June 7, 2010
This article has been sent to Blogactiv by Dr Dan Luca, expert in EU Communication Techniques.
Successful European integration requires more than the implementation of efficient institutions and the harmonization of national and European policy making. It also involves processes of communication and the appearance of public sphere that allows citizens to get involved in public debates about European politics.
The idea of the public sphere can be traced back to ancient Greece. In ancient Greece, the polis-oikos division existed. Political life took place in the polis; the public sphere existed as a realm of discussion and common action. Citizens were free of productive labor, but their status depended on their role as the head of the oikos, or household. The Greek public sphere was the sphere of freedom and permanence, where distinction and excellence were possible. Nowadays we speak about a public sphere as a social area in which private citizens come together to discuss matters of common concern. In the public sphere a public opinion will eventually be formed.
A public sphere began to emerge in the 18th century through the growth of coffee houses, literary and other societies, voluntary associations, and the growth of the press. Public conversations continue to be most important medium for the development of public knowledge, values, interpretations and self-understanding for change and innovation. Mass media play an essential role in the process of creation of modern public sphere, citizens depend on the media’s information in order to establish their opinion and construct public discourses.
Debates on public spheres mostly concern whether the European Union has its own public sphere or not and whether it is possible to talk about a pan-European public sphere independent of individual states or a European public sphere as a result of the Europeanization of the national public spheres.
The growing interests in the EU might also be fostered precisely out of the lack of transparency and accountability of the system. Empirically, we observe that citizens today can find more discussions of EU matters in quality newspapers than 20 years ago following the increase of competencies of the EU.
According to the relevant authors, a pan-European public sphere requires the existence of a common language in which EU citizens can communicate with one another, the existence of mass media with EU-wide reach and the existence of uniform journalistic and media culture in all EU states.
A communicative space (or spaces) in which relatively unconstrained debate can take place is a vital ground for democracy. It has become increasingly relevant to discuss whether there could be a European public sphere. Traditionally, political theory and media theory have conceived of communicative spaces and public spheres in terms of what goes on inside nation states.
The introduction of EURO has introduced a symbol of Europeans into the everyday lives of a wide audience, and therefore the argument concerning the public’s detachment from European policies may no longer be as valid as it used to be.
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