The radical right and Euroskepticism

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DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190274559.013.7
In book: The Oxford Handbook of the radical right, Publisher: Oxford University Press, Editors: Jens Rydgren, pp.122-140
Cite this publication
Abstract
This contribution examines the role that the European Union (EU) issue plays in radical right party agendas. It shows that, despite the fact that radical right parties tend to adopt dissimilar positions on the principle, practice, and future of European integration, they all tend to criticise the EU from a predominantly sovereignty-based perspective justified on ethno-cultural grounds. The EU is portrayed as posing a threat to national sovereignty, its policies dismantling the state and its territory as well as being responsible for the cultural disintegration of Europe and its nation-states. The analysis of EU issue position and salience over time suggests that – despite variations – radical right parties engage in EU issue competition not only by adopting extreme positions but also by increasingly emphasising these positions over time.
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Chapter 7
The radical right and Euroskepticism
Sofia Vasilopoulou
University of York
Chapter in Rydgren, J. (ed) 2018 The Oxford Handbook of the radical right.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190274559
Abstract
This contribution examines the role that the European Union (EU) issue plays in
radical right party agendas. It shows that, despite the fact that radical right parties tend
to adopt dissimilar positions on the principle, practice, and future of European
integration, they all tend to criticise the EU from a predominantly sovereignty-based
perspective justified on ethno-cultural grounds. The EU is portrayed as posing a threat
to national sovereignty, its policies dismantling the state and its territory as well as
being responsible for the cultural disintegration of Europe and its nation-states. The
analysis of EU issue position and salience over time suggests that despite variations
radical right parties engage in EU issue competition not only by adopting extreme
positions but also by increasingly emphasising these positions over time.
2
Introduction
Over the years, the European Union (EU) has evolved into a major project of
European cooperation that involves high levels of political and economic integration
among its member states. The radical right party family has been one of the main
opponents of European unification, with some of its members openly calling for their
country’s exit from the EU.
1
Given that nationalism lies at the core of the radical
right’s ideology (Mudde 2007; Hainsworth 2008; Halikiopoulou et al. 2012), its
Euroscepticism is not a terribly surprising finding. Cultural diversity and
supranational decision-making promoted by the EU run counter to the radical right’s
mission of defending the nation.
What is more interesting, however, lies in examining the ways in which radical right
parties have mobilised the issue of Europe with a view to improving their electoral
fortunes. Theories of issue competition suggest that ‘political losers’, i.e. those parties
that tend not to participate in government, have increased incentives to change the
policy agenda by introducing conflict over a new issue dimension (e.g. Riker 1982;
De Vries and Hobolt 2012). Issue entrepreneurial strategies may include spending
more time discussing a new issue in order to signal to voters that it is core to their
programmatic agenda. They also consist of adopting a polarising stance on the same
issue so that voters become aware of the different policy options on offer in the
political market. Such strategies allow parties to ultimately claim ownership of this
specific issue in the eyes of the voters (e.g. Petrocik 1996) and have the potential to
attract new voters (van der Wardt et al. 2014), especially given the rise in electoral
volatility across Europe, the declining political significance of social class, and the
increasing relevance of issue voting.
The question of Europe may be seen as central to such entrepreneurial strategies,
especially because mainstream parties of both the right and the left have long
refrained from politicising the EU in order to avoid potential reputational costs (e.g.
Hooghe et al. 2002; Whitefield and Rohrschneider 2015). This has created a vacuum
in the supply-side of the political spectrum, especially for those Eurosceptic citizens
that perceive mainstream parties as failing to address their EU-related concerns.
Radical right parties, which tend to enjoy a relatively low vote share, have strong
incentives to try to ‘rock the boat’ by emphasizing extreme positions (Wagner 2012)
on the EU issue, responding to rising citizen demand for Eurosceptic ideas.
Against this background, this contribution seeks to examine the role that the EU issue
plays in radical right party agendas by investigating issue position and salience across
time. It asks: How does the EU issue feature in the radical right’s programmatic
agenda? Do these parties follow similar EU issue entrepreneurial strategies or do we
observe variation in their attitudes towards the EU? Understanding the evolution of
the EU issue within the radical right is important given that these parties are
increasingly becoming successful in both national and European elections. The fact
that the EU is under serious stress (Cramme and Hobolt 2015) also provides them
with additional opportunities to further exploit the EU issue for electoral purposes.
1
Although the main focus of this contribution is on the radical right, I also include
references to more extreme variants of the far right party family, i.e. the Greek Golden Dawn
and the Hungarian Jobbik.
3
This contribution proceeds as follows. The first section provides a short overview of
the radical right’s anti-EU argumentation, pointing to the primacy of the sovereignty
frame. Employing longitudinal data from the Chapel Hill Expert survey (Baker et al.
2015), I continue with an analysis of the evolution of radical right positions on
European integration, demonstrating the different policy alternatives that these parties
put forward. I proceed with an evaluation of the extent to which such parties
emphasize the EU, illustrating the changing trends of EU issue salience within the
radical right party family.
A Europe of nations rather than a United States of Europe
The term Euroscepticism is employed to denote opposition against the EU. Taggart
(1998: 366) was the first to define Euroscepticism as the ‘idea of contingent or
qualified opposition, as well as incorporating outright and unqualified opposition to
the process of European integration’. Taggart and Szczerbiak in further publications
(e.g. 2004, 2008) refined this definition and distinguished between hard and soft
Euroscepticism. One the one hand, hard Euroscepticism refers to principled
opposition to the EU and European integration and tends to be associated with support
for a country’s withdrawal from the EU. On the other hand, soft Euroscepticism
relates to concerns over one or more EU policy areas, which lead to contingent or
qualified opposition to the EU. Soft Euroscepticism is also identified where there is ‘a
sense that “national interest” is currently at odds with the EU’s trajectory’ (Taggart
and Szczerbiak 2008: 2). Although this ‘hard-soft’ distinction has been applied
extensively in the literature on party-based Euroscepticism, it has also been the
subject of debate. Kopecky and Mudde (2002) have criticised it on the grounds that it
lacks specificity and can be over-inclusive. The authors provide an alternative
categorisation distinguishing between diffuse and specific support for European
integration. ‘Eurosceptics’ tend to be in favour of the ideas underlying European
integration but are pessimistic about the EU project, whereas ‘Eurorejects’ tend to
oppose both.
Whether soft or hard, Eurosceptic or Euroreject, radical right parties tend to articulate
their anti-EU argument primarily from a sovereignty perspective (Vasilopoulou 2011:
234). This is because the multi-national nature and multi-level institutional structure
of the EU go against the very premise of radical right ideology, i.e. nationalism,
which is tightly intertwined with the principle of sovereignty. ‘Nationalism is
typically equated with a nation achieving independence’, i.e. the ability of a nation to
form an independent and sovereign state free to govern its clearly demarcated territory
(Ichijo 2009: 156). The EU’s supranational institutions and decision-making
structures as well as the abolition of internal border controls among the majority of
EU member states go against this principle of a sovereign state, which lies at the heart
of radical right nationalism. As a result, these parties view the EU as an enemy to
nation-state sovereignty: a faceless super-state that intervenes in domestic affairs and
takes power away from European states and their nations. They argue that instead of
constructing a ‘Europe of nations’, bureaucrats in Brussels plan to build a ‘United
States of Europe’, i.e. a European super state with excessive central governance run
by unelected and unaccountable technocrats (e.g. National Front 2012; PVV 2012;
True Finns 2015; UKIP 2015; Jobbik 2016). Some radical right parties insist on the
4
full renegotiation of European Treaties in order to scale back EU powers and re-
establish the primacy of domestic over European law.
Radical right parties tend to define Europe in cultural terms. They view the continent
as standing on a ‘tripod composed by ancient Greek democracy, Roman legal
tradition and Christianity’ (Vasilopoulou 2010: 72-73). This justifies a frequent
radical right claim that ‘We are Europeans; but we oppose the EU’. Despite these
similarities, each European state has unique norms, values, customs, practices and
beliefs that the radical right seeks to maintain at all costs. The EU is seen as project
not taking these national specificities into consideration, posing a threat to each
member state’s cultural homogeneity. This argument is further linked to the radical
right claim that the EU seeks to create a cultural melting pot by promoting
uncontrollable immigration from other parts of the world. The EU is deemed
responsible for the changing ethnic and demographic make-up of Europe, and
ultimately the continent’s ‘Islamisation’ (Vasilopoulou 2014). This is demonstrated,
for example, in the radical right’s opposition towards the EU’s enlargement policy
towards Turkey. The increase of migrants and refugees of different cultural
backgrounds in the 2010s has allowed the radical right to further sharpen its
argument. The lack of internal border controls in the EU is deemed responsible for
what radical right parties see as the cultural, political and ethnic elimination of
European peoples by a religion considered incompatible with Western European
values and modern secular democracy.
There are, however, differences in the specifics of radical right anti-EU argumentation
and the extent to which these parties choose to defend national sovereignty. Some
parties, such as the British National Party, UKIP and the French National Front have
consistently called for a referendum on their country’s EU membership, which gives a
clear signal regarding their wish for withdrawal. Despite the fact that the Golden
Dawn’s fascist ideology does not sit comfortably with the principle of multilateral
cooperation (Vasilopoulou and Halikiopoulou 2015), the party has not actively
campaigned on the question of Greece’s EU membership; rather the party supports a
referendum on the country’s Eurozone membership (Golden Dawn 2016b). Eastern
European radical right parties have focused their anti-EU criticism primarily on the
terms and conditions of EU accession, arguing that it was negotiated on unfavourable
terms, creating a ‘comparative disadvantage vis--vis former EU member states’
(Pirro 2014: 259; see also Sygkelos 2015). Parties such as the Hungarian Jobbik, the
Slovak National Party and the Bulgarian Attack view the EU as a vehicle for Western
power domination. Jobbik (2016), for example, recommends a policy of ‘opening to
the East’ building closer links with ‘the Arab states of North Africa and the Middle
East, Iran as well as the economically emerging countries of Africa’.
The European debt crisis has contributed to further differences in radical right
Eurosceptic argumentation, as each member state has had a different involvement in
the crisis and its resolution. Parties in comparatively richer Western European
countries, such as France, the UK and Scandinavia, have broadened their discourse to
criticise the EU not only on sovereignty, but also on utilitarian grounds. They argue
that the EU is no longer value for money. European nation-states should save by
terminating their net contribution to the EU budget and invest instead in the national
welfare state, including health and education. They should also improve the
employment prospects of national workers by terminating EU freedom of movement.
5
Such policies would restore the national economy and enhance the wellbeing of the
nation-state’s citizens. For example, the National Front (2012) argues that despite the
fact that France is the second highest contributor to the EU budget, the country does
not benefit as much from its access to the single market and its Eurozone
membership. The Swedish Democrats (2014) suggest similarly to UKIP (2015)
that the Swedish contribution to the EU should instead be spent on national welfare.
On the other hand, parties in debtor countries, such as Greece, tend to portray the EU
in power terms. Especially since the outbreak of the Eurozone crisis, they see it as a
vehicle for German hegemony imposing austerity measures which are detrimental to
the national economy (Golden Dawn 2016a; Kozan 2014). Similarly to parties in
Central and Eastern Europe, they also recommend the improvement of diplomatic and
economic ties with other non-EU member states, such as Russia and China (e.g.
LAOS 2012; Golden Dawn 2016a).
In sum, radical right Euroscepticism is primarily framed in terms of sovereignty. The
EU is portrayed as encouraging globalisation and multiculturalism, which poses a
threat to national sovereignty as well as the cultural homogeneity of European nation-
states. Beyond this common thread, there is variation in the specificities of
Eurosceptic argumentation depending on geography and, more recently, depending on
a country’s experience of the Eurozone debt crisis. It is noteworthy that the 2016 UK
Brexit referendum outcome has encouraged some radical right parties, such as the
Italian Northern League, the Danish People’s Party, the Swedish Democrats and the
Dutch Freedom Party, to call for EU referendums in their respective countries. This
suggests that parties are taking a tougher EU stance and that the question of EU
membership is becoming more prominent in their programmatic agenda, which I
explore in the following section through the framework of issue ownership.
Euroscepticism and issue ownership
Theories of issue competition postulate two faces of party competition, i.e. issue
conflict and issue salience (Guinaudeau and Persico 2014). A key tenet of such
theories is that niche, i.e. non-mainstream parties, are likely to emphasize extreme
positions in order to achieve ideological distinctiveness (e.g. Wagner 2012; see also
Adams et al. 2006). European integration is a relatively new issue in European
politics allowing for such policy differentiation. Issues arising from European
integration have not been easily assimilated into existing dimensions of political
contestation. Mainstream parties, which tend to regularly participate in government,
primarily compete on the left-right dimension. They have few incentives to politicise
the EU (e.g. Hix and Lord 1997; Hix 1999; Hooghe et al. 2002), not least because
they may face reputational costs by stressing their positions on a new issue
(Whitefield and Rohrschneider 2015).
Niche parties, such as those belonging to the radical right party family, on the other
hand, have strong incentives to emphasize extreme positions on the EU issue,
calculating that this may result in an electoral advantage (Hooghe et al. 2002; Marks
et al. 2002). The lack of mainstream party politicisation of the EU has left a political
void to be exploited by such ‘issue entrepreneurs’ (De Vries and Hobolt 2012). At the
same time, policies deriving from European integration sit uncomfortably with the
radical right’s quest for defending national culture and state sovereignty
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(Vasilopoulou 2011). In other words, Euroscepticism comes at no ideological cost for
these parties while at the same time promises high electoral returns.
But given that immigration is the core radical right issue (e.g. van der Brug and
Fennema 2007), do these parties seek to also ‘own’ the EU issue? If they did, we
would expect them not only to adopt a polarising position on the EU but also to
emphasize such an extreme stance. We would also expect that such a strategy would
intensify over time. This is because there is more to gain from such a mobilisation in a
context of ‘constraining dissensus’, i.e. in times when citizens have developed
preferences over EU integration but mainstream parties have not necessarily caught
up with them (e.g. Hooghe and Marks 2009). Developments from the mid-2000s
onwards, such as the failed ratification of the Treaty establishing the European
Constitution and the debates surrounding the Lisbon Treaty increased the salience of
the EU. The Eurozone crisis and the discussions around its resolution provided
additional opportunities to EU issue entrepreneurs.
Against this background, I employ data from the Chapel Hill Expert Survey (Bakker
et al. 2015) in order to examine the role that the EU issue plays in radical right party
agendas by investigating issue position and salience across time. In this survey,
country experts of political parties are invited to place the overall orientation of party
leadership towards European integration on a 7-point scale, where 1 indicates strong
opposition to the EU and 7 strong support. Point four denotes the neutral position on
this dimension. Experts are also invited to mark the relative salience of European
integration in the party’s public stance on an 11-point scale, where 0 denotes that
European integration is of no importance, i.e. never mentioned and 10 that European
Integration is the most important issue. This survey has been conducted five times,
including 1999, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014, thus providing longitudinal data that
allow the examination of over time changes in EU positions and salience. Not all
parties are included in every year of the expert survey.
Radical right EU positions over time
The first face of issue competition relates to issue position and conflict (Guinaudeau
and Persico 2014). In a context of a pro-EU mainstream party status quo, if a party
perceives the EU as an issue worth competing on, it is likely to adopt a Euroseceptic
position. Figure 1 depicts radical right party positions on the EU and left-right
dimensions. Each image in the figure shows radical right positions per survey year.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, all parties are situated on the right end of the left-right
dimension. Given that all parties depicted are situated on the right end of the left-right
dimension, the x-axis of figure 1 commences at value 5. Parties such as the French
National Front, the British National Party, the Belgian Flemish Interest, the Hungarian
Jobbik, the League of Polish Families, the Greek Golden Dawn as well as the German
parties (Republikaner, German People's Union and National Democratic Party of
Germany) score particularly high on this dimension. The Danish People’s Party
appears to have slightly moved towards the centre of the dimension from 8.85 in 1999
and 2002 to 6.9 in 2014. Similarly, the Greater Romania Party has moved from 8.55
in 1999 to 5.63 in 2010. The opposite is true for UKIP, which has moved to the right
from 7.24 in 1999 to 9.14 in 2014. The True Finns and the Bulgarian Attack appear to
be comparatively more centrist, scoring very close to the middle of the dimension.
7
[Figure 1 about here]
Somewhat contrary to expectations, not all radical right parties put forward extreme
Eurosceptic positions. Whereas in 1999 all radical right parties included in the sample
scored below the neutral point of the EU dimension (4), in the following years some
parties scored above the neutral point, expressing support for the EU. Radical right
parties with favourable EU positions include the Italian National Alliance and the
Latvian For Fatherland and Freedom/National Alliance
2
in all survey years, as well as
the Polish Law and Justice in 2002 and the Romanian Freedom Party in 2006
3
. The
most Eurosceptic parties are the Greek Golden Dawn, the French National Front, the
League of Polish Families, the True Finns, UKIP, the Dutch Freedom Party and the
German parties, scoring consistently between one and two on the EU dimension.
Some radical right parties maintain a Eurosceptic position, but are not positioned at
the extreme end of the EU dimension. For example, the Greek Popular Orthodox
Rally, the Flemish Interest, the Dutch List List Pim Fortuyn, the Slovak National
Party and the Polish Law and Justice score between two and 3.5 on the EU dimension.
Vasilopoulou (2011) has provided a typology allowing the categorisation of such
different positions on the EU. First, ‘rejecting’ Eurosceptics denounce the principle of
multilateral cooperation in the context of the EU project; they also criticise the EU
policy practice, and are vehemently opposed to any future European integration.
Parties in this category may comprise the French National Front, the British National
party and UKIP. Second, ‘conditional’ Eurosceptics are in favour of the principle of
European cooperation, but oppose the EU policy and institutional practice, and are
against the making of an EU polity. Such parties may include the Austrian Freedom
Party, the Danish People’s Party and the Bulgarian Attack. Third, ‘compromising’
Eurosceptics accept the principle and practice of EU cooperation but oppose future
integration. These are the Italian National Alliance and the Latvian For Fatherland
and Freedom/National Alliance
4
.
If we accept that positions between one and two denote strong opposition to the EU,
then it is clear that the number of parties included in the survey with such positions
has increased over time. In 1999, six radical right parties scored between one and two,
four in 2002, seven in 2006 and eight in 2010. In 2014, the number of radical right
parties that strongly opposed European integration rose to twelve. This partly reflects
2
For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK dissolved in 2011 and merged into the National
Alliance. From 2010 onwards, it features as National Alliance in the Chapel Hill Expert
surveys. In this contribution, I refer to it as For Fatherland and Freedom/National Alliance.
3
I have included the Italian National Alliance and Polish Law and Justice in this
contribution. Despite the fact that the National Alliance underwent change during the 2000s
under the leadership of Gianfranco Fini, the party has fascist roots (e.g. see Caiani and Conti
2014; Ignazi 2005). Law and Justice’s national-conservative populist ideology entails that the
party has made frequent appeals to illiberal democracy (e.g. see Pankowski and Kormak
2013).
4
In Italy we observe an interesting phenomenon: while the Italian National Alliance
became more pro-EU over time from 3.66 in 1999, 4.31 in 2002, 4.75 in 2006 to 5.75 in 2010,
the Italian Northern League hardened its opposition during the same period from 3.16 in
1999, 2.31 in 2002, 1.5 in 2006, 2.66 in 2010 and 1.14 in 2014. This indicates that the
Northern League progressively occupied the right-wing Eurosceptic space whereas the post-
fascist National Alliance moved to the centre (Caiani and Conti 2014).
8
the increasing relevance of such actors. For example the German National Democratic
Party and the Greek Golden Dawn were included in the survey for the first time in
2014. It is also representative of the fact that despite variations radical right parties
have hardened their EU positions over time. The average score of radical right parties
on the EU dimension was 2.01 in 1999, it rose to 2.83 in 2002 with radical right
parties becoming on average slightly more pro-EU, but then declined to 2.49 in both
2006 and 2010, and further dropped to 2.07 in 2014.
5
But how ‘extreme’ are these radical right positions? To answer this question, I have
estimated the difference of each radical right party’s position from the party system
mean on the EU dimension. This was calculated excluding the radical right party or
parties from the country mean estimate. Negative signs indicate that the country mean
is more pro-EU compared to the radical right party. Table 1 shows the difference from
the country mean in two survey years, i.e. 2006 and 2014, which have been chosen in
order to capture potential change in polarization before and after the Eurozone crisis.
In 2006, the smallest difference from the party system mean may be observed in the
case of the Italian National Alliance at -0.59 followed by For Fatherland and Freedom
/National Alliance at -0.94. This is expected given that, as mentioned above, these
two parties tend to consistently hold pro-EU attitudes. The largest difference from the
country average may be observed in the case of the Bulgarian National Union Attack
at -3.97, followed by the True Finns at -3.94 and the French National Front at -3.87.
The pattern slightly changes in 2014, but note that this is also because more parties
are included in the sample. One very interesting finding is that the Latvian For
Fatherland and Freedom/National Alliance has become more pro-EU in comparison to
the party system mean by about one point. The party with the largest difference form
the party mean in 2014 is UKIP at -4.34 followed by Jobbik at -4.27. A total of ten
parties reported higher than three points distance from their party system mean. This
number rose to twelve parties in 2014. This illustrates that party system polarization
on the EU dimension has become more pronounced across EU member states. Some
parties, such as the Danish People’s Party, the Greek Popular Orthodox Rally and the
Slovak National Party have maintained a relatively small distance from the party
system mean in both years by about two points.
The last column of table 1 reports the change of this difference. A positive value
denotes an increase of the difference between the party’s Eurosceptic score and the
party system mean in 2014 compared to 2006, i.e. larger polarisation on the EU
dimension. A negative value signifies a decrease in this difference. The comparison
illustrates that polarization has decreased in seven countries, including Austria,
Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Italy, Latvia and Poland. EU polarization has increased in
six countries, i.e. Denmark, France, Greece, Latvia, Netherlands, Slovakia and the
UK. The most pronounced decrease is observed in Latvia at -1.93 and Italy at -0.66
whereas the most noticeable increase may be seen in Slovakia, Denmark and the UK
at 1.03, 0.75 and 0.6 respectively. Note that I am unable to provide such calculations
for new parties only included in the 2014 sample, such as the Greek Golden Dawn,
the Swedish Democrats, the German National Democratic Party and Jobbik. Yet the
electoral success of these radical right actors entails that polarization on the EU
dimension has increased in Greece, Sweden, Germany and Hungary.
5
Note that the number of parties in each survey year varies. For full list of parties
included in the estimates, please see Table 2.
9
[Table 1 about here]
Overall, radical right stance on European integration displays great variation with
some parties strongly opposing the EU and others presenting relatively centrist or
even pro-EU positions. The average score of radical right parties on the EU dimension
tends to decrease over time, which illustrates that these parties have hardened their
stance. Radical right party positions tend to be quite distant from the party system
mean and despite noticeable exceptions this distance tends to also increase over
time. These findings support the assumption that radical right parties engage in EU
issue competition by adopting extreme positions, albeit to differing extents.
EU issue salience on radical right agendas
The second face of issue competition relates to salience (Guinaudeau and Persico
2014). Beyond adopting an extreme position on a specific issue in order to signal
disagreement over policy alternatives, an issue entrepreneur should also indicate that
this issue is important, i.e. that citizens should take it into consideration when voting.
In other words, conflict over an issue is unlikely to be electorally fruitful unless an
issue is salient. As argued above, mainstream parties have avoided the politicisation
of European integration (e.g. Hooghe et al. 2002; Whitefield and Rohrschneider
2015). In an environment of low EU politicisation, an EU issue entrepreneur is likely
to put strong emphasis on this issue during electoral campaigns so that voters
associate the EU with this actor. To what extent, then, is the EU issue salient in
radical right parties’ programmatic agendas?
Table 2 shows the relative salience of the issue of European integration among radical
right parties. Scores can range between zero, which indicates that European
integration is of no importance to the party, and ten, which suggests that European
integration is the most important issue. One key observation from table 2 is that the
salience of the EU issue in these parties’ programmatic agenda has been steadily
increasing over time, which clearly suggests that the radical right is to some extent
responsible for the rising levels of public Euroscepticism across the EU (see also
Gmez-Reino and Llamazares 2013). The EU was very important for very few radical
right parties in 1999. The Danish People’s Party, UKIP and the French National Front
exhibited the highest EU salience scores at 6.43, 6.25 and 6.07 respectively. The
lowest EU salience scores are observed among Italian and Belgian radical right
parties. In 2002, the highest scores of EU salience have jumped to 8.47 and 8.10 for
the French National Front and the League of Polish Families respectively. In fact,
from 2002 onwards no party scores below two, and those parties that score close to
two include the Belgian National Front and Flemish Interest.
If we assume that a score higher than seven denotes strong emphasis on the EU issue,
then we see that the number of parties that focus on the EU relative to other issues has
increased over time. In 2002, four parties scored over seven, in 2006 the number of
such parties rose to five, in 2010 to eight and in 2014 it dropped to six. It must be
noted that the lowest salience score per survey year is increasing, i.e. radical right
parties think less that the EU is of no importance over time. The lowest EU salience
score is 1.94 in 1999, 2.43 in 2002, 3.67 in 2006, 2.82 in 2010 and 4.44 in 2014.
Radical right parties that have consistently increased their emphasis on the EU include
10
the Northern League, the Party for Freedom, the Flemish Interest and the Slovak
National Party although the latter two attach less significance to the EU compared to
other radical right parties. The Danish People's Party, the True Finns, the French
National Front, the Northern League, the Party for Freedom and UKIP politicise the
EU the most.
[Table 2 about here]
So far I have established that the EU issue is highly salient within the radical right’s
programmatic agenda. But how does the importance of the EU fare against other
policy issues? To answer this question, I compare the emphasis that radical right
parties place on the EU to issues pertaining to the GAL-TAN dimension in 2014,
where GAL stands for green, alternative, and libertarian and TAN stands for
traditional, authoritarian, and nationalist (see table 3). I do so because radical right
parties primarily politicise socio-cultural issues related to national identity, which are
captured by this GAL-TAN dimension (e.g. Hooghe et al. 2002; Rydgren 2007).
Table 3 shows that both dimensions are highly salient within the radical right. The last
column of table 3 reports the difference in salience between the EU and GAL-TAN
dimensions. Positive values indicate that the EU dimension is more important to the
party compared to the GAL-TAN dimension. The comparison shows that six out of
nineteen parties focus more on the EU as opposed to identity politics. These include
the Danish People's Party, the French National Front, the Northern League, For
Fatherland and Freedom/National Alliance, the Party for Freedom and UKIP. In fact
the Dutch Freedom Party emphasises the EU almost twice as much as it focuses on
the GAL-TAN dimension. Interestingly, despite the fact that the Greek Golden
Dawn’s EU position is quite extreme at 1.1, its salience score is the lowest compared
to other radical right parties at 4.44. The party scores the highest negative difference
compared to its emphasis of the GAL-TAN dimension at -3.78.
[Table 3 about here]
In sum, EU salience has increased over time with some radical right parties
emphasising the EU more compared to the GAL-TAN dimension. This suggests that
radical right parties do not engage in EU issue competition only by adopting extreme
positions but also by increasingly emphasising these positions over time.
Conclusions
In this contribution, I have analysed Euroscepticism within the radical right party
family using the framework of issue ownership. The intention was to examine the
ways in which the radical right employs the EU in the two faces of party competition,
i.e. issue conflict and issue salience (Guinaudeau and Persico 2014). I have shown
that despite the fact that radical right parties tend to adopt dissimilar positions on the
principle, practice, and future of European integration, they all tend to criticise the EU
through a predominantly sovereignty-based perspective justified on ethno-cultural
grounds. The EU is portrayed as posing a threat to national sovereignty, its policies
dismantling the state and its territory as well as being responsible for the cultural
disintegration of Europe and its nation-states. Overall, there is a great degree of
variation in radical right party positions on European integration. Crucially, however,
these positions are increasingly becoming harder and more extreme. This is also true
11
with regard to EU salience: radical right parties have been strengthening their
emphasis on the EU issue over time. These findings support the assumption that
radical right parties engage in EU issue competition not only by adopting extreme
positions but also by increasing the emphasis they attach on these positions (e.g. see
Wagner 2012).
These findings have important implications related to the increasing success of the
radical right and the future of the EU. First, in a context of rising public
Euroscepticism and disillusionment with economic crisis and EU politics, EU issue
entrepreneurs are likely to benefit substantially. Sovereignty frames of Euroscepticism
are likely to be successful especially in a political context of deteriorating economic
conditions across the EU and increased competition with EU migrants for jobs and
social welfare. Specific questions that arise in this regard relate to whether radical
right parties respond to or shape citizen views (e.g. see Steenbergen et al. 2007); and
whether there is a relationship between on the one hand toughening a party’s EU
position and increasing EU salience on the other. At the same time, if we accept that
emphasizing extreme positions contributes to electoral success, why have some
radical right parties chosen not to put forward an extreme Eurosceptic position?
Research has shown that the Italian National Alliance’s EU attitude is intertwined
with the party’s modernisation (Vasilopoulou 2010). Especially interesting would be
an analysis of the Latvian For Fatherland and Freedom/National Alliance, which is
one of the most pro-EU radical right parties despite being loyal to its right-wing
populist ideology. From a party competition perspective, it would also be useful to
examine the impact of radical right parties on the other parties’ EU stances across
Europe. In what ways do parties respond to radical right Euroscepticism? Does this
response depend on factors such as party type, size and government status?
Second, radical right parties tend to primarily criticise the constitutional framework of
the EU, rather than specific policies. The polity-policy distinction (Mair 2007) is
crucial here: emphasizing extreme EU positions entails that these parties criticise the
EU as a whole, i.e. attack the EU polity. In other words, the focus of discussion lies
not on the kind of EU that is desirable, but on whether European integration is an
attractive option in the first place. Even when radical right parties criticise EU
freedom of movement, which arguably pertains to specific policies (such as access to
European labour markets, employment, and welfare) they do so by focusing on the
constitutional framework of the EU polity, i.e. how much decision-making authority
is acceptable to be given to the EU. To address such criticisms, it does not suffice to
change policy direction. Rather, it is essential to make institutional changes with
substantial consequences on the balance of power between the EU and its member
states. This points to the possibility of differentiated integration (Leruth and Lord
2015) becoming the norm in EU politics, as a response to the radical right Eurosceptic
challenge.
12
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16
List of figures
Figure 1: Far right Party Positions on European Integration and Left-Right
dimensions of competition (1999-2014).
Source: Chapel Hill Expert Survey 1999-2014 trend file (Baker et al. 2015).
Note: EU position is measured as the overall orientation of party leadership in each
survey year where 1 denotes strongly opposed and 7 strongly in favour of European
integration. Position on the left-right dimension is measured as the party’s overall
ideological stance in each survey year where 0 indicates extreme left and 10 extreme
right. Given that all parties depicted are situated on the right end of the left-right
dimension, the x-axis commences at value 5.
List of tables
Table 1: EU position distance from the party system mean per radical right party (2006 & 2014)
Abbreviation
Party
Distance
2006
Distance
2014
Comparison
FPO
Austrian Freedom Party
-3.80
-3.78
-0.02
BZO
Alliance for the Future of Austria
-3.05
-2.98
-0.07
VB
Flemish Interest
-3.39
-3.05
-0.34
NOA
National Union Attack
-3.97
-3.95
-0.01
DF
Danish People's Party
-1.80
-2.55
0.75
PS
True Finns
-3.94
-3.71
-0.23
FN
National Front
-3.87
-3.94
0.07
NPD
National Democratic Party of Germany
n/a
-3.10
n/a
LAOS
Popular Orthodox Rally
-1.61
-1.66
0.05
GD
Golden Dawn
n/a
-3.80
n/a
ANEL
Independent Greeks
n/a
-2.69
n/a
Jobbik
Jobbik
n/a
-4.27
n/a
AN
National Alliance
-0.59
n/a
n/a
LN
Northern League
-3.84
-3.18
-0.66
TB-LNNK/NA
For Fatherland and Freedom/National Alliance
-0.94
0.99
-1.93
PVV
Party for Freedom
-3.14
-3.53
0.39
PiS
Law and Justice Party
-1.36
-0.94
-0.42
LPR
League of Polish Families
-3.48
n/a
n/a
PRM
Greater Romania Party
-2.24
n/a
n/a
SNS
Slovak National Party
-1.73
-2.76
1.03
SD
Swedish Democrats
n/a
-3.53
n/a
UKIP
United Kingdom Independence Party
-3.73
-4.34
0.60
Source: Chapel Hill Expert Survey 1999-2014 trend file (Baker et al. 2015).
Note: Negative signs in the ‘distance’ columns indicate that the country mean is more pro-EU compared to the domestic radical right party
and/or parties. Negative signs in the ‘comparison’ column indicate that the distance from the party system mean decreased in 2014 compared to
2006.
Table 2: Radical right party scores on EU salience 1999-2014
EU issue salience - Chapel Hill Expert Survey Year
Country
Abbreviation
Party
1999
2002
2006
2010
2014
Austria
FPO
Austrian Freedom Party
5.00
7.93
6.27
7.38
6.70
BZO
Alliance for the Future of Austria
5.83
5.64
4.78
Belgium
VB
Flemish Interest
1.94
2.43
3.67
4.22
4.60
FN-BEL
National Front
1.56
2.82
Bulgaria
NOA
National Union Attack
5.47
4.85
4.59
Denmark
DF
Danish People's Party
6.43
6.67
5.20
6.67
7.27
Finland
PS
True Finns
8.80
8.67
8.20
France
FN
National Front
6.07
8.47
7.40
7.41
8.46
MN
National Republican Movement
5.71
Germany
REP
Republikaner
3.54
DVU
German People's Union
3.75
NPD
National Democratic Party of Germany
5.10
Greece
LAOS
Popular Orthodox Rally
6.20
7.58
5.38
GD
Golden Dawn
4.44
ANEL
Independent Greeks
4.88
Hungary
Jobbik
Jobbik
5.69
6.79
MIEP
Hungarian Justice and Life Party
7.17
Italy
AN
National Alliance
2.50
5.23
4.17
5.00
MS
Tricolor Flame Social Movement
1.25
LN
Northern League
2.08
5.47
6.67
5.93
8.86
Latvia
TB-LNNK/NA
For Fatherland and Freedom/National Alliance
5.83
4.17
5.19
6.80
Netherlands
PVV
Party for Freedom
7.33
8.10
8.36
LPF
List Pim Fortuyn
5.57
Poland
PiS
Law and Justice Party
5.43
6.27
7.33
5.65
LPR
League of Polish Families
8.10
7.10
6.67
Romania
PRM
Greater Romania Party
4.23
5.67
3.68
Slovakia
SNS
Slovak National Party
3.60
3.80
4.00
5.43
Sweden
SD
Swedish Democrats
6.15
6.14
UK
BNP
British National Party
7.56
UKIP
United Kingdom Independence Party
6.25
10.00
10.00
9.14
Source: Chapel Hill Expert Survey 1999-2014 trend file (Baker et al. 2015).
Note: The relative salience of European integration in the party’s public stance is measured on an 11-point scale, where 0 denotes that European
integration is of no importance, i.e. never mentioned and 10 that European Integration is the most important issue.
Table 3: EU salience compared to the salience of the GAL-TAN dimension (2014)
Country
Abbreviation
Party
EU Salience
2014
GAL-TAN
Salience 2014
Difference
Austria
FPO
Austrian Freedom Party
6.70
7.00
-0.30
BZO
Alliance for the Future of Austria
4.78
5.70
-0.92
Belgium
VB
Flemish Interest
4.60
6.00
-1.40
Bulgaria
NOA
National Union Attack
4.59
7.50
-2.91
Denmark
DF
Danish People's Party
7.27
7.22
0.05
Finland
PS
True Finns
8.20
8.56
-0.36
France
FN
National Front
8.46
7.83
0.63
Germany
NPD
National Democratic Party of Germany
5.10
7.50
-2.40
Greece
LAOS
Popular Orthodox Rally
5.38
6.78
-1.40
GD
Golden Dawn
4.44
8.22
-3.78
ANEL
Independent Greeks
4.88
6.78
-1.90
Hungary
Jobbik
Jobbik
6.79
7.38
-0.60
Italy
LN
Northern League
8.86
7.17
1.69
Latvia
TB-LNNK/NA
For Fatherland and Freedom/National Alliance
6.80
6.67
0.13
Netherlands
PVV
Party for Freedom
8.36
4.89
3.47
Poland
PiS
Law and Justice Party
5.65
8.35
-2.71
Slovakia
SNS
Slovak National Party
5.43
7.79
-2.36
Sweden
SD
Swedish Democrats
6.14
8.38
-2.24
UK
UKIP
United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)
9.14
8.14
1.00
Source: Chapel Hill Expert Survey 1999-2014 trend file (Baker et al. 2015).
Note: The GAL-TAN dimension ranges from Green/alternative/libertarian (GAL) to traditional/authoritarian/nationalist (TAN) values. The salience of this
dimension is measured on a ten point scale, where one denotes no importance and 10 denotes great importance. Positive values on the ‘difference’ column
denote higher salience of the EU dimension.
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  • Article
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    Empirical assessments of issue competition lack both conceptual precision in the use of the concept of “policy issue”, and sufficient studies integrating both salience and positional perspectives. This article specifies an operational definition of a “policy issue” suited for the analysis of issue competition in the electoral arena and beyond, and proposes a typology of electoral issues that takes into account the two sides of issue competition – the decision to address an issue, and the adoption of a diverging or similar position on it. This typology allows distinguishing proprietal, consensual, blurred and conflictual issues. The framework is illustrated with an analysis of EU-related issues in the electoral manifestos of British, French and German parties. This source did not enable us to identify any blurred issue, but our exploratory study delivers several conclusions regarding the other issue types. Proprietal issues appear to be marginal, indicating that parties tend to devote attention to the same issues and that issue ownership is highly contested. We further observe a primacy of consensus in EU-related discourses, especially among governing parties.
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    We test competing explanations for party positioning on the issue of European integration over the period 1984 to 1996 and find that the ideological location of a party in a party family is a powerful predictor of its position on this issue. Party family is a stronger influence than strategic competition, national location, participation in government, or the position of a party's supporters. We conclude that political parties have bounded rationalities that shape how they process incentives in competitive party systems. Political cleavages give rise to ideological commitments or "prisms" through which political parties respond to new issues, including European integration.
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    Populist radical right (PRR) parties have recently enjoyed significant electoral results in Central and Eastern Europe. Ataka in Bulgaria, Jobbik in Hungary, and the Slovak National Party in Slovakia frame the PRR ideology according to the idiosyncrasies of their context and directly address issues such as ethnic minorities, corruption, and the European Union. This contribution provides insights into the electoral performance of these parties by combining demand-side and supply-side elements. Ultimately, this article suggests that interactions over minority issues and corruption could help explain the electoral performance of these parties.