Eurosceptics will gain national influence, study says

EU flags in Schuman Building

Flags in European Parliament [tristamsparks/Flickr]

A new study claims that even if Eurosceptic parties do well in next month’s European elections, their impact in the European Parliament will be minimal. However, Eurosceptics will have more influence in their national parliaments, and on the sovereign debt crisis resolution. EURACTIV France reports.

It is a month until the European elections, and the future looks bright for Eurosceptic parties across Europe. According to a survey published in the France’s Nice-Matin, the French far-right party, the National Front, is expected to take 24% of the vote, placing them ahead of the well-established Socialist Party (20%) and UMP (22%).

Deutsche Bank published a study titled Euroscepticism gaining currency? Implications of the EU elections for economic policy. It investigates the possible impact of Eurosceptic political parties after the European elections in May.

“We compiled the results of surveys carried out depending on the provisions of the electoral laws of each member state, and taking into account the number of parliamentary seats available in the European Parliament” explained Nicolaus Heinen, economist at Deutsche Bank.

According to the study, the European elections are often a way for the electorate to “teach their national politicians a lesson”.

Three possible scenarios

The study, led by the political scientist Dr Florian Hartleb, outlines three possible post-election scenarios.

In the first scenario, the authors of the study predict that Eurosceptic parties will get the share of votes in the European elections attributed to them in current opinion polls. Eurosceptic parties would win approximately 17% of the vote, or 129 of 751 seats in the European Parliament.

Scenario two assumes that the anti-EU parties can mobilise more voters than established parties. In this case, the degree of electoral mobilisation is an average between voter turnout in the last national elections, and voter turnout in the last European elections. Here, Eurosceptic parties would receive almost 22% of the vote, or 167 seats in the European Parliament.

Finally, the third scenario, or “extreme scenario”, predicts that those persons who say they vote for Eurosceptic parties in national elections will vote for them in the European elections. In this case, the Eurosceptic parties would win an impressive 27% of the vote, and claim 204 of 751 seats in the European Parliament.

>> Read: Farage wins BBC debate, on track for electoral gain

Considerable impact in national parliaments

Although Eurosceptic parties will do well in the European elections, Deutsche Bank claims that they will only have a limited impact in the European Parliament. On the other hand, their impact on European policy will have a “feedback effect” on national parliaments, which is a cause for concern.

“If the European elections are a big success for the Eurosceptics, the initial concerns should be for national parliaments. The national political rhetoric could increase, and national governments will have to double their efforts in portraying themselves as defenders of national interests. On the European level, there would mainly be a rebound effect,” Nicolaus Heinen told EURACTIV France.

Success at a European level could therefore have a national impact. The European impact will mainly be felt in relation to the sovereign debt crisis resolution, as most decisions relating to the Eurozone crisis are made at an intergovernmental level

“What happened in Finland proves that Eurosceptics can have an indirect impact on national governments. After The Finns won electoral support in the national parliament in 2011, the Finnish government demanded specific guarantees for its bail-out payments to Greece,” stated Nicolaus Heinen.

Limited impact in the European Parliament

According to the study, even if the Eurosceptic parties won more seats in the European Parliament, their influence in the institution would remain minimal. The authors of the study outline three reasons. Firstly, although Eurosceptics demand greater national sovereignty and want to represent national interests at a European level, there is a lack of coherence among Eurosceptic political parties. Secondly, according to Nicolaus Heinen, the Eurosceptic parties will struggle to create a political group in the Parliament, which is a necessity if they are to have any influence on EU politics.

“It should not be difficult for right-wing Eurosceptics, who call themselves ‘moderate’, to unite 25 MEPs, the minimum required to form a political group in the European Parliament. However, it will be difficult to get support from MEPs from seven different EU countries, the second requirement in forming a group,” explained Nicolaus Heinen.

Finally, the crucial role of rapporteurs, those that write reports prepared by committees of the European Parliament, could also limit the impact of Eurosceptic parties on European politics.

“It is very rare for the final versions of their reports to contain extreme positions,” claimed Heinen.

>> Read: Germany’s Eurosceptic AfD launches EU elections campaign

The European elections will take place between the 22 and 25 May 2014. Eurosceptic parties have gained support over the past few years thanks in part to the financial crisis. Ranging from far-right to far-left and everything in between, eurosceptic parties are present in all European countries.

They do not all advocate for/against the same things, ranging from the single currency and the inner-workings of the EU institutions, to EU enlargement and integration.

Deutsche Bank’s recent study shows that eurosceptic parties could have an impact on national parties, and a limited rebound effect on the European level. 

  • 22-25 May: European Elections in 28 EU member states

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