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Under Pressure? How Mainstream Parties in European Regions Adjust Their EU Positions When Challenged by Euroskeptic Parties

Elections
Federalism
Political Competition
Political Parties
Representation
Euroscepticism
Member States
Anna Adendorf
Universität Mannheim
Anna Adendorf
Universität Mannheim
Martin Gross
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU

Abstract

With Euroskeptic parties being on the rise across Europe, mainstream parties are pressured into taking clear stances on European integration issues. Whilst we have some knowledge about how national-level parties adjust their policy positions when challenged by Euroskeptic parties, we do not know how sub-national mainstream parties react to Euroskeptic parties. Since European regions are directly targeted by the European Union's (EU) Cohesion Policy, EU issues should also be relevant at the regional level. Furthermore, since the sub-national level is often being seen as a sort of laboratory for the national level, parties in European regions could be the ones testing how well different strategies of positional adjustment work before they are applied at the national level. Transferring theoretical arguments for party competition at the national and European level to the sub-national level in European regions, we argue that sub-national mainstream parties will become more Euroskeptic when faced with successful Euroskeptic challenger parties. Using a novel dataset on sub-national party positions towards European integration issues in seven European member states between 1990 and 2017, we study how mainstream parties in European regions adjust their EU position when facing an electorally successful Euroskeptic challenger party. Our findings have important implications for a better understanding of the dynamics of party competition especially in the context of sub-national parties position-taking on and emphasis of EU issues.