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Euroscepticism is a general term used to describe criticism of the European Union (EU), and opposition to the process of European integration, existing throughout the political spectrum. Traditionally, the main source of euroscepticism has been the notion that integration weakens the nation state. Other views occasionally seen as eurosceptic include perceptions of the EU being undemocratic or too bureaucratic.[1][2] A Eurobarometer survey of EU citizens in 2009 showed that support for membership of the EU was lowest in Latvia, the United Kingdom, and Hungary.[3]:91–3


Types of euroscepticism

There are two different types of Eurosceptic thought, which differ by the extent to which adherents reject European integration and the reason for doing so. Aleks Szczerbiak and Paul Taggart described these as 'hard' and 'soft' euroscepticism.[4][5][6][7][8]

Hard euroscepticism is the opposition to membership of, or the existence of, the European Union as a matter of principle.[7] The Europe of Freedom and Democracy group in the European Parliament, typified by such parties as the United Kingdom Independence Party, is hard eurosceptic. In existing western European EU member countries, hard euroscepticism is a hallmark of many anti-establishment parties.[9]

Soft euroscepticism is support for the existence of, and membership of, a form of European Union, but opposition to particular EU policies, and opposition to a federal Europe.[10] The European Conservatives and Reformists group, typified by such parties as the British Conservative Party, along with the European United Left–Nordic Green Left which is an alliance of left-wing parties in the European Parliament, is soft eurosceptic.

Alternative names for 'hard' and 'soft' euroscpticism are 'withdrawlist' or 'reformist' euroscepticism. Some 'hard' eurosceptics such as UKIP prefer to call themselves euro-realists rather than 'sceptics'. Also many on the left such as Tony Benn tend not to use the phrase to refer to themselves even though they share many of their criticisms of the European Union and they may use phrases such as euro-critical or just call themselves democrats or socialists and their scepticism as part of their wider belief in democracy or socialism.

EU citizens attitudes towards the EU (Eurobarometer survey 2009)

A survey in 2009 showed that within the European Union overall, the majority of EU citizens support their country's membership: over 50% think their country's membership is "a good thing", and only 15% think it is "a bad thing".[3]:91–3[11]:QA6a Attitudes vary greatly between countries. Support is greatest in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Ireland, with about 70%–80% thinking that membership is a good thing. Scepticism is highest in Latvia, the United Kingdom, and Hungary, with only 25%–32% viewing membership as a good thing. In Britain, opinions are divided, fairly evenly, between those who think that membership is a good thing, a bad thing, or neither good nor bad.[3]:91–3

The majority of citizens (56%) believe that membership of the EU has benefited their country, though a significant minority (31%) believe that their country has not benefited.[3]:95–6[11]:QA7a Belief that the citizen's country has benefited from EU membership is lowest (below 50%) in the UK, Hungary, Latvia, Italy, Austria, Sweden and Bulgaria.[3]:95–6

About 48 percent of EU citizens tend to trust the European Parliament, and about 36 percent do not tend to trust it.[3]:110–2[11]:QA 13.1 Trust is highest in Slovakia, Belgium, Malta, Denmark, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Luxembourg; it is lowest in the UK (22%) and Latvia (40%).[3]:110–2 Trust in the European Commission and the ECB is slightly lower.[3]:114–7[11]: QA 13.2

A positive to neutral image of the EU dominates, with about 46% of citizens having a positive image and only 16% having a negative image; about 36% have a neutral image.[3]:130–3[11]: QA 10

History in the European Parliament


A study analyzed voting records of the Fifth European Parliament and ranked groups, concluding:[12] "Towards the top of the figure are the more pro-European parties (PES, EPP-ED, and ALDE), whereas towards the bottom of the figure are the more anti-European parties (EUL/NGL, G/EFA, UEN and EDD)."


In 2004, 37 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from the UK, Poland, Denmark and Sweden founded a new European Parliament group called “Independence and Democracy” from the old Europe of Democracies and Diversities (EDD) group.

The main goals of the ID group were to reject the proposed Treaty establishing a constitution for Europe. Some delegations within the group, notably the United Kingdom Independence Party, also advocate the complete withdrawal of their country from the EU whilst others only wish to limit further European integration.

2009 elections

The elections in 2009 saw a significant drop in some areas in support for Eurosceptic parties, with all MEPs from Poland, Denmark and Sweden losing their seats. However, in the UK, the eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party achieved second place in the elections, finishing ahead of the governing Labour Party and the British National Party (BNP) won its first ever two MEPs. Although new members joined the ID group from Greece and the Netherlands, it was unclear as to whether the ID group would reform in the new parliament.

The ID group did reform, as the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) and is represented by 32 MEPs from nine countries.

List of Eurosceptic parties


Alliance for the Future of Austria, Freedom Party of Austria


IMRO – Bulgarian National Movement, Ataka


Croatian Party of Rights

Czech Republic

In May 2010, the Czech president Václav Klaus claimed that they "needn’t hurry to enter the Euro zone".[13]

Petr Mach, an economist, a close associate of president Václav Klaus and a member of the Civic Democratic Party between 1997 and 2007, founded the Free Citizens Party in 2009. The party aims to mainly attract dissatisfied Civic Democratic Party voters.[14] At the time of the Lisbon Treaty ratification, they were actively campaigning against it,[15][16] unlike the governing Civic Democratic Party, who endorsed it in the Chamber of Deputies.[17] After the treaty has been ratified, they are in favor of withdrawing from the European Union completely.[18]


The Unity Party and Socialist People's Party (Greens) were against accession to the European Union, but only the Unity Party has withdrawal from the EU as a policy. The right wing Danish People's Party also advocate withdrawal.


The Independence Party and Centre Party were against accession to the EU, but only the Independence Party still wants Estonia to withdraw from the European Union.


True Finns, Itsenäisyyspuolue


In France many parties are more or less radically eurosceptic, from siding for less EU intervention in national affairs to outright withdrawing from the EU as it is and the Eurozone. These parties belong to all sides of the political spectrum so the reasons for their euroscepticism may differ but they all opposed the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon. A certain disinterest of the French people exists, considering approximately 60% of the French electorate did not vote for the 2009 European Parliament elections.[19]

Right-wing eurosceptic parties include the gaullist Debout la République, and also the Mouvement pour la France, and Chasse, Pêche, Nature & Traditions both of which joined Libertas, a pan-European eurosceptic party.[20] For the 2009 European Parliament elections, Debout la République obtained 1,77% of the national vote, and Libertas 4,8%. The French far-right in general is naturally opposed to the EU as, similarly to right-wing parties, they criticize France's loss of political and economic sovereignty to a supra-national entity. Its main political party is the Front National.[21] The party obtained 6,5% of the votes, which makes it the largest eurosceptic party in France.

Left-wing eurosceptic parties tend to criticize the liberal agenda of the EU, although they usually support a unification of countries (albeit under a socialist system), and the abolition of national borders. They include the Parti de Gauche and the French Communist Party, which formed the Front de Gauche for the 2009 European Parliament elections and obtained 6,3% of the votes. The other major far-left eurosceptic parties are the New Anticapitalist Party[22] which obtained 4,8% and Lutte Ouvrière[23] only 1,2%. The Citizen and Republican Movement, a left-wing eurosceptic and souverainist party, did not participate in the 2009 elections.


Communist Party of Greece, Golden Dawn (Greece), Anticapitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow, Popular Orthodox Rally


Jobbik, Politics Can Be Different


The left wing republican party Sinn Féin is a soft eurosceptic party. [24]


Lega Nord, La Destra, Fiamma Tricolore, No Euro


The Alternative Democratic Reform Party is a soft eurosceptic party.[25] It is a member of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists.


Partij voor de Vrijheid, Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij, ChristenUnie, Socialistische Partij


"Trumna dla rybaków" ("Coffin for fishermen") sign visible on side of many Polish fishing boats. Polish fishermen protest against EU prohibition of fishing cod by Polish ships.

Congress of the New Right, Real Politics Union


National Renovator Party, New Democracy Party, Portuguese Communist Party, People's Party (Soft eurosceptic)


The Left Party of Sweden was against accession to the European Union and still wants Sweden to leave the European Union.[26] The Green Party also advocates a withdrawal from the European Union. The Sweden Democrats Are also strongly against the Union and favours withdrawal and rejoin the EEA. [27]


Swiss Democrats, Ticino League, Swiss People's Party are against accession of Switzerland to the European Union.

United Kingdom

Euroscepticism in the United Kingdom has been a significant element in British politics since the inception of the European Economic Community (EEC), the predecessor to the EU.

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) was formed in 1993 and focuses on EU-withdrawal as its primary policy and receives significant support in European elections. It received 16.5% of the vote at the 2009 European Parliament elections, putting it in second place ahead of the then governing Labour Party. The British National Party (BNP) is another strongly eurosceptic party that campaigns heavily for withdrawal. Two BNP candidates, Andrew Brons and Nick Griffin, were elected to the European Parliament in 2009.

The Conservative Party has campaigned against entry to the European Monetary Union and the Social chapter. The Labour Party membership is more eurosceptic than the party leadership, which is something the Conservative leadership has sought to exploit.[28] Bernie Grant, a Labour Member of Parliament said that he was "totally pro-Commonwealth and anti-European Union".

The Communist Party of Britain and The Socialist Workers Party both criticise the European Union from an ultra-left perspective and their 'scepticism' is a form of left-wing euroscepticism although its adherents may reject the term.

The Green Party of England and Wales also rejects the term 'eurosceptic' however it opposes the euro and is critical of the current direction and structure of the EU. This amounts to 'soft' euroscepticism in all but name.

See also


  1. ^ Kopel, David, Silencing opposition in the EU, .
  2. ^ Hannan, Daniel (2007-11-14). "Why aren't we shocked by a corrupt EU?". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Standard Eurobarometer 71 (fieldwork June–July 2009)" (pdf). European Commission. September 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  4. ^ Arato, Krisztina; Kaniok, Petr. Euroscepticism and European Integration. CPI/PSRC. p. 162. ISBN 9789537022204. 
  5. ^ Harmsen et al (2005), p. 18.
  6. ^ Gifford, Chris (2008). The Making of Eurosceptic Britain. Ashgate Publishing. p. 5. ISBN 9780754670742. 
  7. ^ a b Szczerbiak et al (2008), p. 7
  8. ^ Lewis, Paul G; Webb, Paul D (2003). Pan-European Perspectives on Party Politics. Brill. p. 211. ISBN 9789004130142. 
  9. ^ Harmsen et al. (2005), p. 31–2
  10. ^ Szczerbiak et al (2008), p. 8
  11. ^ a b c d e "Standard Eurobarometer 71 Table of Results, Standard Eurobarometer 71: Public Opinion in the European Union (fieldwork June - July 2009)" (pdf). European Commission. September 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-01. 
  12. ^ Hix, Simon; Noury, Abdul (PDF), After Enlargement: Voting Behaviour in the Sixth European Parliament, .
  13. ^ Kolyako, Nina. "Czech Republic is in no rush to implement euro". The Baltic Course. Retrieved 4 March 2011. 
  14. ^ (in Czech) Petr Mach zvolen do čela Strany svobodných občanů, CZ: CT24, 2009-02-14, .
  15. ^ (in Czech), CZ: Svobodni, 2009-05-02, Výzva senátorům .
  16. ^ (in Czech) Veřejné čtení Lisabonské smlouvy již tuto neděli, CZ: Svobodni, 2009-04-15, .
  17. ^ EU Dodges Constitutional Hurdle as Czechs Back Treaty (Update 2), Bloomberg, 2009-02-18, 
  18. ^ (in Czech) Postoje Svobodných — Evropa svobodných států, CZ: Svobodni, .
  19. ^ "Européenes : l’UMP en tête, le PS en fort recul" (in French). Le Monde. 2010-06-07. Retrieved 2010-02-12. 
  20. ^ "Européenes : la dynamique inédite du eurosceptcism" (in French). Euros du village. 2010-04-29.,2709.html. Retrieved 2010-02-12. 
  21. ^ "Europe" (in French). Front National. Retrieved 2010-02-12. 
  22. ^ "Leur Europe n’est pas la nôtre !" (in French). NPA. 2010-05-19. Retrieved 2010-02-12. 
  23. ^ "L‘Europe" (in French). Lutte Ouvrière. Retrieved 2010-02-12. 
  24. ^ ""Sinn Féin Wants To Drag Ireland Into Eurosceptic Slipstream Of British Tory Party"". Ireland for Europe: Media Centre. Retrieved 17 May 2011. 
  25. ^ (French) Dumont, Patrick; Fehlen, Fernand; Kies, Raphaël; Poirier, Philippe (2006). Les élections législatives et européennes de 2004 au Grand-Duché de Luxembourg. Chamber of Deputies. p. 220. 
  26. ^ Szczerbiak et al (2008), p. 183.
  27. ^
  28. ^ Gower, Jackie; Thomson, Ian, The European Union handbook, p. 80 


  • Harmsen, Robert; Spiering, Menno (2005). Euroscepticism: Party Politics, National Identity and European Integration. Rodopi. ISBN 9789042019461. 
  • Szczerbiak, Aleks; Taggart, Paul A. (2008). Opposing Europe?. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199258307. 

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