Radical Right and Radical Left Euroscepticism. A Dynamic Phenomenon
Berlin : Jacques Delors Institute Berlin
Notre Europe Policy Paper ; 191
Number of pages
External research report
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Politicologie t/m 2019
SubjectEuropeanization of Policy and Law (EUROPAL)
Euroscepticism is often regarded as a monolithic, unitary political phenomenon. After all, Eurosceptic parties, movements and voters are united in voicing their opposition to European integration. This, however, is a serious misconception: Eurosceptic politics in Western Europe is heterogeneous and dynamic—both among political parties and among voters. There is significant variation regarding the motivations to reject the European Union (EU). Radical left Eurosceptic parties oppose the EU on the basis of socio-economic concerns. Radical right parties reject EU integration on the basis of sovereignty arguments and cultural claims. Moreover, political parties’ Euroscepticism is by no means static. Although radical right parties are the most forceful political opponents of the EU today, a number of significant radical right parties initially supported European unification. Crucially, these ideological and temporal variations in Euroscepticism are not solely party-driven. Also voters oppose European integration for different ideological reasons and that the extent to which voters on the far left and far right have opposed the EU has varied over time. In particular, the era of political integration heralded by the Maastricht Treaty (1992) marked a decisive shift for radical right Euroscepticism—as the opposition to the EU significantly increased among far right voters since the Maastricht Treaty. What is more, the impact of Eurosceptic political parties on European Union politics is also heterogeneous and dynamic. The presence and success of Eurosceptic parties can have profound repercussion for the ways in which political parties with governing experience deal with the issue of European integration. The electoral success of Eurosceptic parties and the emphasis on the EU issue by the radical right and the radical left has resulted in strategic responses from mainstream parties. This suggests that Euroscepticism does not only matter in extreme cases—such as in the case of Brexit, but has a profound impact on the functioning of EU politics, both within member states and in Brussels. Nevertheless, despite mounting evidence of certain responsiveness of mainstream parties and member state governments to Euroscepticism, a disconnect between domestic political contestation and EU decision-making remains. This hampers an effective response to Eurosceptic politics and potentially stifles meaningful political contestation over EU integration.
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