79% support 'important' EU aid but only 18% are 'well informed' about it: the intriguing Eurobarometer findings - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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79% support 'important' EU aid but only 18% are 'well informed' about it: the intriguing Eurobarometer findings

Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Posted on Th!nk3The results of a special Eurobarometer survey were released on Monday and contained some rather interesting findings alongside revealing that despite the financial crisis eight out of ten EU citizens (79%) still believe it is important the European Union provides humanitarian aid to countries outside its borders.

The Special Eurobarometer 343 on Humanitarian Aid sought to gauge the EU public’s opinion on four major issues including the importance of EU humanitarian aid activities for EU citizens, their awareness of humanitarian aid and EU actors, their knowledge of EU humanitarian aid activities and whether they perceived any difference in the common or national approaches to humanitarian aid.

The main finding of the survey is that 79% still believe it is important that the European Union continues to provide humanitarian aid to countries outside its borders, such as it did following the earthquake in Haiti back in April.

However, perhaps inevitably, the financial crisis took its toll on the results as the approval rate of EU aid dropped 9% from 88% in July 2006 when the last survey was carried out. This decline indicates a clear and naturally-expected link between the individual financial situations of citizens and the giving of external aid - those who have problems paying their bills expressed less support.

Nationally, a decrease in support was noted in all EU countries with the exception of Cyprus where the approval rate remained at the same high level (95%) as in 2006.

Countries in which the largest fall in support was observed are Latvia (70%, down 18%), Lithuania (68%, down 15%), while in Belgium (71%), Denmark (80%), Poland (79%), Romania (74%) and the UK (75%) support dropped by 14%.

Public awareness still high - but not of the EU's projects...

In terms of awareness, 85% can name at least one organisation providing humanitarian aid on the ground and 72% can name at least one organisation funding humanitarian assistance, with the organisations most widely-known among EU citizens are the Red Cross and UNICEF.

A Haitian schoolgirl stands alongside some EU-provided aidAnother positive finding for the European Commission, albeit bittersweet, is that 18% spontaneously name the EU, the European Commission and/or the Commission's Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) as an actor funding humanitarian aid.

Although this represents a rise of 11% compared with 2006, it will serve as further proof that more work needs to be done to increase public awareness of its aid work since remember that the EU as a whole – Commission plus member states – is the world's largest humanitarian aid donor, with the Commission alone claiming to have spent on average nearly €800 million annually in the last five years (€931.7m in 2009).

Yet despite the fact that this is not actually the EU's role, 12% spontaneously name the EU, the Commission and/or ECHO as a provider of humanitarian aid on the ground.

Still on the subject of public awareness, 86% said it was important to be informed about EU humanitarian aid activities yet only 18% answered they are “well informed”. This last figure is down from 2006, and perhaps more worryingly 31% of respondents feel "not at all informed".

Aid 'more efficient' through the EU, but not popular in the UK

Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, International Cooperation and Crisis Response (Photo: BGNES)
When it comes to what level the financial aid should be provided through, a majority of EU citizens (58%), and a relative majority in each individual member state, think aid is more efficient when provided by the EU through the European Commission - something that Kristalina Georgieva, the Commissioner responsible, will certainly be pleased to learn – with only one quarter of those questioned (24%) preferring relief funds to be channelled through member states instead.

The strongest support for a common EU action is found again in Cyprus (71%), Spain and Portugal (both 68%), Belgium (66%), France (65%) as well as in Bulgaria, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands (all 62%). On the other hand, support for a common action below 50% is found in four Member States: Ireland and Romania (both 43% support) and Lithuania (46%) and the UK (49%).

Amongst all 27 member countries, only a few generally favour a national approach to humanitarian aid, including most notably the UK (32%) where the relevant government department (DFID) has seen its budget exceptionally ring-fenced in order to fulfil its MDG obligations.

The Special Eurobarometer #343 on Humanitarian Aid was carried out in the 27 EU member states and candidate-country Iceland. 26,800 citizens were interviewed face-to-face between February and March 2010.

The full report is available to download in PDF format from here (EN only, 12mb).

Special Eurobarometer 343 on Humanitarian Aid 2010: the Questions posed

Can you name some organizations involved in providing humanitarian aid? By providing aid, we mean that they provide on-the-ground support.
QB2. And now, can you name any organizations that are funding humanitarian aid? By funding, we mean that they provide financial support to humanitarian aid.
QB3. Do you know that the European Union, through the European Commission and its Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO), funds humanitarian aid activities in countries outside the European Union?
QB4. How well informed do you think you are about the European Union humanitarian aid activities?
QB5. How important do you think it is that the European Union funds humanitarian aid activities outside the European Union?
QB6. How important do you think it is that European citizens are informed about humanitarian aid activities funded by the European Union, through the European Commission and its Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO)?
QB7. Would you say that humanitarian aid is more efficient if provided by each Member State of the European Union separately or if it is provided by the European Union through the European Commission?

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