Euroscepticism: an ideology, a feeling, or a political attitude?
Since the Carnation Revolution in 1974, Portugal has always been a country that has lived peacefully. But since the beginning of the economic crisis, the country is once more rebelling against authorities.
by Lucía de la Sierra
LISBON – The Portuguese go out on the streets and demonstrate very often. They are fed up with the austerity measures. They know what they’re paying for—a public debt reaching 129 per cent of its GDP in 2013 and an unemployment rate of 15 per cent—and the population needs someone to blame. They have a clear idea of who the culprits are for the problems affecting Europe. They point to the European Union and accuse their Government of being a marionette of the Troika. All this is making the Portuguese use the word “eurosceptic” more often to define themselves.
But what is euroscepticism in reality? Like in most democracies, Portugal has political parties of all colours seating in its parliament, so this means that each party understand euroscepticism in different ways. Some say that is an ideology or a feeling, but others explain that is just an expression.
“Euroscepticism as a political expression tends to describe a political attitude that blames Europe for everything that goes wrong today. The European Union is being used like a scapegoat. It’s a populist and demagogical attitude. You don’t have to agree with everything that is made by the Europe Union, but, from my point of view, that doesn’t means you are eurosceptic”, explains António Carlos Monterio, General Secretary of the Popular Party (CDS-PP).
“At the beginning the eurosceptics where the ones with nationalist or sovereignist feelings that didn’t want to be part of the big community that the European Union proposed. But right now the term can be used for referring to the people that are upset with the EU because it has failed and is doing things bad. I don’t know if those citizens can be consider as eurosceptics because I am sure that if the Europe Union that exist now changes, they won’t mind being a member of the EU,” explains Ricardo Moreira, member of the Political Committee of Bloco de Esquerda (BE).
All the parties accuse each other of using the term euroscepticism as an electoral weapon for winning votes. António Carlos Monteiro says that the socialist party is using “eurosceptic words” because they want to attack the Portuguese government and distance themselves from the Troika to win votes.
But political parties agree that there is one party that has always had the same idea about the European Union, even before Portugal became a member in 1986. “The Communist Party has always been eurosceptic,” says Ricardo Moreira.
“Nowadays we are winning voters because the Communist Party has always being first in the line fire against the cornerstones of the European Union. There are sectors in our society that in the 90’s had a different ideology to ours, but now they are supporting our position. The euroscepticism has arisen because social awareness is growing among the Portuguese”, explains Miguel Ángel Matos. According to this member of the Portuguese Communist Youth Party (JCP), the Communist Party is becoming bigger. During the last municipal elections in Portugal, the CDU (an alliance of the Communist Party and the Greens) won in 34 municipalities.
Despite this growing euroscepticism, Paulo Alfonso, a member of the department of international affairs for the Socialist Party (PS), says that eurosceptics are still a minority. “They are a little more visible than in the past years. I don’t think it will expand much more because in the past we were a country with a very strong European feeling,” he explains.
On the other hand the Communist Party has high expectations for the next general elections. But what will happen if a eurosceptic party wins in the national elections in Portugal? “We think that the decision of leaving or not the European Union or the Euro is in the hands of the Portuguese. A referendum may be done,” adds the young communist member, Matos. “There are no self-sufficient countries, and Portugal doesn’t have the necessary infrastructure in order to be able to survive without being part of the European Union,” says Ricardo Moreira.
But how can they tackle euroscepticism? In socialist MP Alfonso’s opinion, the best way is by pointing out the good things the European Union provides Portugal. “We can’t forget the mobility that we have inside Europe and that the EU has always supported our democracy.”