Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
Panel 512: The European Parliament, Populism and 2019 Elections
Tuesday, 03/Sep/2019:
1:05pm - 2:35pm

Session Chair: Francis Brendan Jacobs, University College Dublin
Location: Room 12.02

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European Disintegration as an Issue in the 2019 European Parliament Elections Campaign: A Comparative Analysis

Patrick Bijsmans1, Charlotte Galpin2, Benjamin Leruth3

1Maastricht University, the Netherlands; 2University of Birmingham, UK; 3University of Canberra, Australia

The 2019 European Parliament elections are considered by many observers as the most important ones held in over two decades. Following the multi-faceted crisis the European Union has been facing since the Great Recession of 2008, Eurosceptic parties have increasingly expanded their influence in Strasbourg. In addition, the (expected) withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union in March 2019 has increased the political salience of the issue of European disintegration (be it differentiated or undifferentiated), as demonstrated by the European Commission’s White Paper on the Future of Europe published in 2017. The 2019 elections are expected to be a contest between pro-European and Eurosceptic forces. This paper will investigate the saliency of European disintegration in three founding member states (France, Germany and the Netherlands) through an analysis of media coverage during the 2019 European elections campaign. Drawing on earlier findings from our research on the Brexit campaign in 2016 and national elections held in all three countries in 2017, the paper will further indicate whether Brexit (as a ground-breaking case of differentiated disintegration) has shaped the domestic debates on European integration.

Brexit and the Populist Contagion. How Parties in Europe did (not) Respond to Brexit

Nicola Chelotti1, Helen Drake1, Stjin van Kessel2

1Loughborough University (London), United Kingdom; 2Queen Mary University of London

This article explores to what extent and how the Brexit referendum has affected the political systems of European countries. In particular, it examines the responses that political parties gave to that event, and how that interacted with their positions on Europe. Brexit was indeed a potential catalyst for parties of the populist radical right as well for mainstream parties and their respective strategies on Europe. While the latter are usually Euro-friendly or Euro-neutral (and often in government), the former are naturally Eurosceptic and distrust the drive towards supranationalism (and mostly in the opposition). Did Brexit lead party leaders in Europe to politicise issues related to European integration? Which parties? Under which conditions? Did radical right parties campaign for a withdrawal of their country from the European Union? Did mainstream parties campaign along more pro-European lines as polls showed an increase in European citizens’ support for the European Union? Was Europe a salient issue in post-Brexit national elections at all? The article answers these questions by analysing the party strategies in the run-up to general elections in four countries – the Netherlands, France, Germany and Italy (all taking place in either 2017 or 2018). It does so by relying on party manifestos, news on party websites, selected media coverage, including televised election debates.

When Eurosceptics Become Europhiles: Far-Right Opposition to Turkish Involvement in the European Union

Katy Brown

University of Bath, United Kingdom

Turkey’s involvement in the European Union has long provoked controversy among Europe’s elites, particularly regarding its prospective accession. Recently, in the context of the so-called ‘migrant crisis’, coupled with the mainstreaming of Islamophobia and rising Euroscepticism, the issue of Turkey has acquired renewed significance in European political debate. For example, the 2016 EU-Turkey Statement to reduce the number of refugees reaching Europe proved highly contentious and Turkish accession featured heavily in the ‘Brexit’ campaign, with Nigel Farage declaring that ‘Turkey in means Britain out’. While many scholars have linked hostility towards Turkey with the desired construction of a supra-national European identity, few studies have noted the role it plays in the discourse of parties that explicitly reject the EU. Adopting a mixed-methods approach to Critical Discourse Studies, combining the Discourse-Historical Approach with elements of Discourse Theory and Corpus Linguistics, this paper seeks to investigate the contemporary construction of Turkey as a dangerous ‘other’ by far-right parties in the United Kingdom (UKIP) and France (FN/RN). Drawing on theories of Orientalism and Islamophobia, it exposes the contradiction inherent in the strongly Eurosceptic positions adopted by these parties, while simultaneously rejecting Turkish involvement based on its supposed ‘non-Europeanness’. As such, in pursuit of their racist agendas to reinforce dualistic divisions between East and West, these parties become defenders of Europe while at the same time undermining the supra-national EU project.

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