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Legitimating the European Union: The Contested Meanings of an EU Constitution


  • Florian Oberhuber


Following 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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  • Florian Oberhuber, 2007. "Legitimating the European Union: The Contested Meanings of an EU Constitution," EUI-RSCAS Working Papers 25, European University Institute (EUI), Robert Schuman Centre of Advanced Studies (RSCAS).
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:euirsc:p0184

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Follesdal, Andreas & Hix, Simon, 2005. "Why There is a Democratic Deficit in the EU: A Response to Majone and Moravcsik," European Governance Papers (EUROGOV) 2, CONNEX and EUROGOV networks.
    2. Claes H. de Vreese & Susan A. Banducci & Holli A. Semetko & Hajo G. Boomgaarden, 2006. "The News Coverage of the 2004 European Parliamentary Election Campaign in 25 Countries," European Union Politics, , vol. 7(4), pages 477-504, December.
    3. Christoph Meyer, 2007. "The Constitutional Treaty debates as revelatory mechanisms: Insights for public sphere research and re-launch attempts," RECON Online Working Papers Series 6, RECON.
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    constitution building; European public space; media; European Convention; Austria; legitimacy; democracy;
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