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A European Public Sphere?

Open seminar arranged by AU IDEAS Pilot Centre The Democratic Public Sphere

26.02.2014 | Betina Ramm

Dato fre 09 maj
Tid 09:00 12:30
Sted Langelandsgades Kaserne, Langelandsgade 139, building 1586, room 114



09.00: Welcome and introduction


09.10: Birte Siim, Aalborg University:
Negotiating Gender and Diversity in an Emergent European Public Sphere


10.10: Pause


10.25: Hans-Jörg Trenz, Universitety of Copenhagen:
Towards a new structural transformation of the public sphere: from subaltern online publics to online mass publics


11.25: General discussion


It is a widespread point of view that the EU suffers from a democratic deficit. Commonly, the cause of this deficit is sought in the relationship between the institutions of the Union where the democratically elected Parliament in terms of power is overshadowed by the non-elected institutions, the Council of Ministers and the Commission.

The focus of this seminar, however, is different. It investigates the question to what extent and in which sense it appears plausible to speak of a European public sphere. Has the strengthening of the Parliament due to innovations of the Treaty in recent year contributed to the emergence of a public debate and opinion formation on the level of the EU? Or should we rather expect the NGO’s, representing various civic concerns and citizens’ interests and lobbying to influence the policy making of the EU, to be the embryonic forms of a European public sphere that might contest the democratic deficit? Or, is the perspective of a possible European public sphere, on the contrary, represented by non-established, decentralized and transnational grassroots movements such as Occupy Wall Street or the popular protest movements that developed in the Eurozone in the aftermath of the financial crisis?

Furthermore, the absence of a European citizen identity, of a European demos, is frequently referred to as a key explanation of the democratic deficit and the weak public debate on the level of the EU. Is this a reasonable diagnosis? And if so, how might a European demos be created? Which role might the mass media play? And the social media? How might the common everyday life experiences and learning processes be established that would presumably be necessary in order to open citizens’ identifications towards the European level?

This is the type of questions that we would like to discuss at this seminar.