The Europeanization of National Debates and the (Re-)Nationalization of Public Spheres

Mr. Jan Erik Kermer

Europeanization has widely been understood as a process that will eventually foster a European identity. It was expected that the increasing coverage of EU affairs in national public spheres would eventually lead to a greater sense of European belonging. The digital age was expected to accelerate this process. However, these expectations do not square with the current political climate of identity politics, revitalization of nationalism and relative success of authoritarian populists. Against this backdrop, my project aims to explore whether the Europeanization of national debates in online newspapers have contributed to the renationalization of national public spheres. In particular, my PhD project asks the following three questions: firstly, does national media coverage of EU affairs increase the salience of national identity and national channels of representation? Secondly, which actors benefit from an increasingly Europeanized debate? Thirdly, do national public spheres display within-country similarities (or differences) in their reporting of EU affairs? My expectation is that the salience of national objects and symbols of identity will increase with the increasing coverage of EU affairs, particularly in the tabloid press. Furthermore, I expect ‘Traditional-Authoritarian-Nationalist’ (TAN) political parties to benefit from the Europeanization of national debates vis-à-vis national debates. I also expect there to be discernible differences within countries on their coverage of EU affairs, reflecting the polarization of European integration within political parties. In order to address these questions, I will employ the method of claims-analysis of one broadsheet and one tabloid online outlet on four EU member states – the UK, Poland, Italy and Germany - during the 2014 and 2019 European Elections. In this way, I can also observe changes, pre- and post- Brexit, on the national public spheres. In this paper, Section I will argue why the public sphere literature is an appropriate theoretical framework to confront the puzzle of re-nationalization in the digital age. Section II will provide a background of the most relevant issues facing public sphere scholars related to the process of re-nationalization. Section III will outline the concepts I wish to use for my project. Lastly, Section IV will provide an overview of my methodology and research design.