Crisis of confidence

The Eurobarometer poll on the public’s problems and fears, and the institutions they trust, reveals that Europe is converging, at least in terms of perceiving problems and evaluating institutions. Unemployment and insecurity emerge as the greatest problems everywhere, and there is undoubted convergence in attitudes toward the US, whose role 58 percent of the sample deem to be negative for world peace. As Kathimerini always remarks on each European or Greek poll, the percentages are indicative. Depending on the questions (such as the very general ones) and the multiple-choice answers, the questionnaires may lead to conclusions that those polled would not select if they were asked specific, clear questions. In Belgium, for example, where the police are named as the most trusted institution, nobody knows how those polled would answer if asked to assess the effectiveness of the police in dealing with the pederasty ring that rocked the country. In Greece, where the three most trusted institutions are the armed forces, the justice system and humanitarian organizations, the absence of the Church is odd, since it is included in the first trinity in nearly all national polls. Nevertheless, it is striking that nobody in Europe included politicians and parties among the institutions they trusted. In Greece, Italy and Portugal, politicians are held in general disregard; in Greece some 80 percent of the sample distrust political parties, even more than the 70 percent who distrust multinational companies. However exaggerated these levels are, this deep and widespread lack of trust in politicians throughout Europe cannot be ignored. The persistence of unemployment, economic insecurity and scandals, and the administrative face of politics, which fails to produce a leader of stature and vision, have left a strong impact on voters’ minds: not only eroding their trust in politicians but deepening the depoliticization of citizens themselves. In southern Europe, more than 50 percent reject politicians altogether. In a Europe facing major problems and challenges, this double lack of trust and interest undermines the future. Political progress is not achieved by adjusting interest rates but by urging people to believe, work and shape events together. European politics must rediscover its innocence and its visions so as to lead the peoples of the Old Continent into the 21st century.