Securitising Bulgarians and Romanians in British print media?

  • Denny Pencheva

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis is driven by two inter-related research questions: why have Bulgarian and Romanian nationals gained prominence in British national newspapers, and how can the securitisation approach advance our understanding of textual representations of intra-EU mobilities.

The research examines six British national newspapers: three tabloids (Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Sun) and three broadsheets (Guardian, Telegraph and Times). The thesis has put forward the overarching argument that Bulgarians and Romanians have gained prominence in British print media because their ability to exercise the freedom of movement principle, to obtain employment and to access welfare and public services, has been securitised against the backdrop of negative categorical assumptions about Bulgarians and Romanians, as well as their home countries.

The research focuses on the years 2006 and 2013, which are understood as years of transition. During both years the topic of the actual and hypothetical mobility of Bulgarians and Romanians was high on news and political agendas. 2006 was the year before Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union (EU). It was just two years after the largest so far round of Eastern EU Enlargement, which saw the EU accession of ten countries, eight of which post-communist. Politically, it was defined by New Labour’s pragmatic, evidence-based migration policies. 2013 was the year before the transitional work restrictions for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals were to be waived, thus granting Bulgarian and Romanian nationals’ full access to the UK labour market. In July 2013, Croatia joined the EU. In terms of political circumstances, the new Coalition government (Conservatives and Liberal Democrats) has explicitly stated its commitment not only to control, but also to substantially reduce the levels of EU migration. The British political context was marked by the increased political significance of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) steering the political agenda towards stronger right-wing populism, and the slow recovery after the 2008 global economic crisis amidst austerity cuts.

The research is conceptually-driven and employs the work of the Copenhagen School on securitisation, as well as Maria Todorova’s work on Balkanism. In terms of method, the thesis makes use of a mixed methodological approach, which combines a quantitative component (NVivo 10, Sketch Engine) and a qualitative component (Thematic analysis). The research analyses the two research questions across four core themes: imminent immigrants, social raiders, stealing jobs, and transnational vagabonds.
Date of Award25 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorTimothy P Edmunds (Supervisor) & Jon E Fox (Supervisor)


  • Securitisation
  • Migration
  • Bulgaria and Romania
  • United Kingdom (UK)
  • Media
  • European Union (EU)

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