Euro-Mediterranean populism: navigating populist foreign policy around the Mare Nostrum

Giurlando, Philip, Wajner, Daniel and Chryssogelos, Angelos (2024) Euro-Mediterranean populism: navigating populist foreign policy around the Mare Nostrum. Comparative European Politics. ISSN 1472-4790


Populist politics in Southern Europe displays several distinctive patterns related to a shared history, geography, culture, and economy, while being subject to similar geopolitical pressures. In the last decade, moreover, the Euro-Mediterranean region has been struck by destabilizing shocks: the Eurozone crisis and the refugee crisis, which led to a realignment of party politics, with populist parties of both the left and the right enjoying high levels of popular support and taking, or have gotten close to taking, governmental power. These patterns make Southern Europe an interesting case for the study of populism and foreign policy through a (sub-)regional comparative approach. This article applies a structured, focused comparison of the populist foreign policies (PFP) of France, Italy, Spain, and Greece, seeking to explain how populist leaderships have shaped foreign policy in these countries and the conditions under which their PFP were translated into action. After putting Euro-Mediterranean populism in context, we examine four structural themes of catalysts or constraints that populists face when ‘navigating’ PFP around the European Mare Nostrum: international power distribution, ideological underpinnings, domestic political system, and policy domains. The comparative analysis reveals how, while populist performances are often aimed at executing a rupture and, as a result, gaining legitimacy, the implementation of PFP in Southern Europe has ultimately been affected by structural pressures to discard these revolutionary impulses and align with the mainstream.

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