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Keywords

European Union, EU, Populism, Enlargement, Meritocracy, Neo-functionalism, Historical Institutionalism, Trust, Loyalty, elite socialization, permissive consensus, political spillover

Disciplines

Political Science

Abstract

The European Union (EU) faces a new wave of populism that opposes the traditional meritocratic system and highlights the breach of trust between citizens and civil servants. The breakdown in the citizens’ trust for national and supranational institutions occurred at the same time as the loyalty of the civil servants diminished. This paper examines whether the rising populist movement can explicate the decline of trust and loyalty. Further, it highlights the five waves of EU enlargement to discern where and why the breach in trust is occurring. Utilizing information collected by the Eurobarometer, this paper uses new data that break down the statistics into the five key waves of EU enlargement and examines the notion of enlargement fatigue. The data explore the financial and societal influences that alter one's perspective of national and supranational institutions. Further, each Member State’s position within the EU is evaluated in the context of assumed two-tiered membership, which is emphasized via the different waves of enlargement. The theoretical lens employed is neo-functionalism, as it provides an opportunity to examine the relationships between trust, loyalty, and enlargement through a new perspective. This paper concludes that populist movements are exploiting anxieties to promote their agenda, that citizens’ trust in institutions is actually increasing, and that there is a correlation between low trust and new, unstable Member States. Overall, in the face of populist movements, local conflicts and media frenzies, European citizens most fervently desire a reliable governmental system for future generations.

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