Constantin Schäfer, Sebastian Adrian Popa, Daniela Braun, Hermann Schmitt
The reshaping of political conflict over Europe: from pre-Maastricht to post-‘Euro crisis’

West European Politics, 2021: 44, Heft 3, S. 531-557
ISSN: 0140-2382 (print); 1743-9655 (online)

Party competition over European integration is structured by two main dimensions of political conflict: a socio-economic dimension (market liberalisation vs. a more regulated economy) and a socio-cultural dimension (libertarian, cosmopolitan values vs. authoritarian, nationalist values). This article investigates the relationship between these conflict dimensions and parties’ positions towards EU issues across time and space, in particular focussing on two ‘critical junctures’ in the European unification process. For this purpose, analysis is made of the election manifestos of parties competing in European Parliament elections (Euromanifestos) from 1979 to 2014. First, it is found that the key moment of the Maastricht treaty significantly reshaped party competition over Europe. After Maastricht, positions towards European integration have become less connected to the economic dimension and much more related to the cultural dimension in Western Europe. Second, it is contended that the Euro crisis has not dramatically restructured political conflict over European integration.