The Role of the Media in the Current EU Crisis

By Clara de Carvalho

*This blog post is part of the Jean Monnet Chair of European Media Governance and Integration series


The European Union throughout its history has suffered many crises (see EU history) which has led to doubts about its effectiveness and stability. It was from the year 2015, when Europe has been facing a series of crises (such as the euro crisis, centered on Greece, the refugee crisis, the departure of the UK from the European Union (Brexit) and the lack of safety generated by the constant terror attacks, corruption and integration problems) that has left it in constant instability. Even through difficult times the European Union remains one of the strongest economies, even greater than the United States.

All of these problems have led to great dissatisfaction and distrust among the citizens of the Member States, which has also lost some importance in world markets.

“This mistrust is also known as Euroscepticism, which is a political and social movement based on the rejection, to a greater or lesser extent, of the European Union by European citizens”. (Hartleb, 2011)

“The Oxford English Dictionary defines “Eurosceptic” as someone not very enthused by the increased power of the European Community or Union. In this early usage period, the term designated an opposition towards both the EC/EU and towards European integration as a whole.” (Hartleb, 2011)

Photo by Klaas Brumann

But it is also well known that part of this distrust comes mainly from the countries that go through economic crises such as Spain, Greece, Ireland, Italy or Portugal.

After the Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted in 1948, world conflicts have caused about 52 million refugees, a number that exceeds those registered as a result of the Second World War. (UNHCR)

The responsibility of the media is to make visible or to hide all the information existing in the world and even to spread it as part of the reality lived in the world, which in turn also acts as mediator, giving voice when there are victims, but many times also distorts the reality and does not respect the dignity of the protagonists.

The role of the mass media has always influenced political decisions and even the elite, but especially when the problem is the right to asylum and immigration. It is well known that such media agendas (Agenda Setting) and frameworks are established in the debates, providing thus the most convenient information to the citizens, through the manipulation of the mass media in the crisis. During the course of migration to Europe, you could see that in the coverage of the media in many countries, immigrants have been framed negatively and treated as a social problem, but have not been seen in the context of humanitarian aid or as an advantage for recipient countries.

According to the media, the refugee crisis has affected the “Stability” of many EU countries, but it is also true that this “Stability” before the crisis no longer existed.

But for the media this crisis has removed the much-dreamed-of and idealized “European Community Integration Project”, jeopardizing one of the main achievements of the EU, the Schengen area, and confronting the Member States with each other. The massive influx of refugees led European leaders to react to the situation and to see it as a political agenda priority. After many negotiations, the European Commission, together with some Member States, decided to offer a response to the refugee crisis by establishing a policy of resettlement of refugees on the basis of a quota system, but some Member State governments (Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) opposed that resolution and were unable to reach a fair agreement.

It is true that EU leaders have failed to address the refugee crisis in many ways because of the rejection by citizens of immigration and asylum throughout Europe. But it is also true that the EU has many allies in the world. It would be crucial for all countries to meet in a civilized way to discuss such large-scale problems, which is not only the responsibility of the EU but a reality of all. I believe that one day all countries can come to this reasoning, but it may take many years for the human being to mature and accept each other without prejudice.

There are many unanswered questions

  1. What measures has the EU taken to prevent the continued arrival of refugees in Europe?
  2. Why are still boats filled with refugees coming to the coast of Europe?
  3. Why does the EU fail to combat the networks of criminals responsible for the trafficking of refugees in the Mediterranean?
  4. Why should the European Union alone take on such responsibilities?

It’s important to be able to see the version of both sides of the media and to be able to contrast and understand the difference presented by the traditional and independent media (Social Media) of the refugee crisis. What in the past could not be contemplated so easily, the veracity of the information and the implication of great political institutions as the case of the European Union and how the media have addressed the issue and how it has been fully covered. On the other hand the role of the media is also important in regards to the problems and crises suffered in 2015 in the European Union. Were it not for transparency (the EU documents) today it would not have been possible to put together the pieces of the puzzle of the European Union, pieces that in theory should fit in order for the EU to continue existing.



Burson, Bruce & Cantor David J. (2016) Human Rights and the Refugee Definition, London, Print: Brill/Nijhoff

Cebolla Boado, H. & González Ferrer, A. (2013) Inmigración: ¿Integración sin modelo?, Madrid, Editorial: Alianza

Cohen, S. (2003) No one is illegal: Asylum and immigration control past and present. London: Trentham Books.

Hartleb, Florian (2011) A thorn in the side of European elites: The New Euroscepticism, Brussels, Print: Drukkerij Jo Vandenbulcke – Centre for European Studies (pp. 6-15)









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