Ukrainian Think Tanks Liaison Office in Brussels

Ukraine’s rapprochement towards the EU is long-lasting and has its own history: the launch of the DCFTA, the adoption of a visa-free regime for Ukraine, the Association Agreement entry into force and its implementation etc. These key steps were supported by civil society organizations, analyzed by think tanks, reported by the Government Office, while the media only now start to catch up by covering different European themes.

When media reported more actively

To see when the number of European integration references intensified and when it fell, the Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting (IER) in the framework of EU-funded “Regions for reforms” project monitored online and print media, television and radio by several keywords. Then, we compared the results with the events that took place in every corresponding period. We used the following keywords: “the European Union”, “European integration”, “Visa-free regime” and “Association Agreement”. The mentions peak in the end of November 2016, spring 2017 (early April, the second half of May), summer 2017 (early June, mid-July) and autumn 2017 (beginning of September, October, November). The press actively informed about the EU-Ukraine summit in Brussels, approval and implementation phases of a visa-free regime for Ukraine, Association Agreement ratification and its entry into force.

“European Union” is the most widely used word combination. The number of references about “European integration”, “Visa-free regime” and “Association Agreement” increased in November-December of 2016. We assume that the mentions became more frequent due to the long-delayed 18th EU-Ukraine summit in Brussels. The next peak of mentions is the period of April-June of 2017 as visa-free regime for Ukraine was adopted, ratified and entered into force. During this period, the most frequent mentions were the “European integration” and “Visa-free regime”. April-June of 2017 is the period when the Ukrainian media were the most active covering European themes over the past two years.

The Tonality of EU mentions in the Ukrainian Media

To see if the media change their opinion regarding the European integration, we analyzed two periods in several regions (Lviv, Zhytomyr, Zaporizhia, Odesa): before the European Parliament vote on “visa-free regime” (September 15-26, 2016) and after the visa-free regime was approved (April 10-16, 2017). Before the vote, the tone in the Ukrainian media was rather neutral. Every seventh publication was positive. In contrast, every 25th publication contained a negative opinion.

After the approval of the visa-free regime for Ukraine, neutrality of the information about European integration in the media shrunk twofold. The articles became evaluative. At the same time, the positive tone of publications on European topics increased by 22%, while the negative – increased by 9%. Every third publication had positive tonality, while every seventh had a negative one.

The percentage of negative mentions of key words related to Eurointegration in Odesa region was twice as high as in Lviv region. The regional online media of Odesa and Lviv regions have almost the same share of positive publications. Neutral tone of publications on European topics is more typical for the Lviv online media.

The regions that lag behind

The regional dimension of media monitoring over the past two years clearly identifies the regional leaders and the regions that produce very little information about European integrations process in Ukraine. Four leaders – Lviv, Kharkiv, Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk regions – provide 45% of all news related to the European integration in Ukraine. On the other hand, areas of the north and central Ukraine are noticeably lagging behind. Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Cherkasy, Khmelnytsky, and Kirovograd regions are among the eight regions that are less informed about the Eurointegration. Luhansk region is the last. For comparison, the Donetsk region is on the seventh place. For example, there are 20% more European news in Donetsk region than in the Kyiv region.

It is clear from the monitoring that there is no uniformity in European topics coverage in Ukraine. Most (20) regions of Ukraine are significantly behind the four leaders and cover slightly more than half of the total EU-Ukraine news (55%). In addition, there are “problematic” regions where during the two years of active European integration events, the amount of news about it is 2% of the total. These lagging regions are Kirovohrad, Khmelnytsky, Cherkasy, Sumy, and Rivne.

The partial occupation of the Luhansk region may in some way explain the almost complete lack of news on European integration in this area. However, this strongly contrasts with the Donetsk region, where the level of information about the European integration is relatively high.

Year 2018 is strategically important for Ukraine in matters of institutional fulfilment of the Association Agreement with the European Union. The support of the media, which report on the Association Agreement implementation and its main results, is a necessary condition for public awareness about Ukraine’s integration with the EU. The media monitoring shows that there is a pronounced need for institutional support for certain regional media to increase their information capacity.

Monitoring methodology

This article is based on the weekly monitoring of print and online media, television and radio by the keywords such as the “EU” (“Європейський Союз”, “ЄС”, “Євросоюз”), Association Agreement (“Угода про асоціацію”, “Aсоціація з ЄС”), European Integration (“Європейська інтеграція”, “євроінтеграція”), visa-free regime (“Безвіз”). The monitoring sample is composed of 199 print and online media outlets, 20 TV channels and 11 radio channels. The monitoring is ongoing and conducted by the Institue for Economic Research and Policy Consulting based on the data from Omega Company (“Омега”) for the EU-funded “Regions for reforms” project.

Author: Natalia Freik, Junior Research Fellow at the Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting (Kyiv, Ukraine)

The Institute for economic research and policy consulting expresses thanks to Tetiana Maloholovchuk, Alina Khelashvili and Tetiana Zayets, IER interns and students of the sociology faculty at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, for their work on tonality of EU mentions in the Ukrainian Media.

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