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Germans cling to Europe as others sour on EU

The Local · 14 May 2013, 11:00

Published: 14 May 2013 11:00 GMT+02:00

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Three-quarters (75 percent) of the German population thinks their national economy is doing well, compared to nine percent in the rest of Europe, the new study, released Tuesday by Washington-based Pew Research Center found.

In fact, Germans feel more positive about almost everything than other Europeans: the economy, their personal finances, the European Union, European economic integration, and their own leadership, the study discovered.

"The contrast between German sentiment today and that of other Europeans could not be more stark," was the verdict of Bruce Stokes, Pew's director of global economic attitudes, writing in Der Spiegel magazine.

This so-called "German exceptionalism" is a cause for concern, said Stokes, not least because it has reinforced Europeans' favourite cultural stereotypes. Six out of eight of the nations see Germans as the least compassionate people in Europe, and five out of eight see them as the most arrogant.

These attitudes, coupled with Germany's economic power, pose a threat to the European project, Stokes argued.

Enthusiasm for the EU has dropped starkly across Europe in the past year, the study found. Only in Germany does a majority still support handing power to Brussels. "The European Union is the new sick man of Europe," the study said.

"Over the last two generations one goal of the European project has been to narrow the differences between Germany and the rest of Europe," Stokes wrote. "But recent economic difficulties have only amplified those dissimilarities."

Developments in France are seen as particularly alarming, where as many as 91 percent of people think the economy is in bad shape - ten percent more than last year.

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"The French and the Germans differ so greatly over the challenges facing their economies that they look as if they live on different continents, not within a single European market," the study concluded.

The researchers interviewed 8,000 people in March across the EU for the survey.

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