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Mobilising Around Europe: Pro and Anti-EU Politics and Activism in an Era of Populism and Nationalism

Civil Society
Populism
Social Movements
Euroscepticism
Activism
Brexit
P235
Adam Fagan
Kings College London
Stijn van Kessel
Queen Mary, University of London
Sandra Seubert
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

Abstract

The European Union has recently faced various (existential) crises. The Eurozone and migrant crises, as well as the UK’s imminent departure, have raised questions about the EU’s ability to maintain cohesion in the face of rising nationalist and populist challenges across Europe. Mainstream politicians supporting further integration can no longer rely on a ‘permissive consensus’ among European citizens. In addition, populist parties, which claim to speak for the ‘ordinary people’ and lament the unresponsiveness or corruption of the (political) elites, have gained increasing popular support. They are typically characterised by a Eurosceptic agenda, and criticise the undemocratic and complex nature of EU decision-making (e.g. Mudde 2007). Those with a radical right ideology, which pose the greatest challenge to mainstream parties in many European countries, present themselves as guardians of their native cultures and national sovereignty, and dislike the EU’s drive towards further integration and open borders. Not surprisingly, the rise of these Eurosceptic populist parties has regularly been interpreted as a popular-nationalist backlash against elite-driven European integration. Yet, public contestation around immigration and European integration not only happens at the domestic party-political level. Indeed, recent research has also focused on ‘the far right as social movement’ (Gattinara and Pirro 2018), bringing attention to the societal roots and activist elements of nativist, and also Eurosceptic, politics. The Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident (PEGIDA) or the European Identitarian Movement are examples of cross-national movements espousing culturally conservative, and often xenophobic, ideas. Nevertheless, the populist interpretation of European integration as an issue that divides ‘the people’, on the one hand, and ‘the elites’ on the other, deserves serious qualification. In almost all countries, populist party supporters represent only a minority of the electorate, and the majority of citizens in Europe remain supportive of their country’s EU membership. What is more, across Europe, a considerable number of citizens have come out to defend the EU more explicitly. The most notable example is the Pulse of Europe social movement, established at the end of 2016 with the aim of ‘preserving and shaping of a united Europe’, seeking to confront ‘nationalistic and protectionist tendencies’. Our panel brings together contributions on both pro- and anti-EU mobilisation across the continent. It seeks to address the questions of, when citizens mobilise against or in defence of the EU, what do they argue, what strategies and language do they employ, and how effective is their activism? And how have civil society organisations at the EU level responded to the alleged populist Eurosceptic turn in Europe? Further, is there scope for transnational mobilisation and networks? Our panel is innovative by devoting particular attention to mobilisation in the form of social movements and civil society organisations. The articles focus on the activities and strategies of these movements as such, including their (cross-national) networks and relationships with politicians. In additions, we seek to include contributions that focus on the results of these movements’ actions: how effective are they in mobilising support, influencing political representatives, and/or impacting on public opinion?

Title Details
Indifference or Mutual Influence? Far-Right Parties, Movements and the Politicization of the EU in France View Paper Details
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The State of Populist Parties in Europe in 2019 View Paper Details
Brexit as ‘Politics of Division’: Social Media Campaigning in the Aftermath of the Referendum View Paper Details