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Debating the European Constitution: On representations of Europe/the EU in the press

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In this article, we analyze the newspaper coverage of the concluding session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) which took place in Brussels on the 12th and 13th December 2003 and which was the first attempt to reach an agreement on the “Draft Constitutional Treaty” proposed by the European Convention. Placing it in the larger context of EU ‘constitutional’ reform, the media pictured the Brussels Summit and its eventual failure as an event of high symbolic relevance. In a qualitative in-depth discourse analysis, we comparatively investigate how the Summit was represented in 15 newspapers from eight EU countries. Using analytical categories from various key theoretical approaches of Discourse Analysis, the data are analyzed according to three interrelated sets of questions: (1) Which actors are selected in the press coverage, how are they labeled, and what are their main activities? (2) What metaphors, images and topoi are applied for representing and explaining the European Union as a unique political space? (3) How is the Brussels Summit placed in the political and historical context of European integration, who is blamed for its failure and why, and what scenarios for the future are discussed or proposed?
 Results are presented on two dimensions: firstly, in a case study approach, it is shown how press coverage in each country differs on the level of semantics, thematic structures, and structures of relevance and argumentation. Secondly, a systematic cross-section analysis is carried out and the repertoire of the fundamental representations of EU-rope used in the press is reconstructed.
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Keywords: European Union; Intergovernmental Conference 2004; constitutional debates; media analysis; representations of Europe

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Research Center ‘Discourse, Politics, Identity’, University of Vienna

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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