In May next year MEPs will face their electorate at the polls for the first time since 2009. The current parliament is dominated by the pro-EU centre right and centre left groups (EPP and PES) but it is widely anticipated that this could be under threat. Across Europe, Euroscepticism is on the march, but one country where it is becoming particularly prevalent is France.
Traditionally the French have always been one of the most pro-EU nations in Europe but now this is changing. A poll featured in The Economist shows that just 41% of French citizens have a positive view of the EU. The UK, usually regarded as the most Eurosceptic nation, has a slightly higher rating of 43%. The article states, quite rightly, that the French see the EU as too distant and too focused on austerity, and they resent interference from the European Commission.
Since the presidential and parliamentary elections last year, the Front National (FN) under Marine Le Pen has ascended to new heights of popularity. That the FN could even win the 2014 European Parliamentary elections in France next year highlights the level of French anger at mainstream institutions, both at a national and European level. This has been a result of unemployment (which stands at 10.5%), the introduction of many new taxes (resulting in protests in Brittany) and high levels of immigration. A lot of this anger had been directed at President Hollande, whose poll ratings have crashed, but is also being directed towards the EU.
If anger does prevail in 2014, this could even mark the beginning of the end of the EU, as disillusionment with the European project takes root in one of its founding members.
Simon Turner, Research Assistant