Beyond the boundaries. Migration discourse in EU parliamentary debates


Immigration has emerged as a prevalent political issue throughout the entire European Union over the past few years. Hardly a day goes by without news stories of people fleeing the Middle East and Northern Africa to reach the shores of Europe, or without an act of violence, the emergence of a new association or political party, or debates on policy initiatives taken by EU Member States. In this respect, and in ways which were almost completely ‘unexpected’ some years ago, nearly every single aspect of political discussion has been affected by the issue of immigration. In every European country new movements have emerged, anti-immigrant political parties have obtained electoral advances and have altered the balance of political forces. This new balance has influenced policy changes in the EU as Members States have attempted to deal with the challenges that threaten understandings, agreements, social policy and the political and social construction of Europe itself. By adopting CDA (Fairclough 1995, 2013; van Dijk 1984; Wodak 1997) and Zapata-Barrero’s distinction between re-active and pro-active discourse (2007), this work analyses a corpus of EU parliamentary debates on migration. The aim was to ascertain whether and to what extent the interventions taken into consideration negatively react against the process of integration and multiculturalism resulting from the arrival of migrants or whether they instead positively accompany the process and consider it a historic opportunity and not a threat. The ad hoc corpus, which covers a time span of three years – from 2016 to 2018 – will be investigated both quantitatively and qualitatively in order to identify the most frequent lexemes and their co-occurring patterns of usage along with the most recurrent or relevant phraseology in the verbatim reports. The interventions under scrutiny deal with migration issues, such as the flow of migrants legally or illegally entering the EU, asylum seekers, undocumented residents, borders and boundaries, thus allowing for the exploration of re-active and pro-active discourse constructions and of the strategies of legitimation used by MPs who try to demonstrate that their policies and actions towards immigration are legitimate, and executed within the boundaries and barriers of moral order and correct procedures (van Leeuwen, Wodak 1999; van Leeuwen 2007).


DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v39p131

Keywords: EU parliamentary debates; immigration; CDA; Corpus Linguistics; legitimation.


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