Research fellowship

Annie Niessen awarded a BAEF fellowship for post-doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania

Annie Niessen, a doctoral student in the European Studies Unit (Cité Research Unit / Faculty of Law, Political Science and Criminology) at ULiège, will pursue post-doctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States thanks to a BAEF (Belgian American Educational Foundation) grant. This research will focus on the European Union's crisis communication as a tool for strengthening and consolidating its legitimacy.


he various crises that the European Union has faced over the past decade have not been without repercussions for further European integration. Indeed, these crises have required quick reactions and decisions that have not all been considered effective, acceptable or democratic. Thus, the legitimacy of the European Union and of further integration are, especially in times of crisis, subject to doubts and questioning, which encourage the spread of the idea of a possible disintegration of the Union in the public space.

At the intersection of political science and communication science, this research project will focus on analyzing the discourse of the European Union's political, economic, and legal institutions during four major crises:  the economic-financial crisis of the Greek debt and the subsequent crisis of the Eurozone, the political-institutional crisis of the Brexit, the political-legal crisis of the non-respect of EU values - including the rule of law - in several member states, and the recent health crisis of SARS-CoV-2 which promises many long-term economic and political consequences.

The research will aim to identify the arguments put forward in the institutions' crisis communication in order to, on the one hand, reinforce the legitimacy of the Union and the merits of further European integration, and, on the other hand, to counter ideas about a potential disintegration of the Union. Both a qualitative and quantitative analysis of these arguments will allow for an in-depth understanding of the discursive dynamics and mechanisms of institutional crisis communication with a view to improving the Union's discursive responses to future crises.  

Understanding and improving the European Union's crisis communication is a particularly relevant issue today and fundamental for tomorrow. Indeed, the continuation of the European project, which has greatly contributed to the maintenance of peace between the Member States over the last seventy years, is particularly threatened during crises, which are conducive to the development of nationalist discourses and in favor of a disintegration of the Union. The public communication of the institutions, relayed to citizens through the media, is an indispensable tool for restoring and consolidating the legitimacy of the European project. It is therefore crucial to understand the dynamics and communication processes in the management of these crises in order to make sustainable improvements.

The research will take place at the University of Pennsylvania, a world-renowned Ivy League institution, under the supervision of Professor Brendan O'Leary. This research project is in line with Annie Niessen's doctoral research, which will be defended soon, on the interpretations and construction of the discourse of the notion of "European state" (Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union) by the political institutions of the European Union.



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