One of the most interesting factors for analysis during the European elections of 25 May will be the translation –or not– of booming Euroscepticism affecting the polls. However, this lack of confidence is not limited to traditional British reticence for the European project –remember to take a look at the results of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) on 25 May– , but it also extends to other creditor countries –the almost certain rise of the French National Front party for example– and debtors such as Greece and Spain. To give an example, the Eurobarometer figures show that in 2013, however unlikely it may be, there is more Euroscepticism in Spain than in the UK. To be more exact, a whopping 72% of the Spanish are wary of the European Union, 17 points above the European average.
This begs the questions: What’s happened here?
There are several reasons that can explain this apparent discontent, but three are omnipresent in any discussion about the EU “crisis”:
1) The effect of the economic crisis. Old arguments about the “democratic deficit” or the opacity of institutions have been replaced by creditor countries demanding strict control mechanisms for borrowed money.
2) The subsequent feeling of national sovereignty being breached, involving visits by “men in black”.
3) The “Merkelization” of the EU project which has personified the future of the EU as a Christian democratic leader who has not even respected the interests of its ideological allies –such as Rajoy– when adjusting the oxygen supply to the Spanish economy.
What is certain is that doubts about the smooth running of the European project are setting in just when these will be the first elections after the Treaty of Lisbon came into force at the end of 2009 and when legal status was given to the EU; the progress can be seen due to the fact that the President of the European Commission has to receive the go- ahead from the majority of the Parliament in order to set up a direct link between citizens and institutions.
Will this Euroscepticism pass? Optimists argue that economic improvement would bring confidence to the common European project and that activity on social networks shows that people are still interested in Europe. On the other hand, pessimists warn of 40% global participation and believe that scepticism is still valid while electoral advantages can be made nationally by adopting an anti-Brussels stance.