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Support for EU on the slide: Pew survey

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(BRUSSELS) - Popular support for the European Union and greater economic integration to combat the debt crisis has fallen sharply, especially in key member France, a Pew Research survey shows.

Under the headline 'The New Sick Man of Europe: the European Union,' the survey shows favourable opinion of the EU slumping from 60 percent in 2012 to just 45 percent now.

In France, the reading tumbled from 60 percent to 41 percent.

"The effort over the past half century to create a more united Europe is now the principal casualty of the euro crisis," it said in a report late Monday.

"The European project now stands in disrepute across much of Europe."

Support for further economic integration, the bedrock of the whole EU project, meanwhile fell from an average 34 percent in 2012 to 28 percent, with France showing the biggest drop to 22 percent from 36 percent.

In Germany, the EU's biggest economy and the bloc's paymaster, overall support for the EU slid from 68 percent in 2012 to 60 percent now, with further economic integration backed by 54 percent, down from 59 percent.

In increasingly eurosceptic Britain, overall support slipped from 45 percent to 43 percent, and from 30 percent to 26 percent on more integration.

Struggling Spain, which narrowly avoided a full debt bailout but has adopted some of the toughest austerity medicine, overall EU support fell from 60 percent to 46 percent, and from 46 percent to 37 percent on more integration.

For bailed-out Greece, EU support fell from 37 percent to 33 percent, with integration backing down from 18 percent to just 11 percent.

Pew said the economic crisis has "created centrifugal forces" undermining overall support for the EU.

"Spain, Italy and Greece are becoming ever more estranged as evidenced by their frustration with Brussels, Berlin and the perceived unfairness of the economic system."

The survey by the Pew Research Center was carried out in eight EU member states among 7,646 respondents from March 2 to March 27, 2013.

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