News from the East: Perceptions of the Free Movement of Persons in the Polish Popular Press

Andrew Clement

East European Politics and Societies and Cultures. SAGE Publications. July 2017 [Link]


The free movement of persons in the EU has been thought of as reflecting an ideal of supranational solidarity within the single market. However, over the past decade, it has become a source of political contention among European peoples. Much attention has been paid to Western European, anti-EU sentiment regarding Central Eastern European migration. Yet euroskeptic populism has recently risen within the eastern EU as well. Despite this phenomenon, less attention has been given to discursive views of the free movement of persons in the eastern expansion countries. This contribution takes issue with transactionalist and utilitarian approaches to identity formation. It argues that resilient national identity shapes the perception of national interests regarding the market-based citizenship promoted by the EU institutions. Through qualitative analysis of the high-circulation popular Polish press, this study finds that when viewed through national identity–based interest perceptions, the free movement of persons is not framed in terms of “actual” economic benefits or opportunities. Instead, it is framed as a dubious benefit of EU integration, in relation to many obligations of EU membership. In contrast, the press discourse examined here frames intra-Union migration as the continuing unfortunate necessity of emigration. Thus, national identity conceptions may influence the eastern EU press narrative, causing it to frame the free movement of persons negatively, in terms of perceived interests.

This project receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 722826.