Stalemate in the democratic reform debate of the European Union? A dynamic discourse network analysis of actors and their commitment to reform options

Tolstukha, Ekaterina (2022) Stalemate in the democratic reform debate of the European Union? A dynamic discourse network analysis of actors and their commitment to reform options. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Although the EU’s democratic qualities have constantly improved since the 1950s, not least through the direct election and increased legislative powers of the European Parliament, recent shocks have highlighted that the EU needs further and, perhaps, different democratic reform. Notwithstanding broad consensus on the issue's importance, reforms aimed at improving the EU’s democratic performance have not come very far since 2009, when the Treaty of Lisbon was ratified. While the failure of separate reform ideas directed at the improvement of the EU’s democratic qualities has received attention in academic debate, there has been no attempt to look at the lack of democratic reform in a comprehensive manner. By investigating the architecture of the EU’s democratic reform debate, this thesis contributes to a more systemic understanding of the EU’s democratic reform stalemate. This research builds on the premise that seeing discourse as a space within which actors fight over the dominance of their ideas and, at the same time, collectively construct ideas, can bring insight into the dynamics and direction of democratic reform. Applying an innovative method of discourse network analysis – combining content analysis and network analysis – this thesis studies the behaviour of actors towards ideas and the architecture of the debate resulting from this behaviour. The research draws on debates that have taken place in EU- level media between 2014 and 2019, a period that includes events such as the Brexit vote and the Syrian refugee crisis. These events induced a new wave of debate over the EU’s democratic qualities and the need for reform. The analysis demonstrates that resistance to ideas (including non- engagement) and multiple disagreements on lower-level beliefs concerning specific institutional reforms, such as the Spitzenkandidaten process, transnational lists and the ‘green card’ procedure, may have played an important role in the lack of progress in the EU’s democratic reform in the period between 2014 and 2019. At the same time, the analysis has also identified elements of convergence between key actors on matters of core beliefs on the merits and modes of European integration, which leaves some tentative hope for progress in democratic reform in the future. The contribution made by this thesis is threefold. Firstly, the research offers a new perspective on EU democratic reform dynamics, emphasising the importance of multiple disagreements on beliefs for reform success, particularly the role of disagreement on lower-level instrumental ideas. Secondly, by introducing a concept of commitment to ideas, this thesis makes a theoretical contribution to the ideational literature. Commitment is theorised as one of the determinants of success of both actors and ideas and as a resource that, when used in the debate, empowers both actors and ideas. Finally, this thesis makes a methodological contribution. It introduces a measure of commitment to ideas applicable to discourse networks. This measure is then employed in the analysis of the relationship between actors and ideas in the EU’s democratic reform debate to explore disagreements on the level of separate actors and to identify ideas of continued importance, the ones that constitute the backbone of the discourse.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Supervisor's Name: Tsakatika, Dr. Myrto and Leifeld, Prof. Philip
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-83036
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2022 13:53
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2022 15:32
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83036

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