It is claimed by many that the EU is not working as a unified and strong player in controversial issues. This is usually explained by the fact that the countries are too different from each other and that they lack shared values and a common language.
“Shared values are no precondition for democracy. On the contrary, without differences in values we would hardly need a public conversation. What is needed for a functioning democracy is arenas for political debate, and we have those,” says Maximilian Conrad.
Maximilian Conrad has analyzed more than 600 German and Swedish press articles from the debate about the EU’s constitutional treaties, including the Treaty of Lisbon. The study shows that daily newspapers play a very active role when it comes to creating arenas for public conversation: they bring in foreign speakers and perspectives and actively comment on gambits from other countries. He chose to focus his study on dailies because they constitute the most important forum for the public conversation and are the ones who largely establish the agenda for political debate.
Regarding the debate surrounding the Lisbon Treaty, however, there are clear differences between what left- and right-leaning newspapers choose to highlight: while socialist and liberal papers focus on the democratic aspects of the constitution, conservative papers choose to stress what the process entails in terms of the independence of the nation state.
“It’s is interesting that the cross-border political debate functions even in conservative newspapers that often claim that democracy can only function within the nation state,” says Maximilian Conrad, who points out that it is not only domestic but perhaps primarily foreign players that are quoted in the pages of newspapers.