Linking Euroscepticism to Eurovilification and Europhilia to Eurofundamentalism

Our analysis is based on two distinctions between EU-related sets of attitudes of the Western Balkan countries. Firstly, in considering the range of EU-related attitudes (be they grounded on economic, democratic, political or cultural issues), special attention is dedicated to those that occupy extreme positions in the spectrum, often related to so-called conspiracy mentality (Imhoff & Bruder, 2014; Imhoff, 2015). An extensive set of terminology describing pro- and antiEuropean attitudes has already been developed by the academic community. The list of favourable attitudes includes: Euro-opportunism (Blanusa et al., 2016), or declamatory support motivated by a desire for fast integration, rather than démocratisation of the country; Euro-enthnsiasm marked by ‘support for the ideas of European integration’ and a belief‘that the EU is or will soon become the institutionalisation of these ideas’ (Kopeckÿ & Mudde, 2002: 302); and Euro-fixation, based entirely on an idealised representation of the EU, instead of rational and realistic expectations from the EU integration processes (Krajina, 2016: 12). The more pronounced variants of these favourable attitudes are usually described as Europhilic, where citizens believe in the key principles of European integration, sometimes regardless of how this integration is realised in practice (Kopeckÿ & Mudde, 2002). On the other hand, the list of unfavourable attitudes covers tendencies like Euro-pessimism or Euro-apathy, soft Euroscepticism (conditional, critical, partial opposition) and hard Euroscepticism (unconditional, uncritical, unlimited opposition) (De Vreese & Boomgaarden, 2005; Lubbers & Scheepers, 2005; Abts & Krouwel, 2007). Our analysis does not aim to examine the full range of EU-related attitudes, be they positive or negative. Rather, it focuses on the interplay between these attitudes and the ensuing conspiratorial and mythical discourses. For instance, in the case of North Macedonia, such discourses often build upon existing Eurosceptic attitudes and ethnic divisions in the country, resulting in identity or value-based concerns and negative expectations of (soon to be) imposed ‘Western’ values, such as LGBTQ rights and alien social norms, or alleged EU support for Albanian supremacy in the region. In the case of Croatia, however, these extreme tendencies stem from pre-existing sentiments about Yugoslavia, or perceptions of Croatia’s ‘natural’ belonging in the EU, thus viewing the EU as either a conspirator with the enemies at the gate, or a confederate and desired political community to belong to (working against or in support of Croatian interests). For the purpose of this chapter, we label the discourses emerging from these attitudes as Eurovilification and Eurofundamentalism, with the former being complementary to hard Euroscepticism and the latter mostly stemming from strong Europhilia, but both being highly susceptible to instrumentalisation by political elites. Such a conceptualisation distinguishes legitimate Eurosceptic and Europhilic attitudes, from the conspiratorial and mythical distortions of these attitudes (Eurovilifying and Eurofundamentalist accordingly), generated and amplified by both domestic elites and foreign actors.

Secondly, in considering pro- and anti-EU attitudes we distinguish between citizens and political elites. Specifically, we discuss how negative attitudes towards the EU, such as strong Euroscepticism, are more frequently expressed by citizens, since the public is often less informed about the benefits of EU accession or the complexities of negotiations, leaving them more prone to doubts, fears and suspicions (Blanusa, 2011). We also show how political elites create and participate in Eurovilifying discourses in response to political crises domestically and internationally, capitalising on Eurosceptic attitudes among their voter base, despite rarely holding Eurosceptic views themselves. Conversely, favourable Europhilic sets of attitudes, while usually enforced by political elites, are already shared by a large portion of the population. Political elites, in particular, in their firm commitment to EU accession, often adopt reforms that are not perceived as motivated ‘from within’, but rather driven by the desire ‘to please others’ and complete the accession process sooner (Blanusa et al., 2016: 223). The latter serves as a base and main hallmark of Eurofundamentalist discourses.

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