EU support among Germans reaches 25-year high, survey shows

BERLIN (Reuters) - Support in Germany for the European Union has never been higher in the past 25 years despite a rise of populist and euroskeptic parties across the continent, a survey showed on Thursday.

The poll among some 1,000 Germans, conducted by the GfK research group and commissioned by the BdB private banking association, showed that 45 percent share the view that Germany benefits from its EU membership.

That marked a sharp and steady increase in support over the past 25 years and it also was the highest reading in that survey since 1992, BdB said in a statement.

“Despite the mood of crisis, Germans do not doubt the benefits of Europe,” BdB President Hans-Walter Peters said.

The poll showed that 14 percent agreed that EU membership is bringing mainly disadvantages for Germany.

In a theoretical referendum about Germany’s EU membership, 75 percent would vote to remain in the bloc and 10 percent would opt out, the survey showed. The remaining 15 percent gave no answer or said they had no clear opinion on this.

The survey is not only good news for Brussels, but also for Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) who want to unseat Chancellor Angela Merkel in an election in September. The SPD are junior coalition partners of Merkel’s conservatives.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who stood aside in January for former European Parliament president Martin Schulz to take over as leader of the SPD, wants Germany to send a new message to the EU that investment is more important than austerity.

To back up the message, Berlin should offer to further increase its payments to the EU budget, Gabriel said. Germany, Europe’s largest and most populous economy, is already the largest net contributor at some 15 billion euros.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber, editing by Larry King