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Fostering democracy through the European Public Sphere

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

Abstract

This paper explores the way in which the creation of a coherent European public sphere could foster the democratic norms and values on which the EU is predicated upon, and which it seeks to externalize. The European public sphere is taught off as the result of two complementary processes: collective identification and discursive exchange (Sifft et al.). Both these processes are dynamic in nature and have to be assessed according to their historicity - for example through various social interactions mitigated by the sum of discursive exchange within the EU might eventually transform the latter into a coherent set of discursive practices. In relation to the former mechanism, collective identification, it is worth noting that the emergence of a European public sphere based on a common identity must be seen as indispensable for the normative development of the Union, and thus for the assurance that multi-level governance within its institution takes into account the views of the general public. However, many scholars have underlined the absence not just of a common identity that would transcend the narrowness of national interests, and that even the political will that could forge such a collective identity is no more than rhetorical (Hyde-Price, Moravcsik, Zielonka ). Member states and their polities are seen in these studies as being rational egoists who only support common EU foreign policy approaches when they do not collide with their national interests. These arguments cast doubt over the possibility of a functional European public sphere that could deepen the European democratic culture, and give strength to the endeavor of this paper of exploring the role of the emergence of a coherent public sphere in the fostering of European democracy.