EU Membership - right/left?
July 1, 2012 3:54 PM   Subscribe

European Politics Filter: Did the political positions on the issue of "EU Membership" (pro / con) switch sides (conservative / liberal) in most European countries over the past 10 years?

I lived in Europe (Spain and Ireland) for about five years in the early 90s. At that time, many countries were voting on important EU related questions (votes on membership and on creating the single-currency euro).

At the time, it seemed, conservative parties in Europe took the "con" position on the EU. They sometimes openly rejected membership, they were generally critical of the EU, and did not want generate intergration. Liberal parties, at the time, mostly took a pro-EU position, campaigning for greater intergration and a single currency.

Today, it seems, to be the opposite. Liberal parties are now seem to be in the "con" position. Some of them are openly calling to reject membership and leave the union. Conservative parties, on the other hand, are Pro-EU and are calling for measures necessary to maintain EU membership. Conservatives now defend EU membership.

Do I have that generalization correct? Have the two sides flipped position? If so, why?
posted by Flood to Law & Government (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In the UK, Labour was formerly (1970s) against EU membership, and the Conservative party for membership. I believe this switched about in the 1980s, and despite a relative unease about membership across the political spectrum, is still broadly true.
posted by Jehan at 4:14 PM on July 1, 2012

It's a wee bit more complicated than that. You can generally find pro- and anti-integration factions in most mainstream left and right-wing parties, and their influence waxes and wanes; in smaller parties further to the left or right, you'll find Eurosceptic positions with different ideological underpinnings.

(The opposition to EU referenda in Ireland during the 1990s came from the Green Party and Democratic Left, although Irish party politics doesn't really map to a left-right axis.)
posted by holgate at 4:54 PM on July 1, 2012

I think the difference now has to do with the austerity measures being proposed as a condition of financial assistance within the Eurozone. Conservatives, in general, embrace tough austerity as necessary for controlling national debt in the PIIGS. Liberals, in general, reject tough austerity measures in favor of social program and stimulus spending to reduce the impact of the financial crisis. Due to the strength of its economy, Germany is calling most of the shots on Eurozone assistance. For historic reasons, Germany is very concerned about excessive debt and inflation and is demanding a more austerity based approach as a condition of assistance. As a result, there has been backlash against remaining in the Eurozone by some liberal parties. I don't think many significant liberal parties are against the EU, per se, but rather against EU membership under imposed austerity.
posted by chrisulonic at 10:08 AM on July 2, 2012

It's also worth noting that it is generally easier for the party out of power, whichever side that may be, to be critical of the EU. The party in power has to actually go meet other state's representatives in Brussels and actually vote on things that will affect millions of people and billions of euros and so on.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:36 PM on July 2, 2012

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