Electronic Democracy in Europe pp 21-51
The European Public Sphere and the Internet
The idea of the “European public sphere” is part of the ongoing discussion about European integration and the further development of the European system of democratic governance. The question of whether there can be an overarching European public sphere alongside the existing national public spheres in European member states is the subject of lively scientific and political debate. In several publications on European Governance, the European Commission has clearly stated that it regards the “inadequate development” of a European public sphere and the public’s disenchantment with EU politics as deficiencies of European democracy. This chapter summarises the debate concerning the need for a transnational European public sphere and how to develop this as an integral, intermediate, democratic structure between European policy-making institutions and the European constituency. Conceptual arguments are discussed concerning the role of the public sphere and related concepts—citizenship and civil society—in transnational democratic governance, and empirical evidence is provided for the Europeanization of the political public sphere. This is set against a consideration of political communication on the Internet and the Internet’s potential to support the emergence of transnational forms of citizenship and transnational political publics.