Citizens trust local and regional authorities

The presentation of the first regional and local Eurobarometer by the president of the Committee of the Regions was a milestone in the effort to map the impact of the COVID crisis on the local and regional authorities of Europe.

“The regional and local Eurobarometer ratified what we had already seen in the past: Crises increase regional disparities and deteriorate further the trust of the people to the Institutions” – said ESPON director, Wiktor Szydarowski.

The president of the CoR, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, spoke about the danger of “a lost generation” due to COVID, this will be added to the one lost already during the economic crisis. Despite the huge stimulus provided by the EU and especially by Cohesion Policy, SMEs are struggling to survive and especially the tourism sector (10% of the EU GDP, over 27 millions of jobs) has seen a fall between 60% and 80%.

Lockdowns affected all local and regional economies considerably, but the impact is asymmetric for the European regions. The scissors effect” -as described in the study- affects 90% of the EU Regions and cities, but some of them suffer more as they were already in a more vulnerable position. The crisis has sharpened all kinds of inequalities: rural vs urban areas, employed vs unemployed, employees with permanent jobs vs self-employed and temporary contracts. Digitalisation was also key: Cities and regions able to offer services and education -thanks to their infrastructure and investments in training and software- were able to mitigate part of the effects. But only six member states were able to offer digital school provision for 80% or more of their students.

The citizens trust local and regional authorities

An optimistic element of the study was the confidence citizens show on local and regional authorities. 52% of the citizens questioned trust local and regional authorities when the European Union is trusted by 47% and the national governments by 43%.

And citizens seem to be satisfied from the response of these authorities in the pandemic, although, as the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen noted, “local authorities were the first line of defence”.  But even in this finding the gap between the North (with Finland and Luxembourg leading) and the South (with Bulgaria and Croatia in the last places) is worrying.

The contribution of ESPON

The testimonials ESPON collected during the crisis, confirm that local and regional authorities were the first ones that needed to react to the crisis. From healthcare to the economy, they made remarkable efforts to keep their cities running and continue servicing their citizens work without major disruptions.

And today, the results of the regional and local Eurobarometer are aligned with the findings of different ESPON studies noting that territorial disparities persist and ask for more cooperation to address European challenges.

“This Eurobarometer is an excellent source of information that will feed also ESPON’s work in the next months,” said Mr Szydarowski. “As we were happy to see that our work, our posters, policy briefs and tools, were used in this study”.

ESPON will present its own findings on the impact of COVID crisis on the European regions during the online “ESPON week” that will be held on 18-19 of November.

Further information

  • ESPON content used in the Eurobarometer
    • ESPON Policy Brief. The territorial and urban dimensions of the digital transition of public services
    • ESPON Poster. Regional typology of eGovernment interactions. 2017
    • Broadband Access in Households and High-Speed Internet Coverage
    • ESPON poster. Digital connectivity remains an important feature to target remoteness. 2019 A
    • Protected areas (NATURA 2000 sites) (TIA)