European Publicity - A new way to democratise the EU?

Bachelor Thesis, 2005

42 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of Content

I. Introduction and Methodology
I.1. Introduction and Problem Definition
I.2. Methodology and Research Design

II. The Model
II.1. Publicity as interaction between EU-MLG and Europeans
II.1.a. The Basics
II.1.a.1. What is meant by EU-MLG?
II.1.a.2. Who are Europeans?
II.1.a.3. What is meant by Publicity?
II.1.b. The influence of Media
II.1.b.1. Media and EU-MLG
II.1.b.2. Media and Europeans
II.1.b.3. Media and Publicity
II.2. Publicity as a Requirement for Democracy
II.2.a. An ideal Democracy
II.2.b. The Role of Publicity in a Democracy
II.3. The Model in a Nutshell

III. The Reality
III.1. Preliminary Remarks
III.2. Newspaper Analysis
III.2.a. Inter-Event-Comparison
III.2.b. Inter-Newspaper-Comparison
III.3. Results of the Newspaper Analysis

IV. Conclusion
Reference List

V. Annexes

Annex 1: Eurobarometer

Annex 2: Newspaper Analysis

List of Figures and Tables

Figure 1: Publicity as Interaction between EU-MLG and Europeans

Figure 2: European Publicity as Communication System

Figure 3: Used Source of Information

Figure 4: Wished and Received Information

Figure 5: Publicity as Requirement for Democracy

Figure 6: BILD EP-BT (direct)

Figure 7: SZ EP-BT (direct)

Figure 8: Welt EP-BT (direct)

Figure 9: MZ EP-BT (direct)

Figure 10: Direct Media Coverage

Figure 11: Indirect Media Coverage

Figure 12: Knowledge Level

Figure 13: Support to the Membership of the EU

Figure 14: BILD EP-BT (indirect)

Figure 15: SZ EP-BT (indirect)

Figure 16: Welt EP-BT (indirect)

Figure 17: MZ EP-BT (indirect)

Table 1: Influence of Information on Knowledge & Motivation Deficit

Table 2: Level of Information

Table 3: Bundestag election 2002

Table 4: European Parliament election 2004

I. Introduction and Methodology

I.1. Introduction and Problem Definition

On its way from an economical partnership to a political union the EU has faced a long-time debate about its democratic deficits. Discussions and proposed remedies focused mainly on the institutional side of the problem and the question of how the institutions can be democratised. Since the 1990s the debate about European identity and citizenship attracted the limelight of the political debate within the European Union. However, this paper will neither focus on the institutional nor on the identity part of the debate about the democratic deficits of the EU, but will focus on a dimension in between.

Direct democracy, as in the Greek city states, is, because of the size of modern democracies, not feasible anymore. The media is needed to communicate decisions (top-down) as well as the will of the people (bottom-up). (Mass-) media creates publicity. On a national level there is a network of print, TV and online media, which creates a tight arrangement of top-down and bottom-up communication: national publicity. The European Union, with its multi-level-governance structures and the heterogeneous identities, is more complex than a nation state.

European Publicity can be seen from two angles: In the first place European Publicity as “EU wide publicity” – which means Europe wide media and also a common communication-place for European topics from a huge variety of participants. From this angle the lack of “a common European Media” – although attempts like “Euronews” are a first step - could be analysed. Furthermore there is a language problem with regard to “EU wide publicity”. Within the EU there is no common language; therefore there cannot be (at the moment) media which is comprehensible for everyone. To summarize this part of European publicity: If no one listens there cannot be publicity. But this view is of no relevance for this paper.

In the second place European Publicity as “publicity on a national scale” – that is EU coverage within the national media; if there is media presence of European topics. If there is no publicity to listen to, no one can listen. This angle shall be the analytical focus of this paper.

The fundamental purpose of this paper is the thesis that publicity is needed for democracy. For that reason the main research question will be: To what extent is the level of European Publicity, with regard to media coverage, related to the level of democracy in the European Union?

To analyse the question a model will be developed about the interrelations of European Multi-Level-Governance, European Publicity and the Europeans, the communication between all three layers and the influence on democracy. The first part of this paper will analyse why European Publicity is required for the interaction between Multi-Level-Governance and Europeans. It is argued that publicity is needed to achieve top-down as well as bottom-up communication and that if there is no media coverage about European topics that there cannot be European publicity.

The second part of the model will explain why publicity is required for democracy, which will be explained by Robert Dahl’s criteria for a democracy. As a consequence of the second part, this paper will argue that there is a democratic deficit if there is no publicity.

The third part of this paper will leave the theoretical point of view and will survey the model. The critical and focal point of the model is the following thesis: “Without media coverage about European topics there is no European publicity which leads to a democratic deficit”. To verify the thesis four German newspapers will be analysed with regard to EU media coverage: the “BILD-Zeitung” is the biggest German representative of the popular press (3,6 Million print-run), the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” (444 000 print-run, centre-left) is the biggest nationwide newspaper, the “Die WELT” (234 000 print-run, nation-wide, conservative-right) and the “Münstersche Zeitung” (36 509 print-run in Münster) is a local newspaper. The choice of newspapers offers a broad view on the German newspaper landscape on different geographical, educational and attitude levels. In order to elaborate on the media coverage two weeks will be compared. Elections are a major topic in media coverage, therefore this paper will compare one week just before the elections for the German “Bundestag” in September 2002 and one week just before the elections for the European Parliament in June 2004. Because of time and scope of this paper only the front-pages will be taken into account. Comparing these two weeks will show that there is much more publicity for national than for European issues.

I.2. Methodology and Research Design

The aim of this paper is to elaborate on the following explanatory research question: to what extend is the level of European Publicity, with regard to media coverage, related to the level of democracy in the European Union? A model will be developed which leads to the thesis: without media coverage about European topics there is no European publicity which leads to a democratic deficit. This complex research design requires triangulation between different research approaches and techniques to complement each other.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Research Objective:

- Develop model to show the relation between European Publicity and democracy in the EU
- Test the developed thesis

The Research Objectives lead to deductive reasoning: a theory will be developed by setting up a model; this model will create a thesis; the thesis will be tested by observations.

To reach the first objective a literature study offers the base for the model to get valid results. The second objective requires a special research design to test the developed thesis. By comparing newspaper coverage about election-related topics one week before the last elections for the Bundestag and the European Parliament, it will be shown that there is less media coverage for EU-related topics than for topics of national concern. Therefore there is no publicity on national scale about European topics.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Object of Research: European Publicity

Units of analysis: Level of European publicity

Object variable: media coverage of EP election related topics,

media coverage of BT election related topics

Other key variables: number of headings, sub-headings, texts about election (BT/EP), direct or indirect

II. The Model

The theoretical base of this paper is a model about the interrelations between EU-Multi-Level-Governance, European Publicity and the Europeans. The analysis will follow two sub-questions. In the first part of the model the question will be answered as to why European Publicity is required for the interaction between EU-Multi-Level-Governance (EU-MLG) and Europeans. The second part will, by answering the question as to why publicity is required for democracy, make the connection to the democratic deficit debate.

II.1. Publicity as interaction between EU-MLG and Europeans

II.1.a. The Basics

[illustration not visible in this excerpt]The “agora”-form of a democracy as practised in the Greek city states is not feasible anymore. Modern democracies are just too big to allow direct democracy. Therefore some sort of publicity is required to enable democracy at all, otherwise a technocratic government system would be the consequence – a democracy without people.

If one wants to analyse the interaction between EU-MLG and the Europeans the first step is to describe what is meant by EU-MLG and Europeans in this context, which will be done in the following two sub-sections.

II.1.a.1. What is meant by EU-MLG?

In its history the European Union developed from a pure economical partnership towards a political co-operation and maybe in the future into a political union. New forms of governance must have been found to organise the complex structure between the institutions of the European Union and the member states, which remain the constitutional point of the Union. The French aristocrat and author Alexis de Tocqueville once made, without even anticipating the foundation of the European Union, a perfect statement about the EU: “Hence a form of government has been found which is neither precisely national nor federal […] and the new word to express this new thing does not yet exist”. De Tocqueville’s statement was related to the early years of the United States of America, about which he wrote his famous book “Democracy in America”. Since that time Europe’s political integration has made tremendous progress. For that reason the new form of EU-MLG has come into the limelight because neither the EU nor the member states alone can cope with the complex task of governing such a political organisation like the European Union.

Today governance in the European Union is divided between the different institutions with all their tasks and also problems. The member states still are of tremendous importance and are the main decision-makers due to their role in the European Council, which decides about the guidelines of the EU, and in the Council of the EU, which is the main decision-maker in the EU. The whole system of decision-making is embedded in EU-MLG. “The European Union has crossed the boundary from horizontal interstate cooperation to vertical policy-making in a dynamic multi-level system, in which the member states are but one level of the polity. It has developed into a new political system which lacks many of the features we associate with democratic governance.”[1]

This EU-MLG system is the “driving force” of the integration but at the same time the origin of many democratic deficits within the Union. The non-democratic character of the institutional arrangement, like the European Parliament’s alleged lack of power and the alleged bureaucratic and technocratic character of the commission are the main focus of the debate about democracy and legitimacy deficits of the European Union. The second part of the democracy debate focuses on the identity part, which will be explained in the next sub-section.

II.1.a.2. Who are Europeans?

“The term ‘European’ has no official definition and combines geographical, historical and cultural elements which together contribute in forging the European identity, and whose content is likely to subject to review by each succeeding generation […] It is not a sum of parts but a dialectic over time and space.”[2]

The debate about ‘European Identity’, hence the question about ‘who are Europeans’ has different dimensions. First, one has to think about the present status of identity in the EU. “Europe is the region of the world with the highest diversity of different languages, ethnic groups and nations, cultures and forms of life to be found in what is, comparatively speaking, an extremely restricted area.”[3] At the same time there is a common origin of Christianity, political history, and similar political systems – but neither of them leads automatically towards a political identity or a political union. No one can define what is meant by the term ‘European’, because the Union does not and will never fulfil the traditional features of identity, like the same language, to name just the most obvious. Europeans are not a homogenous group. The Maastricht Treaty claims that the European Union shall not be a union of nations, but a union of peoples, but still today more people feel like being, for example, German, Dutch or French than European.

The second dimension is about the question as to why a lack of identity is a problem at all. Democracy is ideally based upon the will of the people. If there is no identity the will cannot be distinguished and therefore there is a democratic deficit. Antagonistically the question remains if there is really an identity within nation states. For example in Great Britain, a lot of people feel they are Scottish, Welsh or English, rather than an inhabitant of Great Britain. Besides the theoretical problem of a democratic deficit, a European identity is needed to secure European integration and progress. No political system, no matter on what scale, can function without the support of the people living in this system.

The third dimension is how to create an identity. One attempt is the European Citizenship created by the Maastricht Treaty – since then a debate about identity has come to be the focus of the discourse about the EU. The problem is that identity cannot be created by a top-down process – no one will be a European just because someone tells her or him to be. Furthermore, by trying to create European identity one has to think about how far this identification should go - identification which reaches too far might be dangerous, not only on national levels.[4]

After explaining what is meant by MLG and Europeans in this context the next sub-section will focus on the connection between both levels. There must be some sort of publicity to enable communication between both levels – the sub-section will explain how publicity should work theoretically.

II.1.a.3. What is meant by Publicity?

The model developed in this paper regards publicity as link between EU-MLG and Europeans. Leading to the same direction Meyer defines European Publicity as:

System of Communication, which is able to synchronise at the same time national, transnational and European Discourses for a Europe wide formation of opinion, control and forming of identity = European Publicity

illustration not visible in this excerpt

In accordance Meyer claims three functions of European publicity: control of political power, transnational formation of opinion, and support for awareness of citizenship (Bürgerbewusstsein). These functions shall be fulfilled in a system, in which all actors are interdependent. Meyer identifies three subsystems:


[1] Höreth, Marcus (1998), The Trilemma of Legitimacy – Multilevel Governance in the EU and the Problem of Democracy, Centre for European Integration Studies, Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Discussion Paper C11, p.3.

[2] Brewin, Christopher (2000), “European Identity”, in: Andrew, Crook, Waller, Eds., Why Europe? Problems of Culture and Identity. Volume I Political and Historical Dimensions, London: Maxmillan Press LTD, p.71.

[3] Veen, Hans-Joachim (2000), “Towards a European Identity: Policy or Culture?”, in: Andrew, Crook, Waller, Eds., Why Europe? Problems of Culture and Identity. Volume I Political and Historical Dimensions, London: Maxmillan Press LTD, p.41.

[4] Veen, 2000.

Excerpt out of 42 pages


European Publicity - A new way to democratise the EU?
University of Münster  (Institut für Politikwissenschaft; Faculty for Business, Public Administration and Technology)
Public Administration
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Die Arbeit beleuchtet die deutsche Medienöffentlichkeit für "Europäische Nachrichten", sowohl von einer demokratietheoretischen Seite, als auch von einer empirischen - mit besonderer Berücksichtigung von Medienaufmerksamkeit für Wahlen.
European, Publicity, Public, Administration
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Hannah Cosse (Author), 2005, European Publicity - A new way to democratise the EU?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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