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Brussels, 25 February 2005

Eurobarometer: Europeans expect the EU to act as driving force for development

The European public expects the European Union to play a central role in development cooperation, especially in Africa. However, according to Eurobarometer, public awareness of with Commission activities in this field as well as of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) is limited. It is the first time that this two-yearly opinion poll on development policy has covered the 25 EU Member States.

It is also the first time that Eurobarometer has included questions on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which include halving extreme poverty (a billion people who live on less than one dollar a day) and universal access to primary education in 2015.

The European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, has undertaken to “increase EU public awareness of our activities as well as of our Millennium Development Goals. European taxpayers have the right to know how their money is being spent, how we help the developing countries, how we are fighting against poverty and infectious diseases and what we are doing to promote good governance, democracy and fundamental rights”.

Main findings:

  • The public of the European Union have very real expectations regarding European development policy. Most notably, 51% of those interviewed feel that Europe is the actor best placed to help Africa.
  • The fields in which EU development aid is considered most effective is the fight against AIDS and other diseases (36%), education (35%), poverty (25%), human rights (24%) and legal and illegal immigration (18%).
  • By contrast, 88% of people have never heard of the Millennium Goals, four years after they were adopted.
  • As regards the first objective, reducing extreme poverty by 2015, 68% of those interviewed did not think it would be reached as against 29% who did.
  • As regards the objective of universal access to primary education, 42% of people considered that it was achievable but 54% were, if anything, pessimistic.
  • Awareness of action by Europe is very limited despite the fact that Europe is the world’s leading aid donor. The percentage of people who think that the European Commission helps the poor in Africa, Asia and Latin America has fallen from 67% in 1996 to 59% in December 2004.
  • 54% of people in the EU believe that EU development aid contributes to the democratisation of the beneficiary countries.
  • 74% consider that the level of aid should be linked to these countries’ efforts to encourage and support democracy.
  • 78% think that development aid can take any form except arms supplies.

Louis Michel renewed his call for a “genuine European development strategy. While respecting the sharing of competence with the Member States, I advocate better coordination and shared objectives for our cooperation. That is my aim: greater coherence, greater coordination and greater visibility. And, in the light of this survey, this is what our fellow-citizens expect”.

This survey was devised in cooperation with the OECD and conducted between 22 November and 19 December 2004. A total of 24 999 people of over 15 years of age were interviewed in the 25 Member States of the EU.

All the investigations Eurobarometer are available on the website:

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