Estonia regained independence 20 years ago and Tallinn University is hosting a conference from the 22nd to 23rd of August 2011 “20 Years of Independence“. This is a social sciences conference and the key presenters are Professor Pjotr Sztompka (Jagiellonian University, Poland) who is going to talk about: “The Dilemmas and Ambivalences of Post-Communist Era”; Mikko Lagerspetz (Senior Researcher, Tallinn University) talking about the role of social sciences in Estonia; and Professor Marju Lauristin (University of Tartu) talking about the Estonian Human Development Report and its influence on the society during the recent years. Also other Estonian social scientists participate in 13 interdisciplinary workgroups, as well as other people. I am going to present something about the influence of new media on elections, political parties on European level and their financing. Although I have researched the topics earlier I face again problems with research design and methodology. After I have finished my presentations, I add short summaries up here.
I Financing and Leading European Politics
The presentation was mostly about financing of political parties on European level and the possible dangers related to that. After having introduced the difference between Europarties and political foundations on European level, and three level party system in Europe – 1) political parties of the Member States; 2) political parties on European level, and 3) political representation in the European Parliament, the presentation, using the method of content analysis, focused on the already conducted research by the European University Institute (EUI) for the European Parliament (based on the research conducted by Mannheim University) about 1) the political doctrine and programme of the major political parties in EU Member States; 2) examination of the procedures applied toward political parties to choose leaders for European Office; 3) development of proposals on how to help a European political party system evolve from national structures influenced by cultural and historical factors; and 4) suggestions concerning the extent to which the European electoral system and different systems of party financing could be revised with the aim to facilitate the above objectives. The research allowed the following conclusions: – the wide variety of parties at national level can constitute an obstacle for the development of a single EU party system; – the presence of two or even more national political parties within the same EP group hinders the development of the EU party system; – the tendency by many national parties to treat their membership in EP groups only in technical terms weakens the process of transnational party-building; – the fact that all the major Europarties are subjected to the same legal regime may favour the development of a EU party system; – the building of a transnational party system is conditioned by the differences in electoral and political cultures and by the perception of the EP elections as second order contests. The conclusions were reflected through the prism of financing. Having mapped the dangers, the presentation in the end referred to possible solutions.
II New Media Shaping the Consciousness of Individual Elector
After having introduced the types of new media and attempted to define new media against the background of mass media, the presentation, based on content analysis, opened the importance of new media in democratic processes generally, and the impact and interrelatedness of private media on public media.