External Images of the EU (EXIE): Images of the EU as Normative Energy Player


Time line

September 2012 – August 2014

Countries in focus

 Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, UK, Germany, France and the EU


EXIE Team at the Research Workshop #4, 22-26 April, 2014, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Project description

This project focuses on two major global challenges that the European Union (EU) is currently facing:

  1. The establishment of a multipolar world order with emerging powers as prospective cooperation partners; and
  2. The challenges of creating a secure, competitive and sustainable EU External Energy Policy (EUEEP).

In an increasingly multipolar world with a growing demand for energy by newly emerging powers such as Brazil, Russia India, China and South Africa (BRICS), questions of external energy governance would appear to be a high-priority issue for European policy-makers. Yet, external energy governance with emerging powers (except for EU-Russia energy relations) is only scarcely addressed at the European level.

Driven by severe strategic constraints that risk the securitisation of energy policies, the EU is failing to harness the potential for cooperation with newly emerging powers, and the possibilities for multipolar energy relations. This is aggravated by the EU’s failure to systematically examine its external image in general, and of its EEP towards BRICS in particular. These perceptions are a basis for understanding and a foundation upon which actors make decisions. Ultimately, if the EU continues to overlook its EEP and its external images, the EU will leave itself exposed to strategic and ecological risks, bearing in mind the future impacts of climate change and resource scarcity.

In international fora, such as the Copenhagen and Durban climate conferences, the EU’s conduct in the field of energy policies risks isolating the EU and leading it to be perceived as a weak actor. As such, the EXIE aims to:

  1. Assess the external image and perceptions of normative orientation, governance and bargaining strategies of the EUEEP. Within this context the Euro crisis and the EU’s post-Copenhagen behaviour in EUEEP will be specifically examined (case of the BRICS news media); and
  2. Compare EU external imagery with the EU’s self-visions and with the BRICS’ visions of other global energy actors who may present alternatives to cooperation with the EU.

The comparison between self- and xeno-visions will highlight the areas of misunderstanding, miscommunication and misperception tainting the EU’s dialogues with Emerging Powers in the energy field. Energy is a cross-cutting issue involving the policy fields of external relations, trade, energy, development, environment, human rights and climate policies.

The following objectives shape our research programme:

  1. To identify the EU’s self-visions (response to the euro debt crisis, and in this context, images of the EUEEP) communicated via reputable news media
  2. To identify external media images of the EU responding to the euro debt crisis and, in this context, of its EEP (five case-studies of BRICS)
  3. To compare internal vs. external media framing of the EUEEP, as well as vs. the framing of external energy policy of other global energy actors
  4. To compare the EU’s and the BRICS interpretations of the three norms of energy security, sustainability and competitiveness

To outline recommendations which use images and perceptions to show EU policy makers how external images could facilitate (or subvert) the EU’s future “Good External Energy Governance” in an increasingly multipolar world. Ultimately, this research will facilitate a comprehensive approach towards global awareness of a more cooperative multipolar external energy regime.

Project design

Assuming that news media are “first-rate competitors for the number one position as international image-former”, EXIE will draw conclusions on internal and external media representation of good energy governance and the EU’s profile in it. A four-step work programme has been developed:

  1. Analysis of media images of the EU responses to the euro debt crisis and, in this context, images of EUEEP towards BRICS vs. external energy policies of other global energy actors in reputable BRICS news media (press and Internet)
  2. Analysis of the respective media images of the EU and its EEP towards BRICS vs. external energy policies of other global energy actors in reputable pan-European and EU MS news media (press and Internet)
  • Comparison of BRICS vs. EU media frames and interpretations using the tripartite ‘normative’ paradigm of energy securitysustainability and competitiveness
  • Development of policy recommendations

The quality of the work programme rests on methodology which has been internationally tested. It is empirically driven, comparative and multidisciplinary, and combines qualitative and quantitative approaches as well as expertise from European integration studies, political science, critical discourse analysis, media studies and communication. Analysis of news media imagery is informed by a multi-level model combining media agenda-setting, cognitive and critical discourse analysis approach theories.. The nature of our theoretical and analytical framework demands a specific set of research methods.  Methodological highlightsinclude

  • Monitoring the daily coverage of EU and its EEP and external energy policies of other global players during UN Climate Change Conventions (“peak” period, 2009-2013)
  • Monitoring of reputable media: press (3 papers with the highest circulation in each country, including a leading business paper), a reputable weekly journal and one and internet blogs in each country.
  • Unit of analysis is a news article (including interaction of textual and visual elements)
  • Consistent comparative approach in research design

EXIE will formally train its research team in methodology, ensuring consistency and quality of data collection and analysis. Research workshops involving all members of the Consortium (early-career and experienced) provide the mechanisms to ensure the project’s progress against the milestones.


Galtung, J. and M. H. Ruge (1965). ‘The Structure of Foreign News’, Journal of Peace Research, Vol.2, No.1, pp. 64-91, p.64

Project researchers

Project Leader

  • Professor Natalia Chaban, National Centre for Research on Europe, UC, NZ


  • Professor Martin Holland, National Centre for Research on Europe, UC, NZ 
  • Prof Dr Michèle Knodt, TU Darmstadt, Germany
  • Prof Amy Verdun, University of Victoria, Canada

In association with

  • Prof Lorenzo Fioramonti, University of Pretoria, South Africa
  • Dr Jessica Bain, University of Leicester, UK

Project management

  • Yvonne Grosch, JM EXIE Project Manager (NCRE, NZ)
  • Nadine Piefer (TU Darmstadt)
  • Suet-Yi Lai (Cher), Academic Manager (NCRE, NZ)



  • Carolina Guimaraes, Brazil (TU Darmstadt)
  • Anastasia Chebakova, Russia (University of Victoria)
  • Tatiana Shaban, Russia (University of Victoria)
  • Olga Gulyaeva, Russia and India (NCRE, NZ)
  • Shreya Pandey, India (Central University of Jharkhand, India)Lai Suet Yi (Cher), China (NCRE, NZ)
  • Juan-José (JJ) Miranda, South Africa (University of Pretoria)


  • Berengere Greenland, France (NCRE, NZ)
  • Louise Nielsen, Germany (TU Darmstadt)
  • Jessica Bain, UK (University of Leicester, UK)
  • Lai Suet Yi (Cher), EU (NCRE, NZ)
EXIE Research Trainings