of 53% was in favour of a Grexit, only 29% voters were strictly against it. A slightly minor percentage preferring Greece to leave the Eurozone was found in Finland, where 47% supported a Grexit and 26% wanted the country to stay. A similar outcome was found in Denmark (44% pro Grexit, 24% against it). The other countries questioned showed less preference towards a Grexit with numbers somewhere around 35%. Here too, however, the voices of people in favour of a Greek exit outnumbered those wanting Greece to remain part of the monetary union zone.
The results of the survey were even stronger when people were asked whether they thought it was actually likely that a grexit would occur in the near future. In each state, significantly more voters believed that it was more likely than not that Greece would leave the Eurozone in the next six months. These majorities were particularly large in case of Denmark (62%), Britain (59%), and Germany (56%).
In France at the end of June, there was still a majority supporting the stay of Greece in the Eurozone, however, the percentage has been declining gradually since June 2012 as shown in the graph below. After the Greek referendum on July 5th, the majority of voters (50%) now backed a Grexit, while 49% still wanted Greece to remain in the Eurozone. With regards to a question concerning the solution to the Greek debt problem, 55% of the French answered that they would like to give the Greek government more time for paying back its debt. While 7% of the voters took the view that a total haircut would be the best solution, 22% said they would only partially withdraw the Greek debt mountain. As opposed to this, 15% of those polled stated that they would recommend leaving the Greek debt and the due payment unchanged.
Having gone through tough austerity policies themselves and facing a similarly despairing job situation, Spanish opinions diverge from those in most northern states. The majority of the Spanish voters – 65% – sympathized with a delay of the debt payback until the economic situation in Greece has improved, while 9% were in favour of cancelling the debts. Meanwhile, only 19% would like to see increased pressure on the Greek government to pay back its debts.
Similar signs of sympathy could be found among Italian citizens. Here 15.9% of the people polled by Euromedia Research at the end of June were in favour of a debt cancellation, 54.8% voted for a restructuring of the Greek debt and only 17.8% took the view that Greece has to pay the whole amount of debt.
When it comes to the remaining EU member states, particularly the eastern European countries, the attitude of the respective population tends to be convergent. In Poland for example, a survey conducted by the polling institute IBRIS at the beginning of July showed that the minority of those polled (28.7%) wanted that the EU prolongs the financial aids for Greece, whereas the majority (59%) – primarily elderly voters – did not back the idea of further help. In other eastern countries, such as the Baltic States or Slovakia, there seems to be overall only little understanding for the reform-averse Greek government and the reluctance to follow further austerity policies. In Austria too, there is clearly a tendency towards more people supporting a Grexit rather than campaigning for Greece to stay in the Eurozone.
Taken as a whole, the public opinion among the EU countries is divided. While in northern and eastern parts of Europe, more and more people are convinced that a Grexit would be the best solution for putting an end to the misery, the southern EU countries are less hard on Greece, supporting the possibility of giving the Greek government more time for paying back its debts or even considering cancelling all or parts of Greece’s debts.
With a new reform list from Athens, it seems once again impossible to foretell what Sundays summit will bring. One thing is for sure though. The public’s opinion is shifting and the more time without a concrete solution will pass, the more people will speak out for a separation from Greece. No matter the cost.