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Über dieses Buch

"The European Parliament elections in May 2019 did not bring about the rise of populism in Europe that had been feared by many. Instead, while populism was contained, a broad pro-European majority emerged that today carries the new European Commission with its ambitious green, digital and geopolitical agenda. However, Euroscepticism remains a significant force to be reckoned with in national and EU-policy making. The present book offers a better understanding of the different types of Euroscepticism that exist across Europe. It also shows that Euroscepticism is best addressed by understanding well the often valid concerns that are at the origins of Eurosceptic forces. If this is done in time, Euroscepticism is not something to be afraid of. It is part of a vibrant European democracy that is resilient enough to embrace those who criticise the reality of the European project with good arguments; and that stands ready to develop and improve day by day to become a more perfect Union.”

- Martin Selmayr, Head of the European Commission’s representation in Austria

"This book comes at the right time. European integration seems more contested than ever, but is it really? This book answers this question by probing into 40 shades of Euroscepticism, within and beyond the EU Member States. It is a must read for academics and practitioners alike."
- Christine Neuhold, University of Maastricht, The Netherlands

"With this book, the authors offer readers of European politics a treasure trove, with valuable insights into the variety of populist and nationalist forces that oppose mainstream European integration. Faced with such a jumble of eurosceptic parties pursuing narrow and in many cases reactionary agendas, the need for proper federal political parties becomes self-evident. Only then will the diverse interests and aspirations of citizens be given realistic expression at the EU level."
- Andrew Duff, President, The Spinelli Group

This book sheds light on how the increasing prominence of Eurosceptic and nationalist parties is having an impact on the thinking of mainstream parties, their representatives in the European Parliament, and the future of Europe. It is timed to coincide with the strategic vision of Council, Commission, and Parliament, as well as the next phase of Brexit negotiations. The book provides perspectives on the future of the European project from authors in all the EU Member States, as well as neighboring European countries and potential applicant nations. Furthermore, it includes a Foreword by the Vice-president of the European Parliament.

With many Eurosceptic parties now in national government, or winning European elections and thus exerting influence over the national debate, this book maps and analyses the nature and impact of Euroscepticism—and new nationalist tendencies—in the different party systems of Europe.

As national political parties are the gatekeepers of the process of political representation, they play a pivotal role in mobilizing civil society and in setting the political agenda. They shape politics at a national level, but also determine the way in which Europe plays out—or does not play out—as a political issue. Thus, it is from the national capitals that the very future of Europe emerges.



Albania: Will the EU’s Ambiguity Lead to Euroscepticism?

A North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Member State since 2009 and a European Union (EU) candidate country since 2014, Albania has transformed from Europe’s most isolated country into the continent’s most pro-EU country in under three decades. According to the spring 2019 Eurobarometer, approval rates for the EU remain over 80 percent at a time when Euroscepticism within the bloc is on the rise. This support is indicative of the positivity with which Albanians see their country’s future membership in the EU. For them, membership is a guarantee for better opportunities, democratisation and higher living standards.

Leonie Vrugtman

Austria: Taking a Walk on the Wild Side

Eurosceptic parties quickly adapt to changes in public opinion and Austrian politics is no exception here. After the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, the support for Austria’s membership of the European Union (EU) increased further. While in April 2016—according to data of the Austria Society for European Politics—60 percent of Austrians wanted their country to stay in the EU, from July 2016 onwards the number of supporters grew to 77 percent in December 2017 and as of December 2019 stands at 75 percent. In the same period, the number of those preferring to exit the EU decreased sharply—from 31 percent (April 2016) to 23 percent (July 2016) and at present 8 percent (December 2019). The Freedom Party (FPÖ), nowadays the only relevant political force pursuing an explicit Eurosceptic agenda, which has played with the idea of organizing a similar referendum in the past rapidly recalculated. However, the change in mind came too late for the Presidential Elections of 2016, won by the green candidate Van der Bellen but just in time for a governmental coalition with the Conservative party (ÖVP) in 2017, signing up to a pro-European coalition agreement.

Paul Schmidt

Belgium: Breaking the Consensus? Eurosceptic Parties

Belgium has traditionally been characterized by a lasting permissive consensus on European integration issues. The Eurobarometer data shows that trust in European Union (EU) institutions is stronger than in national ones and the level of support for EU membership is relatively high, although slightly lower than was previously the case. In recent years, more dissonant voices have started to slowly undermine one of the pillars of its political system. Some parties—like the Flemish nationalist party New Flemish Alliance (N-VA)—have taken a more critical stance towards Europe, while traditional Eurosceptic parties—like the radical left Workers’ Party of Belgium (PvdA/PTB)—have gained in popularity. Nevertheless, the overall salience of the EU as a political topic remains rather low in Belgium when it comes to party competition. This is partly because the 2019 European elections coincided with both the national and regional elections, resulting in little attention for EU related issues. Furthermore, the EU is neither part of the core ideology of any party; even the more Eurosceptic parties focus on different political topics.

Wouter Wolfs, Steven Van Hecke

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Ethnopolitics and Hopeful Euroscepticism—No Light at the End of the European Tunnel?

“Bosnia is close to the edge. We need Europe’s help” read the Guardian headline to Aleksandar Brezar’s article in May 2019. Almost 25 years after the end of the war, Bosnian citizens are trapped in a hand to mouth existence. Young people are leaving the country, poverty is high, toxic nationalism is ever-present and ethnopolitics remains the major primary technique of governance.

Vedran Džihić

Bulgaria: Creeping EU-Scepticism—The Tacit Consent that Fuels Populism

The political turmoil of the early 90s saw unstable and short-lived governments, culminating in a political crisis in 1997. A new Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), pro-democratic and pro-European Government, firmly established the European Union (EU) perspective as the dominant paradigm in society. As a result, in the beginning of the twenty-first century the citizens of Bulgaria were extremely Europositive. The first year of EU membership saw that 78 percent of Bulgarians had positive attitudes towards the EU. Only 10 percent thought that the membership was bringing more negatives than positives. Some reminiscence of the anti-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Euroscepticism still could be found within the attitudes and the electorate of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). However, along the lines of issues with regards to the history of North Macedonia and protecting Bulgarian energy sector, both were fuelled by the pro-Russian sentiments within the BSP.

Hristo Panchugov, Ivan Nachev

Croatia: The Government Should Take Citizens Seriously

Since its EU accession Euroscepticism became a serious problem in Croatia due to unexpected post-election alliances between political parties, implementation of EU inspired reforms which lacked sufficient popular support and backsliding in fighting corruption.

Hrvoje Butković

Cyprus: A Pro-European Attitude, but Scepticism Still Holds Strong

Euroscepticism is on demise in Cyprus. The Spring Eurobarometer in 2019 shows that Cypriots’ trust in the European Union (EU) has increased by 13 percent. It is now the majority view with 54 percent; this is 10 percent above the EU average. Public perceptions however are but one facet of the political spectrum and equal attention must be paid to the party system. Currently, the Government, which is led by the Democratic Rally (DISY), has a pro-Europeanist approach. In addition to DISY, the Parliament includes seven opposition parties, the leftist AKEL, the centrist DIKO, the social-democratic EDEK, Solidarity (Allilegi), Citizen’s Alliance (Symmaxia Politon), the Ecologists (Oikologoi), and the ethnonationalist ELAM. When party positions are put together, one may discern a pro-European attitude to prevail, but pockets of scepticism still hold strong.

Giorgos Kentas

Czechia: Who Is the Most Eurosceptic of Them All? The Eurosceptic Race to the Bottom

Any discussion on Euroscepticism in Czechia has to face the uncomfortable truth that Euroscepticism is omnipresent in political debates, in the media and in the broader public sphere. Paradoxically, there are not many Czech parties that would call themselves Eurosceptic and those who would call for a Czexit are even fewer. Having said this, the entire political spectrum has shifted towards a generalized Euroscepticism during the last fifteen years. It is not uncommon even for the mainstream political parties to borrow the language of hard Eurosceptics and the distrust towards “Brussels unelected bureaucrats” permeates every aspect of Czech public debate. The two most recent Czech Presidents Václav Klaus and Miloš Zeman are both epitomes of Czech Euroscepticism. While the former was once a neoliberal and the latter a Social Democrat, they have gradually become indistinguishable in this respect as their critique of the EU has gained increasingly ultraconservative and nationalist overtones.

Zdeněk Sychra, Petr Kratochvíl

Denmark: Ambivalence Towards the EU—From Foot-Dragging to Pacesetters?

Euroscepticism appears to be running out of steam in Denmark. Danish voters’ attitudes towards European Union (EU) membership has peaked in 2019 with 75 percent seeing it as a good thing. This is only the second highest score across the EU in Eurobarometer polls, and is only surpassed by Germany. Danish voters are also the second most optimistic about the EU after Ireland. Polling suggests that Euroscepticism is losing ground in Denmark as a consequence of Britain’s vote for Brexit.

Maja Kluger Dionigi, Marlene Wind

Estonia: Challenges with the Popularity of Right-Wing Radicalism

Since joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) in 2004, Estonia has been an exemplar of rationality and democratic values, becoming an epitome of digital innovation, openness and budgetary balance. This can be exemplified by looking at the peak of the global financial crisis in 2008, when Estonia quickly took austerity measures to overcome the crisis, setting a model for other states in the EU. Despite painful reforms and budgetary constraints, Estonia’s liberal and conservative political parties retained their popularity. For nearly two decades, a liberal social consensus existed: with each year of independence, Estonians expected that their civil society and democratic institutions would continue to grow stronger.

Viljar Veebel

Finland: A Meaningful EU Debate Is Needed to Regain Ground from Populist Framing

The rise of the openly populist, Eurosceptic and right-leaning Finns Party has altered Finland’s political landscape during the last ten years. It has led to the breakdown of national consensus on the country’s pro-integrationist European Union (EU) policy. Recently, the Finns Party has moved further to the right and towards other European far-right parties, and focused on immigration and climate issues. Concurrently, the support ratings for the EU is at a record high in Finland. According to the recent Eurobarometers, 65 percent of Finnish people think that EU membership is a good thing, while 84 percent support the euro, and 70 percent would vote to remain in the EU. Relatedly, a new pro-European consensus on EU affairs is in the making among other political parties. These parties should not, shy away from EU-related debates. On the contrary, they should aim to clarify their positions and, in doing so, clarify the differences among them. This is needed in order to regain ground from the populist framing of EU issues, which often aims at polarisation rather than a meaningful politicisation of EU affairs.

Juha Jokela

France: When Euroscepticism Becomes the Main Credo of the Opposition

Nine of the 39 lists competing for the 2019 European elections in France can be considered as Eurosceptic. If together they won 36 per cent of the vote, two of them would take the lion’s share: the list of France Unbowed (LFI) led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the far left and the list of the National Rally (RN, formerly National Front) led by Marine Le Pen on the far right. Today the most dynamic of the two is by far the RN, whose leader qualified for the second round of the 2017 presidential election and whose lists finished top in the last two European elections, ending up with a score that was nearly four times higher than LFI’s (23.3 per cent vs. 6.3 per cent) in 2019.

Nonna Mayer, Olivier Rozenberg

Germany: Eurosceptics and the Illusion of an Alternative

For decades Germany’s European policy has been determined by parties, media and civil society that generally support deeper European integration. In the early 1990s the first cracks materialized in this so-called ‘permissive consensus’: the Christian Social Union (CSU) repeatedly denounced a loss of national sovereignty; the Greens criticised regressive environmental policies and democratic deficits; and individual voices in the left party (Die Linke) declared the EU to be militaristic, neoliberal and undemocratic. However, it was the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) that made hard Euroscepticism in Germany publicly respectable during the management of the financial crisis in the eurozone, which had started at the end of 2009. For some, the foundation of this right-wing to far-right political party in 2013 represents a liberation of political discourse in terms of finally being allowed to say what one thinks for others the alternative is nothing but an illusion and a dangerous one, too.

Katrin Böttger, Funda Tekin

Greece: The Remarkable Defeat of Euroscepticism

Greece emerged from the July 2019 national elections with one of the most stable, pro-European Union (EU) and moderate party systems in the EU. This is remarkable given the depth, duration and debilitating socioeconomic legacy of the country’s Great Recession. During 2008–2016 Greece lost a quarter of its GDP, unemployment peaked at 27 percent. Yet, following the elections of July 2019, four out of six parties represented in Parliament (entry threshold at 3 percent) are committed to Greece’s participation in the European institutions and the euro: centre-right ND (158 seats), left-wing SYRIZA (86), socialist KINAL (formerly known as PASOK) (22), and left-wing MERA25 (9). All four of these parties (which add up to 275/300 seats) strongly support Greece’s European vocation, though at least two of them (SYRIZA and MERA25) and have been highly critical of certain EU policies, especially regarding the eurozone.

George Pagoulatos

Hungary: Euroscepticism and Nationalism

Euroscepticism can be interpreted in two ways. It can refer to those parties (groups, NGOs and citizens) who would like to take back control from Brussels and enhance the manoeuvring room of national governments and decision-makers. Less power and competence in European Union (EU)-level organizations and broader “national sovereignty” of the member states. However, there is another interpretation as well. There are a number of EU-friendly parties (organizations and citizens) whose Euroscepticism stems from the inadequate and low-profile activities of EU-level organizations (partly limited by EU legislation and decisive competence of the European Council with extensive national veto rights) in a rapidly changing world, where the EU should become a global political and remain a global economic power.

András Inotai

Iceland: Hard-Line Eurosceptics Clash with Eurosceptics

The European debate in Iceland is increasingly centred around the status quo or more restricted participation in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Schengen.The coalition government, which firmly supports membership of the EEA and Schengen, is facing a rougher challenge from the two new populist hard-line Eurosecptical parties than from more liberal pro-European parties. The Icelandic Europhiles parties are in danger of losing the platform to the hard-line Eurosceptics if they do not step up their campaign for membership in the EU.

Baldur Thorhallsson

Ireland: ‘A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats’—A Unique Situation on Countering Euroscepticism

Ireland has a rather distinctive relationship with the European Union (EU). Ireland embraced the European project from the start of its EU membership, and the values and benefits of membership have been significant for Ireland. Brexit and EU solidarity with Ireland in the Brexit negotiations in particular, increased EU standing in Ireland. Although Ireland has not escaped dimensions of populism or Euroscepticism to varying degrees, this chapter analyses and explores why Ireland remains consistently a pro-EU country.

Róisín Smith

Italy: Has Salvini Saved the Country from Himself? Not Yet

Since early September 2019, Italy is no longer led by a Eurosceptic government. The new yellow–red coalition composed of the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the Democratic Party (PD) was formed under a declared discontinuity with respect to the previous M5S–Lega government (yellow–green) on European issues. Ironically, such an outcome was actually caused by former Minister of Interior, Matteo Salvini, one of the most Eurosceptic political figures in Italy and in the European Union (EU), the leader of the Lega and founder of the Identity and Democracy group in the European Parliament.

Eleonora Poli

Kosovo: Moonwalking Towards the European Union

True to its tradition, Kosovo remains a sui generis case even when it comes to Euroscepticism, which has been a trend that has flourished in the region and beyond. The young republic is undoubtedly the most pro-EU country in Europe, with many polls continuously showing well over 90 percent of public support for Kosovo’s European Union (EU) integration. No wonder that the promise of an EU future has been a permanent fixture in most political parties’ programs, but the question is not ‘if’, it’s ‘who can get there faster’.

Venera Hajrullahu

Latvia: Euroscepticism—Between Reason and Treason

The scenery of Latvia’s political parties does not differ much from the country’s landscape in Autumn. Filled with political positions of various colours, kinds and shades, Latvian political parties struggle for a presence in the national parliament. Modern Latvia has not seen the classical left-right divisions that are characteristic of its Western-European counterparts and instead, has political cleavages that revolved around ethnic and geopolitical positions. Meanwhile, political parties have been efficiently using catch-all and populist methods to attract voters. The death of old political parties and the birth of new ones shortly before elections has become an unwritten tradition, fuelled by individual politicians migrating to new parties along with their alliances.

Karlis Bukovskis, Andris Spruds

Liechtenstein: Euroscepticism Yes and No!

There are no Eurosceptic parties in Liechtenstein because all political parties are Eurosceptic. A contradiction? Not really. There are no Eurosceptic parties because Liechtenstein’s European policy has hardly been politicised in recent years. All parties support Liechtenstein’s membership of the European Economic Area (EEA). This is no surprise if we consider that more than 85 percent of the Liechtenstein citizens have a positive image of the EEA. On the other hand, no party wants to join the European Union (EU) as all of them favour selective integration tailored to Liechtenstein’s interests. Consequently, all political parties in Liechtenstein are Eurosceptic.

Christian Frommelt

Lithuania: Euroscepticism—Present on the Margins

In 2019, there were three elections in Lithuania—municipal, presidential and, together with the second round of presidential elections, elections to the European Parliament (EP). The popularly elected president in Lithuania has extensive powers in foreign policy making and executing it, including European policy. Dalia Grybauskaitė who has been in the office for two terms from 2009 to 2019 played a leading role in the country’s European affair. Therefore, the election campaign of 2019 provided a fresh overview of candidates’ positions on Lithuania’s membership in the European Union (EU).

Ramūnas Vilpišauskas

Luxembourg: Make Europe Work Better in the Greater Regions

In the last general election, held in October 2018, the Luxembourgish electorate confirmed the incumbent coalition government of the liberal Democratic Party (DP), the Greens (Déi Gréng) and the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (LSAP). The government majority, composed entirely of pro-European parties, lost just one seat. The most Eurosceptic party represented in the national parliament, the Alternative Democratic Reform Party (ADR), obtained 8.28 percent of the votes cast (compared with 6.64 percent in 2013) and gained one more seat in the Chamber of Deputies. In the current legislature, it holds 4 out of 60 seats. Although the ADR received more votes than in the previous elections, from the party’s perspective the result was somewhat disappointing. In Luxembourg, unlike in its neighbouring countries, the European migrant crisis of 2015 has not led to a significant surge of right-wing, anti-European forces.

Guido Lessing

Malta: Bucking the Trend—How Malta Turned its Back on Euroscepticism

Malta has followed a unique trajectory in terms of Euroscepticism, being the only country of the 2004 accession states where a major party and nearly 50 percent of voters were opposed to EU (European Union) membership pre-2004. Fifteen years later and the country’s party system is now overwhelmingly Euro-enthusiastic. The Maltese show some of the highest approval ratings for the EU and Malta’s place in the Union. As in all European Parliament (EP) elections held since 2004, in 2019 Malta again registered the highest turnout for a country where voting is not obligatory and distributed its 6 seats amongst the S&D (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) (4 seats) and the EPP (European People’s Party) (2 seats). Malta is now one of the few EU countries with no Eurosceptic parties in Parliament.

Mark Harwood

Montenegro: A Great Bargain Between the European Union Optimism and Real Euroscepticism

The European integration process has been the most powerful engine for overall change in Montenegro over the last two decades. The integration process has become a key motivating factor behind the country’s economic and political reforms.

Danijela Jaćimović, Sunčica Rogic

North Macedonia: The Name in Exchange for European Union Membership?

North Macedonia is, in all probability, the poster country for the reluctant enlargement policy by the European Union (EU) towards the Western Balkan (WB). Due to a concoction of internal and external issues, over the past years the country was left standing still at the intersection of an alignment with the West or seclusion to the regional conundrum. North Macedonia became a candidate country for EU accession in 2005 as a frontrunner in the WB and pledged to follow the accession agenda, so the EU became highly involved into its daily politics equally by the process of integration and the membership conditionality. The first recommendation for the start of accession negotiations was announced in 2009, and even though it was followed by subsequent recommendations by the European Commission, the Council’s conclusion in October 2019 was a negative one. The decision not to open negotiations due to the objection of a few member states, most predominantly France, provoked a serious anti-EU sentiment in North Macedonia, and, beyond everything, a resentment since it was openly associated with the notion that the name was sacrificed in exchange for the EU accession. The reaction was widespread and intense and even led to the decision to have early parliamentary elections. In addition to the impact on national affairs, this outcome has disregarded the promise of EU enlargement policy in the WB, and North Macedonia in particular, and may challenge its stability and security, to such an extent that the impending North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership, assurances of economic support and cooperation and EU regional and national presence cannot balance them out.

Irena Rajchinovska Pandeva

Norway: Outside, But …

Norway has held two popular referendums on EU membership, both arranged after the negotiations had been completed. In both instances, a small majority of the population turned down EU membership. The question of Norwegian EU membership has figured as one of, if not, the most politically divisive issues in Norway, at least since the Second World War. Nevertheless, Norway’s approach has been to seek as close an EU association as is possible for a non-member. What is particularly puzzling is that the present situation of extensive and dynamic Europeanisation has evoked so little political conflict and controversy. The question is whether Brexit will affect this situation.

John Erik Fossum

Poland: Economic Enthusiasts, Value Adversaries

Having a right-wing Eurosceptic coalition in power led by Law and Justice party (PiS) might come as a surprise because Poles are one of the most pro-European societies in the European Union (EU). According to recent opinion polls (COBOS 2019), 91 per cent of Polish society declare to be positive about EU membership, and only 5 per cent think Poland shouldn’t be part of the EU.

Zdzisław Mach, Natasza Styczyńska

Portugal: Something Old, Something New and Everything Blue

Unlike several member states, the populist, protest or anti-EU parties in Portugal have no electoral expression. Despite the period of crisis and economic stagnation that has witnessed the last three European Parliament elections, the national political system remains resistant to change and to populist Eurosceptic parties, as the vast majority of the electorate who cast their vote favour the older, more traditional, pro-European parties.

Alice Cunha

Romania: Euroscepticism—Contamination of the Mainstream Parties, Limited Support Among the Citizens

Romanians remain among the most optimistic pro-Europeans, but trust in the European Union (EU) continued to decrease in the first half of 2018. Mainstream and high-level political leaders, supported by parts of the media, are responsible for the deepening of the Romanian citizens’ distrust in the EU and not only because the EU has been used as a scapegoat by the governing coalition. Forecasts for the next elections (presidential in November 2019 and local and parliamentary ones in 2020) show that citizens will, however, provide broad support to pro-European political forces and sanction populist parties, partially due to their anti-EU rhetoric but mainly due to their failure of fulfilling their electoral promises.

Bianca Toma, Alexandru Damian

Serbia: Our Greatest Fear—An Empty Country, Pawn in the Hands of Great Powers on the “Periphery of the Periphery”

Serbia’s fate is inseparably tied to the region of the Western Balkans. Unless key political actors make a bold and decisive step into the twenty-first century, they will remain a passive object in the hands of others, recognized today as “third countries”. This will not be achieved by embracing Euroscepticism because for the Western Balkans, the European Union’s (EU) greatest value is and remains one of a “peace project” that enabled reconciliation and economic development on an unprecedented scale.

Marko Savković

Slovakia: Euroscepticism as a Changing Notion in Electoral Campaigns

For many years Eurosceptic parties were an unknown phenomenon in Slovakia. During the pre-accession period, the European Union’s (EU) integration was taken across the political spectrum as a valence issue—generally accepted as a good thing. After 2004, the broad consensus on the strategic importance of EU membership turned into a comfortable but passive consensus with respect to the European agenda and to Slovakia’s performance in the EU. At least until 2011 when the Greek bail out and Slovakia’s support for the European Financial Stability Facility came up in the agenda. The coalition partner liberal party Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) refused to support it (and the vote broke the centre-right government). SaS argued that the EU rejected the principle of the market economy and criticized the EU for being “too redistributive”. The neo-liberal slogan “EU = road to socialism” developed into one the emerging faces of Euroscepticism. The Slovak nationalists stood for the other face and represented the “text-book example” of the peripheral nationalism against regional and global institutions. The nationalists’ arguments go further on in losing their (national) sovereignty and identity. Nevertheless, none of these two faces became politically influential.

Oľga Gyárfášová, Lucia Mokrá

Slovenia: Extremes Are Attractive Only to the Media

Just as in any other European Union (EU) Member State, Slovenia could not escape a wave of populism and Euroscepticism during the last years. Yet, it seems the ultra-left or ultra-right position to the EU was more popular in the media than with the citizens, especially if one looks at the election results in the EU Parliament in 2019. It is true that the turn-out was not very high, but interestingly enough, the Slovenian citizens recognised the benefits of membership in the EU (76 per cent of them say Slovenia was positively affected by membership in the recent Eurobarometer totally 91.5 per cent), and more than half believe that their voice counts (55 per cent), albeit only 29.8 per cent turn out to vote in the 2019 EP Parliament elections. Still, this was a higher turn-out than in previous elections for the EP, suggesting that the gradual importance of the Parliament is being recognised. Those who did attend did not give their vote to the parties most critical of the EU.

Maja Bučar, Boštjan Udovič

Spain: The Risk of Too High Expectations on the EU’s Role as a Problem Solver

The pro-European sentiment that remains so dominant in Spain today constitutes an unlikely consensus in a country with deep political fractures both in ideology and territory. After the short period of the great constitutional agreements reached during the transition to democracy (1976–1979), the Spanish political system has adopted almost all features of majoritarian and conflict-ridden democracy regimes. This includes a style of tense relationships between the two big traditional parties (the social-democratic PSOE and the conservative PP) where there seems to be nothing to escape the confrontation. In addition to this, the long recession (2008–2013) ultimately linked to the eurozone debt crisis fuelled a rapid erosion of legitimacy of the entire polity and the emergence of a successful leftist anti-establishment party (‘Podemos’). In the specific case of Catalonia, economic depression and political unrest helped to feed an increasingly virulent independence conflict, including a distressing bid for unilateral secession by the Catalan nationalists who represent almost half of the region’s population which, in turn, led to a Spanish nationalist backlash and the growth of a right-wing populist party (‘Vox’) after 2017. No one would say that political forces as disparate and confronted as those that are present in this explosive combination of left-right or centre-periphery cleavages were to share an element as central to their political programme as that of the strong support for the European Union (EU). All of them do, although it seems obvious that their respective ideas about the European utopia diverge greatly from one another. Since each party expects too much, and very differently of the integration process, there is a risk that an almost certain frustration can feed discontent, and a Eurosceptic outbreak in the medium term.

Ignacio Molina

Sweden: Battling for Values

The view here is that criticizing one or the other policy of integration does not merit the label of Euroscepticism but that lack of respect for EU values is equivalent to seeking to destroy the EU. Two parties are Eurosceptic in the sense of being overall critical of the EU: the Sweden Democrats (SD), focusing mainly on migration, and the Left Party, seeing the EU as weak on environment and asylum and human rights. The national elections of September 2018 were a success for the SD (17.39 %). Helped by two other parties the Social Democrats and the Greens could remain in power, leaving the SD (and the Left Party) without bargaining power in the Riksdag. Sweden mainly favours intergovernmentalism but sees the EU as crucial for issues like common values, climate change and asylum. As seen in Eurobarometer, Swedes in general are very positive to the EU.Suggestions include ideas on (1) investing in history education and critical thinking for young people, (2) challenging Eurosceptic parties on how to replace EU cooperation, (3) showing that difficult issues, such as migration, cannot be dealt with in easy ways, and (4) scrutinizing policies like CAP and double location of the EU, which feed Euroscepticism.

Gunilla Herolf

Switzerland: A Vital Relationship in the Stranglehold of Euroscepticism

Talking about Eurosceptic parties in Switzerland requires a serious recalibration of the concept. No Swiss party advocates a fast and full EU membership. The main debate is about maintaining vs. undoing the Bilateral Way—the Swiss Sonderweg of close cooperation and deep market access through a series of intergovernmental agreements and unilateral legal adaptation. This recalibration leaves the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) as Switzerland’s major Eurosceptic party. The SVP has been highly effective in utilizing direct democracy to constrain any deepening of EU-Swiss relations but less so in reducing their level and scope.

Frank Schimmelfennig

The Netherlands: Playing with Fire? Dutch Political Parties Between Reluctant and Pragmatic Pro-Europeanism

When the Dutch prime-minister Mark Rutte, from the conservative-liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), gave his Churchill lecture in Zürich early 2019, he was seen to finally opt for an unequivocal pro-European integration stance. In the European Parliament elections of May 2019, Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans led his social democratic Labour Party (PvdA) to victory on a pro-EU platform, with the VVD and the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) coming in second and third place. Pro-European politics clearly took the centre stage in the Netherlands.

Maurits J. Meijers, Lars Stevenson, Adriaan Schout

Turkey: A Vicious Cycle of Euroscepticism?

Relations between Turkey and the European Union (EU) are currently facing an impasse. After a long period of stagnation, accession negotiations, which began in 2005, are now de facto frozen. Recent public opinion polls in Europe record an all-time low popularity of Turkish membership across the European public, whereas the European political elite has long dropped the discourse on Turkish accession in favour of a “strategic partnership” with Turkey. A similar picture is also observed in Turkey, with growing rates of public Euroscepticism and a widespread Eurosceptic discourse particularly prevalent across the government actors.

Senem Aydın-Düzgit, Özgehan Şenyuva

UK: Brexit—The Car That Keeps on Crashing

The result of the European referendum on British membership of the European Union in 2016 represented at one level a political triumph for the United Kingdom’s Independence Party (UKIP) and its leader Nigel Farage. For twenty years his party was the only organised political body advocating British withdrawal from the EU. The autonomous influence of UKIP should not however be overstated. UKIP’s success has largely derived from its capacity to influence and threaten the two major parties of the British political system.

Brendan Donnelly

Ukraine: The Progress of (Euro) Populism in Postmodern Age

The results of the 2019 national elections in Ukraine echoed all-European and global trends. The outcome of the presidential and parliamentary elections suggest that Ukrainians have resolutely refused to support well-known politicians, parties and systemic politics in general. However, Ukraine is notable for the lack of significant public support for radical political forces.

Yuriy Yakymenko, Viktor Zamiatin


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