Legitimating the European Union: The Contested Meanings of an EU Constitution
AbstractFollowing up on a previous study on the Convention on the Future of Europe, the present article investigates the reception of the EU's constitutional experience in the public. A qualitative analysis of the press coverage of the various phases of constitutionalisation between the decision on establishing a Convention in December 2001 and the provisional suspension of ratification in 2005 is carried out. While it is pointed out that the constitutional project entailed a bid for legitimacy which implied a strong engagement of the public, the reception of constitutionalisation in the press did not result in a democratic process of mobilisation. However, the failure of such an interpretation of the European Union as a democracy in the making did not amount to a de-legitimation of the EU in the coverage analysed. Rather, another semantic framework for making meaning of the Europolity was found which was based on a predominantly statist reading of its constituents and which legitimated co-operation over unilateral action, namely constructing a normative discourse of the EU member-states in search of a common "European" as opposed to their "national" interests. Hence, the article proposes to take note of the fact that discourses about the European Union show a large degree of polysemia and contestedness, and it develops a framework for empirically studying legitimation as a semiotic process involving the justification of the political system and its output.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by European University Institute (EUI), Robert Schuman Centre of Advanced Studies (RSCAS) in its series EUI-RSCAS Working Papers with number 25.
Date of creation: 15 Oct 2007
Date of revision:
constitution building; European public space; media; European Convention; Austria; legitimacy; democracy;
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2007-11-03 (All new papers)
- NEP-CDM-2007-11-03 (Collective Decision-Making)
- NEP-LAW-2007-11-03 (Law & Economics)
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