The role of national parties for the politicization of EU integration (2014-2016) - an international comparison between six European countries (2013-2016)

Project Management: Prof. Silke Adam (University of Bern) and Prof. Michaela Maier (University of Koblenz-Landau) in cooperation with Prof. Claes de Vreese & Prof. Andreas Schuck (Amsterdam), Prof. Ralph Negrine (Sheffield), Prof. Sylvia Kritzinger (Vienna), Prof. Nicolas Demertzis (Athen)

Berner Project Team: Prof. Silke Adam, Beatrice Eugster, Franzisca Schmidt

Project Description:
The subject of the research project is the politicization of European issues in the context of European integration. In particular the research project deals with the following question: Do national parties today mobilize – if yes under which conditions and how – on EU integration and thereby foster the politicization of EU integration? Politicization hereby means a process of public debate about political issues that is in particular carried out in the media. To understand the role of national parties for the politicization we distinguish between issue entrepreneurs (parties on the left and right of the political spectrum) and issue traditionalists (mainstream parties). Considering a three-step model of issues’ politicization process we analyze in the first step the strategic party communication of issue entrepreneurs and address the following research question: (1) Under which conditions do potential issue entrepreneurs decide to put issues regarding Europe on the agenda (salience) and to publicly voice their positions, and which cleavages do they base their arguments on? In the second step we examine in how far their strategic party behaviour affects the overall party agenda and the mass media agenda with the following question: (2) How effective are issue entrepreneurs in affecting the relevant issue environments, i.e. the overall party agenda and the media agenda within a country?  In the third step we are interested whether these agenda changes put pressure on issue traditionalists and question: (3) How do issue traditionalists react to changes in the relevant issue environments?

Relevance of the Research Project

  • Insights into and findings about the formation of political issues and the politicization processes, which is the basis for politics. "To speak of politics is to speak of political issues, almost in-variably. We speak of them as if we know them. But we truly do not. We do not know why they arise, why one question rather than another comes to seem important, why it happens at a particular time, rather than another, why some last, why some do not” (Carmines & Stimson, 1989: 3).
  • As the politicization processes is quite context sensitive it is one challenge of this project to examine the influence of context factors such as the political context in different countries and the specifics of election and non-election times.
  • Question of democratic quality when it comes to Europe (normative claim) and the possible changes in the process of European governance


  • international comparative research design between Germany, Austria, UK, Netherlands, Greek and Portugal
  • the study period starts  before the financial crises in 2008 and ends with the European elections 2014
  • content analysis of parties’ strategic communication (press releases) and media coverage

Project Finance: According to the cooperation between the University of Bern and the University of Koblenz-Landau the research project is financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the German Research Foundation (DFG). (Project approval number: 10017E-144592/1)