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European Commissioners and the Prospects of a European Public Sphere: Information, Representation and Legitimacy

Abstract : s part of its formal duties to represent ‘the European interest’ and propose means of deepening European integration, the Commission produces and disseminates a wealth of information about itself, its activities and those of the European Union as a whole. Contrary to popular perceptions and the omnipresent political discourse about the Union’s ‘democratic deficit’, it is therefore difficult to argue that this organisation lacks transparency. Rather the central challenge facing the Commission concerns how its agents render the information released ‘legible’ for journalists and a general public still largely unused to the specificities of Europe-wide politics. In more analytical terms, studying the communication activities carried out by Commission staff from the angle of political representation – defined as both ‘speaking for’ and ‘symbolically incarnating’ (Abélès 1997: 247) – sheds light upon a number of traits of the EU which constantly sap its legitimacy as a source of political discourse. More precisely, the puzzle for empirical research then becomes how practioners within the Commission strive – sometimes successfully, often unsuccessfully – to legitimate themselves. By legitimation is meant the transformation of public acceptance of their self-organisation from one based upon an unstable consensus of interest-based calculations into one based upon a durable ‘belief in the social value of institutions’ (Lagroye 1985: 399).
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Andy Smith. European Commissioners and the Prospects of a European Public Sphere: Information, Representation and Legitimacy. Fossum John Erik et Schlesinger Philip (eds). The European Union and the Public Sphere: A Communicative Space in the Making?, Routledge, pp.227-245, 2007. ⟨halshs-00186409⟩

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