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Where is the public in EU foreign policy?

Cristian Nitoiu
The London School of Economics & Political Science
Cristian Nitoiu
The London School of Economics & Political Science
Open Panel

Abstract

This paper tries to reconsider the way the influence of people is conceptualized in relation to foreign policy decision-making processes in democracies. As an entity that that was constructed upon a series of democratic norms and values which at the same time it seeks to externalize, the EU is a explore the influence that people bear on foreign policy. The foreign policy of the EU is commonly considered to be a policy area over which individuals or different groups of individuals – people - do not have influence due the fact that information is withheld from them. Only the public which is well informed about the international agenda has the right and the duty to decide in foreign policy matters. This apparently closed nature of decision-making in EU foreign policy makes the role of media more important than in other policy areas. The general public gets its information about the external relations of the EU only from the media, and more importantly it is only through the public sphere that individuals can make their voices count in the heads of the policy makers. News about the EU’s foreign policy is scarce or almost inexistent from other sources besides the media, making the public sphere both the representative of individuals’ views and the force that shapes them. The empirical focus of this paper is on two recent crucial events in the foreign policy of the EU – the 2009 Copenhagen Summit and the 2008 Russian - Georgian War. This is investigated by looking on how people’s views on these issues are shaped and used by the media to legitimate different foreign policy narratives and practical actions. The sample media includes The Guardian and The