The perception of the Economic Crisis in national newspapers of the EU Member States
The global financial crisis that started in 2008 created considerable stress in the euro area. The common shock produced different problems in each euro-area country. National problems and solutions took centre-stage in national discourses leaving systemic euro-area issues largely unmentioned.
A common economic narrative on the risks faced by the euro area is missing. This impedes the emergence of a common body of public opinion as the basis for a debate around the reform agenda for the euro area as a whole.
In Spain, for instance, the bursting of a housing bubble and a banking crisis strained the economy. In France and Italy, structural weaknesses, particularly in labour markets, were exposed.
In Germany, an overreliance on exports for economic growth led to a particularly pronounced recession followed by a partial shift of exports to emerging markets, away from other euro–area countries.
Compared with other major economies, the euro area struggled to deal with the crisis swiftly and, between 2010 and 2012, the currency area fought a sovereign debt crisis that only receded after the European Central Bank stepped in, assuring financial markets it would do “whatever it takes” to keep the euro afloat. Euro-area countries still struggle to answer the fundamental question of what happened and what steps need to be taken to prevent another crisis.
The study Tales from a crisis: diverging narratives of the euro area, published by the think tank Bruegel analyzed the position adopted by four national newspapers, La Stampa (Italy), SueddeutscheZeitung(Germany), Le Monde (France), El Pais( Spain ) concerning to the economic and financial crisis from 2007 to 2016.
The purpose of the research by Henrik Muller, Giuseppe Porcaro e Gerret von Nordheim, study how the crisis has been perceived in different country: who is the guilty? What effects can be drawn in terms of political and economic reform of the EU?
Narrative-building is complex. It involves public opinion, media and politicians, among others for example private sector, civil society, academics, etc.
Narratives it can be considered as central factors in forming economic behaviour in a social context.
In a political context, narratives extend the collective perception of social reality, thereby enabling societies to formulate political priorities, also narratives influencing the way a society views itself and forms its policy priorities.
For example the discourse around migrants and refugees in Europe, has translated into varying public attitudes and policy responses, and a general perception among the public that over-estimates the real number of refugees.
The study of economic narratives is complicated by the fact that they often cannot be observed directly. To evaluate narratives in necessary analyzed the reporting patterns in mass media. Since major newspapers address to the broader public they can be expected to reflected the prevailing economic narratives.
The analysis of traditional newspapers therefore allows a glimpse at these complex communicative relationships. In this context, newspaper coverage is used as a proxy for narratives prevalent in the broader public debate. There are several common elements in the groups of articles analyzed.
In each newspaper there is a clear indication that the economic crisis led to a political crisis and a crisis of values. Close reading of articles reveals a sense of gloom in all the newspapers, though there are notable differences. The Italian, Spanish and French newspapers convey a generalized loss of hope resulting from a downgraded long-term outlook, a fear of the end of European integration and even the death of democracy.
The notion of broken social values is common to the narratives in all the newspapers. They all mention democracy as a value that is being severely damaged by the crisis.
Comparing the country-specific patterns reveals two striking differences: first, we do not find an entire set of equivalent topics in all four newspapers.
The German, Franch and Spanish newspapers are similar in focusing on banks and financial markets, particularly at the outset of the crisis, while these culprits receive limited attention in La Stampa. The state of Greece attracts considerable attention in El País, but not in La Stampa. second, the newspapers attribute blame to quite different entities. El País, for instance, highlights primarily mistakes made in Spain during the boom years that preceded the crisis. Süddeutsche Zeitung, in contrast, is focused primarily on the mistakes of others, with Greece and the ECB being the principal culprits. Le Monde and La Stampa appear to embrace a sense of desperation that goes far beyond purely economic considerations but calls into question the entire political system and social fabric.
We set out to analyze how discourses about the euro crisis differed in four representative newspapers from the four biggest euro-area nations. The results of the analysis can be summarized as follows:
- Süddeutsche Zeitung blames everyone else but Germany, the chief suspects being Greece and the ECB; it stresses the need to get back to a perceived status quo of stability and fairness.
- Le Monde blames everyone including the French political class, but largely refrains from criticism of European institutions such as the European Commission and the ECB.
- La Stampa sees Italy as the victim of unfortunate circumstances, including the EU austerity measures promoted by Germany, and Italy’s own politicians.
- El País primarily blames Spain for misconduct during the boom years preceding the crisis.