Volume 12, No 3

February 10, 2021

Editors’ introduction to the Special Issue


Changing realities, changing narratives? A narrative reading of EU perceptions in a changing Europe.

Changing realities, changing narratives? A narrative reading of EU perceptions in a changing Europe.

Pauline Heinrichs

What kind of Europe the EU seeks to be, how it perceives itself and how it seeks to enact this Europe is a highly contentious issue and has powerful political stakes attached to its construction and realisation. This paper is specifically interested in how crises can constitute a compounded and expanded space for agency of political actors to forge identity narratives of the future. This paper draws on speeches by EC officials from 16 July 2019 to 7 July 2020, while coding along four analytical markers for crises as identified by Filip Ejdus (2020, p. 2, italics in original): “existence, finitude, relations and autobiography”. This article finds that while actors seek to create space for political agency by writing a moment of existential (external) crises to the EU’s project, they appear less equipped to use this moment politically. In this way, they co-construct a space potentially open to political creativity, but fail to fill this space with political creativity as to the future of the autobiographical narrative.

Article Keywords: ontological security, crisis, strategic narratives, temporality, uncertainty, European Union

On its path to become ‘North European’: political climate change narrative in Latvia


The European Green Deal is the European Union’s latest expression of its ambition to become a world leader in addressing climate change. This study seeks to examine how Latvia – an EU member state – deals with the change brought about by a changing climate and the EU’s response to it. Informed by a strategic narrative approach, this study demonstrates that Latvia – originally hesitant to address climate change – has rebranded and repositioned itself as an active promoter of carbon neutrality, meanwhile constructing an identity narrative of Latvia as a pragmatic and reliable EU partner by embracing an image of a North European country at the government level. The narrative seeks to appeal to a Nordic life-style and resonates with levels of social welfare that Latvia aspires to achieve. By exploring how EU member states construct identity narratives around the EU’s institutional constraints, this study adds the dimension of narratives and perceptions to processes of Europeanisation.

Article Keywords: climate change, Europeanisation, Latvia, strategic narrative

Framing the EU and the Green Deal in Estonia: A reluctant balancing act


As the new government incorporating the populist EKRE party took office in Estonia in spring 2019, concerns emerged about Estonia’s long-standing policy outlook of strong Euro-Atlantic integration. Other coalition members had to balance EKRE’s policy positions, which manifested in contradictory statements and vague decisions. Analysing the Estonian government’s rhetoric about the EU, this paper reveals how the government in its first year in office framed the European Union (EU). The Green Deal, or the EU’s target of achieving climate neutrality by 2050, emerged as one of the cross-cutting topics in the discourse, but the pragmatic rhetoric employed by ministers and the conflict between values and actions raises questions about the motivations of the government, and therefore results in what is termed as ‘reluctant’ Europeanisation.

Article Keywords: EU perceptions; Europeanisation; Estonia; Green Deal; populism

Europe in local news


Local newspapers are rarely in the focus of research on the European public sphere. However, due to their various democratic functions, they should not be neglected and may help to build a European public sphere. This article presents the results of an in-depth study of local newspapers by asking: a) How and to what extent can local newspapers contribute to the construction of a European public sphere by Europeanisation of the local public through reporting on the EU? b) Which factors have an effect on how local newspapers report on EU topics? This paper synthesises theories and models of the European public to develop hypotheses, which are then tested in interviews with six local German journalists. It finds that local newspapers can promote the emergence of a European public sphere and that news factors, resources, individual attitudes and editorial frameworks do have an impact on their EU reporting.

Article Keywords: EU reporting, European public sphere, Europeanisation, local/regional News, local journalists, local public, Germany

The EU and national sovereignty: the encounter of two concepts of sovereignty. Change or continuity?


The article aims to examine and critically evaluate the idea of sovereignty and the nuances of its verbal expression through the concept of strategic narratives, to reveal different models of sovereignty within the context of European Union Member States (mainly France, Hungary/Poland) and the European Union (EU) since 2017. The article seeks to answer the following questions: What idea of sovereignty has been projected to the public in selected European countries and the EU by their political actors since 2017? What model, functional limits and narratives do actors forge?

Article Keywords: EU, sovereignty, EU member states, France, Hungary, Poland

Facing a ‘civilisational choice’: Images of Europe by the populist radical right in the 2019 European elections


This paper deals with the perceptions of Europe as developed by the European populist radical right over the campaign for the 2019 European Parliament elections. The study is based on the public communications of three leading political parties in this spectrum: France’s Rassemblement national, Italy’s Lega and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland. By applying image theory in international relations, the paper comes to the conclusion that the radical right managed to construct a relatively coherent image of the EU as a distant undemocratic actor in sharp contrast to the alternative narrative of one ‘Europe of fatherlands’ described in mostly civilisational terms.

Article Keywords: alternative narratives, civilisationism, Europe, image theory, populist radical right