The recent economic and political turmoil of Europe has given way to an increasingly popular new trans-European political phenomenon, which is ironically anti-trans-European– Euroscepticsim.
Euroscepticism is, in actuality, nothing new. It is a political movement characterized by its “scepticism” of the purported benefits of being part of the European Union and adhering to the rules of the EU’s supranational legal institutions. Eurosceptic movements were traditionally nationalistic in nature, and were thus opposed to relinquishing any degree of national autonomy by submitting to the rules and regulations of the EU. In Europe, there appears to be a revival of nationalistic political movements in the form of political parties such as the UK Independence Party or the National Front in France. Yet the resurrection of nationalistic fervor is not the sole explanation for the increasing relevance of Eurosceptic politics. It is also due to the fact that this “movement” is no longer strictly found in the domain of right-wing European nationalism (as it predominantly was in the past) but has recently taken root in various left wing political movements as well.
Euroscepticism was a natural fit for the European political right, particularly nationalists, as nationalists value absolute autonomy (even some times economic autonomy – e.g. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany strove to become autarkies) and in more extreme forms, nationalists outrightly proclaim the superiority of their nation, people and culture. Nationalists strive above all to retain their national culture and identity. All of these values run directly counter to the egalitarian undertones of trans-Europeanism and the desire for a trans-European identity. Thus, it is easy to see as to why some right-wing European movements have espoused Euroscepticism – but, how is it that Euroscepticism has come to interpenetrate both the right and left wing of European political thought?
According to the New Statesman,“The situation in Southern Europe has been the catalyst. It is in the Mediterranean, where the Eurozone project has succeeded the least, that populist left wing parties are challenging the EU more successfully than their rightist compatriots… Widespread financial woes and the North-South cultural divide has allowed these parties to peddle theories of rampant barbarians taking advantage of poor locals, and thus introduced a leftist slant to Euroscepticism”
Thus, several left-wing movements have adopted Eurosceptic platforms, not due to a sense of nationalistic superiority, but because they see their nations as not being treated equitably by the European Union. This is especially evident in the various critiques of the European Union’s responses to the economic recession of 2008. Left-wing eurosceptics claim that the EU’s supranational institutions, such as the European Central Bank, craft policy in such a way to benefit particular European states (in this case, northern European states, such as Germany) at the expense of less economically fortunate states (e.g. Greece).The two narratives justifying euroscepticism found on both ends of the European political spectrum are in a way, polar opposites. The right appeals to a sense of autonomy, nationalism and pride – which may take the form of an outright sense of nationalistic superiority. The left, by contrast, doesn’t see the European Union, or at least the original intentions behind its making, as undesirable – instead, they see the EU as having been hijacked and manipulated to serve the interests of a select few states. Either way, the increasing popularity of right wing or nationalistic European movements in conjunction with the left’s adoption of Euroscepticism may come to radically alter Europe’s political, social and cultural trajectory.