Conditions for a European Public Sphere

University essay from Lunds universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: A concern about the democratic legitimacy of the European Union is a frequent topic when discussing European integration. How can democratic principles be withheld when political power is delegated from the nation-state to a supranational level? Can democracy be secured beyond the nation-state? This thesis derives from a deliberative perspective, which emphasises the need for debate in democratic societies. From a deliberative perspective, the debate about the legitimacy of the European Union has had the wrong focus. From this view, the problem cannot be solved primarily trough the institutions. The solution is not of an institutional character but the development of a fundamental ingredient of democratic politics: a viable public sphere. The aim of this thesis is therefore to contribute to this research by assessing the conditions for the development of a European public sphere. This study focuses on opinion-makers capacity to affect the nature of the debate, specifically the role of political parties. The starting point is that political parties in their role of opinion-makers can affect the nature of the debate by how the EU is conceptualized. Using idealtypes, an analytical framework is developed and applied to Swedish political parties election platforms and manifestos in the 2009 European Parliament Election. The analysis shows that there are two various conceptualisations of the EU among the Swedish political parties. Based on the assumption that these conceptualisations affect the incentives for transnational debate I conclude through these results that there are obstacles for this to occur.

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