Workshop on EU Federalism and Euroscepticism: “Who is afraid of a federal Europe?”

A workshop on the link between EU federalism and Euroscepticism was organised by Dr. John FitzGibbon and Dr. Soeren Keil and held on 10th of June at the North Holmes Road campus.  The Workshop explored the relationship between the increase in Euroscepticism and intensified forms of close federal-like integration at the EU level.

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(Professor Michael Burgess opening the workshop)

Opened by Professor Michael Burgess of the University of Kent, the workshop initially focused on EU federalism and the ambiguity of the concept relative to well established Federal political systems such as Canada and the US.  Despite the term “EU Federalism” being used repeatedly in the media and by critics of European integration in particular, the presenters argued that the EU is still far from a truly federalised political structure.

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After the break the focus of attention turned toward Euroscepticism and the apparent ‘success’ of Eurosceptic parties in the 2014 European Parliamentary elections.  The papers discussed how anti-federalism has driven Euroscepticism for several decades but only with the recent increase in economic and fiscal coordination has it become much more of a ‘live’ issue.  Concluding the workshop, Professor Paul Taggart of the University of Sussex argued that we should not have been surprised to see such an increase in Euroscepticism as such parties have been active and successful for the past ten years.  Framed within the context of the European economic and financial crisis and the rise in power of EU institutions such as the ECB, such an outcome was entirely predictable.

The main conclusion from the workshop was that indeed there is a strong link between EU federalism and Euroscepticism but that the use of the terms ‘federalism’ and ‘Euroscepticism’ were not appropriate for highly idiosyncratic actors, debates and institutions.  More generally the workshop participants agreed was the European Parliament elections can be considered a conflict of “more versus less Europe”.

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