Key Themes, Topics and Rules of the Discourses in the Exemplar Study

The main themes of the French discourse can be separated into themes of arguing for a ‘yes’ or for a ‘no’ in the referendum (Table 3.4).

To illustrate what the categories above mean, one brief example shall suffice. The most decisive theme in the French discourse was anti-liberalism, which can be summarised as: ‘The EU threatens France's welfare state, the EU is ultra-liberal—and we have had enough of this!’ This was definitely one of the most dominant themes of the discourse. It was coined on the political left and influenced by the actors in the political centre and on the right in their actions and their statements. The theme used traditional concepts and themes of French political culture like servicespubliques, Egalite, a strong state, protest, elite criticism and France’s special role in the world.

Table 3.4 The main themes and levels of reference in the French discourse

Main Yes-Themes (Oui)

Main No-Themes (Non)

1. Internal motives of the discourse Reference to opposing actors Yes, but...

Internal debates in the yes-camp

  • 2. France's interests Responsibility Pragmatism France's role in the EU Europe puissance
  • 3. Normative Europe

1. Internal motives of the discourse Reference to opposing actors Populist theme

Left alliance (Non de Gauche)

2. EU criticism Anti-liberal theme

Criticism of constitutional treaty Sovereigntist theme

Source: Wiesner 2014a, 248-250

Table 3.5 The main rules, topics, themes and levels of reference in the German discourse

External to Germany

Internal to Germany

1. Imported discourse France and its discourse


Imported criticisms and reactions Discussion concerning EU development and contents of the Constitutional Treaty

2. Fundamental debate on the political principles of the EU after the Non’ vote The citizenry/the demos European identity

What kind of Europe do we want?

  • 1. Main rule Silencing strategy
  • 2. Particular German motives

EU enlargement (especially Turkey) Assertions regarding EU politics Criticism of the EU and of the Constitutional Treaty (Anti-Militarism) Classical themes of German-EU discourse (Western integration)

New themes of support for the EU and the Treaty

Source: Wiesner 2014a, 372-373

It was used strategically by left-wing and centre-left actors (Trotskyists, communists, and dissident socialists like Laurent Fabius), and it matched the mood of the citizenry, which marked a disenchantment with politics and a strong feeling of social insecurity.

The main themes, topics and rules of the German discourse, on the other hand, were rather differentiated, according to themes internal to or external to Germany (Table 3.5).

A key rule of the German discourse was the silencing strategy (see also Section 4.6). It was used to silence EU criticism (a) in the bigger mainstream parties and (b) in the PDS. The silencing strategy proceeded in three steps:

  • 1. EU criticism was silenced in the discourse: when criticism arose, it was simply ignored, or it was marginalised (discussion was confined to only small articles).
  • 2. EU criticism and the critics were trivialised. (‘Anyway, it is impossible to take him seriously’.)
  • 3. The last step was to threaten the critics with sanctions. (‘Obviously, the party may need to remind the MP about such events when the lists for the next elections are set up’.)

Table 3.6 A comparison of the French and the German discourse


An EU discourse with a national base


A national EU discourse

1. Openness

Continual references to the EU and its member states

EU and France are both described as ‘us’

1. Closedness Self-referential France is ‘us’

EU and member states are ‘the other’

2. Intensity Two phases

Until May scarcely any discourse From the end of May, very intensive

2. Intensity Very intensive

High level of mobilisation: EU the most important topic in April/May

Source: Wiesner 2014a, 432-434

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >