Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Research Centre for the Study of Democratic Cultures and Politics Events & Colloquium

DemCP colloquium - PIERO TORTOLA: "Reassessing the European Commission's Politicization through Language"

When:We 03-02-2021 16:00 - 17:15

Piero Tortola, University of Groningen
Reassessing the European Commission's Politicization through Language


The European Commission has always occupied an ambiguous position within the European Union’s order. On the one hand, the EC was created primarily as a technical body tasked with the guardianship and implementation of the Treaties. On the other hand, from the beginning, these technical tasks have been accompanied by a number of more ‘political’ traits, such as the Commission’s generalist policy range, and its monopoly over legislative agenda setting. It is a widespread opinion among EU scholars that this latter side of the EC has become more prominent over time, culminating during the tenure of Jean-Claude Juncker, who was appointed President through the quasi-parliamentary Spitzenkandidaten procedure, and introduced a number of politicizing institutional and policy initiatives. This paper tests the politicization hypothesis from the angle of language, assessing the entire corpus of speeches by the President and members of the Commission from 1999 to 2019 in light of two dictionary-based indicators of, respectively, charisma and technicality. Through our linguistic analysis, we aim to propose a new approach to politicization as a multi-faceted phenomenon whose different dimensions should be examined against one another, and may even be used strategically by the Commission as part of a careful institutional balancing act.

About the speaker

Dr Piero Tortola is an assistant professor of European Politics and Society at the University of Groningen. His current work revolves around technocracy, and more generally the role of knowledge in (European) politics and policy-making. His latest publications on these themes are "The power of expertise: Gauging technocracy in EMU reform negotiations" (with S. Tarlea). Journal of European Public Policy (2020 - early view), and "The politicisation of the European Central Bank: What is it, and how to study it?" Journal of Common Market Studies 58, 3 (2020): 501-13.