* Europeans question benefits of integration -Pew Research
* But majority say they want to keep the euro, survey shows
By Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS, May 29 Support for European
integration has fallen sharply across the European Union since
the public debt crisis began, but few Europeans want to abandon
the euro and stricken Greeks are keenest to keep the common
currency, a study showed on Tuesday.
A growing number of Europeans in Britain, France, Spain,
Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland and Greece say integration has
weakened their economies and question whether membership of the
European Union is a good thing, according to a report by the
non-profit, Washington-based Pew Research Centre.
The study aims to provide a greater insight into attitudes
and trends in Europe and has been taken into account previously
by U.S. officials when formulating policies towards the
Only in Germany, Europe's largest economy and biggest
contributor to the bailout programmes supporting indebted
Ireland, Greece and Portugal, has enthusiasm for the EU grown
since 2009. Sixty-five percent of Germans see membership in a
positive light, up 2 percent from a Pew poll in 2009.
Yet even as 54 percent of Spaniards doubt the value of being
in the European Union - a huge political and economic project
created in the aftermath of World War Two - the fall in support
does not translate into calls to ditch the euro currency.
Despite enduring the country's second economic recession in
just three years, 60 percent of Spaniards still support the
common currency, highlighting the tensions and contradictions of
a bloc guided by a founding philosophy of "ever closer union."
In Greece, where a rejection of the EU/IMF-mandated
austerity programmes by voters earlier this month has
intensified concerns that the country may leave the euro, just
23 percent of the population want to return to the drachma.
"The irony here is that people who have the euro still want
to keep it," said Bruce Stokes, director of Pew's global
economic attitudes project in Washington.
"People realise that it would be a leap into the dark to go
back to their old currencies," he said.
A desire to drop the euro appeared to be strongest in Italy,
with 40 percent of those polled saying they wanted to return to
the lira, but with a majority in favour of the common currency.
In Britain, where the question of European economic and
political union have divided the country and toppled prime
ministers for more than half a century, 73 percent of people
polled said being out of the euro was a good thing.
Many economists and academics say the euro, which was
introduced to Europeans in coin and note form on January 1,
2002, is flawed because it lacks the structural underpinning to
make it work as a common currency across 17 economies.
Given the lack of an obvious alternative to the euro, EU
leaders agreed at a summit in Brussels this month to look at
ways to deepen integration across the euro zone and possibly
move towards a fiscal union to complement monetary union.
For its study, Pew polled about 1,000 people in each of the
surveyed countries in the euro zone - Germany, France, Italy,
Spain and Greece - as well as in non-euro zone Britain, Poland
and the Czech Republic.
The survey was carried out between mid-March to mid-April
and the margin of error was three to four percentage points.