The History of the European Union: Origins of a Trans- and Supranational Polity 1950-72

By Wolfram Kaiser; Brigitte Leucht et al. | Go to book overview

7   Transnational communication
in the European public sphere
The summit of The Hague 1969

Jan-Henrik Meyer

Historians have only recently begun to take note of the debate on the European public sphere and have started inquiring into its history. Remarkably, historians from cultural and social history rather than from European integration history proper first devoted attention to this question.1 Issues of European politics in a broader sense have already been intensely discussed at earlier moments of European crises, when ad hoc European public spheres emerged temporarily.2 In the postwar period, for the first time, there was an institutional addressee for a political public sphere.3 Such a European public sphere can be characterized as a sphere of communication for mediating between European citizens and the institutions of the European political system, which is a key precondition for democratic governance. It is in the public sphere, and mainly via the media, that citizens learn and form an opinion about the European Union (EU). At the same time, by observing the European public sphere, European policy-makers find out what Europeans think and expect of the EU.4

Social science research on the European public sphere has mainly focused on comparative media analyses. These analyses take the synchronous reporting of (European) issues, that is ‘the same topics at the same time at the same level of relevance’ as an indication of a European public sphere.5 While this line of research has shown that in recent years Europeans have been discussing the same EU issues,6 it does not provide direct evidence of transnational communication. Yet, only such evidence has the potential to demonstrate that European affairs are not discussed separately in closed national public spheres. In order to elicit to what extent the European public sphere is in fact integrated across borders, researchers have to devise ways for examining transnational communication.7 Transnational exchanges are difficult to trace in national media, as journalists usually do not acknowledge their sources. Such exchanges, therefore, remain often invisible, taking place by what Jürgen Habermas calls ‘osmotic diffusion’.8 Analyzing the European summit at The Hague in December 1969, this chapter will inquire into different aspects of transnational interaction in the European public sphere, attempting to make visible what usually goes unnoticed.

First, journalists covering European topics interact and mediate across borders and are pivotal cultural brokers in the transnational integration of the European public sphere. These journalists participate in professional and social networks,

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