In the midst of escalating economic pressures and an ongoing war in Ukraine, a new analysis published by the highly regarded Brussels-based think tank, Bruegel, sheds light on the sustained resilience of public support for Ukraine within the European Union.
Quoting the European Commission’s ‘Factsheet: EU solidarity with Ukraine’, as of 23 May 2023, the European Union and its member nations have committed an impressive total of €70 billion in aid to Ukraine. This figure encompasses financial, humanitarian, and military support, emergency budget provisions, and resources dedicated to helping those displaced by the conflict.
Simultaneously, the European Union faces significant economic strain. Inflation in the euro-area is projected to reach 5.8 percent this year. This economic climate has led to a shift in everyday life, with 71 percent of EU citizens modifying their habits to save energy, and 37 percent drawing from their savings due to inflation. Despite these challenges, the Bruegel study indicates that support for Ukraine within the European public remains remarkably steady.
However, the report does indicate variations in public sentiment across different EU countries, revealing three distinct blocs of public opinion: the ‘northern and eastern hawks’ (Estonia, Poland, Denmark, and the UK), the ‘ambiguous west’ (France, Germany, Spain, Portugal), and the ‘southern weak links’ (Italy and Romania). Each of these groups reflects unique dimensions of public sentiment towards the Ukraine conflict.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the Bruegel study identifies a similar trend in the US. Despite a sizeable aid commitment equivalent to 0.37 percent of the US GDP, public support for Ukraine is slowly declining across the political spectrum.
In its conclusion, the Bruegel report suggests that while European support for Ukraine remains strong, there are potential challenges on the horizon. Given the possibility of a prolonged conflict and a changing economic and political climate, European leaders are faced with the crucial task of managing public opinion and maintaining European and Western unity while continuing to offer support to Ukraine.