Making EU Politics Public. A Comparative Analysis of the Communication Policies of European Supranational Organizations
This research project analyses the development process of EU institutional communication from an actor-centred organisation theory perspective. In a first, explorative step, the project compared communication standards as formulated by the European Parliament and the European Commission in central official communication policy papers, with the two institutions’ actual communication material issued on two concrete EU legislative proposals. The results show that the concrete communication efforts do not only fail to meet external normative or professional demands – as often emphasised in the literature – but even do not correspond with the organizations’ own intents. The second step subsequently aimed at determining the extent to which this discrepancy – and institutional communication practices in general – can be explained by particular intentionality patterns or capability structures. Data consisted of official and informal institutional documents, as well as a series of qualitative interviews conducted with key communication officials in both institutions. The analysis shows how much internal processes and restrictions affect the two institutions’ public communication efforts. Firstly, certain communication intentions the institutions seek to put into practice are incompatible. Self-interest based aims contradict normatively oriented aims, interests and norm-orientations of one institutional unit differ from interests and norm-orientations of another. Secondly, both actors’ daily communication is also affected by inter- and inner-institutional capability boundaries. The two institutions do not only externally lack certain structural features within the EU decision-making system, but are also bound to act within a frame of internal social, organisational or orientation-related restrictions. Last but not least, the research shows that intentionality patterns and capability structures are interrelated – ability restrictions can influence the formulation of communication aims, while aims can affect the creation or change of internal structures – and thus cannot and should not be analysed separately.