The European Union and the Rise of Regionalist Parties

Seth K. Jolly
An examination of the relationship between the expanding power of the EU  and increased regionalist mobilization and the role it may play in reshaping Europe’s national boundaries


Rather than weakening the forces of nationalism among member states, the expanding power of the European Union actually fosters conditions favorable to regionalist movements within traditional nation-states. Using a cross-national, quantitative study of the advent of regionalist political parties and their success in national parliamentary elections since the 1960s, along with a detailed case study of the fortunes of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, Seth K. Jolly demonstrates that supranational integration and subnational fragmentation are not merely coincidental but related in a theoretical and predictable way.

At the core of his argument, Jolly posits the Viability Theory: the theory that the EU makes smaller states more viable and more politically attractive by diminishing the relative economic and political advantages of larger-sized states. European integration allows regionalist groups to make credible claims that they do not need the state to survive because their regions are part of the EU, which provides access to markets, financial institutions, foreign policy, and other benefits. Ultimately, Jolly emphasizes, scholars and policy-makers must recognize that the benefits of European integration come with the challenge of increased regionalist mobilization that has the potential to reshape the national boundaries of Europe.

Cover: New Comparative Politics series design

“In this careful, persuasive study, Seth Jolly argues that the existence of the EU increases the viability of small states in Europe, thus leading to an increase in the incidence and electoral success of parties demanding greater regional autonomy and independence. This is an attractive and intuitive argument that has been overlooked by previous accounts of regionalist party fortune.”
—Bonnie Meguid, University of Rochester

“Jolly has offered a valuable addition to the literature. He adds considerable value to the study of European political party systems. His ideas and empirical analysis will need to be considered for anyone coming to terms with European integration and its effects on political parties and voters.”
—Kenneth Kollman, University of Michigan

“An imporant and substantial contribution to our understanding of party and electoral politics, in general and in the context of the European Union’s system of multilevel governance . . . this book stands out in its focus on regionalist parties in Europe.”
—Nils Ringe, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Seth K. Jolly is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Praise / Awards

  • "This book is a must read...Essential."
  • "This is a smart, informative, and well-executed book that advances our understanding of regionalist mobilization in contemporary Western Europe, a major symptom, if not a cause, of national disunity across the region."
    --Perspectives on Politics

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 252pp.
  • 25 tables, 27 figures.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2015
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-07259-0

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  • $84.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2015
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05259-2

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  • $35.95 U.S.

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  • Europe, European Union, political parties, regionalist parties, nationalism, party competition, Euroskepticism