Skip to main content

Did the Eurozone crisis undermine the European Union’s legitimacy? An analysis of newspaper reporting, 2009–2014

Abstract

The Eurozone financial crisis was widely seen as a challenge to the legitimacy of the European Union (EU). It raised concerns about the quality of its policy outputs, the democratic character of its decision-making, and the EU’s willingness to respect its own legal framework. This article examines how the legitimacy dimension of the crisis was reflected in media discourse. Using methods of political claims analysis, it studies newspaper reporting in four Eurozone states (Germany, Austria, Spain, and Ireland) between 2009 and 2014. It inquires whether the Eurozone crisis led to an increase in discourse that explicitly challenged the legitimacy of the EU and assesses which discourse constellations were particularly likely to result in de-legitimation. The analysis shows that there was no dramatic erosion of legitimacy in media discourse. EU-related reporting was dominated by statements from EU and member-state executives and largely had a technocratic focus, until the outcome of the 2014 European Parliament election made popular discontent with the EU impossible to ignore.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Notes

  1. Legitimacy crises may also originate from other factors, most importantly institutional reform (Hurrelmann et al. 2009). The sequence model developed here focuses only on legitimacy crises that are triggered by public policy.

  2. The study followed the Europub project in excluding statements that attribute opinions to political actors without explicit discursive evidence. Also excluded were statements that merely reported facts, were speculative, or made predictions for the future. In contrast to the Europub project, we did not treat political decisions (the legislature passing a law, etc.) or physical actions (arson against an asylum seekers’ residence, etc.) as claims unless they were accompanied by the explicit expression of a political opinion.

  3. Articles were drawn from the databases FAZ BiblioNet (for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) and Factiva (for all other papers). Our automatic search used the terms ‘eu or europ* or eurozone’ on all articles published in the selected time periods.

  4. The coding was performed by four extensively trained coders, including the authors of this article. The codebook, which includes a number of variables not used in this article, is available at https://carleton.ca/jmcdemocracy/wp-content/uploads/Hurrelmann-Baglioni-Gora-Wagner-Codebook-Eurozone-Crisis.pdf. We conducted inter-coder reliability tests for all stages of the analysis: for the selection of articles, our reliability test examined a sample of 100 automatically preselected articles; for the identification of claims within articles, we examined 20 relevant articles; and for the coding, we examined a sample of 20 claims. All reliability tests yielded satisfactory results. The values of Krippendorff’s α were 0.76 for article selection and 0.75 for claim identification. For the coding of claims, at the level of aggregation reported in this article, Krippendorff’s α was 0.96 for claimant; 0.71 for object; 0.74 for evaluation; 0.80 for demand; and 0.72 for justification. A replication dataset containing all coding categories used for this article is available at https://doi.org/10.5683/SP2/JHDT3R.

  5. A diagnostic examination indicates an acceptable model. Multicollinearity diagnostics were satisfactory. The Omnibus Test of Model Coefficients (significance 0.000) and the Hosmer and Lemeshow test (significance 0.215) indicate acceptable model fit.

References

  • Barker, R. 1990. Political Legitimacy and the State. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Barker, R. 2001. Legitimating Identities: The Self-Presentations of Rulers and Subjects. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Barroso, J.M. 2011. European renewal—State of the Union Address 2011. European Commission, SPEECH/11/607, 28 September 2011, Brussels: European Commission. https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/SPEECH_11_607. Accessed 19 Jan 2020.

  • Börzel, T.A., and T. Risse. 2018. From the euro to the Schengen crises: European integration theories, politicization, and identity politics. Journal of European Public Policy 25(1): 83–108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Crum, B. 2013. Saving the euro at the cost of democracy? Journal of Common Market Studies 51(4): 615–630.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • De Wilde, P. 2011. No polity for old politics? A framework for analysing the politicization of European integration. Journal of European Integration 33(5): 559–575.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • De Wilde, P., and M. Zürn. 2012. Can the politicisation of European integration be reversed? Journal of Common Market Studies 50(S1): 137–153.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Frieden, J., and S. Walter. 2017. Understanding the political economy of the Eurozone crisis. Annual Review of Political Science 20: 371–390.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Galpin, C., and H.-J. Trenz. 2017. The spiral of Euroscepticism: Media negativity, framing and opposition to the EU. In Euroscepticism, Democracy and the Media, ed. M. Caiani and S. Guerra, 49–72. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Gilley, B. 2006. The meaning and measure of state legitimacy: Results for 72 countries. European Journal of Political Research 45(3): 499–525.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Habermas, J. 1993. Justification and Application: Remarks on Discourse Ethics. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Halikiopoulou, D., K. Nanou, and S. Vasilopoulou. 2012. The paradox of nationalism: The common denominator of radical right and radical left euroscepticism. European Journal of Political Research 51(4): 504–539.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hooghe, L., and G. Marks. 2018. Cleavage theory meets Europe’s crises: Lipset, Rokkan, and the transnational cleavage. Journal of European Public Policy 25(1): 109–135.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hurrelmann, A., Z. Krell-Laluhová, F. Nullmeier, S. Schneider, and A. Wiesner. 2009. Why the democratic nation state is still legitimate: A study of media discourses. European Journal of Political Research 48(4): 483–515.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hurrelmann, A., A. Gora, and A. Wagner. 2013. The legitimation of the European Union in the news media: Three treaty reform debates. Journal of European Public Policy 20(4): 515–534.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hutter, S., E. Grande, and H. Kriesi (eds.). 2016. Politicising Europe: Integration and Mass Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hutter, S., and H. Kriesi. 2019. Politicizing Europe in times of crisis. Journal of European Public Policy 26(7): 996–1017.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kleinen-von Königslöw, K. 2012. Europe in crisis? Testing the stability and explanatory factors of the Europeanization of national public spheres. International Communication Gazette 74(5): 443–463.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Koopmans, R., and P. Statham. 1999. Political claims analysis: Integrating protest event and political discourse approaches. Mobilization 4(2): 203–221.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Koopmans, R. 2002. Codebook for the analysis of political mobilisation and communication in European public spheres. http://europub.wzb.eu/Data/Codebooks%20questionnaires/D2-1-claims-codebook.pdf. Accessed 19 Jan 2020.

  • Kriesi, H., and E. Grande. 2016. The euro crisis: A boost to the politicisation of European integration? In Politicising Europe: Integration and Mass Politics, ed. S. Hutter, E. Grande, and H. Kriesi, 240–276. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Krugman, P. 2013. Revenge of the optimum currency area. NBER Macroeconomics Annual 27: 439–448.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Laffan, B. 2017. The Eurozone in crisis: core-periphery dynamics. In The European Union in Crisis, ed. D. Dinan, N. Nugent, and W.E. Paterson, 131–148. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leupold, A. 2016. A structural approach to politicisation in the euro crisis. West European Politics 39(1): 84–103.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lindberg, L., and S. Scheingold. 1970. Europe’s Would-be Polity: Patterns of Change in the European Community. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Longo, M., and P. Murray. 2015. Europe’s Legitimacy Crisis: From Causes to Solutions. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Maatsch, A. 2017. Parliaments and the Economic Governance of the European Union: Talking Shops or Deliberative Bodies?. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mayer, T. 2012. Europe’s Unfinished Currency: The Political Economics of the Euro. London: Anthem Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Michailidou, A. 2017. Twitter, public engagement and the eurocrisis: More than an echo chamber? In Social Media and European Politics: Rethinking Power and Legitimacy in the Digital Era, ed. M. Barisione and A. Michailidou, 241–266. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Scharpf, F.W. 2013. Legitimacy intermediation in the multilevel European polity and its collapse in the euro crisis. In Staatstätigkeiten, Parteien und Demokratie, ed. K. Armingeon, 567–596. Wiesbaden: Springer.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Schimmelfennig, F. 2014. European integration in the euro crisis: The limits of postfunctionalism. Journal of European Integration 36(3): 321–337.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schweiger, C. 2017. The legitimacy challenge. In The European Union in Crisis, ed. D. Dinan, N. Nugent, and W.E. Paterson, 188–211. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Statham, P., and H.-J. Trenz. 2013. The Politicisation of Europe: Contesting the Constitution in the Mass Media. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Statham, P., and H.-J. Trenz. 2015. Understanding the mechanisms of EU politicisation: Lessons from the Eurozone crisis. Comparative European Politics 13(3): 287–306.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Suchman, M. 1995. Managing legitimacy: Strategic and institutional approaches. Academy of Management Review 20(3): 571–610.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vaara, E. 2014. Struggles over legitimacy in the eurozone crisis: Discursive legitimation strategies and their ideological underpinnings. Discourse & Society 25(4): 500–518.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Van der Eijk, C., and M. Franklin. 2004. Potential for contestation on European matters at national elections in Europe. In European Integration and Political Conflict, ed. G. Marks and M.R. Steenbergen, 32–50. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Vetters, R., E. Jentges, and H.-J. Trenz. 2009. Whose project is it? Media debates on the ratification of the EU constitutional treaty. Journal of European Public Policy 16(3): 412–430.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weber, M. 1968. Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wendler, F. 2016. Debating Europe in national parliaments: Public Justification and Political Polarization. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • White, J. 2015. Emergency Europe. Political Studies 63(2): 300–318.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

Research for this project has been supported by an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Project No. 435-2013-1813). Sebastian Baglioni and Anna Gora contributed to developing the conceptual framework for this study and conducted significant parts of the media analysis. Research assistance was also provided by Ana da Silva Soares, Sven Schirmer, and Nicole Warkotsch.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Achim Hurrelmann.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hurrelmann, A., Wagner, A. Did the Eurozone crisis undermine the European Union’s legitimacy? An analysis of newspaper reporting, 2009–2014. Comp Eur Polit 18, 707–728 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41295-020-00205-6

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41295-020-00205-6

Keywords

  • Eurozone crisis
  • Legitimacy
  • Politicisation
  • Media discourse
  • Political claims analysis