Page last updated at 11:34 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Bleak mood among new EU members

Soviet-era block of flats in Riga, Latvia (file pic)
The economic crisis has fuelled pessimism in Eastern Europe

Many people in the EU's new member states feel that their living standards have deteriorated in the past five years, a new EU survey has found.

The European Commission report, called The Social Situation in the European Union 2009, reveals "huge differences" between the 27 member states.

The lowest levels of satisfaction were found in Bulgaria, Hungary, Greece and Romania. Scandinavia had the highest.

The economic crisis has pushed up housing and energy costs across Europe.

When asked about their job situation, "Hungarians and Lithuanians are the ones who perceive the worst deterioration over the past five years and they are also the least optimistic for the year to come," the report says.

"In Denmark and Sweden, by contrast, more people see their job situation as having improved."

The report includes a "Eurobarometer" social climate survey, in which about 1,000 people in each member state were polled in May-June 2009.

Threat of divergence

Unemployment has risen sharply in many EU countries, with Latvia, Spain and Estonia currently experiencing the highest rates.

Hungary, Latvia and Romania have received emergency international loans to shore up their fragile banking sectors.

Cyprus, Malta and eight former communist bloc countries in Central and Eastern Europe joined the EU in 2004. Bulgaria and Romania joined in 2007.

Where affordability of housing is concerned, "Cypriots are by far the most dissatisfied, with a score of -7.5," the survey says.

In the same category, Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania, Spain, Hungary, Poland and Malta all have scores below -5.

The satisfaction score was calculated according to a range, from -10 for the response "not at all satisfied" to +10 for "satisfied".

The report says that in all countries "there is a clear majority of people who consider that the cost of living has risen over the past five years and that this will continue over the coming year".

It warns that there may be a trend towards divergence in the EU, with "countries with good social conditions making further progress and countries with the poorest social conditions falling even further behind".

The report says policymakers "should be concerned about the public's dissatisfaction with key social policy areas and their strongly negative view of how things are evolving".

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