Assessing Conditions of Europeanisation of National Public Sphere: Institutional Aspects of EU Political Communication in Lithuania
Democratic problems of the European Union, such as the lack of legitimacy and transparency of European political institutions, the absence of a real basis for public debates, weak citizen participation as well as many other problems, have gained a considerable interest among social scientists and communication researchers from all over Europe. Some scholars argue that, as a result of intensive political and economic integration in Europe, significant changes in the spaces of political communication can be observed. The broad applicability of the democratic governing model made up of different levels of political institutions (supranational, national as well as regional and local) has challenged communicative relations between national publics and statecentred systems. Alongside shifts in decision-making (from domestic to EU-centred), a broader public engagement in European public affairs and the reorientation of priorities from the purely national to the predominantly transnational (European) is needed. Research indicates that ordinary citizens treat the European Union as a complex supranational polity which is distant from domestic political realities. For instance, some of the research done in Lithuania confirms a rapidly growing interest in European political affairs among citizens. Nevertheless, the representative Eurobarometer surveys show that only one third of Lithuanians feel that their knowledge about the EU is sufficient and two fifths of respondents claim to have no information about the ways and possibilities of active participation in the EU’s political processes. Polls also show that Lithuanians prefer to contact national governments and services on matters decided on the EU level. Despite the different attempts to shed light on the European political communication process, a more concise understanding of different EU communication aspects is lacking. One of such aspects which needs more research, is the performance of national governments and a range of institutions on the national, regional and local levels in EU member states that are indeed responsible for communicating their mandates and policies to the citizens. The main objective of the PhD thesis is to investigate the conditions for the Europeanization of the public sphere in Lithuania with regard to the role and performance of different political actors (institutions, politicians, communication professionals, NGOs, etc., on EU, national, regional and local levels) and mechanisms of constant interaction of these actors with other counterparts of the EU’s political communication process (namely media institutions and organizations, journalists, correspondents and editors, as well as the public).