Selling TTIP: The European Commission’s information policy and the spectre of public opinion

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Abstract

This article examines the European Commission’s information policy during the heavily politicised Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. Through the methodologically innovative use of Freedom of Information requests, it moves beyond official discourse to reveal how internal deliberation among Commission officials is preoccupied with monitoring and containing civil society mobilisation against the deal. Underpinned by elitist conceptions of democracy, public opinion emerges as a problem to be solved through strategic public relations, despite the Commission’s discursive commitments to greater transparency and political dialogue with citizens. The findings challenge the widely-held notion that a ‘communication deficit’ between European Union institutions and their publics is at the root of the perennially elusive formation of a European public sphere. Instead, approaching TTIP as a key frontline in the struggle over post-democracy, I conclude that antipublic ideas encoded in the Commission’s information policy are reflective of historically engrained institutional ambivalence towards public-political participation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-301
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Communication
Volume36
Issue number3
Early online date21 Dec 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021

Keywords

  • TTIP
  • EU trade
  • Freedom of Information
  • transparency
  • public opinion
  • political communication

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