Euroscepticism is the ideology that criticizes the European Union (EU) and the process of European integration. It can have different forms, from promoting a EU limited to free trade, to calling for a withdrawal of their country from the EU. It can be a right-wing as well as a left-wing ideology, but is generally found in extremist parties.

Euroscepticism in the European Parliament (EP)

In the current repartition of seats in the EP, dating back from the 2009 elections, eurosceptic parties represent more than 16 % of the members, without taking non-inscrits into account. The  parties concerned are:

– the European Conservatives and Reformists (54 members), described as center-right or right-wing, which promote a liberal but non-federal Europe;

– European United Left-Nordic Green Left (35 members), described as left-wing to far-left, which promotes a social Europe and rejects the current Europe that they regard as too liberal;

– Europe of Freedom and Democracy (32 members), described as right-wing to far-right, which promotes a Europe of Nations;

– some non-inscrit far-right national parties (27 members), generally promoting a withdrawal of their country from the EU.

According to the last polls, the next European elections are to bring a lot of eurosceptic European deputies in the EP, reaching almost 30 % of the seats. It reveals a real lack of confidence in the policies of the EU among the population.

Euroscepticism by country

Map representing the confidence of the population in the EU, by country, in December 2013

Source: Eurobaromètre

Euroscepticisme

 

Countries in red: less than 26 % of confidence.

Countries in orange: from 27 % to 39 % of confidence.

Countries in green: more than 40 % of confidence.

We can notice with this map that the most eurosceptic countries are Southern Countries (Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Cyprus), which have been recently affected by the economic crisis, and the United Kingdom (UK), historically eurosceptic.

In the UK, euroscepticism is mostly represented by the right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) of the famous euro-deputy Nigel Farage, which promotes a withdrawal from the European Union. As the fourth political force of the UK, it has a great influence on the public debate and is getting more and more popular. The Conservative Party of David Cameron sometimes shares some eurosceptic views with UKIP, for example it calls for a referendum about the possible withdrawal of the UK from the UE, but this opinion is not shared in the whole party.

In Italy, euroscepticism is represented by two parties: the Five Star Movement of the humorist Beppe Grillo, which is the third political force in the country, which promotes a withdrawal from the Eurozone (not from the EU) and has links with UKIP, and the right-wing to far-right regionalist party Lega Nord.

 The countries which are neither eurosceptics nor euro-enthusiasts are Western Europe countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Austria, Ireland, Slovenia, Croatia) which have generally not been strongly affected by the economic crisis, but whose population don’t want to pay for the poorest countries.

The main eurosceptic parties in France are right-wing sovereignists (Debout la République of Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, Mouvement pour la France of Philippe de Villiers or Union Populaire Républicaine of François Asselineau), a far-right party, the Front National of Marine Le Pen, which is the third political force of the country and calls for a “renegotiation of the treaties”, and left-wing to far-left parties such as the Front de Gauche of Jean-Luc Mélenchon or the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste of Olivier Besancenot.

In the Netherlands, the main eurosceptic party is the Party for Freedom of Geert Wilders, a right-wing to far-right party known for its islamophobic positions, which used to be an influential party and has links with the French Front National.

In Austria, euroscepticism is represented by three right-wing to far-right movements: the Freedom Party of Austria of Heinz-Christian Strache, the Alliance for the Future of Austria of Gerald Grosz and Team Stronach of Frank Stronach. All of them claim for a withdrawal of Austria from the EU. The Freedom Party of Austria has links with the French Front National.

Euro-enthusiastic countries can be classified in three groups: Belgium, which gets benefits from the European Institutions installed in Brussels; Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Sweden, Finland), which have not been affected by the economic crisis; and newly arrived countries such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Malta, which are “discovering” the benefits of their belonging to the EU.

Among those countries, those which have some important eurosceptic parties are Hungary with Viktor Orban’s right-wing party Fidesz, promoting a soft euroscepticism, and Gabor Vonna’s far-right party Jobbik, promoting a total withdrawal from the EU and an alliance with countries such as Russia or Turkey.

Conclusion

Euroscepticism has different forms : a soft euroscepticism promoting a renegotiation of the treaties, a Europe of Nations, a Europe of free-trade or a withdrawal from the Eurozone, and a hard euroscepticism promoting a total withdrawal from the EU. Euroscepticism is shared by both left- and right-wing parties, but the main eurosceptic forces on the national and European scales are right-wing and far-right parties. The increase of euroscepticism is due to the economic crisis (Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, Portugal), to the fact that the population doesn’t want to help the poorest countries (as in Germany or in Austria) or to the fact that the population wants to go on with the sovereignty and the independence of its country (UK).

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