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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

The Discursive Construction and Usage of 'Europe' and the EU in European and Domestic Policies

European Union
Workshop Number
Workshop Director
Jörg Baudner
Osnabrück University
Workshop Co-Director
Murat Somer
Koç University

Workshop proposal
The discursive construction and usage of "Europe" and the EU in European and domestic policies

Dr. Jörg Baudner (University of Osnabrueck, Germany)
Associate Professor Dr. Murat Somer (Koc University)

Additional information
This is a re-submission of a proposal which was not selected for this year due to the acceptance of a proposal on discourses in multi-level politics with some similarities. This version highlights the considerable differences. Moreover, a co-applicant is added and the proposal has been sent out to the ECPR standing group on identity. If the SG identity endorses this proposal we will add that information asap. Finally, the suggestion of one reviewer to highlight the differences between conceptions of “Europe” and the EU has been incorporated into the proposal.

Outline of the topic
In recent years, there has been just one ECPR workshop on identity (construction and change) in 2015. Not by coincidence, the EU played a minor role in it as identity is regarded as a concept which is difficult to apply to the EU or “Europe” given the low number of unambiguously committed Europeans among the total population and the prevalence of multiple identities (Katzenstein and Checkel 2009).

However, at an empirical level, conceptions or the self-understanding of the EU have played a significant role in three different areas: (i) Policy-making at the European level has framed and justified policies in terms of an European self-understanding, eg in environmental or human rights politics (Sicurelli and Schijpers 2007). (ii) Debates around the enlargement of the EU, in particular the Turkish bid for EU membership have referred to conceptions of the EU both from the side of EU member states and accession candidates (Schmidt 2008; Minkenburg et al 2012; Sjursen 2008, Macmillan 2013; Baudner 2012). (iii) Most recently, the discourse of Eurosceptic populist parties has combined a cultural understanding of Europe as “the Occident” with a portrayal of the EU as infringing (“European”) norms.

Thus, the EU has in the past often been framed as an “anchor” for domestic reforms, be it in human rights (Checkel 2001) or economic-financial policies (Dyson and Featherstone 2001) and this is one of the discourses in multi-level politics which has been the theme of one workshop at the Joint Sessions 2018. However, the EU is currently increasingly portrayed as a “dystopian entity” (MacMillan, 2017). We hold that the academic debate has so far not sufficiently addressed the increasing amount of “negative” references to the European Union both from inside as well as outside of the EU. Another point to address is the difference between constructions of “Europe” and the “European Union” and one claim of populist parties is that the European Union itself challenges what are considered to be fundamental European norms and values (MacMillan, 2017).

The workshop aims to combine the empirical analysis sketched above with the ongoing “theory-building” in this area. In our view, two major theoretical approaches to studying the discursive construction of conceptions of the EU have developed. The first has used the concept of “othering” in the building of a self-understanding of the EU, i.e. the juxtaposition of a EU “self” with an “other”, be it “Islamic fundamentalism, US unilateralism, [or] East Asian competition” (Katzenstein and Checkel 2009: 211). More generally, representations of the Other have produced counter-narratives of the self (Hall 2001: 104); in which the other may be constructed as a threat, as inferior, as neutral or even as superior (and universally valid). Moreover, the self might also be constructed as other (Diez 2006, Manners 2007).

The second approach has aimed to distinguish between normative, pragmatic and ethical-political conceptions of the EU (Schmidt 2008; Minkenburg et al 2012; Sjursen 2008). These conceptions have been attributed a core role in enlargement negotiations as they have justified either its acceptance or refusal (and had been laid down by the EU in the Copenhagen criteria). Obviously, all these conceptions are themselves open to “othering”.

The workshop aims to gather case studies of the “discursive constructions” of conceptions of the EU by different actors. We can imagine two forms of case studies. One form of case studies constructs the conception of the EU as independent variable and analyzes the repercussions on policy-making. For instance, it has been claimed that the preeminent conception in a particular member state of the EU leads to a particular attitude to intercultural integration (Ruiz and Torrebianca 2007; MacMillan 2013). An alternative approach has argued that conceptions of the EU or “Europe” can be discursively constructed and changed according to political strategies. Thus, the adoption of particular conceptions of the EU might well be treated as a dependent variable and this holds true for EU member states as well as for candidate states (Baudner 2012).

Accordingly, we are particularly (but not only) interested in work which is related to an innovative combination of constructivist and rational choice frameworks, of what has been termed by Jabko as “strategic constructivism” based on the insight that “in any given policy area, the parties involved must resort to ideas to articulate and advance their interests” (Jabko 2006:8). Thus, conceptions of the EU might serve strategic purposes in the domestic political arena; strategic action in multi-level politics can refer to EU policies for cognitive usage (framing policies), strategic usage (to overcome domestic constraints or create external constraints) or legitimating usage (Woll and Jacquot 2010). One major point of interest here is the domestic usage of “negative” references to the EU.

Thus, the workshop aims to attract papers which will (i) analyze conceptions of the EU or “Europe” and/or (ii) analyze how conceptions of the EU influence policy preferences but also (iii) how actors use conceptions of the EU to advance domestic aims. We are particularly interested in analyses from the perspective of candidate countries or the countries of eastern enlargement and their portrayal of the European Union as well as of Eurosceptic movements in the member states of the European Union.

Relation to existing research:

Conceptions of the EU: Schmidt 2008; Minkenburg et al 2012; Sjursen 2008
Othering as form of identity building: Diez 2005, Manners 2006, Hall 2001
Conceptions of the EU from the outside: Baudner 2012; MacMillan 2013, see contributions in Journal of Contemporary European Studies 2016, Issue 1; South European Society and Politics 2016, Issue 1

See references

Likely participants:

Applicants for the workshop are likely to come from scholars interested in discursive constructions of Europe/the EU and its “Others”, and how they produce or are produced by political strategies. Within this context, the focus may be on discourse from within the EU institutions, EU political parties (including populist parties), or candidate countries, in addition to media depictions of the EU and/or candidate countries.

Potential participants include those whose work focuses on discursive constructions of the EU and/or candidate countries, including scholars of Euroscepticism such as Christopher Gifford (University of Huddersfield) or Karine Tournier-Sol, conceptions of the EU from the point of view of candidate countries such as Senem Aydın-Düzgit (Sabanci University), Cathy MacMillan (Yedetepe University) or those who focus on discursive self-conceptions of the EU/Europe vis-à-vis its Others including Selcen Öner (Bahçeşehir University) and Beyza Tekin (Galatasaray University), Paul T. Levin (Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies (SUITS) and Umut Korkut (Glasgow Caledonian University).

The workshop aims to contribute to the dialogue and exchange between scholars working on “mild” or “strategic constructivist approaches”, including to maintain the academic relations with Turkish scholars.

Type of Papers requested:

The workshop is likely to appeal to authors who have focused on discursive approaches to conceptions of the EU and/or to its self-understanding. These approaches may include, but are certainly not limited to, forms of critical discourse analysis, conceptions of the EU based on Habermasian theory, or forms of discourse analysis which focus on the link between state/national identity and conceptions of Europe/the EU.

Of particular interest would be papers which analyze the changes in conceptions of the EU by political parties with a view to the instrumental usage of conceptions of the EU.

Biographical notes:

Dr. Jörg Baudner is an Assistant Professor at the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence in European Studies at the University of Osnabrück. He has worked on the Europeanisation of regional policies in Germany and Italy and the Europeanisation of Turkish politics highlighting in both cases the domestic “usage” of European policies. He is currently working on comparing former confessional parties, esp. Christian democrats in Germany and Italy and the Turkish AKP. He has published (among others) in the Journal of European Public Policy, the Journal of Common Market Studies and Comparative European Politics.

Dr. Murat Somer is an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Koç University specializing in comparative politics and political economy. he was a Democracy and Development fellow at Princeton University in 2010-2011, a Senior Visiting Scholar at Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies in 2013, and a visiting scholar and an associate of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University in 2016-2017. His research addresses issues related to democratization and authoritarianism, identity constrictions and political behavior, social and political polarization, ethnic conflicts and nationalism, and religious and secular politics. Vis-à-vis identity issues, his research is particularly focused on the intended and unintended social and political consequences of the specific ways in which political actors construct political identities. His writings appeared in books, book volumes and journals such as Comparative Political Studies, Democratization, and the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.


Funding for Dr. Baudner’s and Assoc. Prof. Somers participation in the workshop would be provided by the two institutions they are affiliated with.


Baudner, J. (2012) The Politics of ‘Norm Diffusion’ in Turkish European Union Accession Negotiations: Why It was Rational for an Islamist Party to be ‘Pro-European’ and a Secularist Party to be ‘Anti-European” Journal of Common Market Studies 50, (6), 922-943
Checkel, J.T (2001) Why Comply? Social Learning and European Identity Change, International Organization 55 (3), 553 588
Checkel, J.T. and P.J. Katzenstein (2009), European identity. Cambridge: Cambrige University Press
Diez, T. (2005) Constructing the Self and Changing Others: Reconsidering ‘Normative Power Europe’. Millenum: Journal of International Studies, 33(3), 613-636.
Jabko, N. (2006), Playing the market. A political strategy for uniting Europe, 1985-2005, Cornell, Cornell University Press
MacMillan, C. (2013) Discourse, identity and the question of Turkish accession to the EU: Through the Looking Glass. Surrey: Ashgate
MacMillan, C. (2017) "Reversing the Myth? Dystopian Narratives of the EU in UKIP and Front National Discourse", Journal of Contemporary European Studies
Manners, I. (2006) The European Union as a Normative Power: A Response to Thomas Diez. Millenium: Journal of International Studies, 35(1),167-180.
Minkenberg, M. (2010) "Party politics, religion and elections in Western democracies", Comparative European Politics, 8,4, 385- 414
Ruiz-Jimenez, Antonia and Jose Torreblanca (2007), European Public Opinion and Turkey’s Accession: Making Sense of Arguments For and Against, European Policy Institutes Network Working Papers (16), [Accessed 9.10.2009]
Schmidt, Vivien (2009), ‘Envisioning a Less Fragile, More Liberal Europe’, European Political Science vol. 8 no.2, 212-224
Sjursen, Helene (2008), "Enlargement in Perspective: The EU’s Quest for Identity", Arena Working Papers no.5.
Scheipers and Sicurelli (2007) "Normative power Europe: a credible utopia?" Journal of Common Market Studies 45 (2), 435–457
Woll. C. and S. Jaquot (2010), "Using Europe: Strategic action in multi-level politics" Comparative European Politics 8 (1), 110-126.

Paper List

Title Details
‘When Attraction Turns Mad’ – The ‘Symbolic Power’ of Regional Integration in The EU-Russia Contested Neighbourhood View Paper Details
Counter-Conduct and the Europeanisation Discourse in Turkey View Paper Details
Debating Europe in Parliaments: a Multilevel Perspective View Paper Details
De-Europeanisation through Securitisation: Discursive Framings of Europe and EU Values in Turkey View Paper Details
Discursive Europeanisation: Ideas, Entrepreneurs and Consensus in Turkish Water Policy View Paper Details
'Love Europe, Hate the EU': A Genealogical Inquiry into Populists’ Spatio-Cultural Critique of the EU and its Consequences View Paper Details
Non-Elite Conceptions of Europe: Europe as a Reference Frame in English Football Fan Discussions View Paper Details
Savior of Europe, Foe of the EU – Illiberal Populist Discourse in Hungary View Paper Details
The Discursive Construction of EU Democracy: Discourse Network Analysis of the EU’s Struggle for Self-Understanding as a Post-National Community and a System of Governance View Paper Details
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