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Session Overview
Panel 713: UACES Research Network Panel: Communicating Europe: Defending EU legitimacy
Tuesday, 03/Sep/2019:
4:45pm - 6:15pm

Session Chair: Benjamin Farrand, Newcastle University
Location: Room 12.27

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UACES Research Network Panel: Communicating Europe: Defending EU legitimacy

Chair(s): Benjamin Farrand (Newcastle University)

In this panel submitted as part of the UACES Research Network ‘Communicating Europe’, the panellists consider the ways in which the legitimacy of the EU, its actions, policies and values are being defended by a myriad of different actors. In the ten years since the European Union’s response to the global financial crisis, the values, actions and policies of the EU have been subject to frequent debate in national politics, traditional media, online groups and even within the EU’s institutions themselves. The narratives used to communicate about the EU have both served to legitimise the institutions and their actions, as well as to question and indeed denigrate them. Furthermore, we have witnessed the growth of online social media campaigns seeking to support or defend the EU from rhetorical challenges.

The papers in this panel constitute an interdisciplinary perspective on these discourses, demonstrating how actors seek to promote the legitimacy of the EU’s economic, regulatory and legal frameworks through their communications about the EU, governed by the question ‘how do actors in the public sphere communicate about Europe in order to promote its legitimacy?’ Papers in this panel focus on topics such as the role of the European Commission in promoting a Better Regulation agenda, the role of the European institutions in seeking to improve its communications with national governments and European citizens, and the role of online campaigns such as ‘Follow Back, Pro-EU’ as means of seeking to promote the values of the EU while challenging threats to its legitimacy.


Presentations of the Symposium


Doing Less More Efficiently? An Analysis of the Juncker Commission Better Regulation Agenda

Isabel Camisão
University of Coimbra

In his political guidelines (2014) Jean-Claude Juncker envisioned a Union that “is bigger and more ambitious on big things and smaller and more modest on smaller things”. Accordingly, the Commission was bounded to focus on ten priority policy areas on which the EU would deliver concrete results. Also, the Commission adopted a new Better Regulation Agenda (2015) designed to improve the quality of EU policy and law-making, and ensure that legislation better serves the people it affects. An essential part of this Agenda is the Commission’s commitment to communicate actively what it does and the decisions it takes (i.e. enhance transparency) as a way of building citizens’ confidence in the European institutions and ensuring the legitimacy and accountability of a public administration. In this paper we will first go through the major processual and institutional changes triggered by this “revamped” Better Regulation program, analyzing its potential impact in terms of accountability, transparency and effectiveness; we will then briefly assess the state of play of the Juncker’s ten priorities. Our goal is to answer two chief empirical questions: How effective is the new Better Regulation Agenda? Has the Juncker Commission managed to do less more efficiently?


Eurogroup Leadership: Communicating National Interest?

Dina Sebastião
University of Coimbra

Based on a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the personal communication materials of the 2017 and 2018 leaders of Eurogroup, this paper aims to answer the question: is the structural national interest in Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) reflected by the Eurogroup leadership (EL) through a political vision about and for Eurozone? 2017 and 2018 are changing years from Dutch to Portuguese presidencies, two member states which are representative of the creditor and debtor economic divergences towards EMU. On the other side, they are both post-crisis years, of political stabilization and economic recovery in Eurozone, allowing a similar juncture context for comparison, in order to more accurately assess the leadership independent variable.

Assessing the existence of a nationally biased political discourse by the EL gains a significant meaning for EU governance studies, raising questions of throughput legitimacy, given the fact that Eurogroup is an informal organ of the EU, but which acquired an important role during euro-crisis governance, with a huge mediatised impact influencing public opinion and financial markets. This analysis is framed by the “selective communication” approach, as a practice of informal institutions to strengthen individual power over common interest. This empirical analysis aims to be a contribution for normative studies on democratic legitimacy and accountability of the EU governance, an enhanced theoretical issue after the euro-crisis. Moreover, it addresses the lack of academic research on the Eurogroup.


EU Digital Single Market and its Impact on Individuals / Public Services’ Communication under e-Government Paradigm: Prospective Reflexions through the Lens of Interoperability

Joana Covelo De Abreu
University of Minho

This paper aims at understanding the EU’s interoperability agenda as a means of facilitating public services communication between themselves and with individuals, in order to determine if a semantic interoperability was reached. The Digital Single Market has been constructed as a primary public interest promoting the legitimacy of the EU. One dimension of this strategy was to improve EU citizens’ everyday lives through modernisation of public services through ICT tools under the title of e-Government. e-Government presupposes a digital transformation of government, namely by removing existing digital barriers, reducing administrative burdens and improving the quality of citizens’ interaction with public services. Interoperability was the adopted method which demands national public services to be linked by a common ICT system and relying on common databases shared with the material competent EU Institution.

In the e-Government Action Plan 2016-2020, interoperability was presented not only as a method to improve communication but also as a general principle of EU law seeking to promote its legitimacy. In fact, communication between public services and individuals was one of the great challenges posed both to the national and European legal orders. It therefore is essential to assess the extent to which a digital approach can overcome those difficulties and promote legitimacy or if, on the other hand, if it can have the unintended consequence of increasing distance with citizens and thereby serve to challenge its legitimacy.


Follow Back Pro EU: An Analysis of pro-European Debate on Twitter

Anna Wambach
Independent researcher

In the wake of the UK's decision to leave the EU, much research has focused on Euroscpetic discourse in order to understand this historic step. However, after the referendum in 2016, British remain voters and pro-Europeans also increasingly voiced their opinions. Under the hashtag #FBPE a wide network of people distribute pro-European messages on Twitter.

The movement of #FBPE provides an opportunity to look into pro-European communication on social media. This paper will try to address the following questions: Which positions regarding Brexit and potential Brexit scenarios dominate in the #FBPE community? Are the arguments brought forward by this community different to the arguments rehearsed during the referendum campaign in 2016? How does the #FBPE community interact with Leave voters?

This paper will use data from Twitter and a qualitative approach to autocoding in order to address these questions. By doing so, it will hopefully add to debates about social media as an arena for political discussions and the persuasiveness of pro-Europeans discourse in the UK.

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