Searching for ‘European Values’: Quality Newspapers and Immigration

European quality newspapers identify, interpret and defend ‘European values’. But there is no consensus on what these values actually mean. Volker Heins reports on a recent NoVaMigra roundtable discussion and argues that the value language conceals differences within the EU that should be addressed head-on.

Volker M. Heins, University of Duisburg-Essen / Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI)

On 22 February 2021, NoVaMigra held an online event on the recently published policy paper ‘Quality Newspapers vs. Populism’ which was followed by a roundtable discussion chaired by Martin Deleixhe (Paris). Participants were Volker Heins, the editor of the policy paper, Laura Bérard (Press Officer Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship), Christoph Dreyer (Media Relations Officer, Reporters Without Borders), Sándor Zsiros (European Affairs Correspondent, Euronews Brussels) and Rebecca Harms (Executive Board European Centre for Press and Media Freedom and former Member of the European Parliament).

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Measuring Well-Being, While Treating Autonomy as a Value: A Literature Review

What are values and how can they be operationalized for the empirical social sciences? The University of Malmö’s graduate student Irina Widmer traces debates on how to measure well-being. In her blog post, she focusses specifically on the value of autonomy. How relevant has it been for measurements of well-being?

Irina A. Widmer, University of Malmö/ University of Neuchâtel

Do conceptions of well-being vary across societies – and, if yes, how seriously should we take these variations? Felicia Huppert and Timothy So’s social psychology article on “Flourishing” points to the need to analyse well-being in a specific context and to pay attention to “cultural differences in well-being”. Alex Linley et al. came to the challenging conclusion that well-being might be measured with the same tool in different groups (gender, ethnicity, age), the context having little influence on the outcome of the study. Due to a missing common definition of well-being, the range of values which are included to measure well-being varies greatly from one study to another. Huppert and So attempt to build an objective definition of well-being, based on positive mental health criteria, defined as the opposite of internationally accepted symptoms for depression and anxiety. This “medical diagnosis” seems promising; nevertheless, some values considered central in many other methodologies are left out, notably autonomy.

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Are Human Rights a European Value?

Europe’s commitments in the context of its migration policy are often framed in terms of promoting or protecting ‘European values’. Marie Göbel dissects the grammar of ‘European values’ – and argues that we should drop the value language if we are really committed to protecting migrants’ human rights.

Marie Göbel, University of Utrecht

The idea of European values has seen a revival recently in EU politics. It was mainstreamed when Ursula von der Leyen introduced a Vice Presidency for “Promoting our European Way of Life” after becoming European Commission president. Responding to criticism, von der Leyen was quick to point out that the idea behind this was simply to reaffirm Europe’s commitment to the basic values laid out in the EU’s founding treaties: freedom, equality, democracy, the rule of law, human dignity and human rights. But what do we mean when we speak of human rights, for example, as a European value? And what practical difference does this make?

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‘Gift Exchange’ and Value Circulation in Migration and ‘Integration’ Research

Understanding how exchange and circulation of values take place is essential to the analysis of how values matter and change shape within the European field of migration and ‘integration’. Ingrid Jerve Ramsöy discusses how the use of anthropological gift theory can support us in such an analysis.

Ingrid Jerve Ramsøy, University of Malmö


From an anthropological perspective one can argue that values are the ‘stuff’ of human social life. In many ways, values – or what we deem essential, important, and inconsequential – is what culture is all about. This influences power relationships, in that those who have access to more of what a particular group of people deems important, are often placed higher in social hierarchies, while this same position might also reinforce their access to ‘important things’. As such, value(s), culture, and social categorization and stratification are intimately connected.

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Researching Norms and Values: The Emic and Etic Approach

In this blog post, Elzbieta Goździak , Izabella Main, and Iza Kujawa reflect on the methodological approaches they have deployed in their field research in Poland, Hungary, Lebanon, Turkey, and Thailand to differentiate between the insiders’ points of view and the researchers’ interpretation of the collected data.

Elzbieta M. Goździak, Izabella Main, and Izabela Kujawa, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań


Empirical research on norms and values constitutes a big part of the NoVaMigra project. We want to understand what role different values play in the refugees and immigrants’ integration into the European host societies. The readers of this blog have already gotten a glimpse at the research our colleagues are doing in Germany. In a blog post published in November, Franziska Bohm wrote about her attempts to explore transmission of European and national values in mandatory integration courses all immigrants in Germany must take.

Today, we want to reflect on our own research, both in terms of the subject matter we are studying and in relation to the methodological approaches we have deployed. Read More

Conveying Values as Part of Integration Work in Germany: Thoughts on Starting Fieldwork

In Germany’s state-regulated integration courses for immigrants, attention has recently shifted to values and value transmission. Franziska Böhm describes NoVaMigra’s ongoing fieldwork on how values are incorporated into course material and conveyed in the classroom.

Franziska Böhm, Malmö University


The changing narratives of immigration in the German society and how immigration is viewed overall has an influence on the measures taken to integrate newly arrived migrants and refugees. One aspect of integration, besides many others not discussed here, is the association of a society with certain norms and values. It can be argued that it is central to adhere to a common set of norms and values in order to live together in peace. However, how norms and values are defined and who has to adhere to whose understanding of them is widely contested. One thing which is certain is that norms and values play a role within the discourse surrounding immigration in Germany. One might fear to loose one’s own values, fear the ‘other’ or ‘unknown’ values, or see the need to reevaluate the interpretation and implementation of the fundamental values of the European Union in its member states: ‘respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law’.

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