Internet Public communication Public sphere EU Democracy Participation Deliberation EU democratic deficit
The focus of this thesis is on the vertical Europeanisation of the
online public debate and more specifically on the EU’s online public
communication strategy, i.e. the top-down process of the unmediated,
direct, online communication between the EU and the general public. The
empirical data has been collected in four stages, namely public
communication policy-making; public communication policy
implementation online; online public communication policy impact on key
Internet audiences; and interviews with key senior Commission officials.
The review of the EU public communication documents has shown
that the Commission has unambiguously committed to facilitate direct
communication with the EU public as part of the process of building the EU
citizens’ trust towards its institutions and in addressing the issues of
transparency and democratic legitimation of the EU’s decision-making
process, while the Internet is seen as a key tool in facilitating direct
communication. However, after monitoring three of the EU’s official
websites for a year and analyzing the views of 221 Internet users on the
EU’s Information and Communication strategy online, it has become
evident that the Commission has not yet fulfilled these commitments.
The interviews with key Commission officials have revealed that
behind this gap between policy and online implementation lie: a) an
institutional culture which conflicts with the aims of the Commission’s
public communication strategy; and b) constant institutional restructuring
in the last six years.
Very recently the Commission has begun to address some of the
shortfalls in the online implementation of its public communication
strategy, yet there is no indication that the results of the online debate
regarding the EU’s future will be incorporated in the decision-making
process, while further study is required in the future in order to assess any
change in the institutional culture in relation to its public communication
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.