Euroscepticism and the 'missing Left'

Karen Henderson

Analyses of euroscepticism in the Visegrad Four states have usually focused on party-based euroscepticism, including both hostility to EU membership per se and more nuanced critiques of individual EU policies. Such arguments had limited traction with the electorate because of the major benefits of EU membership. However, the unexpectedly strong reaction to the refugee crisis and compulsory quotas suggests that difficulties may derive from the shallowness of support for the European integration project, which has proved vulnerable as soon as it came under pressure. Just as it has been argued that founding member states were less prone to euroscepticism than those who joined for primarily economic reasons, post-communist discourses of what EU membership means may be unhelpful to promoting common European solutions in times of crisis.The Slovak case study is particularly revealing because opposition to refugee quotas has been led not by eurosceptic politicians, but by an allegedly social democratic government that supports EU membership. Focusing on an analysis of party manifestos from the 2014 European Parliament elections and the 2016 Slovak parliamentary election, the dominant discourses surrounding EU membership are examined. The 'missing left' is also analysed since the fact that left-wing value orientations are underdeveloped in the Visegrad Four states provides greater scope for xenophobic attitudes towards refugees. Revisiting the idea that the main axes of party competition differ in east-central and western Europe, post-communist states may have the potential to disrupt the pact between the mainstream right and left which underpins the entire European integration project.

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