Which countries may exit in the near future?
Despite the fact that no country has yet followed the example of Britain leaving the EU, Euroscepticism is flourishing in many of the member states, Daily Mail analysts wrote. According to the publication, the future of Greece, Italy, France, Hungary, and Sweden is the most uncertain.
When Britain voted to leave on 23 June 2016, supporters of Union warned that a domino effect could cause other countries to follow. However, as the Daily Mail notes, no country has since expressed a desire to exit. This is mainly because of the dependence of EU economies on the Union’s pandemic fund and increased solidarity in the context of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. Nevertheless, Euroscepticism is not only alive but thriving in a number of European countries.
Recently, the leader of Sweden’s second largest party, the Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Åkesson, called for a rethink and evaluation of the country’s need for EU membership, or else the country will lose what remains of its autonomy. “The EU cracks,” he stated. In light of his comments, the Daily Mail wondered which countries might one day opt for freedom by rejecting EU membership.
An “uncertain” future in the Union, according to the British newspaper, awaits Greece, which joined in 1981 and has had a highly volatile relationship with Brussels ever since. The main source of tension between Greece and its EU partners has been the country’s debt crisis, which began in 2009. Brussels insisted on austerity measures as a condition for financial aid, which Athens saw as an attempt to humiliate them.
Current Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has made great efforts to restore his country’s relationship with the EU, but Euroscepticism is more popular in Greece than in any other European country. In a Eurobarometer survey conducted in February 2023 (on behalf of the European Commission and other EU institutions), 53% of citizens said they were pessimistic about the future of EU and 60% stated that they cannot trust Brussels.
Another country whose residents are increasingly disillusioned with the Union is Italy. Although the latter is one of the founders, the past few years have made Italians doubt the EU more than ever before. Italy was hit hard by COVID pandemic and actively criticized the EU for being slow and ineffective in providing support.
As a result, a centre-right coalition led by Giorgia Meloni, dubbed “the most dangerous woman in Europe” by the German media for her anti-European stance, won last September’s elections. Although Meloni has been cautious about confrontation with Brussels during her nine months in power, analysts say the Italian prime minister is only playing along with the EU out of necessity due to the country’s financial difficulties. Yet, according to the latest Eurobarometer poll, only 50% of Italians trust the EU, and many suspect that Meloni is simply stalling to see how she can weaken Brussels’ control over her country’s affairs.
France is another country where relations with the EU could be called uneasy. Also a founder and a key player in shaping European policy over the years, the Republic has also been one of the Union’s fiercest critics.
According to the Daily Mail, many French people feel that the country has lost its sovereignty in favor of Brussels, which is why Marine Le Pen, the leader of National Rally party, is gaining popularity in France. In last year’s election, Emmanuel Macron defeated her by only a narrow margin. However, after months of widespread protests over pension reforms rallied the country against Macron, the incumbent French president’s approval rating is now at a record low. The Eurobarometer poll also showed that 57% of French people do not trust the EU and 50% of the country’s population is pessimistic about the Union’s future.
Åkesson’s comments have also prompted the Daily Mail to take an interest in Sweden’s EU prospects. In particular, he spoke out against Brussels’ excessive interference in his country’s internal affairs. He also said the EU’s ever-expanding powers meant that “German, Polish or French politicians decide in practice what kind of car you can buy, how expensive gasoline should be, and what kind of tree you can cut down on your property.”
Despite the debate raging, the prospect of Sweden leaving the EU is unlikely. According to Eurobarometer, Swedes have the most positive attitude towards EU membership: 63% of people say they trust the Union, and 73% are optimistic about its future.
A country with a more uncertain future in the European Union is Hungary, whose president Viktor Orban has recently become a pariah in Europe because of his close ties with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Moreover, Orban’s government has been accused of undermining democratic freedoms in the country and using state resources to consolidate its power, the Daily Mail reported.
Disagreements between Budapest and Brussels, including over human rights, have led to Hungary being denied access to billions of euros in EU pandemic funds. The EU has made a number of demands. To meet them, Hungary must implement a range of major political reforms, which Orban is unlikely to do. Meanwhile, according to Eurobarometer, 43% of Hungarians are pessimistic about the EU and 44% have no confidence in it.