Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

Party-Based Euro-Skepticism in Germany

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

Party-Based Euro-Skepticism in Germany

Article excerpt

Abstract: For some authors, Euro-skepticism represents one of the great recipes for success of the new anti-establishment parties in European Union opposing Europeanization and globalization and occupying some policy fields along the globalism-nationalism cleavage (Frolich-Steffen/Rensmann 2007: 124). This article describes how and to which extent Euro-skepticism plays a role in the German party system. The article considers whether the term genuinely suits the criteria of a right-wing populist party and the role of Euro-skepticism in the German party system in general.

Keywords: Euro-skepticism, populism, Germany, right wing, CSU, NPD, BfB, PDS


The paper examines four cases of party-based Euro-skepticism. Firstly, the Christian Social Union (CSU) as an established party and secondly comes a small party, Union of Free Citizens (BfB), as an example to establish a strictly Euro-skeptical party. Then I will comment on the new developments of the left side in the political sphere. Finally, I will discuss the National-democratic Party of Germany (NPD) on the extreme right side of the political spectrum. Some authors describe the identity crisis in the enlarged EU. The Hungarian political scientist Attila Agh speaks about a "recent value war on EU" between Euroskeptics and Euro-supporters. For him, the EU issue has become one of the most controversial topics in the media and also in the parliamentary debates (Agh 2006: 269). The article tests his observations in regarding the German party system.

1. Definition: party-based Euro-skepticism as indicator for populism

Populism has a chameleonic quality, which leads to controversial debates among journalists, politicians and scholars. Populists have been portrayed as dupes, democrats and demons (Taggart 2000: 10). The characteristics of populism as a political formula, poses some problems for its use as a scientific term. Some approaches consider populism as a type of organization or a style of political communication (Canovan 1999: 3-4; Jagers/ Walgrave 2007: 321-325). A cross-section of the definitions found in the relevant literature reveals that it appeals to "ordinary people" and criticizes the "Establishment" (Canovan 1981: 13; Taguieff 2002: 110-117). It becomes clear that, on the basis of this definition, the most widely diverse groups, individuals, ideologies, behaviour patterns and forms of expression can be categorised as being "populist" (Ionesco/Gellner 1969). Generally there is a tension between populism and constitutional democracy: populism challenges constitutional democracy with many checks and balances from the democracy itself and promotes restoring power to the people (Abts/Rummens 2007: 410). Regarding the parties, scholars speaks of an "anti-political-establishment party" (Schedler 1996). Accordingly, before the term could be meaningfully employed, it must be chronologically, spatially and materially restricted. The concept of "new rightwing populism" serves this purpose well. In fact the most visible presence of populism has been through the far right where a number of political parties with charismatic, media seeking leaders have achieved their breakthrough in Western democracies, from the mid-1980s onwards (Decker 2004).

Populist movements exploiting this type of situation have long existed--we only need to think of the Populist Party, which emerged in the United States in the late nineteenth century and after which the phenomenon has been named, or of the Poujadistes in the Fourth French Republic (Priester 2007: 142-158). However, each of these movements took shape in a specific place at a particular time, whereas today's modernisation processes are occurring in a world in which economical, cultural and political problems affect societies more and more (Meny/Surel 2000). That is the main reason for the parallel nature of the changes in the party-political landscapes in various countries and also helps to explain why the new populists have not disappeared from the political arena as observers back in the 1980s had expected. …

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