chapter  7
17 Pages

Europeans against ‘Europe’

Euroscepticism is an important feature of European politics, to a different extent across Europe and particularly strong in populist parties. The term is slightly misleading, since it refers not to the sort of critical and sceptical attitude which many internal or external observers of Europe display, the approach which Paul Statham (2010) and his co-authors call eurocriticism , but to a more fundamental opposition to the EU and its institutions. The rise of explicit euroscepticism, then, needs to be distinguished from the broader sentiment of unease or disillusionment which has been growing over time. A study of online discussion of the 2009 EP elections had over half of the comments displaying ‘diffuse euroscepticism’, mainly on cultural grounds, along with 15 per cent pro-European, 10 per cent supporting the status quo, 7 per cent anti-European, 5 per cent eurocritical, and 5 per cent ‘altereuropean’. 1

For most Europeans, decreasing enthusiasm for the EU coexists with the recognition of it as a permanent reality, but in some member states there are significant calls for withdrawal or for a radical scaling-down of the integration already achieved. As we saw in Chapter 5, the way in which EU politics is structured, both in the Union itself and in the member states, means that the only parties which really address European issues are the eurosceptic ones. 2 And the more eurosceptical parties there are in a given state, the greater the attention given to Europe (Risse 2015: 50). At the very least, attitudes to European integration add a further dimension to the polarisation of European politics between left and right, along with the GAL/TAN opposition.