Euro-scepticism as party strategy: Persistence and change in party-based opposition to European integration

TitleEuro-scepticism as party strategy: Persistence and change in party-based opposition to European integration
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsSitter, N.
Journal titleAustrian Journal of Political Science
Pages239 - 253

The parties that have adopted principled or contingent positions opposed to participation in European integration span most of the political spectrum. Yet even a cursory glance at the European scene reveals that the mainstream center-left and right parties rend not to adopt principled Euro-skepticism, although they may oppose aspects of European integration when policy preferences clash. With a few significant exceptions, principled opposition has been constrained to parties at the flanks of the system or parties that represent specific interests or identities. Starting with the premise that a party's decision to adopt or modify a Euro-skeptic stance is a strategic decision, this paper explores the roots of party-based Euro-skepticism and the dynamics of its persistence and change. Party strategy is linked inextricably to the party's position in the party system, and is made up of the party's efforts to reconcile the four main goals that almost define political parties: organizational survival, and the pursuit of policy, votes and office. Although many, if not most, parties pursue strategies that are associated with the catch-all or cartel model of political parties, a significant number of parties have chosen alternative or mixed strategies. Parties' propensities for and incentives regarding Euro-skepticism are explored in relation to those different strategies. [W]hy do parties adopt Euro-skeptic positions, and why do they change these? The "taming of the shrew," or softening of Euro-skepticism, may be driven by changes in any of the four goals or the context in which they are pursued, or a combination thereof.


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