Scholarly article on topic 'Assessing EU perception in Kazakhstan's mass media'

Assessing EU perception in Kazakhstan's mass media Academic research paper on "Political Science"

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Journal of Eurasian Studies
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{"European Union" / Kazakhstan / "Public opinion" / "Mass media outlets" / Perception}

Abstract of research paper on Political Science, author of scientific article — Bakyt Ospanova, Houman A. Sadri, Raushan Yelmurzayeva

Abstract This paper explores the mass media perception of the European Union (EU) in Kazakhstan by utilizing the content analysis of the major mass media outlets. The authors examine news reports and periodical articles from four major national Kazakh newspapers using three measurement points. The first measurement point covers the early 1990s when Kazakhstan declared independence and began to establish its foreign relations. The second measurement point covers the periods before and after introduction of the EU Strategy for Central Asia (2006–2008). The third measurement point covers the years (2011–2013) associated with implementation with the EU Strategy and assessing its results. Our main findings suggest that Kazakhstan's mass media positively perceives the role of the EU in the region. Moreover, they tend to portray the EU mainly as an economic powerhouse. Our findings support some suggestions by similar studies of the EU's external perception.

Academic research paper on topic "Assessing EU perception in Kazakhstan's mass media"

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Assessing EU perception in Kazakhstan's mass media

Bakyt Ospanovaa, Houman A. Sadrib, Raushan Yelmurzayevac

a L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University, 2 Satpayev Street, Astana 010000, Kazakhstan

b Political Science Department, University of Central Florida, PO Box 16356, Orlando, Florida, 32816-1356

c International Relations Department, L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University, 2 Satpayev Street, Astana 010000, Kazakhstan


This paper explores the mass media perception of the European Union (EU) in Kazakhstan by utilizing the content analysis of the major mass media outlets. The authors examine news reports and periodical articles from four major national Kazakh newspapers using three measurement points. The first measurement point covers the early 1990s when Kazakhstan declared independence and began to establish its foreign relations. The second measurement point covers the periods before and after introduction of the EU Strategy for Central Asia (2006-2008). The third measurement point covers the years (2011-2013) associated with implementation with the EU Strategy and assessing its results.

Our main findings suggest that Kazakhstan's mass media positively perceives the role of the EU in the region. Moreover, they tend to portray the EU mainly as an economic powerhouse. Our findings support some suggestions by similar studies of the EU's external perception.

Copyright Copyright © 2017, Asia-Pacific Research Center, Hanyang University. Production and hosting by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license



Article history:

Received 8 December 2015

Accepted 5 August 2016

Available online 11 November 2016

Keywords: European Union Kazakhstan Public opinion Mass media outlets Perception

1. Introduction

The scholarly reflection on the role of the European Union in world politics was traditionally focused on the EU's identity. The ideas ranged from the 'civilian power' concept (Bull, 1982; Duchene, 1972; Hill, 1993) to the 'empire by example' (Zielonka, 2008), 'normative power' (Manners, 2002; Sjursen, 2006), 'postmodern state' (Cooper, 2000) and 'superpower in making' (Buchan, 1993). Among these concepts, 'Normative power Europe' (NPE) became the most prominent launching an academic debate on the unique role of the EU in global politics. The EU officials have depicted the Union as sui generis actor pursuing specific agenda in world politics. The idea was widely spread in their rhetoric on the

Corresponding author. L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University, 2 Satpayev Street, Astana 010000, Kazakhstan.

E-mail address: (B. Ospanova).

EU's role in the international community (Barroso, 2007, 2008; Ferrero-Waldner, 2006; Solana, 2002). However, the issue of the EU's perception outside its borders remained underdeveloped research topic until recently, although it might offer significant insight into the relation between EU's self-rhetoric and reality. The studies of EU's external perception contribute to understanding of whether the EU partners share its vision of global challenges and their solutions. Exploring external images of the Union contributes to understanding of the acceptance degree of the EU's self-representation as "a global player ... ready to share in the responsibility for global security and in building a better world" (European Council, 2003, p. 1). Moreover, the positive assessment of the EU as an international player is supposed to enhance its legitimacy in world politics and increase efficiency of the Union's policies and actions. Lucarelli and Fioramonti (2010) noted that "the way in which the EU is perceived by other countries is likely to have direct bearing on its success as a player in the international arena" (p. 2),

1879-3665/Copyright Copyright © 2017, Asia-Pacific Research Center, Hanyang University. Production and hosting by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

implying correlation between EU's image and acceptance of its policies. Recently, Larsen (2014) indicated another important dimension of research on the EU's perception in the world. He argues, "studies of external perception of the EU offer some findings that are helpful for the debate whether the EU can be considered a normative power" (p. 897). Broadening his argument, the authors claim that exploring EU's external perception contributes to the validity check of the theoretical insights on the nature of the Union's power and actorness.

The research interest in exploring the EU's external perception coincided with the EU's concerns over its external image. Holland and Chaban (2005) conducted the pioneering research on the image of the EU outside Europe by focusing on Asia Pacific. This followed by various research projects focusing on the EU perception in China (Chan, 2010; Jing, 2006; Peruzzi, Polletti, & Zhang, 2007; Zhimin, 2012), Russia (Kaveshnikov, 2007; Utkin & Baranovsky, 2012), India (Jain, 2012; Jain & Pandey, 2010), Turkey (Eralp & Torun, 2012), Brazil (Gomes Saraiva, 2012), Japan (Oshiba, 2012) and South Korea (Park & Yoon, 2010). The important research results on the EU's external perception were published in collaborative works edited by Holland and Chaban (2008), Holland (2009), as well as Lucarelli and Fioramonti (2010). The recent publications include Stumbaum's working paper on the EU perception in Asia (Stumbaum, 2012), co-authored articles on perception of the EU's power (Chaban, Elgstrom, Kelly, & Yi, 2013) and EU's perception in emerging powers' media (Chaban & Elgstrom, 2014).

The growing EU's image research focuses on the Union's public, mass media and elites' perceptions in partner countries, though some regions and states remain neglected. Central Asia falls under this category of neglected regions along with ENP countries. The little research interest might be explained by the low profile of Central Asian countries in the list of the EU's global economic partners. In 2015, the combined share of five Central Asian republics' trade with the EU amounted only 0.7% in EU's total merchandise trade (EU Commission, 2015). However, the Union had constantly invested efforts to become more visible and significant actor in the region along with Russia, China and the US since 2001 (Cameron, 2009; De Pedro, 2009). Considering the EU's commitment to engage with the region, investigating the perception of the EU in Central Asia contributes to expanding knowledge of the EU's image in so far neglected region. It also offers avenue for further exploration of correlation between the EU's image and efficiency of its policy.

So far, the research on the EU-Central Asia relations is focused on several main topics: first, a number of scholars have examined the rivalry of great powers in Central Asia and the EU's role in that game (Cameron, 2009; Kavalski, 2010, 2012; Meister, 2009; Williams, 2007). Second, some observers concentrate on the issues of implementation of the EU Strategy for Central Asia (Emerson & Boonstra, 2010; Kassenova, 2008; Melvin, 2008; Pirro, 2013; Shao, 2008). Other researchers focus on the EU's promotion of democracy, human rights and rule of law in the region (Axyonova, 2011; Crawford, 2008; Dave, 2008; Hoffmann, 2010). Moreover, some research is aimed at explaining the EU role in

Central Asia and the challenges for European policy in the region (De Pedro, 2009; Demirtag, 2009; Melvin, 2007).

The topic of EU perception in Central Asia had been studied occasionally. Bossuyt concludes that "the EU is perceived as more neutral and benevolent actor" in the region based on her interviews with government officials from several Central Asian countries (Bossuyt, 2010, p. 205). Another work is Chernykh's study (Chernykh, 2011) of the public perception of the actors active in Central Asia, which is based on a public survey of 2010. It illustrates Kazakh public opinion on Kazakhstan's foreign partners. More recently Peyrouse provided a working paper (Peyrouse, 2014) on the EU perceptions of the Central Asian elites.

This paper seeks to contribute to two various dimensions of the existing EU studies. First, the authors aim to complement the expanding research on the EU's external perception by introducing mass media depiction of the Union in the most prominent partner of the EU in Central Asia. The paper concentrates on mass media publications of Kazakhstan as it is the first trade partner of the EU in Central Asia in terms of bilateral trade turnover and is the first country in the region to sign Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the Union. Moreover, we intend to contribute to the existing studies on the EU-Central Asia relations via exploring different dimension of this interaction. The exploration of the EU's perception in the region might shed a light on the shortcomings of the Union's efforts to upgrade its role in the region. Previous studies indicate that the media visibility and media framing affect the perception of the EU's importance as a partner among general public and elites (Zhang, 2010, p. 173). The EU might be an important player in Central Asia, however, it could fail to be recognized as such if its visibility remains low and its image is fragmented.

Our paper utilizes content analysis of the four national newspapers at different measurement points in order to evaluate the peculiarities of published opinion on the EU in Kazakhstan. Then, it employs discourse analysis to the selected publications from the dataset to reveal a variation in description of the EU by local and European elites. These analytical techniques allow us to explore and highlight different dimensions of the EU's image in Kazakhstan. Finally, this work compares our findings with similar studies and offers different avenues for further studies.

2. Methodology

The methodological framework of this paper is influenced by the established research on the EU's external perception. The authors rely on Holland and Chaban's (2008) as well as Kaveshnikov's (2007) approaches for analyzing mass media's content about the EU. However, our dataset includes only those publications, which are primarily concerned with the Union. Additionally, this paper seeks to trace the changes in mass media coverage of the Union to assess the EU's visibility transformation over time. Therefore, it analyses publications at the different measurement points: the early 1990s, when relations between the EU and Kazakhstan was established; the mid-2000s, when the EU began to implement its Central Asian Strategy, and the recent years. This work follows Kaveshnikov's (2007) design of

applying qualitative content analysis to explore the EU's image in Kazakhstan's mass media.

Our study begins with exploring EU's external perceptions in other regions of the world. Later, we compare our findings with those of others on the EU's perception in Kazakhstan's mass media. In order to explore such perception, the paper applies multi-stage analysis of mass media publications in Kazakhstan. At the first stage, the paper utilizes a quantitative content analysis of four national newspapers of Kazakhstan, published in Kazakh and Russian languages. The authors explore the general volume of publications devoted to the EU, and then trace the distribution of publications thematically. Second, the paper focuses on periodical articles, combining data on topics and connotation of the publications. At this stage, our work applies qualitative content analysis to reveal the characteristics attached to the EU and to identify various dimensions of the Union's image in Kazakhstan's mass media. Then, it proceeds to discourse analysis of the texts authored by Kazakhstanian and EU elites. This allows us to identify variation in the EU's self-presentation and construction of its image by the partner country.

The dataset of publications include periodical articles and short news derived from four national newspapers. Two of these newspapers - "Yegemen Kazakhstan" and "Kazakhstanskaya Pravda" - are daily official newspapers having a circulation of 100,000 issues. The other two - "Zhas Alash" and "Vremya" - are considered as opposition newspapers. The first one is published twice a week and has a circulation of 140,000 issues a week, and the second one is published three times a week and has a weekly circulation of 130,000 copies. "Yegemen Kazakhstan" and "Zhas Alash" are published in Kazakh, and "Kazakhstanskaya Pravda" and "Vremya" are published in Russian.

These particular newspapers were chosen for several reasons. First, they are well established and have a wide national circulation. Second, two of these newspapers represent the official pro-government position and the other two publish alternative views. Thus, analysis of the publications in these newspapers provides the opportunity to cover various opinions. All of the chosen newspapers are broadsheets, which position themselves as serious media delivering reliable information on different issues.

In order to assess the changes of the EU image, this study analyses publications at three different measurement points - early 1990s (1992-1994), mid-2000s (2006-2008) and 2011-2013. It should be noted that for "Vremya", the first measurement point is not available as it was established in 1999. However, analyzing this newspaper with the other two measurement points contributes to a better understanding of the EU perception in Kazakhstan.

This paper traces publications devoted to the EU and classifies them in different domains, depending on type, general message, and topic of publication. The publications in all national newspapers are categorized in two main groups: news reports and periodical articles. These publications are divided into three categories of negative, neutral and positive, based on the nature of their message and connotation, recognizing that there are no pure negative, neutral or positive categories. The publications emphasizing positive aspects of the EU domestic affairs and its interaction with

other actors of international relations were codified under positive category. Respectively, the publications, which tended to portray dark side of the EU affairs in different domains, were grouped under negative category. Neutral category represents the 'grey zone', covering publications with either neutral assessment of the EU activities or news/ articles covering both negative and positive aspects of the Union's affairs. Therefore, the distinction among three categories is relative and serves the analytical purposes. Moreover, based on the nature of activities, the authors have also classified three separate topics of publications: the EU economics, the EU politics, and the EU-Kazakhstan/Central Asia cooperation.

The data for discourse analysis employ selected texts from the same dataset. These texts include publications by political elites of the EU and Kazakhstan either in a form of a periodical article or an interview. The authors do not distinguish among types of publications and treat all of them as texts. However, they differentiate the texts based on authors. The publications of the EU and Kazakhstan's elites are analyzed separately applying the same criteria, and then results are compared to demonstrate similarities and differences in the discourse. The guiding question for this part of the research was whether characteristics attached to the EU vary in perception of the EU and Kazakstanian elites; and if they do, what are these differences.

3. The European Union's external perception

The EU's external perception is multi-dimensional and multi-faceted; however, it generally concentrates around economic themes. Although in some parts of the world the EU remains unknown and perceived rather through the policies of member states than the community actions (Lucarelli & Fioramonti, 2010, p. 218), the spontaneous images of the Union frequently evolve on economic grounds. Holland and Chaban (2005) identified that the spontaneous images of the EU in four Asia Pacific countries evolved around trade, single currency and tourism issues (pp. 29-32), though with some variations for each country. Park and Yoon (2010) mention that Korean elites associate the EU with economic community building (p. 182), while a cross-national study of three Northeast Asian countries demonstrates that spontaneous images of the EU concentrate on the European single currency and Union's economic power (Zhang, 2010, p. 169). Jain and Pandey (2012) mentioned that the dominant images of the EU among Indian elites unfold around "Euro, Schengen visa, and borderlessness" (p. 338). Some studies demonstrate that EUs image incorporated its values and peculiarities as sui generis actor. According to Kaveshnikov (2007), the Russian print media emphasized the value-based nature of the EU simultaneously mentioning fragility of the Union's institutional setting and infringement of member states' sovereignty (pp. 404, 409). The description of economic issues within the EU and in the EU's external action complemented this portraying; however, the images of the EU as values-based entity preoccupied media framing in this case. Similarly, the Union is perceived as "transformative actor, which has a crucial role in consolidating democracy, human rights and rule of law" in Turkey (Eralp & Torun, 2012, p. 85). The study recognizes that such

perception is largely filtered through Turkey's EU accession talks lenses, and recognizes that the transformation of Turkey's vision as regional power impacted the EU perception (Eralp & Torun, 2012, p. 96).

The other layer of the EU's image concerns its characteristics as an actor in international affairs. The overview of the established research demonstrates the predominance of the Union's image as an economic power. The EU is largely seen as significant trade power having substantial impact on global economy. The studies of the EU's image in the Asia Pacific demonstrate that the Union is perceived as "economic bloc using a soft power approach to international affairs" (Holland & Chaban, 2005, p. 61) or as economic power "possessing potential rather than exercising actualized global political power" (Bain, Stats, Park, & Kim, 2008, p. 200).

Focusing on the particular countries reveals similar pattern. Park and Yoon (2010) reported that the Korean elites predominantly conceptualize the EU as "economic power rather than as a political or security actor" (p. 190). The analysis of Japanese perception indicates that the Japanese tended to see the EU as "global economic areas" (Oshiba, 2012, p. 121). Chan (2010) mentions that the Chinese associated the EU with "strong economy, powerful trading bloc with a single currency." (p. 136). Chinese elites perceive the Union "as an economic giant, but a political dwarf" seconded to the US in global power politics (Chan, 2010, p. 138). Although Eurozone crisis deteriorated Chinese confidence in the EUs strength as global actor, it is still seen as economic power (Zhimin, 2012, p. 12). The cross-national study of the EU perception in Northeast Asia reveals analogous results. Zhang (2010) claims that the EU was viewed mostly as economic power in China, Japan and Korea (p. 169). Recent cross-national study of the EU's perception in emerging powers indicates that mass media in China, India and Russia framed the Union as economic power, albeit in decline. The media framing of the EU as political power was limited only to certain areas and in connection with US foreign policy (Chaban & Elgström, 2014, pp. 180-5).

Other images of the EU included its portraying as an ally in reviewing unilateral world order led by the US via promoting multilateralism (Chan, 2010, p. 138; Gomes Saraiva, 2012, p. 54; Zhimin, 2012, p. 18), aid donor (Santoro & Nasrallah, 2010, p. 98) and "preferential development partner" (Sicurelli, 2015, p. 35). The quick overview of the EU's various perceptions demonstrates that they are affected by the dynamics of interaction between the Union and its external partners. The economic interaction in most cases dominates bilateral relations. Thus, the economic themes become the cementing ground of EU's external perceptions. The review also suggests that the self-identification of the countries' role in global politics has certain effect on their perceptions of the Union. Several studies of the EU's perception in emerging powers indicate that the EU was perceived as a partner in building a new multilateral order, implying that emerging powers constitute the poles in transforming international system. Similarly self-positioning as developing country and previous experience of dependent bilateral interaction affected EU's framing in development discourse.

4. EU's images in Kazakhstan's mass media

4.1. Content analysis of four national newspapers

The content analysis of publications in "Yegemen Kazakhstan", "Kazakhstanskaya Pravda", "Zhas Alash" and "Vremya" reveals the positive dynamics of the EU coverage in Kazakh mass media. Initially, Kazakhstan's newspapers were focused on the republic's bilateral relations with the European countries, and cooperation with the EU was totally neglected. The examination of early 1990s publications demonstrates that media was focused on domestic politics, and publications on Kazakhstan's foreign policy were rare. For instance, out of eleven periodical articles devoted to bilateral relations of Kazakhstan with European countries published in "Yegemen Kazakhstan" in 1992-1994, the EU was mentioned in short news reporting on establishment of diplomatic relations between the parties. Enlarging number of newspapers documented similar results; in early 1990s, the EU was neglected from Kazakh public discourse. Most of the publications somehow related to foreign affairs of Kazakhstan appeared on the pages of newspapers in the early 1990s are devoted to republic's bilateral relations with foreign partners, interaction in the framework of CIS or ethnic Kazakhs living abroad. Figure 1 illustrates the breakdown of publications in four national newspapers at three different measurement points. The quick overview of the data demonstrates that the pro-government newspapers were the main source of information on the EU in Kazakhstan; they continuously published short news and periodical articles devoted to the Union. The opposition newspapers' interest in the EU is recorded at the third measurement point, however this interest varies substantially for the newspaper published in Kazakh and Russian language. "Vremya" regularly provides short news/periodical articles devoted to the EU, while "Zhas Alash" published only 3 short news concerning EU politics or bilateral Kazakhstan-EU relations in 2011-2013.

This lack of interest by opposition media might be explained by the editorial position of the alternative newspapers. These newspapers are generally concentrated on domestic politics. The content analysis of the publications devoted to foreign policy of Kazakhstan and international politics of these newspapers reveals their focus on Russia, China and the Customs Union/EEAU, while publications devoted to the USA or the EU are usually news reporting on international events or domestic politics of the actors mentioned above.

The analysis of types and connotation of the publications in the dataset reveals domination of short news with neutral reporting in the general volume of texts devoted to the EU. However, further exploration of data demonstrates the variation in publications' messages at three measurement points and in various national newspapers. Although neutral publications prevail, the third measurement point indicates the growth of negatively connoted texts number with the simultaneous decrease of positive publications. Figure 2 clearly demonstrates the growth of negatively connoted publications in both official newspapers recently. This shift might be explained by both increasing problems within the EU such as Eurozone crisis

Fig. 1. Distribution of publications devoted to the EU in national newspapers*. *The figure is developed by B. Ospanova based on publications in four national newspapers.

45 -40 -35 -30 -25 -20 -15 -10 -5 -

1992-1994 2006-2008 2011-2013

" Kazakhstanskaya Pravda ■ Yegemen Kazakhstan Zhas Alash ■ Vreraya

and its consequences, and transformation of editorial policies of the newspapers.

Further analysis of publications demonstrates the diversity of official and opposition newspapers' interest in terms of topics covered. While official newspapers recorded prevailing interest in the EU cooperation with Kazakhstan or with Central Asia in general, opposition newspapers tended to focus on the EU politics and economics. The targeted readers of particular newspaper as well as editorial position might explain this outcome. Naturally, official newspapers reported the regular bilateral EU-Kazakhstan meetings and multilateral talks between the EU institutions and delegations of Central Asian republics. On the other hand, opposition newspapers focused more on the EU domestic issues such as Eurozone crisis, elections in particular

member states, or external action of the EU. Figure 3 below illustrates the breakdown of publications based on the topics of the texts at three measurement points.

In order to explore the prevailing assessment of particular topics and peculiarities of their reporting by Kazakhstan's mass media, the authors have combined data on publications' volume and connotation, and concentrated on periodical articles. The decision to eliminate news is based on their nature; news tends to be short and neutral, reporting on particular events, and does not include evaluative statements of the authors. On the other hand, periodical articles cover a variety of facts and usually include authors' interpretations of the reported information. Thus, periodical articles represent the better unit of analysis to explore mass media's perception of the EU.

:, J iJ 1. l-U

Positive 1 Negative | Neutral F 1992- 1994 ositive 1 Negative | N 2006 2008 eutral 'ositive 1 Negative | 2011-2013 Neutral

■ Kazakhstanskaya Pravda ■ Yegemen Kazakhstan Zhas Alash ■ Vremya

Fig. 2. Connotation of the publications devoted to the EU*. *The figure is developed by B. Ospanova based on publications in four national newspapers.

Fig. 3. Breakdown of the publications devoted to the EU by topics*. *The figure is developed by B. Ospanova based on publications in four national newspapers.

Previously, the authors mentioned the lack of interest of mass media in the EU at first measurement point. This measurement point cover only five short news devoted to the cooperation between the Union and Kazakhstan or Central Asia in general. Therefore, the cross tabulation included only articles at the second and third measurement points.

Focus on periodical articles confirms the pattern viable in general content analysis of mass media publications. Pro-government newspapers keep the coverage volume of the EU affairs at both measurement points constant when only periodical articles are analyzed. Similarly, opposition newspapers published in Russian recorded increased interest in covering the EU related issues, while Kazakh language based alternative mass media neglects the EU in its extended publications. Figure 4 illustrates the breakdown of articles thematically with recording of publications' connotations for each topic.

The quick review of the data presented at Figure 4 demonstrates the change in distribution of topics in total volume of publications and shift in connotation of the texts at the third measurement point. The articles published in 20062008 tended to be neutral or positive publications devoted to the EU cooperation with Kazakhstan or Central Asia, while publications of 2011-2013 focused more on the EU eco-

nomics and politics and were negatively framed. These publications report the problems within Eurozone and its consequences for social and economic situation in member states, with focus on Greece and Spain. Difficulties within the Union related to Eurozone crisis contributed greatly to the proliferation of negatively connoted publications in two categories of EU politics and EU economics. However, this does not explain the decreased number of positive publications on EU bilateral interaction with the republic and region. Compared to 2006-2008, journalists tend to report on bilateral interaction neutrally in 2011-2013. This shift is puzzling; compared to second measurement period bilateral interaction of the EU with Kazakhstan became more intense and diversified during 2011-2013. Kazakhstan has become the most important trade partner of the EU in the region; Astana increased the supply of energy resources to the EU. On the other hand, the EU has also become the first trade partner of Kazakhstan in terms of trade turnover, and the EU member states' investments surpassed those of other partners of Astana. This situation is supposed to affect publications' messages other way around. The improved and enhanced relations between the EU and Kazakhstan, and more active engagement of the Union in the region since the introduction of its Strategy supposedly led to more positive publications in this category. One possible explanation

Fig. 4. Connotation of articles separately for each topic*. YK - Yegemen Kazakhstan; KP - Kazakhstanskaya Pravda; V - Vremya; ZA - Zhas Alash. *The figure is developed by B. Ospanova based on publications in four national newspapers.

of such outcome might be the transformation of expectations of Astana. In a period of 2006-2008, the EU started to re-evaluate its policy toward Central Asia, which culminated in inaugurating its Strategy for Central Asia in 2007. Kazakhstan expected that the increased interest of the EU in the region would enlarge the possibilities of maneuver under its multi-vector foreign policy. The Union sought to become the significant pole in already existing triangle of Russia, China and the US. Further interaction of Kazakhstan and the EU might have affected the expectations of Astana; the relations with the Union were re-evaluated and became more pragmatic. These lowered expectations might have impacted the tone and message of the publications on the EU-Kazakhstan interaction as pro-government newspapers reporting this topic generally express the attitude of the Kazakh authorities.

The quantitative content analysis demonstrates the changes in Kazakhstan's mass media coverage of the European Union in terms of volume, topics and connotation of a message. Today's reader receives much more diversified information about the EU; however, authors were also interested in exploring transformation of the Union's description in publications.

The qualitative content analysis demonstrates that publications in 2006-2008 provide readers with the formal definition of the Union. The EU is described as 'political and economic union of 25 states' or as 'international organization'. Evaluative statements of the articles' authors complement this formal definition: the EU is considered authoritative and economically powerful actor in world politics. The Union is described as a success story - it completed economic and monetary union, established freedom of movement within its borders, provided peace and security and is able to provide expertise in certain areas. Both Kazakh and Russian language newspapers portray the EU as an important player in international relations with significant achievements in various areas. Simultaneously some articles outline the existing problems within the EU related to the enlargement, divide among old and new member states, and failure to develop European constitution.

The publications of 2006-2008 link the necessity to cooperate with the EU to its importance as international player. Most publications are devoted to the cooperation between the EU and Kazakhstan or Central Asian countries. They emphasize advancing relations with European countries as the top foreign policy priority of Kazakhstan. Closer relations with the EU are regarded as a source of country's further economic development. Both Kazakh and Russian publications highlight the importance of the EU as republic's trade and investment partner, simultaneously mentioning Kazakhstan's role as the largest economic partner of the Union in Central Asia. Moreover, the EU is represented as a crucial partner in WTO accession negotiations and in advancing Kazakhstan's candidacy to the chairmanship in OSCE. Mass media frame bilateral EU-Kazakhstan relations as beneficial, dynamically developing and compatible with national interests of the country. Additionally, improving relations between the EU and Central Asian countries are portrayed as a Union's initiative driven by its interests. The idea that the EU is interested in having access to the energy resources of Central Asian countries is repeatedly occurred

in mass media publications. Another EU interests are concentrated in utilizing transport links of the region and supporting security and stability of Central Asia. Considering that analyzed publications derive from pro-government newspapers, authors conclude that the EU's image constructed in the texts represents the government's official position.

The publications of 2011-2013 lack formal description of the EU. Only one article contains description of the EU as 'political and economic union of 27 states', which share common currency. Compared to 2006-2008, articles published at this period emphasize the problems occurred in the Union. Analysis of the texts reveals rather dark state of affairs in the EU - it suffers from economic problems generated by the Eurozone crisis, member states lack solidarity to tackle the root causes of the problems, the ongoing recession causes social tensions in various countries. The publications imply that inability of the EU to overcome crisis quickly might lead to serious political drawbacks, and even dissolution of the EU. Although newspapers deliver rather negative image of the EU, the publications still recognize the importance of the Union in global affairs. The texts report the economic might of the EU, mentioning that its GDP equals the GDP of the US, and that it still represents the most prosperous region in the world. Eurozone crisis is framed as a serious challenge for global economy. Moreover, some publications mention the global activities of the EU, for instance the EU's participation in multilateral talks on Iran's nuclear program. This additionally contributes to recognizing the EU as significant actor in world politics.

The framing of the EU-Kazakhstan and the EU-Central Asia interaction in 2011-2013 remained similar, though the volume of publications decreased. These publications tended to focus on the bilateral EU-Kazakhstan relations, marginalizing EU's policy toward Central Asia. The analyzed texts continue to highlight the importance of EU as the top trade and investment partner of Kazakhstan, emphasizing more of Astana's significance as a reliable and responsible partner of the EU. Kazakhstan is framed as the third most important energy supplier to the EU and the most significant partner of the Union in Central Asia.

The EU-Central Asia relations are described as stable and developing. The publications report on regular meetings between the EU and Central Asian officials on the regional level as contributing to enhancement of political dialogue. The articles mention proposals of the EU to establish sectorial dialogues in various areas. Publications of 20112013 portray Central Asian countries as passive receivers of the EU's policy initiatives , which differs from the publications of the previous period. The reader might conclude that Central Asian republics' interest in enhancing cooperation with the EU decreased, and only Kazakhstan continues to increase interaction with the Union.

The overall assessment of qualitative content analysis reveals that Kazakhstan's mass media develops slightly positive but contradictory image of the EU. On the one hand, description of the Union as powerful and significant actor in global affairs prevails over time. Analyzed publications depict the EU as prosperous region considerably affecting global economy; its failure to tackle economic crisis might have substantial negative impact on the world economy. On

the other hand, publications tend to exaggerate economic and social problems within the Union contributing to the negative perception of the EU as declining and failing organization. The simultaneous framing of the EU as a significant player in global politics and the Union, which struggles with the problems creates confusing image of the Union, in which reader might pick up whatever angle of the picture he prefers.

Compared to the EU's overall image, its depiction as the important partner of Kazakhstan and Central Asia remains stable. While publications devoted to the internal dynamics of the EU tend to produce confusing image of the significant player of international affairs struggling to overcome serious economic crisis, and therefore declining, the EU-Kazakhstan interaction remains to be portrayed in positive connotation. This rather positive description contributes to the overall EU's image in mass media balancing the negative perception based on domestic issues reporting.

4.2. Discourse analysis of mass media publications

The content analysis of mass media publications reveals their focus on EU-Kazakhstan or EU-Central Asia cooperation; these publications tend to be neutral or positive in their connotation. The qualitative content analysis reveals that Kazakhstan's mass media frame slightly positive, but confusing image of the EU. The authors decided to apply discourse analysis to the selected texts from the same dataset to explore the elites' perspective on the EU and its relations with the region. The political elites express the official position and their framing of certain issues affects the policy outcomes. To a certain extent, discourse analysis of texts authored by officials from the EU and Kazakhstan allows authors to reveal elites' perception of the Union. The discourse analysis distinguishes between local and EU elites in order to determine variations in EU's perception if they exist, and to assess factors influencing difference.

The first finding of analysis indicates the preference of elites to publish their texts in official pro-government newspapers issued in Russian. This holds true for both Kazakh and EU elites. While choice of official newspapers by the EU elites might be explained by the diplomatic practice, the preference of Russian publishing newspaper might indicate assumed perception of the Russian language's dominance in the country. Although this might hold true, exclusion of Kazakh newspapers leads to reinforced pattern of the EU's absence in Kazakh mass media. Table 1 summarizes data on publications by the Kazakhstanian and EU elites in national mass media. The table covers only those

Table 1

Publications of elites in national mass media*.

2006-2008 2011-2013

Yegemen Kazakhstan's elites 1

Kazakhstan EU elites

Kazakhstanskaya Kazakhstan's elites 2 3

Pravda EU elites 1 3

Total 3 7

newspapers, which published texts of political elites, and it contains data only for two measurement points.

Further exploration of publications demonstrates the limited authorship of texts among Kazakhstan's elites. The texts of Kazakhstanian elites include interviews and reflections of the Deputy Chairman of Mazhilis1 and co-Co-chairman of EU-Kazakhstan Parliamentary Cooperation Committee on bilateral relations and the interviews with the then Head of the Mission of Kazakhstan to the EU and NATO. In contrast, publications of the EU elites are more diverse in terms of authorship. These publications include texts provided by Heads of EU delegations to Kazakhstan, Germany's Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, and co-authored publications by Ambassadors of France, the United Kingdom and Spain to Kazakhstan.

In order to explore the discourse, authors distinguish key words in each of the texts, and focus on depiction of the EU, descriptions of the bilateral EU-Kazakhstan relations, and cooperation between the Union and Central Asia in analyzed texts.

The discourse analysis indicates that economic relations between the parties represent the common ground for evaluation of bilateral cooperation between the EU and Kazakhstan by the EU and Kazakhstan's elites. Representatives of both groups emphasize close trade ties between the EU and Kazakhstan, indicating the growing importance of the EU as Kazakhstan's trade and investments partner. However, further analysis demonstrates variation in assessment of priorities of bilateral interaction by the EU and Kazakhstanian elites. Kazakh elites focus on economic cooperation between the parties, emphasizing Kazakhstan's role as reliable energy supplier to the EU, issues of negotiations on enhanced cooperation agreement and easing visa regime between Brussels and Astana. The EU elites clearly indicate regional governance, reforms of public administration and justice, and rule of law as priorities of bilateral cooperation, without disregarding other issues. However, the issue of easing visa regime between the EU and Kazakhstan is absent from the EU's elites discourse. This difference might indicate Kazakhstan's interest in tabling visa regime issue in bilateral interaction, while the EU does not consider it as a part of agenda.

The analysis of the text blocks devoted to the EU-Central Asia cooperation demonstrates very limited coverage of this issue. This cooperation is mentioned in passing and is mainly attached to the EU-Kazakhstan bilateral interaction. The probable explanation of such neglected approach lies in the targeted audience of the texts. Both Kazakhstanian and the EU elites target Kazakhstan's population and therefore focus on bilateral relations.

Despite limited coverage of the EU-Central Asia interaction in analyzed texts, the variation in discourse is also evident. Kazakhstan's elites heavily emphasize the role of Astana in fostering and enhancing cooperation between the EU and Central Asian region. Local elites underline Kazakhstan's leading role in the region and its closer ties with the Union compared to its neighbors. In contrast, the EU elites

*The table is developed by B. Ospanova based on publications in four national newspapers.

1 Mazhilis - One of two Chambers of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan

portray cooperation with Kazakhstan in the framework of Union's Strategy and general approach to Central Asia. The Europeans emphasize regional priorities and projects, where Kazakhstan participates as Central Asian republic. Development, democracy and security are mentioned as the main EU concerns in the region; specific cooperation initiatives with Kazakhstan are linked to the EU's Strategy for Central Asia. Although Europeans recognize closer relations with Kazakhstan compared to its neighbors, they do not treat Astana as a privileged partner in the region. It could be claimed that the EU and Kazakhstanian elites view EU-Central Asia cooperation through different lenses. Europeans link bilateral cooperation with Kazakhstan to the overall approach to the region, while Kazakh elites tend to focus on relatively close relations with the EU and portray Astana as 'primus inter pares' in the EU-Central Asia cooperation.

The third part of discourse analysis focused on description of the European Union by EU and Kazakhstan elites. This analysis reveals variation in depiction of the EU by two groups, and the lack of formal description of the Union. Among all analyzed texts, only one description portrays the EU as "complex and large single market" (Jousten, 2011), reflecting on the nature of the entity. Other depictions of the Union represent reflections on the EU values and activities, and are linked to the general connotation of the text. Accordingly, Europeans emphasize their values and experiences in portraying the EU, while Kazakh elites focus on bilateral interaction and derives their description from that context. Consequently, audience receives two different portraits of the Union. Table 2 illustrates the description of the EU provided by the EU and Kazakhstanian elites, and it is self-explanatory in demonstrating the variation.

Summarizing results of discourse analysis authors emphasize substantial variation in discourses of the EU and Kazakhstanian elites. These discourses vary in their focus on priorities of bilateral cooperation, their assessment of the EU-Central Asian collaboration, Kazakhstan's role in the EU's regional policy and in description of the EU. Growing trade and investments relations between the Union and Kazakhstan represents the common ground of two discourses; however, descriptions of reality vary in the interpretation of two groups.

The variation in elites' discourses further complicates the image of the European Union developed in Kazakhstan's mass media. Another layer of the EU's description as a value-based organization complements the controversial portrait of significant international player with serious economic and

Table 2

Description of EU by elites*.

Kazakhstan's elites EU elites

EU is trade and investments EU has experience in providing

partner peace

EU is dependent on import of EU policies are based on

energy resources its values

EU has experience in developing EU is ready to share its

social policy experience in various areas

EU is an expert, not a model

*The table is developed by B. Ospanova based on publications in four national newspapers.

social problems. The evaluation of the EU's image developed by journalists and political elites demonstrates the predominance of the Union's portrait viable in Kazakhstanian elites' discourse. The value-based nature of the EU and its policy in Central Asia emphasized in the European elites' discourse might be marginalized in public perception as insignificant.

5. Conclusions and discussion

This paper explored the EU's image in Kazakhstan's mass media at different measurement points. The study has found that national newspapers slightly increased the volume of publications devoted to the EU over time, and diversified the reported themes. However, these changes are not equally distributed among various analyzed newspapers; the editorial position and newspaper's publication language affected the volume and topics of the texts. The study has also revealed that mass media publications at different measurement points had various focuses and connotations. In 2006-2008, mass media published mainly positive and neutral texts dedicated to the EU's interaction with Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries. Later in 2011-2013 period, the newspapers published more on the EU's domestic issues and negative framing prevailed.

Compared to other regions, Kazakhstan's mass media does not tend to 'domesticate' the EU news. The Union's image is developed in two non-intersecting areas of mass media publications. One area mainly deals with the EU news which is not linked to Kazakhstan; the other area covers issues of bilateral EU-Kazakhstan or EU-Central Asia interactions and has limited connection to the EU's policy outside the region. The news about internal developments of the EU such as enlargement or Eurozone crisis is not linked to the bilateral EU-Kazakhstan ties. The implications of the EU domestic developments are framed within global economy and politics. The editorial comprehension of the EU as 'far away' having little impact on Kazakhstan might explain absence of domestification of the EU news in local mass media. This differentiation between the EU domestic issues and the EU-Kazakhstan/ Central Asia interaction leads to creation of two different images: the EU as an organization, and the EU as an important partner of the republic.

The exploration of the EU's framing in Kazakhstan's mass media demonstrates that it is similar to EU's portraying in other regions. Kazakhstan's media largely frame the EU in economic domain recognizing its achievements in building single market and emphasizing its importance in global economy. Similarly to findings reported in other geographic regions, the Union is portrayed as an important partner of Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries, whose significance derives from its place in external trade of the republic. Mass media constantly emphasizes the EU's position as Kazakhstan's top trade and investment partner simultaneously mentioning country's leading position among Central Asian counterparts when it comes to bilateral ties with the Union. The attempts of the EU elites to highlight other dimensions of the Union's characteristics, including its value-based nature do not disseminate in Kazakhstan's mass media.

The predominant economic framing of the Union in Kazakhstan's mass media corresponds to EU's perception among local elites. Peyrouse argues that "the EU is perceived as having substantial economic leverage, but barely any political clout" among Kazakh elites (Peyrouse, 2014, p. 7).

The results of this study suggest that the economic might of the EU largely impacts its perception outside its borders. As in other regions of the world, Kazakhstan's mass media frame the EU as an important economic player in global affairs and significant partner of Central Asian republics. The analysis also reveals that the Union suffers from "communication deficit" (Holland & Chaban, 2008, p. 2) in Kazakhstan. Although Kazakh mass media contains publications about the EU as well as its relations with Kazakhstan and other Central Asian states, the Union's framing is onesided and dominated by the Kazakhstanian elites' discourse. The EU officials largely fail to communicate Union's values and its policy in the region to wider public in the country.

The predominance of economic framing of the EU in national mass media reflects the dynamics of bilateral EU-Kazakhstan ties. The authors suggest that this frame is likely to dominate the mass media perception of the Union in the republic, while the slightly positive depiction of the EU might be employed by both EU and Kazakhstanian side to advance bilateral relations. Moreover, the positive framing of the EU might positively influence the acceptance degree of the Union's initiatives and policy in the republic.

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest.


Authors acknowledge the support of the Information and Policy Analysis Center (IPAC) and Ms. Caitlyn Myerson as the research assistant. Authors also would like to thank colleagues from International Relations Department of the L.N. Gumilyov ENU, who commented earlier drafts of the article and made suggestions on its improvement. The authors, however, take full responsibility for ideas presented here.


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