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The European Union and Beyond

How has the European Sovereign Debt Crisis changed the Party Space in Europe?

Political Parties
Party Systems
Simon Otjes
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Simon Otjes
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Alexia Katsanidou
GESIS, Leibniz

This paper aims to show that the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis has re-shaped political landscape in the European Union countries. Following Hooghe and Marks (2017), we test whether the crisis has caused a ‘disruption’ in the political landscape as it is has changed the dimensional structure that underlies party on issues such as economic policy and Euroscepticism. We look at the party space across the EU using snapshots of the European Parliament elections of 2009 and 2014. We use data on party positions from Voting Advice Applications developed for the European Parliament election on 2009 and 2014 to show this change. Our analysis indicates that the crisis has redefined the relationship between party positions on European integration and economic questions. The traditional model of the party space before the crisis, namely that there is a separate economic left-right dimension and a separate integration-demarcation dimension that concerns European integration and new cultural issues such as immigration (Kriesi 2006), no longer holds. In particular in Southern European countries where the crisis had major economic and political effects, the economic dimension and the European dimension became intertwined. We find that the more unemployment a country saw after the crisis, the more Eurosceptic itself left-wing parties are, while before the crisis, higher unemployment was associated with left-wing parties being more pro-European. This paper builds on the theoretical work by Mair (2008) to explain how and why this dimensional change occurred: as the European Union took over more competences on economic issues, it became more difficult to oppose the economic policies pursued by the EU without opposing the principle of EU integration.
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