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Civil society and participation in the EU’s neighbourhood: Towards a bottom-up approach

Civil Society
European Union
Interest Groups
Critical Theory
Comparative Perspective
Policy-Making
Aron Buzogany
Freie Universität Berlin
Aron Buzogany
Freie Universität Berlin
Laure Delcour
Université Sorbonne Nouvelle

Abstract

To what extent does participation in the policy process transform civil society and how does civil society respond to, and influence public policies? This question has increasingly gained salience in the European Union (EU)’s neighbourhood as a result of both domestic and external pressure, including local demands for accountability and EU shift towards a “partnership with societies”. However, due to the restrictive conceptualisation of CSOs as instruments of EU-level actors in much of the governance-oriented literature, we miss a truly bottom-up perspective that would take into account CSOs as actors in their own right. In order to bridge this analytical gap, we build on the governmentality perspective, which focuses on power and micro-practices and enables us to dig deeper by unearthing power relations in governance structures in a Foucauldian “archaeology of power” tradition (Burchell et al. 1991). Drawing on critical scholarship, we conceptualise what participation in the policy process does to civil society actors in the EU’s neighbourhood. We also study how hybrid regimes use civil society as part of their own legitimation strategies and how civil society actors respond to such challenges. Empirically, we offer a comparative analysis based upon empirical data on CSOs participation in four eastern and southern ENP countries, gathered as part of an international research project (INTEND, ANR-FWF).