Debating irregular migration in the European Parliament : a ‘parliament without a public’ or the voice of the people?


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Year of publication 2023
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Journal of Contemporary European Studies
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Web article - open access
Keywords European Parliament; working parliament without a public; plenary; legitimation; irregular migration
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Description The European Parliament (EP) has been characterised as a ‘working parliament without a public’ rather than as a ‘debating parliament’. However, this distinction was called into question when irregular migration became a sensitive topic and national political parties became polarised on this policy. Thus, this article explores whether one risk resulting from such a characterisation – a lack of public involvement – is raised by EU members in plenary debates on irregular migration issues. In particular, the analysis focuses on the purpose of EU plenaries and investigates the audience for speech acts in EP debates on irregular migration issues. The qualitative, manual content analysis of three debates shows that MEPs address their speeches to multiple audiences, including other MEPs, political groups and members of the Commission and Council, excluding national parties and voters. Speech acts aimed at EU officials, together with problem-solving argumentation, support the characterisation of the EP as a ‘working parliament without a public’. It contributes to maintaining the EU communication gap. In contrast, speakers legitimate their speeches by claiming to represent the common people, to be the vox populi. The article concludes by challenging the role of plenary debates in an age of rising Euroscepticism and populism.
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