Communicating the European Union in Crisis: European Commission crisis communication and its consequences for reputation and legitimacy



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The past decade has been crisis ridden for the EU. In addition to the immediate influence, crises damage reputation and legitimacy, by crisis communication this harm can be alleviated. EC, the communicator on the supranational level, acting in the name of the whole EU, has had to deal with these situations. This thesis views the crisis communication strategies EC uses in three recent and prominent crises: Greek government-debt crisis, migration crisis and Brexit. Adding the tools offered by situational crisis communication theory by Coombs and image repair theory by Benoit to the European studies’ general framework, the author, using the methods of discourse analyses, researches EC crisis communication and the social consequences of it for the reputation and legitimacy of EC and EU. By analysing 231 speeches by the President of the EC and by the commissioners responsible for the most affected policy field in the crisis, the crisis communication strategies are identified. Looking at media response and public opinion, the findings suggest that crisis communication contributes to shaping the context within which the social consequences regarding reputation/legitimacy can occur.