EU identity frame (European/Global Public Sphere)




EU identity, identity frame, EU, European Union, comparative research, international


The variable “EU identity frame” is used to analyze the content of collective European identity as it is constructed in media discourses. An EU frame establishes an understanding of the EU as a certain kind of community (e.g., political community, common market, community with political values). Identity frames are indicated by statements on general objectives, norms and/or historic aspects of the EU. For example, the frame that addresses the EU as a currency union is characterized by the objective to be economically strong and competitive and to uphold the norm of fiscal stability. The variable is usually combined with the coding of the evaluation of an identity frame as support for the EU as a specific kind of community or its rejection. Since one media piece can entail several EU identity frames, addressed by different speakers, EU identity frames have been taken as the coding unit in content analyses.


Field of application/theoretical foundation:

The variable “EU identity frame” is used in comparative research on the construction of collective European identity in media outlets (Lichtenstein, 2016; Lichtenstein & Eilders, 2015, 2019). Identity is understood as a sense of belonging and togetherness. It is analyzed in the context of conflicts and crises within the EU, when identity should provide a basis for the legitimacy of EU governance and transnational solidarity. Differences in the framing of European identity between countries indicate conflicts that are related to different political and economic objectives or a different understanding of European values and culture. In contrast, a shared understanding of European identity between countries provides orientation for political decisions. In its theoretical foundation, the coding of EU frames has some parallels to the coding of thematic frames on conflict events in research on horizontal transnationalization of the public sphere.


References/combination with other methods of data collection:

The framing of European identity can also be analyzed with surveys in media effect studies.


Example study:

Lichtenstein & Eilders (2019)


Information on Lichtenstein & Eilders, 2019

Authors: Dennis Lichtenstein, Christiane Eilders 

Research question/research interest: Conflicts in the framing of European identity between countries during the Euro crisis

Object of analysis: Weekly quality papers from Germany, France, and the UK

Timeframe of analysis: 2011–2014


Information about variable

Variable name/definition: EU Frame

„Grundlegend für diese Variable ist die Frage, was Europa ist oder sein soll. Hier wird erhoben, welche Idee von Europa in einer Aussage aktualisiert wird. Diese Idee kann direkt vom Sprecher ausgedrückt werden und zwar entweder durch ein direktes oder indirektes Zitat oder durch die Beschreibung einer aktiven Handlung des Sprechers, die Qualitäten einer Meinungsäußerung aufweist. Außerdem kann eine Europaidee durch das Verhältnis zwischen Europa und einem BZO (Bezugsobjekt) aufgezeigt werden. Hier zeigt sich die Konsistenz des BZO zu der Europaidee: Die Beziehung zwischen dem BZO und der Europaidee kann in einem konformen oder in einem konflikthaften Verhältnis stehen. Z.B. ist die Aussage, „die Türkei passt nicht zum europäischen Wertegefüge“ auf die Idee von Europa als Wertgemeinschaft bezogen und nur in diesem Verständnis wird hier ein konflikthaftes Verhältnis zur Türkei behauptet.“ (Lichtenstein, 2014)

This variable is related to the question of what Europe is or should be according to a speaker’s statement. This idea of Europe can be expressed directly by the speaker, either by a direct or indirect quotation, or by the description of an active action of the speaker that has qualities of an expression of opinion. An idea of Europe can be expressed through the relationship between Europe and a BZO (reference object). Here the consistency of the BZO to the idea of Europe is evident: the relationship between the BZO and the idea of Europe can be either conformist or conflictual. For example, the statement that "Turkey does not fit to the European values" refers to Europe as a community of values, and it is only in this understanding that a conflictual relationship with Turkey is asserted here.


EU frames

Coded EU sub frames

Political integration:

 EU as a federation

Strongly politically integrated community

Community with a common constitution

Political integration:

EU as a confederation

Loosely connected community of sovereign nation states

Community of states with equal power

Market regulations:

EU as an authority for market regulations

Market intervention by the EU

Community with a common economic, finance and tax law

Economic solidarity between states with strong and weak economies

European social policy

European environmental and energy policy

Market regulations:

EU as a free market

EU as a market in competition with other big players

EU as a free trade area with competition and labor migration

Finance policy:

Economic growth

Investments for economic growth in the EU and in crisis countries

Financial solidarity

Finance policy:

Finance stability

Financial stability in the Euro zone

Austerity politics to foster budged discipline in EU countries

Common political values

Democracy as a European value

Peace as a European value

Solidarity with other EU countries

Rule of law

Currency Union

Euro zone as an economically strong and competitive currency union

Fiscal stability in the Eurozone

Cultural community

Common European history and mythology

EU countries connected by religion

Education and arts

Diversity of cultures in Europa and encounters with people from different European cultures

Community with a common foreign policy

Common engagement and interests in foreign policy

Common military and defense policy

EU as a geographic entity

Legitimate EU borders equals the borders of the European continent


Level of analysis: EU frame

Scale level: Nominal

Reliability: Krippendorff’s Alpha = .75



Lichtenstein, D. & Eilders, C. (2019). Lost in uncertainty. How the Euro crisis affected European identity constructions in national media discourses. International Communication Gazette, 81(6–8), 602–622.



How to Cite

Lichtenstein, D. (2021). EU identity frame (European/Global Public Sphere). DOCA - Database of Variables for Content Analysis.



News/Journalism: Variables for Content Analysis