The Rise of Euroskepticism and Possible Responses prior to the 2014 European Parliament Elections

Policy Study

09/10/2014

In recent years, negative attitudes towards the European Union have been on the rise in the majority of European societies. The criticism faced by EU institutions, among them the European Commission and the European Parliament, and the general apathy surrounding European Parliament elections threaten to decrease the legitimacy and prestige of the entire Union. Contrary to expectations, the fulfillment of the European Parliament’s co-legislative role in the last decades did not result in acceptance and confidence for the decision-making institutions.

Skepticism towards the present and future of the Union is visibly affecting an increasing number of social groups. Because euroskepticism has a “tradition” of over forty years, it contains compounded layers of correlation. It can even appeal to highly educated demographics who can be viewed as the winners of integration. Today, critiques of the EU’s operations are not only staples for radical organizations. Polls show that both contributing and benefiting states face increasingly prominent friction when they argue in defense of EU membership. The amount of voters criticizing or rejecting the European Union has mushroomed in both developed and developing countries. Both winners and losers experience this trend. This growth supports the notion that the euroskeptic attitude does not haunt existentially threatened demographics exclusively, but it is also prevalent among the beneficiaries of consumerism and European democratic systems. The emergence of euroskepticism today can be traced back to much more complex causes than in the 1990s or at the millennium.

Without understanding changing electoral mentalities it is impossible to prepare for the challenges the EU must confront and for the 2014 European Parliament elections. This study by Tamás Boros, FEPS Scientific Council Member and Director of Policy Solution and  Zoltán Vasali, Senior Political Analyst, Policy Solutions aims to map trends within euroskepticism, identify euroskeptic demographics, and make recommendations for reaching euroskeptic or apathetic European citizens.

It is also a follow up of the conference “Democracy, Freedom and Liberty in Central and Eastern Europe”, which took place on 16 November 2012 in Budapest, Hungary with the support of the Táncsics Mihály Foundation, József Attila Foundation and Policy Solutions.

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