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In the audio-visual sector, the bilingual, French—German television channel Arte is already more plausible, though still aimed at a notionally supranational public. A real advance would be for national media to cover the substance of relevant controversies in the other countries, so that all the national public opinions converged on the same range of contributions to the same set of issues, regardless of their origin.

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This is what happens temporarily—if only for a few days—before and after the summits of the European Council, when the heads of the member states come together and deal with issues of equal perceived relevance for citizens across Europe. The fact that these multiple, horizontal flows of communication have to pass through the filters of translation does not reduce their essential significance.

Within the present Union of fifteen members there are thirteen different, officially recognized languages. This constitutes at first glance an embarrassing obstacle to the formation of a shared polity for all. The official multilingualism of EU institutions is necessary for the mutual recognition of the equal worth and integrity of all national cultures. However, under the veil of this legal guarantee it becomes all the easier to use English as a working language at face-to-face level, wherever the parties lack another common idiom.

The generation of a European public opinion depends on the vital inputs of actors within a European civil society. At the same time, a European-wide public sphere needs to be embedded in a political culture shared by all. The global spread of modern science and technology, of Roman law and the Napoleonic Code, of human rights, democracy and the nation-state started from Europe as well.

The Limits of the European Public Sphere

Let me therefore mention two more specific experiences of our countries that resonate still in the rather remarkable responses they have evoked. For Europe has, more than any other culture, faced and overcome structural conflicts, sharp confrontations and lasting tensions, in the social as well as in the temporal dimension.

In the social dimension, modern Europe has developed institutional arrangements for the productive resolution of intellectual, social and political conflicts. In the course of painful, if not fatal struggles, it has learnt how to cope with deep cleavages, schisms and rivalries between secular and ecclesiastical powers, city and countryside, faith and knowledge, and how to get along with endemic conflicts between militant religious confessions and belligerent states.

Why Europe Needs a Constitution

In the temporal dimension, modern Europe has institutionalized a comprehensive spectrum of competing conservative, liberal and socialist interpretations of capitalist modernization, in an ideological system of political parties. These are dispositions that act as a spur to critical reflection on our own blind spots, and to a de-centering of selective perspectives. They are not in contradiction with the well-taken—and only too deserved—critique of our aggressive colonial and Eurocratic past; the critique of Eurocentrism itself emerges from a continuing self-criticism.

The secularization of the egalitarian and individualist universalism that informs our normative self-understanding is not the least among the achievements of modern Europe. The fact that the death penalty is still practised elsewhere—even in the United States—reminds us of some specific features of our heritage:. The Council of Europe with the European Convention of Human Rights, and its European Social Charter, have transformed Europe into an area of human rights, more specific and more binding than in any other area of the world. The clear and general European support for International Crimes Tribunal, again in contrast to US fears, is also in the same line.

What forms the common core of a European identity is the character of the painful learning process it has gone through, as much as its results. It is the lasting memory of nationalist excess and moral abyss that lends to our present commitments the quality of a peculiar achievement. This historical background should ease the transition to a post-national democracy based on the mutual recognition of the differences between strong and proud national cultures. Today, moreover, the European nation-states are being brought together by the challenges which they all face equally.

All are in the process of becoming countries of immigration and multicultural societies. All are exposed to an economic and cultural globalization that awakes memories of a shared history of conflict and reconciliation—and of a comparatively low threshold of tolerance towards exclusion. This new awareness of what Europeans have in common has found an admirable expression in the EU Charter of Basic Rights. The Charter goes beyond this limited view, articulating a social vision of the European project.

Taking it as a premise that a European Constitution is both feasible and desirable, let me finish with a few remarks on some problems to do with its design. Compared with the presidential regime of the USA, a European Union of nation-states would have to display the following general features:.

The political substance of a European Constitution would consist of a definite answer to the issue of the territorial boundaries of the Union, and a not-too-definite answer to the question of how competences are to be distributed between federal and national institutions. For the time being, we might differentiate between a centre and a periphery, depending on the pace and degree of integration. The embattled delimitation of what is to be reserved for executive authorities, what is up for co-legislation and what remains in the competence of national legislatures must certainly be settled in broad outline from the beginning.

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But this part of the organizational nucleus of the Constitution should be kept open for revisions at fixed dates, so that we can learn from unanticipated consequences within a stable framework. Such a temporalization of essential clauses squares with the idea of a democratic constitution as an ever more exhaustive realization of a system of basic rights under changing historical circumstances. But the wider the differences—in size of territory and population, economic weight and level of development, political power and cultural form of life or collective identity—between these constituent units, the greater the danger that majority decisions at the higher instances will violate the principles of equal protection and mutual recognition of diversity.

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Structural minorities limit the range of valid majority decisions. In such situations, legitimacy can only be secured on the condition that some areas are reserved for consensual negotiations. As we know from countries like Switzerland or the Netherlands, however, consensual procedures suffer from a lack of transparency.

Here European-wide referenda would give citizens broader opportunities and more effective means to participate in the shaping of policies. Some minor suggestions are worth consideration. It would help to overcome the legitimation deficit, and to strengthen the connexions between the federal legislature and national arenas, either if certain members of the European Parliament at the same time held seats in their respective national parliaments, or if the largely neglected Conference of European Affairs Committee which has met twice a year since could reanimate horizontal debate between national parliaments and so help to prompt a re-parliamentarization of European politics.

Habermas: The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere

To meet this problem, Ingo Pernice has suggested transforming the present Committee of Regions into a chamber that would give sub-national state actors a stronger influence on EU policies, and thereby facilitate the enforcement of European law on the ground. For European unification to move forward, however, there still remains a vacant space which would have to be filled by the political will of competent actors.

The overwhelming majority of the population that is currently resistant or hesitant can only be won for Europe if the project is extricated from the pallid abstraction of administrative measures and technical discourse: in other words, is politicized. Intellectuals have not picked up this ball. Still less have politicians wanted to burn their fingers with such an unpopular topic.

But it is Jospin who has pointed out that no reform of procedures and institutions can succeed before the content of the political project behind it becomes clearer. The markedly national orientation of the Bush Administration can be regarded as an opportunity for the EU to define a more distinctive foreign and security policy towards the conflicts in the Middle East and the Balkans, and relations with Russia and China.


Differences that are coming more into the open in environmental, military and juridical fields contribute to a soundless strengthening of European identity. Still more important is the question of what role Europe wishes to play in the Security Council and, above all, in world economic institutions. Contrasting justifications of humanitarian intervention, not to speak of basic economic outlooks, divide the founder states of the EU from Great Britain and Scandinavia.

But it is better to bring these smouldering conflicts out into the open than to let the EU splinter over dilemmas that remain unresolved. In any case, a Europe of two or three speeds is preferable to one that breaks up or crumbles away. With this kind of cooperation, a group of states that has always been indispensable could once again give new impetus to the construction of Europe. Since diplomacy is at an impasse, open political controversy over the direction in which the EU should develop can only be of benefit. All sides, however, can agree that delimitation of the competences of federal, national and regional levels is the core political issue to be settled by any European constitution.

Jurgen Habermas Why Europe Needs a Constitution T here is a remarkable contrast between the expectations and demands of those who pushed for European unification immediately after World War II, and those who contemplate the continuation of this project today—at the very least, a striking difference in rhetoric and ostensible aim.

An ever-closer union?

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  6. Globalization and social solidarity Economic globalization, whether we interpret it as no more than an intensification of long-range trends or as an abrupt shift towards a new transnational configuration of capitalism, shares with all processes of accelerated modernization some disquieting features. Normative appeals Such arguments do not undermine, however, the general thesis that national governments, whatever their internal profiles, are increasingly entangled in transnational networks, and thereby become ever more dependent on asymmetrically negotiated outcomes.

    Positive coordination So far national governments have retained most of their competencies for cultural, economic and social policies, while they have transferred their monetary sovereignty to an independent and supposedly unpolitical institution, the European Central Bank. Buy eBook. Buy Hardcover. FAQ Policy. About this book The disconnection between the institutions of the EU and the people of Europe has often been attributed to the existence of a communication gap resulting from the failure of national medias and politicians to convey the importance of the EU.

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