Policy brief

Tales from a crisis: diverging narratives of the euro area

Who gets the blame for the crisis? How did narratives of the crisis develop since 2007? The authors of this paper tried to identify the key crisis-rel

Publishing date
15 February 2018

Economic analyses largely ignore Europe’s fragmented public sphere, a feature that distinguishes the euro area from other major currency areas.

This Policy Contribution identifies how narratives of the crisis developed since 2007, by identifying the key crisis-related topics in articles from four opinion-forming newspapers in the largest euro-area countries (Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung, France’s Le Monde, Italy’s La Stampa and Spain’s El País). In particular, the analysis considers where blame for the crisis has been laid with the aim of informing the current debate on euro-area governance reform. Such an exercise can help to understand the difficulties euro-area policymakers face when it comes to formulating solutions that are both appropriate and commonly acceptable.

The analysis showed that Süddeutsche Zeitung blames everyone but Germany, the chief suspects being Greece and the European Central Bank; the paper stresses the need to return 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 European Central Bank. La Stampa sees Italy as the victim of unfortunate circumstances, including the European Union austerity measures promoted by Germany, and Italy’s own politicians. El País primarily blames Spain for misconduct during the boom years preceding the crisis.

This picture of differing narratives shows that each euro-area country faces different pressures from its respective public when discussing how to press ahead with effective euro-area governance reform. The global financial crisis and the subsequent recession had quite different effects in different euro-area countries. Therefore, it is unsurprising that the narratives differ in the four papers. National problems and solutions took centre stage in national discourses leaving systemic euro-area issues largely unmentioned.

About the authors

  • Giuseppe Porcaro

    Giuseppe Porcaro led the outreach activities of Bruegel, including communications, media, events, publications and hosted the Bruegel podcast series until October 2023. He was responsible for membership relations, supported the governance of the organisation, and was the board secretary. He also lead the Human Resources department and was part of the organisation's senior management. 

    Giuseppe's research interests lie with issues related to technological changes and how they affect policymaking and democracy, as well as to narratives about European futures and their policy implications in the current global geopolitical context.

    Giuseppe joined Bruegel in 2014, and was the head of communications and events until 2019. He has been Secretary-General of the European Youth Forum between 2009 and 2014, UN and Global Affairs coordinator at the Youth Forum from 2007 to 2009, and previously worked at the World Bank in Kosovo and Paris as well as the European Office of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement. Giuseppe holds a Ph.D. in Geography of Development at the University of Naples "L'Orientale". He is also a science-fiction writer, and author of a novel about Europe and the future of democracy.

    He is fluent in English, Italian, French, and Spanish.

  • Henrik Müller

    Henrik Müller is a professor of economic policy journalism at the Institute of Journalism at TU Dortmund University, Germany. He studied economics at Kiel University and holds a doctorate degree in economics from the University of the Armed Forces Hamburg. Following a career in journalism, his last position being deputy editor-in-chief at manager magazin, the leading German business monthly, he joined  TU's faculty in 2013 to start a new program in economic policy journalism (bachelor and master) and the Dortmund Center for data-based Media Analysis (DoCMA) in cooperation with colleagues from the departments for data science and statistics.

    Henrik is the author of numerous books on economic policy and a frequent commentator on current issues in the media. A new book on the rise of nationalism around the globe and its consequences is due to be published in Febuary 2017. Recent papers include "Fighting Europe's Crisis with innovative Media: a modest Proposal" (Journal of Business and Economics, forthcoming) and "De-globalisation, Populism and Media Competition: the Spiral of Noise" (Central Eastern European Journal of Communication, forthcoming).

  • Gerret von Nordheim

    Gerret von Nordheim is a PhD student at the Institute of Journalism in Dortmund. His research interest is focused on applications of Textmining/NLP-algorithms for the analysis of (social) media content.

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