Studies in EU Reform and Enlargement series
Edited by Dieter Fuchs and Hans-Dieter Klingemann
Chapter 7: National Political Conflict and Identity Formation: The Diverse Nature of the Threat from the Extreme Left and Extreme Populist Right
Simon Bornschier 7.1 Introduction In recent years, scepticism towards the European Union (EU) among European publics has become increasingly apparent. The failure of the constitutional treaty to gain majority support in France and the Netherlands has marked the definite end of the ‘permissive consensus’ among European publics that allowed European integration to proceed apace since the late 1950s. Yet, the precise nature of the recent surge in Euroscepticism remains poorly understood. Little genuinely comparative work has been undertaken to assess whether opposition to European integration primarily reflects national idiosyncrasies or if there are common patterns across countries. In this chapter, I put forward two hypotheses. First, I suggest that opposition to European integration can be economically or culturally motivated, with divergent consequences for the prospect of a European identity. A first form of Euroscepticism is related to the perception that market building in the EU has committed national governments to a liberalizing thrust in economic policy making which endangers the achievements of national welfare states. Consequently, as long as ‘positive integration’ does not prevail over ‘negative integration’ (Scharpf 1996), citizens with strong state interventionist attitudes will oppose further efforts at European integration. This form of opposition affects support for the European regime, but does not necessarily contradict the development of a European sense of identity. A second source of opposition is culturally and politically based, and reflects a more fundamental concern with the establishment of a supranational European polity. The integration process diminishes the autonomy of the nation state and...
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