This paper examines the connections between the public debate and political culture i.e. the citizens’ attitudes toward the political system. Specifically, this thesis will focus on the way in which the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the European Parliament (EP) are present in the national public debate in Italy and Denmark. Political culture shall be described as defining political language in the sense that it establishes a ‘how to’ of debating; thus defining both the boundaries and structure of the public debate. In defining political culture I utilise a scale arching from Open Political Cultures to Closed Political Cultures. This descriptive definition should reflect the degree to which the given political culture seems to accept the ”immigration” of EUinstitutions in to the national political system. According to my hypothesis, an open political culture should result in a public debate displaying a higher degree of equality in treatment of European and national political institutions. In order to place the specific political cultures of Italy and Denmark in relation to the above-mentioned scale, I shall analyse selected aspects of the political process which might be deemed to determine the character of the given national political culture. Hence, this thesis shall analyse the political process within the two countries in terms of ’perception of democracy’, ’type of democracy’ and ’praxis of democracy’. In light of these analyses the Italian political culture can be defined as relatively open, whereas the Danish political culture can be defined as relatively closed. The paper then examines the question of what may be the specific links between the character of a political culture and the structure of the public debate. The empirical analysis focuses on two questions: How politicized are the reactions to the ECJ, and What is the role of the EP in the public debate. The paper presents a comparative empirical analysis of articles taken from Italian and Danish newspapers. The purpose of this is to establish whether facts would ultimately verify my so far theoretically founded expectations regarding the differences between the two subject countries in these aspects of the public debate. The empirical data collected confirms my assumption as to a higher degree of politicization in the reactions to the ECJ in the Italian case and a Danish debate more focused on principles. There is also, as expected, a generally more positive tone in the Italian press. Regarding the EP, the empirical data confirms that it seems to be present to a much larger extent in the Italian newspapers examined whereas the MEP’s have a more prominent role in the Danish case. This difference is reflected in the fact that the MEPs’ direct contribution to the public debate constitutes a strikingly greater part of the total number of articles regarding the EP in the Danish newspapers. Surprisingly, the number of articles in which the EP and the MEPs are present as participating and contributing to the public debate, constitute a larger proportion of the total amount of articles in the Danish case than in the Italian. In both countries, however, the EP is generally perceived as an object for public debate rather than a participant contributing to it. With only one exception (I had expected to find the number of “participatory articles” concerning the EP to be greater in the Italian press than in the Danish) my empirical findings appear to be consistent with my theoretically founded expectations with regard to political culture acting as an explanatory parametre for public debate. And so, the present paper appears to confirm that the differences examined in the two countries’ public debate may be linked to differences in political culture.
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