Brussels, 3 November 2003 (RFE/RL) -- An opinion poll conducted in October puts Israel at the top of a list of countries considered a "threat to world peace" by citizens of the European Union.
Israel is considered a threat by 59 percent of those polled, followed by the United States, Iran, and North Korea, all considered a threat by 53 percent of the EU population.
Gerassimos Thomas, a European Commission spokesman, today said the EU has no official comment on the results. The poll's findings have already drawn criticism from Israel, where ministers have said they show anti-Semitism is on the rise in the EU.
However, Thomas indicated the results could influence EU policy in the Middle East and elsewhere. He said the results "are taken for what they are. They are polls and, of course, our policy takes a number of factors into account. Eventually, I'm sure, as our policy develops, you will see it taking all sorts of information into account, including this information."
Some Israeli newspapers suggested over the weekend that the poll shows the EU is not a neutral participant in the Middle East peace process and should be removed from the diplomatic Quartet -- also comprising the United States, the United Nations, and Russia -- which earlier this year published a joint "road map" to peace. Thomas said the commission has not received any official complaints about the poll.
Countries like Syria and Libya -- both accused by the United States of harboring terrorists -- are seen as threats to global peace by 37 percent and 36 percent of EU citizens, respectively. China, India, and Russia score 30 percent or less.
Overall, respondents were given a list of 15 countries to score. The list did not include the Palestinian Authority, which Thomas said was omitted since it is not yet a country.
Distrust of Israel is at its strongest in the Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, and Germany. Italy is the only EU member state where less than half of the population, 48 percent, views Israel as a threat to world peace.
Greece easily outstrips other EU member states in its negative assessment of the U.S., with 88 percent saying the country presents a threat. Levels of distrust were also high in traditional U.S. allies such as the Netherlands (64 percent), Spain (61 percent), and Britain (55 percent).
A little more than half of EU citizens said they feel their countries are threatened by terrorists, with Spain and Britain feeling the most vulnerable.
The same poll also measured attitudes toward developments in Iraq. While a little more than two-thirds of the EU population thinks military intervention in Iraq was not justified, more than half want their own country to help finance the reconstruction effort.
Forty-three percent said the United Nations -- together with multinational peacekeeping forces -- should be responsible for security in Iraq during reconstruction, with only 5 percent saying that role should be retained by the United States and its present allies.