Aug 20 2013

Emerging Themes from the First Six Months of Euro Crisis in the Press

By the Editorial Team

Euro Crisis in the PressThe Euro Crisis in the Press blog began as part of a wider LSE-based research project on media representations of the Euro crisis across European states. The aim of the blog has been to provide a platform for highlighting and reflecting upon the different understandings and representations of the crisis that have underpinned much of national reporting and public discourses in European states.

To our delight, the blog has attracted readers and contributors from a wide range of professional and national backgrounds, acting as a lively forum for different approaches and angles to the Euro crisis. The blog has featured analyses of key Eurozone states but also non-Euro countries such as Albania, Sweden, the UK and Croatia. Topics have ranged from normative and discursive reflections on the crisis to explorations of specific policy solutions. While the blog has provided timely round-ups of reactions in different countries to important events such as the Cypriot bailout process and the recent Italian elections, it has also introduced a new series of interviews of public intellectuals on some of the key questions on the different dimensions of the crisis and its possible solutions. To mark the first six months of the blog, we thought we would highlight some emerging themes:

Media and the Crisis – Effects on and of the Media

As noted earlier, the blog is motivated by the differences in understanding the Euro crisis; such discrepancies have most tangibly been manifested through media reporting and analysis of the crisis. Yet, the crisis has also affected media itself. Max Hänska, for instance, notes how disagreements over editorial policies have raised tensions in newsrooms. Maria Kyriakidou and Giannis Manolis have, in turn, provided a detailed commentary on the state of media in crisis-ridden Greece. Maria Kyriakidou has also highlighted in a number of contributions not only the rapidly eroding Greek media landscape following the onset of the crisis but also the clientelistic nexus between media and political parties.

In an interdependent world, media elsewhere becomes in different ways part of public discourses in national spaces. Approaching the role of media from the angle of foreign reporting on Portugal, Rui Lopes explores how the interpretations of international media are used by politicians and decision-makers in the country. In his assessment of the international media coverage of Greece during the crisis, George N. Tzogopoulus points to the emergence of more positive reporting on the country as a result of its determination to carry out the required reforms.

The Idea of Europe

It is a commonly held axiom that European integration goes beyond economic cooperation; it is a union of states holding shared values and beliefs. It is of little surprise then that the effects of the crisis on the European Union as a normative project have attracted considerable attention. Witness the entries so far in The Euro Crisis in the Press interview series. For Heikki Patomäki, the ‘project of European integration is not reducible to political economy’. Emilio Ontiveros argues that the economic crisis has now also undermined the very idea of Europe ‘as a project that should ensure the wellbeing and cohesion of its citizens’. Nick Malkoutzis reminds us that Europe has no divine right to prosperity’, while Nikos Chrysoloras strikes a poignant note – ‘I think that Europe is actually dying’ – and warns that ‘Europe needs to find its ambition again!’

In more theoretical terms Roberto Orsi has explored the notion of creation European public sphere that would enable more effective democratic deliberation. Through his discussion of linguistic politics, he makes a case for German as the lingua franca of Europe. Yet, is the creation of European-wide ‘agora’ possible in the context of eroding solidarity? Outi Keranen has observed the gradually eroding sense of inter-European solidarity in Finland. She explores how the narrative of injustice – embodied in the rescue packages to Southern Euro zone countries and cultivated by Euro-sceptic opposition parties – has undermined solidarity as a rationale for further bailouts. Touching upon related issues, Vassillis Paipais writes on the Greek demands for German war-time reparations. He argues that Athens’ claim for reparations is not merely a legal issue but one of political and emotional salience for both sides. He notes that while Greeks wish Germany to display the historical magnanimity that it was shown after World War Two, many Germans feel that the claim is, in essence, an accusation that the country has not adequately addressed its war failings.

Issues to do with common European public sphere, linguistics, solidarity and emotionally-laden historical experiences are but aspects of what Max Hänska sees as comprising the different meanings of Europe. He aptly points out that there is no uncontested idea of Europe even if the discourses surrounding European integration would have us believe so. Henry Radice strikes a note of cautious optimism, pointing out that perhaps what is at stake is actually a crisis of an ideal of Europe, rather than an existential threat to a viable political reality.

The Blame Game

Closely linked to the differing idea of Europe are the radically different interpretations of who is to blame for the crisis. Max Hänska outlines this ‘politics of blame’. These questions are consequential in that those who are perceived as culprits ought also to contribute to the resolution of the economic meltdown. The narratives of blame have tended to diverge into three different accounts where either Germany, Southern European member states or the European Union itself is to blame. For instance, for many, German policies are not only seen as one of the major causes of the crisis but also as the reason for the hardship in the Southern member states. This has been manifested in the frequent visual and verbal references to Nazism, as cogently analysed by Maria Brock and Rui Lopes.

While parables pertaining to blame and victimhood are reproduced through editorials and analyses, formal economic and statistical studies have also added to the discussion. Stefan Bauchowitz and Jose Javier Olivas as well as Stefan K. Loesch have explored the use of economic studies for political purposes of allocating blame or sense of injustice.

This non-exhaustive thematic survey points to the richness of the discussions taking place on the blog on cross- and pan-European issues. But it is worth noting that the piece to have garnered the highest readership so far, ‘The Quiet Collapse of the Italian Economy’ by Roberto Orsi, speaks to a clear need for more in-depth reporting of the underlying national economic contexts to inform public discourse, a challenge also taken up in the Italian context by Fabrizio Goria.

In aiming to comment on the politics of public discourse, it is perhaps inevitable that at times we have contributed to it ourselves. We trust that this has been and will continue to be a creative tension. In any case, we have taken great pleasure in the discovery of a community of interest around these vital issues, which we very much hope will continue to expand in the coming months and years.

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