Europeans see the environment as a top priority

April 1, 2003
European Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallström today presented the results of a Eurobarometer Survey entitled "The attitudes of Europeans towards the environment."

BRUSSELS, April 1, 2003 -- European Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallström today presented the results of a Eurobarometer Survey entitled "The attitudes of Europeans towards the environment."

The results, which reflect the views of 16,000 EU citizens who were polled last autumn, show that while environmental issues remain top of their list of priority issues, opinions have evolved with regards to the main causes of pollution and what action should be taken.

Attitudes in Member States have subtly changed too since the last such survey was published in 1999.

Commenting on the survey results, Commissioner Wallström said: "Europeans clearly see the environment as a top priority and want more action at European level. The views expressed in this survey will of course be taken into account in our future policy initiatives on environment matters. Europe plays the leading role in environmental protection but we can not rest on our laurels. This survey shows that more needs to be done."

The Eurobarometer Survey shows how Europeans are increasingly aware of and concerned about key environmental issues. It focused on certain key questions, including what citizens believe are the main causes of pollution, how confident they are that things can be put right and what is the most appropriate level for taking decisions on the environment. Here are a few of the highlights:

When asked to indicate which causes of environmental degradation most worried them, 50% said that nuclear disasters ranked highest on their list of concerns; 45% said that industrial disasters most worried them.

More traditionally perceived problems, like air pollution, natural disasters, water pollution and the elimination of tropical rainforests, still preoccupy many Europeans and were quoted by between 41% and 44% of respondents. One interesting development since the 1999 survey is that Greece is now the most concerned Member State, while the Netherlands is the least concerned.

On the key issue of what can be done, opinions among Europeans are equally divided. 50% of respondents said they believed that their actions could help reverse current environmental trends, while 50% felt that their actions would make no difference. However, 65% of Europeans said that their actions could have an impact if others were similarly committed to taking action.

In general terms, 44% of those polled said they were pessimistic about the future, while 45% expressed optimism that changing behaviour patterns could bring positive results.

When it comes to what course of action should be taken, 48% expressed a preference for stricter regulations and tougher enforcement, while 45% saw better information, increased environmental awareness and greater involvement in the decision-making process as the best way to achieve results. 40% of respondents believed that better enforcement of existing legislation is the key.

Significantly, 33% of Europeans now see the EU as the best level for taking decisions about protecting the environment, which endorses the efforts made by the EU to better implement existing legislation and to bring in new and more effective laws. In comparison, 30% said that they thought national governments were best placed for decision-making and 27% opted for local government level.

For more in-depth information regarding the survey and a breakdown of the raw data according to each Member State, please consult our dedicated web-site at:

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