Ideology and the Rights of the Nation in Party Alignments on the EU: A Comparison of Conservative Parties in Britain, France and Poland
31 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 21 Aug 2011
Date Written: 2011
EU integration challenges the fundamental right of sovereignty traditionally claimed by European nation-states. This ongoing transformation continues to cause a variety of reactions within EU Member States. At the extremes these have included approval by cosmopolitans who see it as a step towards a more universal model of citizenship, but a rejection by diehard nationalists who perceive the shift as an onslaught on the national community’s right to self-determination. Between these two poles a wide spectrum of other positions and dispositions endorse or reject the goals of EU integration to varying degrees.
Conceptualised within a historical-institutionalist framework, the central research question addressed by the paper is a comparative one. It asks why political parties which share similar topographical locations within their respective national party systems, and share membership of the same, or closely neighbouring, political families in Von Beyme’s sense, often show significantly different alignments on EU integration, depending on policy sector and point in time – although different internal currents within the parties may share more common ground with their foreign counterparts than with other currents in their own parties. The paper examines four conservative parties, two of which – the British Conservative Party, the French Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) – are located within Western European national political environments, while the two others – the Polish Platforma Obywatelska (PO), and Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS) – operate within the same Central European post-communist state. All of the parties have recently been, or are currently, parties of government.
While it is self-evident that ideology and policy do not exist in a vacuum, but in constant interplay with other institutional and contextual factors, these other variables are largely bracketed out for present analytical purposes in order to concentrate on the evolving ideology-policy interface in its own right. In this meso-level analysis the focus is on the relationship between core ideological values, ideologically coloured understandings of national and international environments, general posture towards EU integration, and positions on specific institutions, processes or policies, in particular those implying a shift in the understanding of rights of states and nations. The approach to ideology applied here uses a qualitative reading of a range of more theoretical texts (books, articles, transcribed speeches, interviews) as well as manifestos from the period since 2001. The choice of this period is productive, both in terms of EU developments (introduction of the Euro, constitutional debates, Lisbon Treaty) and of party development in the three countries (changes of party leadership and of government in Britain and France, founding of the parties in Poland and successive accession to power).
The patterns of variation and similarity between the parties revealed even at this intermediate level of detail are a valuable complement to the necessarily reductive categorisations and generalisations drawn in macro-level comparative studies.
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