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Environmental Activism, Rhetorical Struggle and the Political Controversy over the Rospuda River Valley in Poland

Julia Szulecka
Universitetet i Oslo
Open Panel

Abstract

Are environmental norms uniform in the EU and if yes – how does that happen? This article demonstrates the process through which norms are transnationally enforced in Europe. It also engages in a theoretical discussion with constructivist research on normative change, arguing for the need to take domestic agency, as well as local ideational structures, into account while also questioning the usefulness of the concept of “socialization” and the notion of “norm diffusion” in the debate on Europeanization. Instead, normative change could be perceived as the empowerment of certain norms and values at the cost of others. A four stage model of norm empowerment is developed, utilizing the mechanism of rhetorical coercion, and tested on the case of a recent environmental controversy over the preservation of the Rospuda river valley in Poland. It is argued that normative change on the level of domestic discourses can be observed and analyzed parallel to the rhetorical practices of societal actors. Mobilization and contestation thus resembles electoral campaigns, and framing, rhetorical coercion as well as entrapment are the most important mechanisms in play, while the EU can be seen as a stabilizer of the normative “status quo” which is the result of the conflict.