Eurobarometer surveys have reflected increasing public support for conditionality for the past decade. Exploring the public attitudes towards development aid, the European public was asked in late 2004 whether the level of aid should be linked to the efforts taken by the recipient countries to encourage and sustain democracy. Findings showed that there was a widespread consensus among respondents that the level of aid should be dependent on recipient countries efforts, even if the word ‘condition’ was not used in the survey. The proportion of EU citizens considering that development aid should be used as an incentive for encouraging sustainable democracy rose between Autumn 2002 and 2004 by 5% points to 74% (Eurobarometer 2005, 44).
Years later, already after the ‘Arab Spring’, the majority of respondents (84%) believed that developing countries should follow certain rules regarding democracy, human rights and governance as a condition for receiving EU development aid (Eurobarometer 2011). Similarly, 80% of Europeans were in favour of establishing a link between EU development aid and other European objectives, for example, management of migration flows, access to energy and raw materials and trade opportunities. While there was broad approval for both governance-related conditionality and linking to other EU objectives, there was more support for conditionality (answer “yes, definitely”). At a time when many Europeans were reassessing the intensity of their support for development aid, the emphasis on democracy, human rights and rule of law may prove to be an important element in maintaining support for development aid in future. As the report noted, this may also be related to the events of the Arab Spring, where movements for reform and democracy have swept an entire region (Eurobarometer 2011, 28-34; 56-57).
Eurobarometer (2005) Attitudes towards Development Aid. Special Eurobarometer 222. Conducted by TNS Opinion & Social at the request of Directorate-General Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid, http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_222_en.pdf
Eurobarometer (2011) Making a difference in the world. Europeans and the future of development aid. Special Eurobarometer 375. Conducted by TNS Opinion & Social at the request of Directorate-General Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid, http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_375_en.pdf