Eurosceptism will only deepen as Brussels fails to deal with European issues.
Written by Ahmed Adel, Cairo-based geopolitics and political economy researcher
Although Euroscepticism has existed since the inception of the European Union, the UK’s departure from the bloc in 2020, the only sovereign country to have left, demonstrated to other member states that it is possible to leave. Many member states are frustrated by forced immigration quotas, scandals such as Qatargate, and a lack of strategic depth by the bloc as it prioritises the interests of the US instead of Europe. Seemingly, it appears that Italy, Greece, Poland, and France are the most Eurosceptic countries.
This lack of strategic depth led to the decline of European economies because sanctions against Russia have been self-sabotaging. When paired with the aforementioned scandals and migration issues, as well as the loss of legislative control, it is understandable why Eurosceptism persists across the bloc.
According to OddsChecker, an online bookie comparison site, Italy was ranked as the country which is most likely to leave the EU,” specifically with odds of 3/1 or 33 percent. It is recalled that in the September 2022 election, the former president of the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi, was ousted from power by the right-wing populist Brothers of Italy party. In the same manner, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had previously condemned the hostility by Brussels against the UK’s decision to leave the EU, describing its actions as an effort to “humiliate the British people who have freely chosen Brexit.”
The next likely country after Italy is Greece, with odds of 6/1 or 16.67 percent. Although Eurosceptism has always been prominent in Greece, it especially accelerated during the sovereign debt crisis, with discussions of a possible “Grexit” entering the mainstream.
Eurosceptic party SYRIZA lost power to the liberal-conservative New Democracy party in 2019, but Greeks are returning to the polls this May. Although it is expected the ruling party will maintain power, the gap between the two parties has now narrowed from ten to five percent over the past year as Greeks are angered by having to pay the most expensive energy bills in Europe and in their majority are against weapon transfers to the Ukrainian military.
Poland comes in third place, with odds of 7/1 or 14.3 percent. President Andrzej Duda, of the ring-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, has been continuously criticised for limiting freedom of expression and LGBTQ+ rights. However, since Poland positioned itself as a regional player in the context of the war in Ukraine, much of the criticism from Brussels has alleviated.
None-the-less, although Brussels might have quietened its criticisms of Poland, there is still a high degree of eurosceptism within Polish society, something which will grow as the negative effects of the war in Ukraine are crippling the country, resulting in war weariness.
War weariness has set in so much so that Poland, and neighbouring Hungary, took unilateral action to ban grain and other food imports from Ukraine. This is to protect their local agricultural sector, something which still received the wrath of the EU.
“In this context, it is important to underline that trade policy is of EU exclusive competence and, therefore, unilateral actions are not acceptable. In such challenging times, it is crucial to coordinate and align all decisions within the EU,” said a spokesperson of the European Commission.
Poland’s ruling nationalist PiS party are seeking re-election in the 2023 parliamentary election, and people in rural areas, where support for PiS is usually high, are angered about large quantities of Ukrainian grain, which is cheaper than that produced in the European Union, staying in Central Europe due to logistical problems, thus making prices skyrocket and sales for local farmer’s plummet.
Meanwhile, the fourth most likely country to leave the EU is France, with a 12.5% chance. French President Emmanuel Macron, another liberal like his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has been facing endless largescale protests against pension reform. Protestors have sworn to not stop until Macron backtracks on his plans.
At the same time, the French President was branded a “madman” and accused of insisting on a “political coup de force” by Boris Vallaud, leader of the PS deputies in the National Assembly.
When speaking about Macron, Vallaud told LCI and Le Figaro: “When you discredit social dialogue, when you step on the social partners (…), when you do not respect the parliamentary institution, when you brutalise it (…), when in the street you have people demonstrating by the hundreds of thousands, by the millions, yes, it is a democratic coup because you are diminishing democracy.”
What makes eurosceptism all the more interesting is that it spans across different political ideologies, with only liberals in support of the failed European project. In the case of France, it is mostly comprised by anti-Macron elements, whilst in Greece it is represented mostly by SYRIZA, a radical Left party. This is contrasted by Italy and Poland, where right-wing politics prevails.
With Brussels failing to deal with migration issues in Italy, Greeks having a general tendency to be Russophile, Poland being lambasted for not implementing liberal policies, and the French having a desire to be an independent country in the vision of Charles de Gaulle, Eurosceptism is not only a persistent issue, but one that will continue to deepen.