Mainstreaming Euroscepticism? An analysis of the effects of the politicisation of Europe in domestic elections on the framing strategies of the centre-right in Britain, France and Germany (Sciences Po, France)

Les Cahiers européens de Sciences Po n° n°3/2017

The functional logic that had for so long guided European member states along the path towards ‘ever closer union’ has been challenged more and more strongly in recent years by a growing voice of popular dissent. Where previously, matters at the European table were kept out of the realms of domestic electoral politics, more recently they have come to the fore, as European integration has become ever more politicised in the light of a wave of radical right wing populist, single issue parties contesting the ‘elite consensus’ that more Europe is a good thing. This politicisation of Europe has left incumbents in an uncomfortable situation as they are forced to mobilise on an issue that they would rather see left off the agenda. This paper explores the framing strategies that centre-right parties deploy vis-à-vis Europe in domestic electoral campaigns, to decipher whether the heightened politicisation of European integration has provoked a Eurosceptic response among the erstwhile visionaries of the European project. Using an inductive textual analysis of manifesto data from three centre-right parties of the largest European Union (EU) member states, the present study finds that the politicisation of European integration follows party-systemic logics – but that there is nonetheless a remarkable tendency among the centre-right to frame Europe more and more in cultural-identitarian terms than in economic-utilitarian terms. Whether this alone can be equated to a tendency towards Euroscepticism remains an open question.

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