top of page


EU institutions - Crises - Discourse - Public communication - Legitimacy (2021 - present) 

The various crises that the European Union has faced over the past decade have required quick reactions and decisions that were not always considered effective and democratic by the citizenry. The EU's legitimacy and the pursuit of European integration are, especially in times of crisis, questioned and subject to doubts, which encourages (nationalist and eurosceptic) discourses about EU disintegration in the public space. Yet, the institutions' public communication, relayed to citizens through the media, is an essential tool - when used efficiently - in processes of policy legitimization, image restoration and crisis management. At the crossroads between political and communication sciences, my postdoctoral research focuses on analyzing the discourse of the EU's political, economic, and legal institutions during four major crises:  the economic-financial Eurozone crisis, the Brexit political-institutional crisis, the Covid-19 health crisis, and the war in Ukraine. Building on an extensive corpus of references from various communication mediums (press releases, social networks, official communiqués, speeches, etc), the research aims to identify the arguments put forward in the institutions' crisis communication in order to, on the one hand, reinforce the EU's legitimacy and the continued necessity of European integration, and, on the other hand, to counter ideas and discourses about a potential EU disintegration. The qualitative and quantitative analysis of these arguments will allow for an in-depth understanding of the discursive dynamics and mechanisms of the EU's institutional crisis communication with a view to improving discursive responses to future crises. ​

Main publications 

  • Paper forthcoming September 2023: Legitimacy Through Soft Power: EU Leaders’ Twitter Discourse During the Covid-19 and Russo-Ukrainian Crises

  • Paper forthcoming second half of 2023: Are Measures Appropriate or Efficient? The European Central Bank’s Legitimation Discourse During the Eurozone and Covid-19 Crises

  • Working paper: Communicating in Crisis: A Comparison of the EU Institutions’ Argumentative Discourse during Political, Economic, and Health Crises

EU Parliament - US Congress - Input legitimacy - Civic engagement - Voter turnout (2023 - present)

The United States and the European Union share a common objective: enhancing the democratic legitimacy of their institutions. As democratic institutions are supposed to represent the people, they derive a significant part of their legitimacy from citizen participation in decision-making processes and policy choices. If citizen involvement in the decision-making processes is frail, then the governing institutions’ input legitimacy, i.e., legitimacy deriving from governance by the people, is harder to build. Without overlooking the differences between the two political systems, this paper discusses the role of citizen participation in the enhancement of institutions’ input legitimacy with the aim of understanding how the US and the EU can learn from each other’s practices. First, the paper looks into the concept of input legitimacy, its relationship with democratic governance, and its interactions with other sources of legitimacy. Then, it deals with the importance of citizens’ engagement with civic and political life for input legitimacy. Next, it dives into the state of input legitimacy in the US and EU political arenas by assessing three variables: voter turnout, citizen engagement with civil society, and citizen trust in institutions. Finally, it discusses how the US and the EU can learn from each other to further enhance their institutions’ input legitimacy.

Main publications 

  • Paper forthcoming second half of 2023: Democratic Legitimacy Across the Pond: Input Legitimacy and Citizen Participation in the United States and the European Union


EU institutions - European identity - Europe - Discourse - Enlargement (2017-2021)


Article 49 of the Treaty on the European Union enshrines that any “European State” may apply for membership in the European Union (EU). As a primary eligibility condition, the “European State” formulation has defined the nature and scope of the EU since the inception of European integration. While the term “European” holds various meanings, there has been no clear definition in EU law of that which makes a state “European”. In the absence of such a definition, the EU political institutions – the European Commission, European Council, European Parliament, and Council of the European Union – have needed to interpret states’ European character amid, among others, membership requests. At the crossroads between political and communication sciences, my PhD thesis, entitled "A Tale of Europe(anness): Interpretations of the "European State" in the Discourse of the Political Institutions of the European Union", investigated the various interpretations that have been provided by the EU political institutions amid European integration. Building on a corpus of various archival resources, the research uncovered four main interpretations of the “European State” formulation – and, by extension, of Europe(anness) – in the discourse of the EU political institutions. These are the geographical, cultural, historical, and political interpretations. Each interpretation was critically addressed by analyzing thematically and statistically its substance, and considering illustrative enlargement cases. The thesis was divided into six chapters. While Chapter 1 explored the legal logics surrounding the membership clause and the “European State” eligibility condition, Chapter 2 dived into the three contextual dynamics – Europe, Europeanness, and enlargement – in which this condition occurs. Chapter 3 engaged in a critical review of the institutional interpretations previously identified by scholars, asserting the relevance of the representations and narratives in which these interpretations are firmly rooted. Chapter 4 detailed the theoretical and methodological frameworks - mainly (critical) discourse analysis - used to analyze the thesis’s corpus-based thematic analysis of the four institutional interpretations, which are presented in Chapter 5. Finally, Chapter 6 offered statistical insights into the salience of the interpretations according to various aspects that further allow for a comprehensive understanding of the various dimensions surrounding the studied formulation. My PhD thesis provided a comprehensive understanding of the “European State” formulation and the dynamics and logics surrounding notions of Europe(anness). It highlighted how the EU political institutions instrumentalized these notions - based on cherry-picked representations and wider narratives of Europe(anness) - and constructed a new (europeanized and institutionalized) discourse on Europe(anness) which served strategic and legitimation ends in the framework of both enlargement and the construction of European (collective) identity. 

Main publications

Institutional discourse - Archives - Grey literature - Research methodology 


Based on my research experience in three EU-focused archival centers in Europe and the US, I was invited to write a methodology chapter to help graduate students carry out research. This chapter addresses the archival research of institutional documents as a method to analyze grey literature. Although bypassing traditional publishing processes, grey literature is a valuable resource for scientific research, especially when the research question involves an analysis of the institutional perspective and its evolution. However, this type of literature presents some challenges that, while not insurmountable, can complicate the research process. This chapter explains the various theoretical and methodological mechanisms surrounding grey literature by focusing on archival research as a collection methodology and on institutional documents compiled in archives as a corpus. The aim is to provide the necessary tools for an informed understanding and rigorous research of this type of resource.

Main publications 

  • Niessen, Annie. Analysing Grey Literature: A Methodology for Archival Research of Institutional Discourses. In Geoffrey Grandjean and Antonios Vlassis (eds.), Writing A Scientific Work: Instruments and Processes. Presses Universitaires de Liège, 2023 (forthcoming in both French and English). 

  • Paper forthcoming 2024: Researching Transatlantic Relations in Archives: A Case Study of EU Enlargement.

Argumentative discourse - UK political parties - EU withdrawal - Brexit (2015-2016)

When David Cameron announced an 'in/out' referendum in 2015, the UK’s continued membership of the EU became highly compromized, which sparked lively debates on both sides of the Channel. Yet, this crisis in the UK-EU relationship was far from being the first one. During my pre-doctoral research (master thesis and post-graduation research position that led to the publication of a book chapter), I focused on the British political parties' discourse on the EU during the different crises that had punctuated the UK-EU relationship since the UK's membership in 1973. More precisely, I explored the arguments that were used to criticize and/or advocate withdrawal from the EU under the successive premierships in the period 1973-2013, as well as those adduced by the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, the Democrats and UKIP in the period 2013-2015. This research provided insights into the nature of the (then prospective) Brexit as being both a structural and situational phenomenon. Part of the research also included a legal and  (pre-Brexit) practical analysis of the withdrawal clause (Article 50 TEU) and a review of "early withdrawals" from the EU (Greenland, Algeria). 

Main publications

  • Niessen, Annie. Le paradoxe anglais.  (Eds.) In Quentin Michel and Maxime Habran (eds), Le labyrinthe européen - Eléments et principes de l’Union européenne. Presses Universitaires de Liège, 2016, 75-97.

Organisation panel/conf.
bottom of page