Europe's divided north : a comparative analysis of the conflict over European Union membership in four Nordic countries
This thesis is a comparative analysis of how the conflict over membership in the European Union (EU) affected people and parties in four Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) between 1985 and 1997. The purpose of the thesis is to analyse how and why a) the people, and b) the political parties in these four countries have reacted to the prospect of membership - or, in the case of Denmark, continued membership - in the EU. The thesis is divided into two main sections. Section one consists of three theoretical chapters. Chapter one explains why European integration has conflict potential in the Nordic countries, and why this conflict has increased in salience since the mid-1980's. Chapter two outlines and develops a political cleavage model. This has two purposes; firstly, to explain the nature of the Nordic party systems; secondly, to outline social, ideological and institutional limitations to the effect of the conflict over EU membership on the party systems of these countries. Chapter three develops two models derived from rational choice theory. The first assesses how EU membership might be expected to affect the utility of individual citizens. The second focuses on how political parties might be expected to react to the prospect of (continued) EU-membership. Chapters four to seven (section two) assess the explanatory power of the models developed in chapters two and three for each of the countries concerned, by analysing the hypothesised effects of the EU-conflict on individual utility and on the party systems. Chapter eight compares the results of chapters four to seven. Finally, the conclusion assesses the heuristic value of the methods employed, and the implications for theory. In summary, it is argued that, firstly, expected consequences for individual economic utility and left-right ideological position are the most important variables for explaining differences in attitude to membership, both within each country and between the four countries. Secondly, for the majority of parties the increased salience of this conflict complicates their strategy, in particular with regard to the ability to pursue vote maximisation and office maximisation simultaneously. A partial solution is to off-load the EU-conflict away from national elections. This explains in large part why in each of the countries the EU-conflict has been off-loaded from the arena of national elections to that of referendums and elections to the European Parliament.