Thesis-2011-Baker-Beall.pdf (2.16 MB)

The European Union's fight against terrorism : a critical discourse analysis

Download (2.16 MB)
posted on 2011-10-21, 11:56 authored by Christopher Baker-Beall
Since the events of September 11, 2001, the threat of terrorism has gained ever more political salience, occupying a place at the top of the EU political agenda. In response to the perceived threat, the EU has developed a distinct approach to counter-terrorism, themed around what is called the "fight against terrorism‟. This approach is more than just a set of institutional or public policy responses designed to negate the threat of terrorism; it is also an influential political discourse which plays an important role in the construction of counter-terrorism policy and the legitimisation of counter-terrorism policy responses. This thesis uses critical discourse analysis to study the discursive construction of EU counter-terrorism policy. It uses representative extracts from twenty counter-terrorism documents prepared by/or for the EU institution the European Council, across a ten-year period from November 1999 to December 2009. The analysis identifies several strands of the "fight against terrorism‟ discourse, which it is argued are central to its constitution and that remain consistent across the period analysed. In the post-September 11 period, these strands of the counter-terrorism discourse play an important role in constructing an ubiquitous internal/external "terrorist‟ threat. These include: terrorism as a "criminal act‟; terrorism as an act perpetrated primarily by "non-state actors‟; terrorism as "new‟ and seeking to gain access to and/or use weapons of mass destruction; the threat of terrorism linked to an "open‟ or "globalised‟ geo-strategic environment, thus requiring measures of "control‟ at the EU border; and the threat of terrorism linked to "violent radicalisation‟ or "Islamist terrorism‟, emanating both internally ("home-grown terrorism‟) and externally to the EU. When these different strands are taken together they constitute the "fight against terrorism‟ discourse. It is argued that this discourse helps to construct the identity of the EU, whilst simultaneously the identity of the EU is central to the formulation of counter-terrorism policies. As such, the representations contained within the counter-terrorism discourse and counter-terrorism policy are considered to be mutually or co-constitutive. The main contention of the thesis therefore is that EU identity is constituted through the "fight against terrorism‟ discourse. Critical discourse analysis was chosen as a method through which to investigate EU counter-terrorism policy because it allows us to: map how the "fight against terrorism‟ discourse is constructed; to demonstrate how it provides a language for talking about terrorism; to understand how the discourse defines what is accepted knowledge about (who or what is) terrorism; and to reveal how that knowledge structures the counter-terrorism policy response as a "natural‟ or "common-sense‟ approach to the challenge of terrorism. This approach is novel in the sense that it is attentive to often neglected issues such as identity. In particular, it explores how the "fight against terrorism‟ discourse construct a "European‟ sense of Self in opposition to a "terrorist‟ Other. It investigates the extent to which the "fight against terrorism‟ discourse plays a role in the legitimisation of new security practices; as well as reflecting on the extent to which these practices are contributing to the blurring of the distinction between internal and external security policy. It also considers whether the discourse is reflective of a process of "securitisation‟ of social and political life within Europe.



  • Social Sciences


  • Politics and International Studies


© Christopher Baker-Beall

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

EThOS Persistent ID


  • en