Less than a hundred days before the European Parliament elections, French citizens are less and less attracted by the EU project, according to the latest opinion polls, with a quarter now in favour of quitting the eurozone and reintroducing the franc, EurActiv France reports.
42% of surveyed French citizens think that the country’s EU membership is a good thing, a six-point decrease compared to April 2012, according to the survey by OpinionWay for TV news channel LCI and Le Figaro newspaper.
And when it comes to the euro currency, the drop is even more significant. Currently, 53% of the French are opposed to the disappearance of the euro currency, down from 62% in 2012. Meanwhile, 26% say they are in favour of reintroducing the old French currency, the franc.
This surge in euroscepticism varies according to voters’ political affinity. Among the far-right, Front National (FN), the rejection of the euro currency is stable but has increased significantly among centre-right UMP sympathisers, where it went from 8% to 19% between 2012 and 2014.
Positive feelings towards EU membership have dropped by 21 points in the same period.
Migration quotas back on the table
Another fundamental EU policy, the free movement of persons, is also increasingly disliked by the French. A survey published on 15 February shows that 59% of the French want restrictions put on the free movement of EU citizens, as recently voted in Switzerland.
“As in Switzerland … there is a prevailing demand for control and closure [of borders],” said Jérôme Fourquet, director at the French Institute of Public Opinion, which carried out the survey.
“One of the cornerstones of European integration is the free movement of persons. However a large majority of the French challenges this pillar,” he added.
As for the single currency, the political orientation remains a defining factor of the surveyed persons’ opinion on intra-European immigration. Less than half of the left’s voters (46%) are in favour of a limitation of European immigrants in France, against 68% in UMP and 75% in FN.
Fertile ground for the far-right
The growing distrust of the French against the single currency and immigration indicates that the FN may make large gains at the next EU elections. The extreme right party’s lists are credited with 20% if voting intentions, a clear increase since the last 2009 elections, which bring Le Pen’s party right behind the UMP opposition, which gathers 22% of the intentions of the voters.
Voting intentions for the governing Socialist party (PS) are stable at 16% compared to 2009. The number of people planning to vote for the Greens has dropped significantly from 16.3% to 9% this year. A poll has estimated voter turnout at 41% for metropolitan France, close to the 2009 percentage.
The European elections will be held in all EU countries in May 2014. The Lisbon Treaty states that the European Parliament shall elect the Commission president on the basis of a proposal made by the European Council, taking into account the European elections (Article 17, Paragraph 7 of the TEU). This will apply for the first time in the 2014 elections.
European Parliament, parties and many others have pushed for these parties to nominate their frontrunners in the election campaigns. This would make the European elections a de facto race for the Commission president seat.
But others – including EPP’s political figureheads – have argued that the European parties’ push for own candidates may not be the best solution. Raising expectations could easily lead to disappointment, Herman Van Rompuy has repeatedly said.
- 22-25 May 2014: EU Parliament elections in all 28 member states