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LAWRENCE — Mainstream political parties in Europe have failed to respond to the increasing public skepticism of the European Union, opening the door for nationalist political groups to gain more power, a University of Kansas researcher has found.
The fallout of the financial crisis and subsequent bailouts of Greece and other struggling nations, coupled with the recent migration crisis, have further inflamed skepticism toward European integration, said Robert Rohrschneider, KU’s Sir Robert Worcester Distinguished Professor of Political Science.
“Since 2007, there has been really a dramatic drop in acceptance of the European Union and further support for integration,” he said. “Given their past commitment to integration, mainstream political elites in Europe have really had a difficult time responding quickly to the changing sentiments among mass publics.”
Rohrschneider is the lead author of the recent study “Responding to growing European Union skepticism? The stances of political parties toward European integration in Western and Eastern Europe following the financial crisis,” published recently in the European Union Politics journal. Rohrschneider and co-author Stephen Whitefield have also published a blog on the study for The London School of Economics and Political Science.
The EU’s formation is traced initially to the 1950s, and since then it has included various economic and political partnerships among some 28 member states. This has given Europe global political clout because the region contains an estimated 508 million people.
However, recent events have shifted public opinion on such policies, he said.
“On one hand, mainstream parties would like to go where voters are on integration issues, but on the other hand, most mainstream parties and political elites have supported integration for the past 40-50 years, virtually since the EU’s inception,” Rohrschneider said.
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