Rethinking Community

Discourse, Identity and Citizenship in the European Union

by Giuditta Caliendo (Author)
©2018 Monographs 260 Pages
Series: Linguistic Insights, Volume 188


Despite the undeniably impressive achievements of the EU, forms of resistance to the European integration process remain strong in numerous quarters. Drawing upon a theoretical framework centred on the dimension of discourse as social practice, this book takes the literature on EU discourse a step further by integrating insights from discourse studies with key models derived from the domain of political science. The aim is to explore how recent socio-political transformations have affected the way in which the EU discursively represents itself as a legitimate political entity. The idea behind this cross-disciplinary approach is that discourse theory can contribute to a critical renewal of EU studies by drawing attention to the rhetorical aspects that are constitutive of social structures and identities. The analytical parts of this corpus-assisted study explore the evolution of discursive practices in various EU genres at two disruptive moments in the recent history of European integration: the rejection of the draft EU Constitutional Treaty in France and the Netherlands and the UK referendum on EU membership.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • 1. Communicating Europe to the citizens: which way to challenge the democratic deficit?
  • 1.1 The EU and its citizens: a troubled relationship
  • 1.1.1 What is the EU anyhow?
  • 1.1.2 How to cope with the lack of a common ethnos?
  • 1.1.3 An ever-larger Union?
  • 1.1.4 How ‘distant’ is Brussels?
  • 1.2 The tortuous road to legitimacy
  • 1.2.1 Legitimacy and Eriksen’s logics of polity formation
  • 1.2.2 The EU as a problem-solving entity
  • 1.2.3 The EU as a value-based community
  • 1.2.4 The EU as a rights-based union
  • 1.3 The EU acknowledging its legitimacy deficit
  • 1.3.1 A new communication policy in support of the identity-building process. Initiatives aimed at ‘closing the gap’
  • 1.3.2 The key relation between identity building and democratic accountability
  • 2. The discursive construction of the European Union: theoretical and methodological underpinnings
  • 2.1 Critical Discourse Analysis and the role of discourse in processes of social change
  • 2.2 The European Union through the lens of CDA
  • 2.3 An interdisciplinary perspective on discourse
  • 3. The role of the Europa website in the emergence of new identity values
  • 3.1 Europe: A window of opportunities
  • 3.1.1 A Europe of new values
  • 3.1.2 A Europe of solutions
  • 3.1.3 A Europe of achievements
  • 4. ‘Disseminating’ Europe: the role of EU informative publications
  • 4.1 A longitudinal analysis of EU information booklets: corpus selection and description
  • 4.2 The emergence of new discursive trends: theoretical and methodological perspectives
  • 4.2.1 Agency and accountability
  • 4.2.2 Foregrounding EU’s achievements and successes
  • 4.2.3 Establishing a common legal framework of EU rights
  • 4.2.4 Interdiscursivity and conversationalisation of EU discourse
  • 5. What’s next? ‘Brexit’ and the road ahead
  • 5.1 EU communication policy and Britain’s referendum on EU membership
  • 5.2 Communicating Europe in times of Brexit: Euromyths
  • 5.2.1 The genre of Euromyths blog posts
  • 5.2.2 Euromyths in the run-up to the UK referendum
  • 6. Conclusions
  • References
  • Annexes
  • Index
  • Series index

← 6 | 7 →


I owe my deepest gratitude to Jim Caporaso, Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington, for being exceptionally inspiring during my stay at the University of Washington as a Fulbright Research Scholar. Jim introduced me to the most intricate aspects of EU dynamics, constantly encouraging me to delve into the topic of EU integration and go well beyond the objectives and scope of my research. He tirelessly accompanied me in the hunt for the ‘missing link’ between discourse analysis and political science. What an enriching path it has been!

I am thankful to Sara Budts from the University of Antwerp for her expertise in text mining and big data analysis. I would also like to express my thanks to Chris Piñón and Micaela Jefferies for their precious insights and to Giulia Riccio and Bernard Mills for their precise work as copy editors.

I am also grateful to the (far too) numerous people who guided me through this journey in various, sometimes incidental, ways. Friends, colleagues and sparring partners, you know who you are!

Giuditta Caliendo
University of Lille
CNRS, UMR 8163 Savoirs, Textes, Langage, F-59000 Lille, France ← 7 | 8 →

← 10 | 11 →


[A]ll of institutional reality is created by linguistic representation.
(Searle 2010: 14)

Rethinking Community: Discourse, Identity and Citizenship in the European Union is a book about language and identity, about how through our use of language – our discursive practices – we affect the construction of actors and identities, including transnational and supranational identities. Building on a theoretical framework centred on the dimensions of discourse as social practice (Fairclough 1992; Fairclough/Wodak 1997; Wodak/Fairclough 2010), the central objective of this work is to take the literature on European Union (EU) discourses a step further by exploring, through Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), how recent socio-political transformations in Europe are affecting the way the EU represents itself discursively. There is an insightful explanation of Critical Discourse Analysis in Chapter 2, on Theory and Method, in which the author outlines her basic theoretical approach, establishes the methodology to be used, and identifies the objects of her study. This chapter, interesting in its own right, is also useful as a backdrop for understanding the three empirical chapters – 3, 4, and 5.

The book illuminates the uses of language as a tool and as something to be studied, reflexively, rather than in isolation from one another. There is no duality between observer and observed, between analyst and subject of analysis. Linguistic analysis is the tool. The uses of language – written, oral, pictorial – constitute the subject matter. Each affects the other. As a method, critical discourse analysis is sensitive to both the performative (enabling) aspects of language as well as to the crucial power relations that are inevitably involved. My plan in this introduction is first to set Caliendo’s project in the context of a world more familiar to me, the politics of the EU. It turns out that my world is not so different from that of the linguist. ← 11 | 12 →

My approach will be synoptic rather than chapter by chapter. I will proceed as follows. First, I will provide a broad historical perspective on the project of European integration since the movement to provide a stronger basis in common identity and legitimacy can only be understood with reference to the economic and political developments in the EU. Second, I will attempt to provide a picture of the various phases through which the EU has moved, and continues to move, that is grounded in different types of policy areas. My argument is that different types of policy areas require different kinds and levels of legitimacy. The contemporary phase of integration, dominated by the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) requires a much higher level of legitimacy and common identity than the phase characterised by the making of a free trade area. Third, I will discuss three different usages of language: strategic, persuasive-deliberative, and identitive. This book relies heavily on the deliberative and identitive uses of language, since the EU itself attempts to create a dialogue with its citizens in the hope that it can raise levels of awareness about the EU and enhance attitudes of legitimacy toward it. With this background in place, I will then move to the main contributions of the book.

Historical perspective on European integration. The historical process of European integration is now entering its eighth decade, if we date the beginnings of this process with the announcement of the Marshall Plan in June of 1947. The long sweep of European integration suggests that many (activists and academics) would like to see the EU become a federal state or if the term “state” is too Weberian, then a political system with the capacity to produce many public goods and command legitimacy from citizens. There are many who, while not wanting anything like a traditional state – one that taxes, fights wars, recruits soldiers – nevertheless realise that even market-making on a regional scale is inherently a political project. Banks, corporations, small businesses, and even consumers need to be regulated. Transnational markets for labour and capital are politically controversial and instituting these markets requires collective action, social bargaining, and ongoing regulation and adjudication. And the even bigger questions, those related to jobs and social protections, have to be addressed. ← 12 | 13 →

Jean Monnet, one of the fathers of the movement to unify Europe, talked about taking small steps in order to create the de facto solidarity among citizens, workers, employers and citizens to serve as a foundation for the unification project. What was little noticed was that a Europe of political institutions managing the affairs of the citizens of the member states (not yet “European citizens”) would require some level of legitimacy, if the European construction was to be democratic. Yet, it is precisely here that the European project met a solid obstacle in the form of the existing national identities of the member states. These states – France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg – had experienced serious traumas of war and economic devastation so their faith in national institutions was weakened at the same time that new supranational spaces for their identities had not yet formed. A space, previously occupied by national attitudes, symbols, and practices, was left partly empty. It was into this space that the first European institutions, those associated with the Marshall Plan and the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), entered. From these beginnings the movement toward European unity went forward so that the six members of the ECSC became the core of the twenty-eight (soon to be twenty-seven) members of today’s European Union.

The pace and rhythm of integration were different for economics, politics, and culture. The damage caused by World War II demanded that economic recovery be addressed first. This in turn required decisive action by politicians on both sides of the Atlantic. This action was forthcoming in the Marshall Plan and the cooperative efforts of de Gasperi, Schuman, Spaak, and Adenauer, among others. In short, political and economic cooperation was forthcoming. However, politics and economics ran ahead of culture, attitudes and beliefs. Policies and preferences can change relatively rapidly but basic attitudes and identities, while malleable in the long run, inevitably lag behind. Identities rest on a more stable foundation than preferences, which are situational and highly fluid. As a result, the issue of what level of common identity was needed to support these institutions was not addressed in the early decades of integration. In some ways, identity concerns are only recently coming to the fore. ← 13 | 14 →

No one knew, or could predict, how successful these initial steps would be. I suspect that few thought that less than seventy years from the launching of the ECSC there would be not only a single market, but also common policies on energy, competition, and environment as well as a common currency and a common banking union. Few would have guessed that so many matters of interest would be decided by qualified majority with the European Parliament (EP) playing an important role. In addition, the EU was beset by several crises, including among others Brexit, refugees, terrorism, and a Eurozone currency crisis. These crises, challenging as they are, at the same time suggest how much the people of Europe look to the EU to solve their problems. Joseph Weiler noted very early (1991) in The Transformation of Europe, that Europe, rather than individual states, had become for many issues the presumptive locus of competence and decision making. Weiler observes how naturally the member states of the EU took leadership in the transition of East European countries after the fall of Communism (1991: 2405). Why is it that when challenges emerge in the European setting they are automatically framed as European problems or a European crisis? That the European Union has become the presumptive locus of problem-solving is surely a sign that the EU has become deeply institutionalised. It has become the standard, normal, taken-for-granted level where most problems are addressed. This is true even when the EU is not the obvious choice on functional and efficiency grounds. To be sure sometimes the problems are region-wide (trade, free movement of capital and labour) or exhibit substantial contagion effects, as with the Eurozone crisis. It would be nonsensical to attempt to solve these problems state by state without resorting to “beggar my neighbour” policies characteristic of the interwar period. However, there is no obvious functional reason why many policies, including policies toward refugees and authoritarian movements, cannot be addressed at the national level. In sum, Europe (the EU) is thought of as a locus of problem-solving far in excess of purely functional concerns.1 ← 14 | 15 →

Much the same can be said for centralised taxation and uniform fiscal policies. For many issues, preferences are diverse across countries and there are no large efficiency gains (e.g. few political economies of scale) resulting from multilateral cooperation. Indeed, most of the meaningful responses to the refugee crisis have occurred at the national level. Witness the work of the Italian Coast Guard regarding Mediterranean rescues or the governments of Sweden and Germany in terms of welcoming and integrating refugees. In addition, very few cross-country fiscal transfers have taken place in response to the Eurozone crisis, though one could argue that the Troika2 loans constitute a form of monetary financing. Nevertheless, even without obvious functional arguments for centralisation, there is popular and elite pressure for the EU to respond. Why is this so? Does the tendency to resort to the EU as the natural place to solve problems even before it has been established that problems are region-wide, constitute indirect evidence of an emerging EU identity?3

The phases of EU development. The long and tortuous evolutionary path followed by the EU has had its ups (making of the single market), its downs (Eurozone crisis), and its periods of stasis (euroschlerosis, 1966 to 1985). Nevertheless, the overall trajectory has been decidedly upward. The EU today has 28 members, multiple areas of competence that it did not have in 1958 (environment, justice and home affairs, common foreign and security policy), and more demanding decision-making procedures (qualified majority voting rather than unanimity, co-decision between Council and EP rather than consultation or the cooperation procedure) than it originally possessed. Political and economic integration has moved, erratically at times, in an ← 15 | 16 → upward direction. It is less clear that attitudes and identities have kept pace.

Describing this complex path of development, with all its twists and turns, is no easy task. Yet it is crucial to address the content of integration across time in order to accurately assess the importance of identity and legitimacy. A key part of my argument is that the early (easy) phases of integration, from the fifties to the eighties, did not require a deep reservoir of support, at least compared to what was required in the period after the TEU in 1993. The reason has to do with changes in the content of policy as we move across time. Simplifying heroically, we can divide the sixty odd years of the EU’s past into partly overlapping phases of market-making (regulation), stabilisation, and redistribution. These are three well-known functions of governments. Of course, these are not neat temporal categories. As stated, they overlap. There was some redistribution from the start, evidenced in the common agricultural policy. And some market-making goes on today, as in the market for financial services and intellectual products, both ongoing tasks. Stabilisation politics came to the table late, in attempts by governments at the national and international levels to smooth out the ups and downs of the economic cycle and to rectify the imbalances between the core (Northern) and peripheral (mostly Southern) member states in the Eurozone crisis. Redistribution, which requires the highest level of legitimacy, is still done almost entirely by the member states.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (August)
European Union discourse Discursive approaches to European integration EU information policy EU communication policy Critical Discourse Analysis Legitimation strategies in discourse Interdiscursivity
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2018. 260 pp., 24 fig. col., 11 fig. b/w, 13 tables

Biographical notes

Giuditta Caliendo (Author)

Giuditta Caliendo is Associate Professor of English Language and Translation Studies at the University of Lille, Co-Editor-in-Chief of the I-LanD (Identity, Language and Diversity) Journal and Board member of the PhD programme in Mind, Gender and Language (curriculum Languages, Linguistics and ESP) at the University of Naples Federico II. She is a former Fulbright scholar (University of Washington) and EURIAS fellow (Marie Curie Action). Her research interests lie in legal translation, institutional discourse, language policies, genre analysis and (critical) discourse analysis.


Title: Rethinking Community
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261 pages