Germans 'feel least free' of all Europeans during pandemic
Nowhere in Europe have people felt more inhibited by 18 months of Covid-19 restrictions than in Germany, a new study by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) finds.
Just one in ten Germans currently ‘feel free’ in their everyday life, while almost half say that they ‘don’t feel free’, the study published on Wednesday found.
The results put Germany at the bottom of a table of Europeans in 12 EU member states who were asked about their level of freedom now compared to since the pre-pandemic days.
Asked how free they felt before the pandemic hit, two thirds of Germans answered that they ‘felt free’ beforehand.
The authors note that Germans’ very negative response comes despite the fact that Berlin largely shied away from stricter measures such as curfews that were introduced in countries such as France and Italy.
But the feeling of lost freedom was expressed across the continent, with an average of 22 percent saying they don’t feel free. Hungarians and Spaniards were least likely to report a loss of freedom with just 11 and 12 percent respectively saying the don't feel free.
ECFR director Mark Leonard said that the report’s findings were concerning.
“While, in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, it appeared that Europeans were coming together and coalescing around a unified response, stark divides have since emerged that could be as serious as those during the euro and refugee crises,” he stated.
Describing the climate as "fragile", he said that Europeans were deeply divided over the issue of losing civil liberties and over trust in governments' motives for imposing lockdowns.
Support for lockdowns
Among Germans, a loss of freedom was most felt most strongly by those who said that they had faced economic hardship during the crisis.
Generally though, a broad consensus in German society still holds around the government response.
Some 40 percent of Germans reported believing that the government got the restrictions ‘about right’ while 40 percent thought they were not strict enough. Just 20 percent felt they were too strict.
The report cautions though that support for Berlin's measures is “superficial” and “hides very high levels of discontent.” It notes high levels of dissatisfaction even among supporters of government parties, with 42 percent of CDU voters and 43 per cent of Social Democrats complaining of a lack of freedom.
Hungarians were most likely to express satisfaction with their government's interventions; Swedes were most likely to say that their government should have done more; Poles felt most keenly that their government had gone too far.
At the same time, the survey showed that two thirds of Germans said that the virus had not had an impact on their lives, either in terms of sickness, bereavement or economic effects.
Only Danes were more likely to report not experiencing negative consequences.
The survey was conducted between May 20th and 27th and involved a representative survey of 3,001 Germans.