New Zealand Historical Perceptions of European Integrations


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Country in focus

New Zealand

Project goals

This section of EU Global Perceptions project hosts a number of projects, all focusing on perceptions of Europe and European integration in various New Zealand discourses across several decades:

Time period: 2006-ongoing

New Zealand has strong historical links to Europe, through trade, migration and cultural commonalities. However, the emergence of a united European entity in the second half of the 20th century, its impacts on New Zealand and the reactions by New Zealanders have made a relatively small impression on the historiography of New Zealand.

Europe is one of New Zealand’s dominant economic, political and cultural partners and there is a need for empirical analysis of New Zealand’s public perceptions of this important region. Since 2002, the NCRE has been conducting a series of projects assessing the contemporary visions of the EU in NZ news media discourses, the general public opinion and views of national stakeholders. Since 2009, the NCRE has developed a new project adding a historical longitudinal perspective into this broader study. The project investigates the way in which key European Integration events in the 1950s 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s were reported and reacted to within New Zealand.

Archival research is undertaken researching relevant documents at national archives as well as four NZ newspapers (The New Zealand HeraldThe DominionThe Press and the Otago Daily Times) and the NZ Listener to gather and analyse articles (texts, cartoons and images) that illustrate NZ responses and attitudes to the changing events in Europe and their impact in New Zealand. This project utilises a methodology proven in the wider “External Perceptions of the EU” project that has used this analysis template across 21 countries in the Asia Pacific region.

The preliminary list of ‘key’ events for NZ-EU interactions includes: 1950 Schuman Declaration, 1951 treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, 1957 Treaty establishing the European Economic Community, 1960 establishment of the European Free Trade Association, 1962 introduction of the Common Agricultural Policy, 1965 Treaty creating a single Council and Commission, 1968 introduction of a Common External Tariff, 1972 accession of the UK, 1975 Lome convention, 1978 setting up a European Monetary System, 1979 first direct elections to the European Parliament, 1981 Greece’s entry to the EU, 1986 signing of the Single European Act, 1986 Spain and Portugal entry to the EU, 1990 signing of the Shengen Agreement, 1991 Maastricht Treaty on European Union, 1993 creation of the single market, 1995 EU enlargement to 15 Member States, 1997, Amsterdam Treaty, 1999 recognition of Turkey as a candidate for EU memberships. While there is a general assumption about the impact of these events for New Zealand, there has been no detailed analysis of the different discourses that developed in New Zealand around these events.

This research aims to fill this gap in knowledge about European and New Zealand relations during the five decades by providing a series of snapshots of how New Zealand reacted to the events that built the EU. It is hoped that this research will help to develop a more comprehensive picture of how current perceptions of the EU have been generated and produce a greater understanding of the historical relevance of the EU to New Zealand.

Project Researchers

Project Leader

  • Associate Professor Natalia Chaban, NCRE, University of Canterbury, NZ

Co-Leader (2006-2011)

  • Sarah Christie, NCRE, University of Canterbury, NZ


UC Summer Scholarship Recipients
  • Jenna Guest
  • Aimee Sanders
  • Shivani Makwana 
  • Brittany Nolan
Research Fellows supported by NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Grants and NZ EUCN
  • Dr Olga Gulyaeva, NCRE NZ
  • David Hall, Victoria University, Wellington, NZ
  • Grace Millar, Victoria University Wellington, NZ
Associated Researcher
  • Dr Jessica Bain, University of Leicester, UK

Time line

2002 - on going

This study offers a unique and longitudinal view of the EU from the outside. The changing profile of New Zealand society, the weakening of traditional ties to the UK, as well as New Zealand's increasing Asian "identity", all serve to underline the need for empirical analysis of contemporary general public perceptions of Europe, one of the dominant economic, political and cultural partners for New Zealand. On the other side of this important relationship, the European Union places great value on its external relations.

A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in European Studies at the University of Canterbury

Contributing to the broader debate on the nature and identity of the European Union (EU), this thesis is a study of the EU from the outside looking in: an examination of how this novel process of integration among the nations of Europe is viewed by its partners around the world, in particular in New Zealand through its television news media. While there are many studies which examine how the EU is understood and represented within its borders, there is an absence of parallel studies which consider the image of the EU from an external perspective.

Recognising that the television news media plays a particularly important role in influencing the knowledge and perceptions of people on foreign matters, the thesis presents an analysis of the entire EU television news coverage in New Zealand's two prime-time television news bulletins throughout 2004. The primary research question that the thesis investigates is, how is the EU framed in the television news media of New Zealand, an external 'Other' of the EU?

The study was multi-methodological in nature and analysed each of the relevant news items using content analysis, as well as undertaking deeper analysis of the metaphorical categorisations and the visual images of the EU, to detect the entire range of EU representations and the overall image of the EU these created for New Zealand television news audiences.

These findings were then compared against corresponding research from Australia, South Korea and Thailand, as well as to the perceptions of New Zealand's leading newsmakers, in order to account for the most important trends in EU image formation in New Zealand. In particular it was found that the EU was often entirely absent from the New Zealand television news space, and when it was visible, was often presented in a way which ignored the extensive domestic relevance of the Union for New Zealand and its immediate region.


Dr Jessica Bain

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Positioning location-specific cultural filters at the heart of the ‘Normative Power Europe” approach, this project pays attention to one type of those filters – external recognition based on a set of perceptions and images. Deepening and enriching the Normative Power Europe theoretical discourse on ‘cultural filters’ of external perceptions, this project undertakes a study of Europe’s normative images in high school textbooks in New Zealand.

The idea behind this project is that cultural resonance leading to speedy and positive reactions is a function of historically constructed domestic norm invites us to assess discourses that construct “normative narratives”. One such discourse is education. Education is defined here as “the institution that organises learning” where learning is “the process of transferring knowledge and/or competences.” - Kasper Juffermans and Jef van der Aa, “Analysing Voice in Educational Discourses,” Tilburg Papers in Culture Studies 12, (2011), 1.

Students “develop a particular conceptualization of an issue or reorient their thinking about an issue.” - Dennis Chong and James N. Druckman, “Framing Theory,” Annual Review of Political Science 10, (2007): 103–26, 104.

Turning to the theory of social identity construction, this analysis accepts the premise that social identity – including the elements of normative mapping of the world – is constructed on several interconnected levels: family, language, education, government policy, media, and icons of identity. - Fritz Groothues, “Imagine: A European Identity,” Open Democracy, March 14, 2002, accessed February 16, 2015,

While “schools are an important factor in instilling, even producing identity,” a special role belongs to teachers and textbooks – they “generate pronounced forms of [...] identity.” - Ibid.

While forging the society’s identity, school textbooks often make use of images, perceptions and stereotypes in describing the “Other.” Textbooks constitute a central prism through which the image of and the information on the “Other” have been filtered. Conceivably, these perceptions accompany the students into adulthood and affect their later political views as well. - Elie Podeh, The Arab-Israeli Conflict in Israeli History Textbooks, 1948–2000 (Westport: Bergin&Garvey, 2002), IX.

A research team of pre-trained coders surveyed 37 textbooks in four disciplines in the last four years of New Zealand high school – social studies (textbooks in year 10); history, geography and economics (textbooks in years 11, 12 and 13). The four subjects build the core of the social sciences curriculum in New Zealand which aims at educating students on ‘how societies work and how people can participate as critical, active, informed, and responsible citizens. Contexts are drawn from the past, present, and future and from places within and beyond New Zealand’ (Ministry of Education, online).

Project researchers

Project Leaders

  • Associate Professor Natalia Chaban, NCRE, University of Canterbury, NZ
  • Dr Genevieve Taylor, NCRE, University of Canterbury, NZ

Associated Researcher

  • Dr Katharine Vadura, NCRE, University of Canterbury, NZ

NCRE Researchers

  • Gabriel Weibl
  • Stephen Howard
  • Berengere Greenland
  • James Comery