A vast majority of European Union citizens, including Croatians, support the idea that the award of EU funds should be contingent on respect for the rule of law and democratic principles, a survey commissioned by the European Parliament shows.
The results of the survey were published on Tuesday, the day on which the Council and Parliament began a new round of talks on the rule of law, one of the key disputes in negotiations on the use of the €1.824 trillion coronavirus recovery package.
The European Parliament is looking for a strong mechanism to protect the rule of law and democratic principles which would ensure that funds are withheld from countries that violate them.
The Council of the EU, which represents the member states, wants this option to be limited only to cases of misuse of funds, that is when the financial interests of the EU are endangered.
Member states are not unanimous on this issue. Some countries that are seen as "frugal" support Parliament's demands, while Hungary and Poland are threatening to block the entire package if a solution tying the use of EU funds to the rule of law is adopted.
The results of the survey conducted in all 27 member states show that 77 percent of those polled support the concept that the EU should only provide funds to member states if the national government implements the rule of law and democratic principles.
Participants were asked if they agreed that the EU should award funds to member states on condition that their governments respected the rule of law and democratic principles.
Thirty-six percent of respondents across the EU said that they completely agreed with this idea and 41% were inclined to agree. Only 3% said they did not completely agree, while 9% were inclined to disagree and 11% said they did not know the answer.
In Croatia, 30% of respondents said they completely agreed and 44% said they were inclined to agree with this idea.
In 26 member states, at least 70% of respondents supported this idea, the exception being the Czech Republic where 59% of those interviewed supported this concept.
The survey also revealed that citizens supported a larger EU budget and wanted it to be spent on public health, economic recovery and the fight against climate change.
Fifty-four percent of those polled said the EU needed a larger budget to be able to cope with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, 31% said they thought the amount of funds agreed for that purpose was enough, while 15% said they did not know the answer.
In Croatia, 60% of respondents said they thought the EU needed a larger budget for that purpose, 26% said the funds already agreed were enough and 14% said they did not know the answer.
Two-thirds of respondents across the EU believed that the EU should have greater responsibilities in dealing with crises such as the coronavirus pandemic, while a quarter disagreed.