Only Italy sees dip in support for EU, new poll shows

A new poll shows that while most Europeans view the EU more positively since the 2016 Brexit vote, Italy has bucked the trend, with an increasingly unfavourable perception of the bloc.

Only Italy sees dip in support for EU, new poll shows
The European and Italian flags wave behind Rome's symbol the "She wolf". Photo: Patrick Herzog/AFP

A study by Pew Research Centre released on Thursday showed that while the majority of Italians do not support an Italexit, more than one in three people in Italy felt the country should leave the European Union.

“Down just a year ago, before the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, public sentiment about the European project has rebounded,” the reports' writers said.

Italy was the only country to register a decrease in favourability of the EU over the past 12 months. 

Sharp increase in favorability of EU in many countries in last year

And together with the Greeks, Italians were the most likely to support an exit from the bloc.

In both those countries, 35 percent of respondents wanted to leave the EU, while 57 percent said they would support a national referendum on membership. Two of Italy's neighbours, France and Spain, were more supportive of EU membership referendums, but less likely to want to leave the EU.

The Italian favourability rating of the EU was the third lowest, joint with France. Among the ten countries polled, favourability was lower only in the UK, which voted to leave the bloc last year, and in Greece.

However, despite the EU seeing a drop in its popularity in Italy, the poll showed the majority of Italians still supported the bloc.

Fifty-six percent of Italians said they had a “favourable” view of the EU, while 39 percent viewed it unfavourably. 

Little support for leaving EU, but many want a referendum on membership

As in other countries, young and left-leaning Italians were most likely to hold favourable views of the Union.

The 'ideological split' was second greatest in Italy, meaning that there was an extremely strong link between right-wing political views and negative opinion of the EU.

But one surprise came in the fact that 61 percent of supporters of the eurosceptic Five Star Movement said they had a positive view of the Union.

The Five Stars have recently taken a swing to the right, with leader Beppe Grillo backing the Movement's Rome administration in a call for a “moratorium” on migrant arrivals in the capital – a move widely seen as aiming to appeal to voters on the right, after a poor result for the Movement in local elections.

Sharp increase in favorability of EU in many countries in last year

So why is the EU falling out of favour with Italians?

Answers to some of the survey's other questions gave some clues. For example, Greece and Italy were the only countries to have a less positive view of their own economy since 2016, with the drop particularly pronounced among Italians.

Italians were particularly unimpressed with Europe's handling of the economic issues (65 percent disapproval) and the refugee crisis (81 percent disapproval). On both issues, only the Greeks expressed higher disapproval.

Many European publics have sunnier view of their economy

The survey polled almost 10,000 people in France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom from March 2nd to April 17th, 2017.


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Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

With ongoing uncertainty over whether UK driving licences will continue to be recognised in Italy beyond the end of this year, British residents are asking where they stand.

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

Many of The Local’s British readers have been in touch recently to ask whether any progress has been made in negotiations between the UK and Italy on a reciprocal agreement on the use of driving licences.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with the background of this Brexit consequence.

READ ALSO: Frustration grows as UK driving licence holders in Italy wait in limbo

When Britain left the EU there was no reciprocal agreement in place, but UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences. This period was later extended to the current deadline of December 31st, 2022.

The situation beyond that date however remains unclear, and concern is growing among the sizeable number of British nationals living in Italy who say no longer being allowed to drive would be a serious problem.

There was the option of exchanging licences before the end of 2021, but many didn’t make the deadline. As has been proven before, this was often not due to slackness but rather all manner of circumstances, from having moved to Italy after or shortly before the cut-off date to bureaucratic delays.

Driving licences: How does the situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

So is an agreement any closer? Or do those driving in Italy on a UK licence really need to go to the considerable trouble and expense of sitting an Italian driving test (in Italian)?

With five months left to go, there’s still no indication as to whether a decision will be made either way.

The British government continues to advise licence holders to sit their Italian driving test – while also stressing that they’re working hard on reaching a deal, which would make taking the test unnecessary.

This message has not changed.

On Wednesday, July 27th, British Ambassador to Italy Ed Llewellyn tweeted after a meeting with Italian Infrastructure and Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini: “The British and Italian governments continue to work towards an agreement on exchange of driving licences.”

But the ambassador earlier this month advised UK nationals “not to wait” and to “take action now by applying for an Italian licence”.

In an official newsletter published in mid-July, Llewellyn acknowledged the concerns of British residents and confirmed that negotiations are still going on.

“I know that many of you are understandably concerned about whether your UK driving licence will continue to be recognised in Italy, especially when the extension granted by Italy until 31 December 2022 for such recognition expires.

“Let me set out where things stand. The British Government is working to reach an agreement with Italy on the right to exchange a licence without the need for a test. 

READ ALSO:  Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

“The discussions with our Italian colleagues are continuing and our objective is to try to reach an agreement in good time before the end of the year.

“We hope it will be possible to reach an agreement – that is our objective and we are working hard to try to deliver it. 

Nevertheless, he said, “our advice is not to wait to exchange your licence.”

“If you need to drive in Italy, you can take action now by applying for an Italian licence. This will, however, involve taking a practical and theory test.” 

He acknowledged that “the process is not a straightforward one and that there are delays in some areas to book an appointment for a test”.

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

“We will continue to work towards an agreement,” he wrote. “That is our objective and it is an objective we share with our Italian colleagues.“

The British Embassy in Rome had not responded to The Local’s requests for further comment on Friday.

The Local will continue to publish any news on the recognition of British driving licences in Italy. See the latest updates in our Brexit-related news section here.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.