Soft Euroscepticism

"Eurosceptic" redirects here. For the Jack Lucien album, see EuroSceptic.

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Euroscepticism (sometimes euroskepticism) is the body of criticism of the European Union (EU), and opposition to the process of political European integration, existing throughout the political spectrum. Traditionally, the main source of euroscepticism has been the notion that integration weakens the nation state. Other views occasionally seen as eurosceptic include perceptions of the EU being undemocratic or too bureaucratic.[1][2] A Eurobarometer survey of EU citizens in 2009 showed that support for membership of the EU was lowest in Latvia, the United Kingdom, and Hungary.[3]:91–3 Euroscepticism is found in political parties across the left and right spectrum.

Terminology

There can be considered to be two different types of Eurosceptic thought, which differ in the extent to which adherents reject European integration and in their reasons for doing so. Aleks Szczerbiak and Paul Taggart described these as 'hard' and 'soft' euroscepticism.[4][5][6][7][8]

Hard euroscepticism is the opposition to membership of, or the existence of, the European Union as a matter of principle.[7] The Europe of Freedom and Democracy group in the European Parliament, typified by such parties as the United Kingdom Independence Party, is hard eurosceptic. In western European EU member countries, hard euroscepticism is currently a hallmark of many anti-establishment parties.[9] Though in the UK Independence Party case, it is a right-wing populist party, which is pro establishment supporting the monarchy.

Soft euroscepticism is support for the existence of, and membership of, a form of European Union, but with opposition to specific EU policies, and opposition to a federal Europe.[10] The European Conservatives and Reformists group, typified by centre-right parties such as the British Conservative Party, along with the European United Left–Nordic Green Left which is an alliance of the left-wing parties in the European Parliament, is soft eurosceptic.

Alternative names for 'hard' and 'soft' euroscepticism are respectively 'withdrawalist' and 'reformist' euroscepticism. Some 'hard' eurosceptics such as UKIP prefer to call themselves euro-realists rather than 'sceptics', and regard their position as pragmatic rather than "in principle". Also many on the left such as Tony Benn tend not to use the phrase to refer to themselves even though they share many of their criticisms of the European Union and they may use phrases such as euro-critical or just call themselves democrats or socialists and their scepticism as part of their wider belief in democracy or socialism.

The Czech president Václav Klaus rejected the term "euroscepticism", with its purported negative undertones, saying (at a meeting in April 2012) that the expressions for a eurosceptic and his opponent should be "a Euro-realist" and someone who is "Euro-naïve" (respectively).[11]

François Asselineau of the French Popular Republican Union has been blaming the use of the term 'sceptic' to describe the 'hard eurosceptic' or those who want to withdraw from the EU and would rather advocate the usage of the term 'euro opponent' .[12] However, he believes the usage of the term 'sceptic' for the 'soft eurosceptic' to be proper since other eurosceptic parties in France are 'merely criticizing' the EU without taking into account that the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union is modifiable only under the unanimity agreement of the whole EU members that he considers as impossible to reach.[13]

Eurobarometer survey Spring 2012

A survey in 2012, conducted by TNS Opinion and Social on behalf of the European Commission, showed that, for the European Union overall, those who think that their country's interests are looked after well in the EU are now in a minority (42%).[14] Those with a positive image of the EU are down from a high of 52% in 2007 to a low of 31% in May 2012 (unchanged since November 2011); this compares with 28% with a negative image of the EU, and 39% with a neutral image (up from a low of 14% in 2007).[15][16]

About 31% of EU citizens tend to trust the European Union as an institution, and about 60% do not tend to trust it.[17] Trust in the EU has fallen from a high of 57% in 2007 to 31% in 2012, while trust in national governments has fallen from 43% in 2007 to 28% in 2012; so the EU has moved from enjoying much more trust than national governments in 2007 to a position of enjoying only slightly more trust than national governments in 2012.[16] Trust in the EU is lowest in the United Kingdom (16% trust, 75% distrust) and highest in Bulgaria (55% trust; 15% distrust). Trust in national governments in these two countries is 21% (distrust 77%) and 28% (distrust 64%) respectively.[17]

History in the European Parliament

1999–2004

A study analysed voting records of the Fifth European Parliament and ranked groups, concluding:[18] "Towards the top of the figure are the more pro-European parties (PES, EPP-ED, and ALDE), whereas towards the bottom of the figure are the more anti-European parties (EUL/NGL, G/EFA, UEN and EDD)."

2004–2009

In 2004, 37 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from the UK, Poland, Denmark and Sweden founded a new European Parliament group called “Independence and Democracy” from the old Europe of Democracies and Diversities (EDD) group.

The main goals of the ID group were to reject the proposed Treaty establishing a constitution for Europe. Some delegations within the group, notably the United Kingdom Independence Party, also advocate the complete withdrawal of their country from the EU whilst others only wish to limit further European integration.

2009 elections

The elections in 2009 saw a significant drop in some areas in support for Eurosceptic parties, with all MEPs from Poland, Denmark and Sweden losing their seats. However, in the UK, the eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party achieved second place in the elections, finishing ahead of the governing Labour Party, and the British National Party (BNP) won its first ever two MEPs. Although new members joined the ID group from Greece and the Netherlands, it was unclear as to whether the ID group would reform in the new parliament.

The ID group did reform, as the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) and is represented by 32 MEPs from nine countries.

Euroscepticism in individual countries

Austria

As of 2013, six parties together hold all 183 National Council seats, and all bar one of the 62 Federal Council seats and 19 European Parliament seats. Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs (socialism), who hold 56/183 NC, 24/62 FC, and 5/19 EP seats, are pro-European integration. Austrian People's Party (conservatism/Christian), who hold 51/183 NC, 28/62 FC, and 6/19 EP seats, are pro-European integration. And Die Grünen – Die Grüne Alternative (green), who hold 20/183 NC, 3/62 FC, and 2/19 EP seats, are also pro-European integration.

Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, established in 1956, are a conservative party who mainly attract support from young people and workers.[19] In 1989, they changed their stance over the European Union to euroscepticism. They opposed Austria joining the EU in 1994, and opposed the introduction of the Euro in 1998. The party would like to leave the union. In the 1990s the party received 20–27% of the national vote, and recently received 17.5% in 2008. It currently has 34/183 National Council seats, 4/62 Federal Council seats, and 2/19 European Parliament seats.

Bündnis Zukunft Österreich, established in 2005, are a socially conservative party that had always held eurosceptical elements. In 2011, the party openly supported leaving the Euro-Zone, and in 2012, the party announced they supported a full withdrawal from the European Union.[20] The party has also called upon a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.[21] In polls it currently receives around 10%–15%, although in one province it did receive 45% of the vote in 2009. It currently has 13/183 National Council seats, 0/62 Federal Council seats, and 1/19 European Parliament seats.

Team Stronach, established in 2012, have campaigned to leave the European Union, as well as replace the Euro with the Austrian Schilling. In 2012, they regularly received between 8–10% national support in polls.[22] Politicians from many different parties including the Social Democratic Party (socialism), Bündnis Zukunft Österreich (conservatism) as well as previous independents, switched their alleigances to the new party upon creation.[23][24] In two local elections in March 2013, it won 11% of the vote in Carinthia, and 10% of the vote in Lower Austria. It currently has 6/183 National Council seats, 1/62 Federal Council seats, and 0/19 European Parliament seats.

Belgium

Vlaams Belang, Lijst Dedecker

Bulgaria

VMRO – BND, NFSB, Ataka

Croatia

Croatian Party of Rights dr. Ante Starčević and Croatian Party of Rights.

Czech Republic

In May 2010, the Czech president Václav Klaus claimed that they "needn't hurry to enter the Euro zone".[25]

Petr Mach, an economist, a close associate of president Václav Klaus and a member of the Civic Democratic Party between 1997 and 2007, founded the Free Citizens Party in 2009. The party aims to mainly attract dissatisfied Civic Democratic Party voters.[26] At the time of the Lisbon Treaty ratification, they were actively campaigning against it,[27][28] unlike the governing Civic Democratic Party, who endorsed it in the Chamber of Deputies.[29] After the treaty has been ratified, they are in favour of withdrawing from the European Union completely.[30]

Denmark

Main article: Denmark and the European Union

The People's Movement against the EU only takes part in European Parliament elections and has one member in the European Parliament. The pro-EU, but eurosceptic, June Movement, originally a split-off from the People's Movement against the EU, existed from 1992 to 2009.

In the Danish Parliament, the Unity List has withdrawal from the EU as a policy. The Danish People's Party also advocate withdrawal, but has claimed to support some EU structures such as the inner market, and supported the EU-positive Liberal-Conservative coalition 2001–2011.

The Socialist People's Party, minorities within the Social Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party, and some smaller parties were against accession to the European Union in 1972. Still in 1986, these parties advocated a no vote in the Single European Act referendum. Later, the Social Liberal Party changed to a strongly EU-positive party, and EU opposition within the Social Democratic Party faded. The Socialist People's Party were against the Amsterdam Treaty in 1998 and Denmark's joining the euro in 2000, but has become increasingly EU positive, for example when MEP Margrete Auken left the eurosceptic European United Left–Nordic Green League and joined the The Greens–European Free Alliance in 2004.

Estonia

The Independence Party and Centre Party were against accession to the EU, but only the Independence Party still wants Estonia to withdraw from the European Union.

Finland

Whereas the current Finnish administration (notably Jutta Urpilainen) has been more hesitant towards the EU monetary policy than the previous ones, Eurobarometers and other polls have shown that among Finnish citizens, the opinion trend has been somewhat reversed during recent years. In Eurobarometer 77 (fieldwork in Spring 2012), 41% of Finns trusted the European Union (EU-27 average: 31%), 51% trusted The European Parliament (EU-27average: 40%), and 74% were in favour of the euro currency (EU-27 average: 52%). The rise of a pro-European sentiment is mainly due to the existent wave of general internationalisation in Finland.

Distinctively eurosceptic Finnish parties are The Finns Party, Independence Party, Communist Party of Finland and Workers Party of Finland.

France

In France, many parties are more or less radically Eurosceptic, varying from advocating less EU intervention in national affairs to advocating outright withdrawal from the EU as it is and from the Eurozone. These parties belong to all sides of the political spectrum so the reasons for their Euroscepticism may differ, but they all opposed the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon. Many French people are uninterested in such matters: only 40% of the French electorate voted in the 2009 European Parliament elections.[31]

Moderate right-leaning Eurosceptic parties include the Gaullist Debout la République, and also the Mouvement pour la France, and Chasse, Pêche, Nature & Traditions, both of which joined Libertas, a pan-European Eurosceptic party.[32] In the 2009 European Parliament elections, Debout la République obtained 1.77% of the national vote, and Libertas 4.8%. In a similar way to the moderate parties, the French far right in general is naturally opposed to the EU, as they criticise France's loss of political and economic sovereignty to a supra-national entity. The main far right political party is the Front National.[33] The party obtained 6.5% of the votes, which makes it the largest Eurosceptic party in France.

Left-wing Eurosceptic parties tend to criticise the liberal agenda of the EU, although they usually support a unification of countries (albeit under a socialist system) and the abolition of national borders. They include the Parti de Gauche and the French Communist Party, which formed the Front de Gauche for the 2009 European Parliament elections and obtained 6.3% of the votes. The other major far-left eurosceptic parties are the New Anticapitalist Party[34] which obtained 4.8% and Lutte Ouvrière[35] which obtained 1.2%. The Citizen and Republican Movement, a left-wing eurosceptic and souverainist party, did not participate in the 2009 elections.

Popular Republican Union, led by François Asselineau is also a eurosceptic party.

Germany

The Alternative for Germany is a soft Euro-sceptic party that considers itself pro-Europe and pro-EU, but it opposes the Euro, which it believes has undermined European integration.[36]

Greece

Communist Party of Greece, Golden Dawn), Anticapitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow, SYRIZA, ANEL. According to the LSE, Greece is the 2nd most eurosceptic country in the European Union, with 50% (only behind UK) of the Greeks thinking that their country hasn't bennefited at all from the EU. Meanwhile 33% of the Greeks views Greek membership in EU as a good thing, marginally ahead of UK. 81% of the Greeks say that the EU is going in the wrong direction. These figures represent a major increase in euroscepticism in Greece since 2009. In June 2012, the eurosceptic parties in Greece that are represented in parliament (SYRIZA, ANEL, Golden Dawn, KKE) got 45.8% of the votes and 40.3% of the seats in the parliament. According to the last 3 polls, from October 2013, the Pro-European parties (ND, PASOK and DIMAR) would get, on average, 41.1% of the votes, the eurosceptic left (SYRIZA and KKE) 35.1% of the votes and the eurosceptic right (Golden Dawn and ANEL) 15.3% of the votes.[37]

Hungary

In Hungary only one third of the population supports membership in the EU, one third negative and the rest neutral.[15]

In addition to the far-right Jobbik's hard euroscepticism, the ruling party, Fidesz is soft eurosceptic. Politics Can Be Different is also sometimes classified as soft eurosceptic.

Iceland

The two main eurosceptic parties are Independence Party and Progressive Party. The parties won the parliamentary election in April 2013 and they have halted the current negotiations with the European Union regarding Icelandic membership (but as of October 2013 not withdrawn the application)

The public opinion was lightly positive in 2008–2009 during the currency crisis. Later the public opinion has been more and more negative, with 70% of those who stated an opinion on membership being negative in 2013.

Ireland

The Irish people voted no to initial referendums on both the Nice and Lisbon Treaties. There were second referendums held on both of these issues and it was then that the votes were swayed in favour of the respective 'Yes' campaigns.[38]

In relation to both the Nice and Lisbon treaties, the decision to force second referendums has been the subject of much scrutiny and widespread criticism. It is claimed that rejection of the Irish peoples decision to vote no stands testament to the European Union's lack of regard for democracy and lack of regard for the right of people of nation states to decide their futures.[39]

The left wing republican party Sinn Féin is one party which opposes the current structure of the European Union and the direction it is moving in.[40] Sinn Féin objects to the limitations and restrictions European Union membership has placed on the Republic of Ireland, as well as the European depletion of Irish sovereignty.[41]

The United Left Alliance is an electoral alliance of left-wing political parties and independent politicians in the Republic of Ireland. It shares some common views on Europe with Sinn Féin.[42]

Italy

In Italy the main Eurosceptic party is the Five Star Movement, the anti-establishment movement founded by the former comedian Beppe Grillo. The M5S gain 25.5% of votes in the 2013 general election, becoming the biggest anti-establishment and Eurosceptic party in Europe. The Five Star Movement also advocates a referendum to withdraw Italy from the Eurozone and to return to the lira.[43] Beppe Grillo started a co-operation with Nigel Farage, leader of the UKIP, due to them common Eurosceptic view against the Troika of the EU.[44]

Another main Eurosceptic party is the Lega Nord of Roberto Maroni, the President of Lombardy. Lega Nord, which is considered a regionalist and right-wing populist party, often expressed its ideas against the European Union and its leaders. Other movements which advocated the withdraw of Italy from the European Union are The Right of Francesco Storace, New Force of Roberto Fiore, Tricolour Flame and No Euro Movement.

The eurosceptic parties hold 127 seats in the Italian Chamber of Deputies out of 630 and 68 seats in the Senate out of 315. Lega Nord presides the regions of Piemonte, Lombardy and Veneto which together have around 20.35 million people (about a quarter of the population of Italy), though its national representation is much lower, due to both to the lack of support in the Centre and the South, and the lower electoral achievements in the North.

Unlike Lega Nord, Five Star Movement has its electorate more or less evenly distributed all across Italy and it doesn't belong to any coalition. The M5S is particularly strong in Liguria and Sicily where it got almost or above 30% of the votes in the 2013 Italian general election, but it is also very strong in the Central Italy, in Sardinia and in Veneto.

Luxembourg

The Alternative Democratic Reform Party is a soft eurosceptic party.[45] It is a member of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists.

Netherlands

Party for Freedom, Socialist Party, Reformed Political Party, ChristianUnion and Party for the Animals

Norway

Norway has rejected EU membership in two referendums, 1972 and 1994. The Centre Party, Christian Democratic Party, Socialist Left Party, The Red Party and the Liberal Party were against EU-membership in both referendums. The Centre Party, The Red Party and Socialist Left Party are also against the current membership in the European Economic Community.[46] The Liberal Party, the Progress Party, and the Green Party (Norway) have not taken a stance on the issue.

Poland

Congress of the New Right, Real Politics Union, United Poland

Portugal

National Renovator Party, New Democracy Party, MRPP, Portuguese Communist Party, and Left Bloc. Partido Popular, once an eurosceptic party is now a soft pro-european party member of the EPP. Portugal is the 8th most eurosceptic country in the European Union (not counting with Croatia) as shown by the "The Continent-wide rise of Euroscepticism", with 58% of the people tending not to trust the EU, only behind Greece – 81% (1st), Spain – 72% (2nd), UK – 69% (3rd), Cyprus – 64% (4th), Sweden – 62% (5th), Czech Republich – 60% (6th) and Germany – 59% (7th).[47] The Eurosceptic parties currently hold 24 out of 230 seats in the parliament. Unlike in other countries of Europe, the euroscepticism of the left wing prevails in Portugal.

Slovakia

Slovak National Party[48]

Sweden

The Left Party of Sweden was against accession to the European Union and still wants Sweden to leave the European Union.[49] The Sweden Democrats are also strongly against the Union and favours withdrawal and rejoin the EEA.[50] The Centre Party and Green Party are moderately sceptic towards the EU as well.

The June List, a eurosceptic list consisting of members from both the political right and left won three seats in the 2004 Elections to the European Parliament and sat in the EU-critical IND/DEM group in the European Parliament.

In general, the people are more eurosceptical than the parties. Around 90% of the parliament members represent parties that officially supports the Sweden membership, while polls have given approximately 50% for and 50% against the membership.

Switzerland

Swiss People's Party, Ticino League and Geneva Citizens' Movement

United Kingdom

Euroscepticism in the United Kingdom has been a significant element in British politics since the inception of the European Economic Community (EEC), the predecessor to the EU.

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) was formed in 1993 and focuses on EU-withdrawal as its primary policy and receives significant support in European elections. It received 16.5% of the vote at the 2009 European Parliament elections, putting it in second place ahead of the then governing Labour Party.

The Conservative Party has campaigned against entry to the European Monetary Union and the Social Chapter. The Conservative Party has for years been split on the issue of Europe, with some arguing for the full withdrawal subject to a referendum but many supporting the Union though powers should be sought back from Brussels and the Union should be less of a political and economic union.

The Labour Party membership is more eurosceptic than the party leadership, which is something the Conservative leadership has sought to exploit.[51] Bernie Grant, a Labour Member of Parliament said that he was "totally pro-Commonwealth and anti-European Union".

The Communist Party of Britain and The Socialist Workers Party, neither of which have any considerable power or influence, with not one seat in Parliament nor in a local council, both criticise the European Union from an ultra-left perspective and their "scepticism" is a form of left-wing euroscepticism although its adherents may reject the term.

The Green Party of England and Wales, which has one seat in Parliament in the House of Commons, also rejects the term "eurosceptic"; however it opposes the Euro and is critical of the current direction and structure of the EU.

The far-right British National Party (BNP) is another strongly eurosceptic party that campaigns heavily for withdrawal. Two BNP candidates, Andrew Brons and Nick Griffin, were elected to the European Parliament in 2009.

Spain

Candidatura d'Unitat Popular, catalan, socialist and separatist party, advocates for Catalan Countries out of the European Union. Spain is the 2nd country that least trusted the European Union, making it one of the 3 most eurosceptic countries in the EU, along with the UK and Greece. 72% of the Spanish people don't trust the EU, comparing to only 23% that trust this Union. Nevertheless, it was one of the few countries to vote Yes for the European Constitution in a referendum back in February 2005, though by a lower margin in Catalonia and the Basque Country.[52][53]

Turkey

The two main eurosceptic parties are MHP, the far-right secularist Nationalist Movement Party which holds 53 seats in the Parliament, and the Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi), a far-right Sunni Islamist party which has no seats in the Parliament because it had only 1.27% of the votes in the last general election, far below the 10% threshold necessary to be represented in the Parliament.

See also

Footnotes

  1. Total disagree: 50%
  2. Fairly positive: 28%
  3. Neutral: 39%
  4. Fairly negative: 22%
  5. Very negative: 6%
  6. Tend not to trust: 60%
  7. Don't know: 9%
  8. National government (of respondent):
    • Tend to trust: 28%
    • Tend not to trust: 67%
    • Don't know: 5%

References

  • Florian Hartleb: A thorn in the side of European elites: The new Euroscepticism, Centre for European Studies, Brussels 2011, (download: http://www.1888932-2946.ws/ComTool6.0_CES/CES/E-DocumentManager/gallery/Research_Papers/athornintheside-1.pdf)
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