Federalist sentiment in the European Union

The imminent departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union has raised some important questions regarding the future of the EU. Given that the member state which, for a long time, has been seen as the most obtrusive is on its way to triggering Article 50, a lot of people have expressed hope that the federalist direction of EU reforms can now progress in a more unimpeded fashion. Others have rightly warned that Euroskeptic sentiment was not confined to the UK and other states might be less than happy to hand over more sovereignty to the European level.

In trying to find an answer to the question “Who’ll be the next Great Britain at the table”, the EU’s Standard Eurobarometer collection offers some strong hints. Unfortunately, only 4 such Eurobarometers contain questions relating to willingness to move towards a “federation of nation-states”, as the question was discontinued after spring 2014.

eb81-federalism

Some interesting patterns can however be noticed:

  • The Nordic countries are the most anti-federalist, even more so than the UK, with ‘No’ always at least double the size of ‘Yes’
  • Ireland, surprisingly, never had ‘Yes’ outnumber ‘No’, albeit the difference was small
  • Most member states hover around the center, with a slightly positive dent in the score
  • The public opinion of Hungary and Poland is more federalist than their current governments’ reputation would lead to believe

On the other hand, one should be careful in drawing conclusions, as:

  • Scandinavian Euroskepticism might be different to British Euroskepticism
  • The question is somewhat ambiguous, as some might see a contradiction between “a federation” and “nation-states”
  • There are only 4 Eurobarometers, so the picture might be incomplete or outdated

Nonetheless, it is obvious that the “smooth sailing towards Federalism” envisaged by some is nowhere near the horizon, and we might soon see a Nordic Group giving headaches in the EU Council, when discussion the EU’s Future.


Infographic made in QGIS, Inkscape and Veusz. Data via the 78-81 Eurobarometers