The Implications of Euroscepticism in the European Parliamentary Elections

  • Nicole Ely
  • 24.5.2019 10:48

The Czech Republic and Hungary display the largest disparity between the individual’s perspective of the European Union, and the structural factors that keep it in place. This Euroscepticism came about due to a perfect storm of factors and has larger implications beyond this week’s European Parliamentary elections.

The Czech Republic and Hungary are unique among other EU countries as having the biggest disconnect between individual’s outlook on EU membership and the structural cohesion of the institution, which could play a role in the outcome of the European Parliamentary elections.

A new study conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations shows that the Czech Republic and Hungary had significant losses in the public’s perspective of the European project as a whole, coming in just above the UK. However, both countries had the highest gains when it came to structural issues like EU funding, policy and trade integration. This could have big implications for the elections, considering the last election took place in 2014, before the migration crisis, Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, which helped give way to a widespread populist movement in Europe.

 

Most of the Visegrad Group showed losses when it came to individual cohesion, particularly when it came to the overall approval of the economic union and policies on security and migration.

 

The study measured the level of cohesion among the 28 EU member state over a 10-year period. Using 42 different factors, it defines individual cohesion as people’s experiences, attitudes, well-being and personal beliefs toward the EU and structural cohesion as different countries’ connections and practices, including policies and economic ties. Most of the Visegrad Group showed losses when it came to individual cohesion, particularly when it came to the overall approval of the economic union and policies on security and migration.

Some experts attribute this rise in Euroscepticism to politicians who gained favor with the public by exploiting issues like the economic crisis of 2007 and migration as tools for their anti-Europe agenda. The EU has also appeared unable to enforce many of its core values in the Visegrad Group, including violations against the rule of law by countries like Hungary, where the government has taken steps to undermine the media freedom and the independence of the judiciary. Many in the Czech Republic and Slovakia also regard EU subsidies as a source of corruption for local and national politicians. These issues combined with a general lack of understanding of how the EU functions as an institution have created a perfect storm for populists to take advantage.

 

Despite the structural cohesion of the V4, many believe the individual attitudes toward the EU could become vital should another crisis occur.

 

While far-right parties more critical of the EU are projected to make major gains in the Parliamentary elections, the implications of this perspective go beyond just this election. Despite the structural cohesion of the V4, many believe the individual attitudes toward the EU could become vital should another crisis occur. For this reason, the EU needs to take more initiative to strengthen the rule of law in countries where leaders are actively working against the European liberal agenda and enforce stricter enforcement on corruption. It also needs to help promote education among the general public about how the EU functions as an institution and provide a counter-narrative to ones provided by populists. While many organizations and universities are currently doing this, the EU needs to make a concerted effort that this continues after the elections in order to highlight the tangible benefits of EU membership to all.

About author: Nicole Ely

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