Euroscepticism or Europhobia: Voice vs. Exit?

Written by | Friday, February 20th, 2015

Yves Bertoncini and Nicole Koenig (Notre Europe – Jacques Delors Institute)

Is the European integration coming to an end? In the last elections to the European Parliament (EP), the parties that either oppose the European Union or the EU’s current form successfully gained a significant proportion of the votes. Altogether, they have won 207 out 750 parliamentary seats, i.e. 27.5 percent. Had they been able to unite, they would have made up for the second largest political group. How strong is their position in reality?

In the programmes of the parties that oppose the EU, four main sources of Euroscepticism can be identified. Substantial criticism aims at, firstly, the democratic deficit of the EU; secondly, the delegation of power from the Member States to the EU, i.e. the loss of sovereignty; thirdly, the economic aspects such as liberalism, austerity and solidarity; and finally, the loss of national identity closely linked to the free movement of persons. However, individual parties are taking different stances in these problems and these can be divided into two categories. The first category includes Eurosceptics who do not refuse the concept of integration but merely criticize its current form. The second category comprises Europhobes who either reject the EU membership altogether or advocate views incompatible with the key principles of European integration. What is the representation of these categories and do they form homogenous units?

While the Eurosceptics control 125 seats in the EP, there are 30 parties from 18 countries. The Eurosceptics can be divided into three subgroups: the first wants to leave the Eurozone, the second demands a thorough reform of the monetary union and the third one wishes to conduct a revision of the main EU treaties and, consequently, a referendum regarding the EU membership. An important feature of the Eurosceptics is their ideological fragmentation which weakens their influence. Among the adherents of this political current are, on one hand, conservative parties and, on the other, far left-wing parties. One cannot ignore the fact that, except for Poland and Spain, these parties gained generally less votes in the EP elections than in the last national elections.

The Europhobes have won 82 seats in the EP, which are claimed by 16 parties from 13 Member States. Similarly, it is not an integrated political group. While some call for their respective countries’ exit from the EU, others merely demand the abandonment of either the Eurozone or the Schengen. Contrary to the Eurosceptics, they are less numerous, although they are more radical. Like the Eurosceptics, they consist of ideologically diverse political groups, ranging from the nationalists to far left-wing parties. Even though the Europhobes reinforced their power since the last EP elections, concerns arise with regard to their success in national politics. This is why if they prevail in their respective national elections, there would be a significant change in the composition of the European Council.

(The study can be downloaded here)

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