Future of Europe of 2057, seen in poll
Harold F. Schiffman
haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Mon Mar 26 13:31:32 UTC 2007
Europe of 2057, seen in poll
By Meg Bortin
Thursday, March 22, 2007
PARIS: The Europe of 2057 is a larger place, its borders stretched
eastward to encompass Turkey and, probably, Russia. It is a greener place,
where wind and sun power have supplanted fossil fuels. It has been the
battleground for at least one new war. And the dominant language is
This vision of Europe's future emerges from a new trans-Atlantic poll
timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the European Union. The
results are not uniform across the six countries polled Britain, France,
Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United States but, as through a hazy
crystal ball, images of the world to come take shape.
These images contain good news for supporters of Europe's historic
endeavor begun on March 25, 1957, with the signing of the Treaty of Rome:
Fifty years from now, more than 5,300 European respondents strongly
agreed, the European Union will still exist. In overwhelming numbers,
European respondents also believe that the euro is here to stay and will
be the standard currency for Europe in 2057.
But the results of the poll, conducted for the International Herald
Tribune and the French television station France 24 by Harris Interactive,
an online polling organization, were less positive regarding
trans-Atlantic ties. Fewer than a third of all respondents polled believe
that relations between the United States and Europe are likely to be
better in 2057 than they are today. The survey canvassed 6,767 people
5,373 in Europe and 1,394 in the United States in online polling conducted
from Feb. 28 to March 12.
Perhaps the most startling reply concerns the possible inclusion of Russia
in the EU, given that the issue is not even on the table today. While
three former Soviet republics have joined the 27- member bloc and others ,
like Ukraine are seeking entry, Russia after looking to Europe in the
1990s has pulled back. Yet among the Europeans polled, 50 percent of
Italians, 49 percent of Spaniards, 34 percent of French and Germans, and
33 percent of Britons said they believed that the borders of the EU would
encompass Russia--a country stretching from the Baltic to the Bering Sea,
far to the east of China--by 2057.
By even larger numbers, respondents envisage the Europe of 2057 as
encompassing Turkey. With the issue of Turkish membership a political hot
potato in a Europe struggling to integrate the Muslims already within its
borders, Italians believe most strongly that Turkey will join (58
percent), followed by respondents from Britain and Germany (46 percent),
France (38 percent), and Spain (36 percent). These results are
"surprisingly revealing," said Timothy Garton Ash, professor of European
studies at Oxford University.
"It's fascinating because it reveals some deep assumptions people make."
Many Europeans "say Europe shouldn't expand to include Turkey and Russia,"
he said, "but deep down they believe it will. It shows you how much
enlargement really is the story of the European Union." Few respondents
thought the EU would shrink by 2057, with this seen as most likely by the
British, at 8 percent. The British also stood out on the question of
energy. All the other countries surveyed ranked wind and sun power as the
most likely primary source of energy in 2057. But nuclear energy
outperformed wind and solar power by 9 percentage points in Britain, 47
percent to 38 percent.
In sun-splashed Spain, a full 68 percent see wind and solar power as the
dominant energy of the future. Even in France, where nuclear energy is the
primary source of electricity today, wind and sun power (48 percent)
trumped nuclear energy (46 percent).
On the vital question of whether the European Union will still exist in
2057, the often skeptical French were the most positive, with a robust
majority (85 percent) saying that it would. That opinion was shared by 84
percent in Italy, 82 percent in Spain, 76 percent in Germany, but only 62
percent in euro- skeptical Britain. With EU leaders "struggling to conceal
the pessimism and introversion they have felt since the French and Dutch
no votes" on the European constitution, said Mark Leonard, executive
director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a new pan-European
research organization, "this poll should cheer them up."
In even larger numbers, Europeans and Americans envisage the euro as
Europe's standard currency in 2057. This view was shared by 93 percent of
the Spanish, 89 percent in Italy and France, 83 percent in Germany, 76
percent in Britain, and 72 percent in the United States. In Britain,
however, a significant number 19 percent think that European countries
that have already adopted the euro will return to local currencies like
the French franc or the Deutsche mark.
The majority of Europeans do not see the EU evolving into a federal system
led by a single president, like the United States. From 30 to 40 percent
in the five European countries surveyed said they viewed this as probable,
while 46 to 56 percent said they did not.
The most positive view of life emerged in Italy and Spain. In line with
their cheerful Mediterranean image, they had a brighter vision of the
future than their neighbors to the north. Asked whether the quality of
life in their country in 2057 would be better, the same, or worse than
today, 47 percent of Spaniards and 44 percent of Italians said it would
improve, compared to 27 percent of the French, 26 percent of the British,
and 22 percent of the Germans questioned. Americans were split on the
issue, with 31 percent saying quality of life would improve and 34 percent
saying the opposite; the rest said it would be unchanged or had no
On the question of war and peace, majorities in all countries said that
they expected a new war to break out on European soil by 2057 or that they
were uncertain. A third or fewer of the populations surveyed say they
believe that a war involving Europe is unlikely to occur in the next 50
Regarding religion, Christianity is viewed by all respondents as likely to
remain dominant in Europe. Just over 50 percent of Germans, Italians and
Spanish share this view, as do about one-third of Britons, French and
Americans. But Islam came second in Germany, Britain, and, most strongly,
France, where 22 percent said it was likely to be the most widely
practiced religion in Europe in 2057.
Finally, in a response likely to ruffle feathers in Paris, Berlin, Madrid,
and Rome, respondents overwhelmingly agreed that English would be the
language most widely spoken in Europe 50 years from now. That view was
shared by the French (71 percent), the Germans (73 percent), the Spanish
(76 percent), the Italians (81 percent), and, of course, the British (83
French, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, and Russian were seen as likely
to overtake English within 50 years by only tiny minorities. Even in
France, where defending the language is a matter of state policy, French
was seen to as likely to predominate by just 7 percent.
Copyright 2007 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com
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