Hurrelmann, Achim. (2007) "Constructions of Multilevel Legitimacy in the European Union: A Study of German and British Media Discourse". In: UNSPECIFIED, Montreal, Canada. (Unpublished)
[From the introduction]. While academic debates about the EU’s normative legitimacy have reached a relatively high level of conceptual sophistication, and most of the remaining points of contention can be traced back to ultimately irreconcilable differences between various views of democracy, considerably less is known about the Union’s empirical legitimacy. In spite of the regular Eurobarometer reports, there is little reliable data on what Europeans value about the EU, why they accept or oppose its institutions, and on what criteria they base such assessments. Are different evaluative benchmarks used when people judge the legitimacy of the EU, as opposed to the nation state? Are democratic standards less important compared to output- and performance-oriented criteria? In which relevant respects is the EU seen as doing well, and which aspects of its activities are seen as generating legitimacy problems? In this paper, I argue that the most promising way to answer these questions is to focus on the construction and transformation of legitimacy in public discourse. In other words, the dominant strand of empirical legitimacy research in the EU – public opinion surveys such as the Eurobarometer – should be complemented by an approach that focuses on political communication (see also Schneider, Nullmeier and Hurrelmann 2007). After sketching how a focus on communication might help to alleviate some of the deficiencies of existing research on the EU’s empirical legitimacy (Section 2), I apply this approach in a study of British and German media debates surrounding EU enlargement, the Draft Constitution, and the 2004 election to the European Parliament (Sections 2 to 4). The paper yield insights into the construction of legitimating and delegitimating arguments about EU institutions, as well as into the ways in which these are related to evaluations of the member states.
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