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Manifestations of Euroscepticism in Germany and the Netherlands, 1990-2015: A Comparative Approach

Comparative Politics
European Politics
European Union
Party Manifestos
Political Parties
Populism
Gerrit Voerman
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Jan van der Harst
University of Groningen
Gerrit Voerman
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

Abstract

Euroscepticism is a phenomenon that has been structurally present in the post-war politics of the Netherlands. In the 1950s and 1960s political actors with different backgrounds and motives turned against the European project, but together they never gained more than 10% of the popular vote. This has changed more recently: with the emergence of the Socialist Party and the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders Euroscepticism is no longer a marginal phenomenon in the Dutch political arena: since the year 2000 the Eurosceptic vote has increased to 25-30% of the electorate. In the Federal Republic of Germany Euroscepticism has experienced a vastly different development. Although during the 1950s the social-democratic SPD opposed European integration, later on this party developed into a diligent promotor of Europe. In German politics, European cooperation and integration were widely accepted as the main goals of the German quest for a new post-war identity. Only since recently, Germany is faced with the emergence of Eurosceptic parties like the Alternative für Deutschland, which at the EP elections of 2014 scored 7 seats, while the more radical NPD ended up with one seat. As a result, the Eurosceptic block in Germany represents about 8%, considerably lower than the Dutch percentage. This paper will compare the development of Euroscepticism in both countries and try to explain their diverging evolution, by focusing on differences in the political-institutional context (the electoral system especially), the party system, political culture (the impact of the Second World War on present politics), and the position of both countries in an ever expanding European Union (the increasing ‘marginalization’ of the Netherlands versus the growing dominance of Germany). We also try to establish which types of Euroscepticism we encounter in both countries and which motives prevail: utilitarian, political, cultural?