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Being far away from home – the price Civil Society Organizations pay for involvement in EU policy-making

Sandra Kröger
University of Exeter
Sandra Kröger
University of Exeter
Open Panel

Abstract

In the context of the perceived democratic deficit of the EU, and its possible solution with an increase in citizens’ involvement and participation, much attention has been given to Civil Society Organization (CSOs), and to whether their inclusion in policy-making can be a means for the democratization of EU politics. In particular, the European Commission has actively engaged in a systematic attempt to promote and develop “societal representation” at the EU level, something reflected in the much debated White Paper on Governance (2001). Since, CSOs’ involvement in EU policy-making has been on the research agenda of interested scholars. The main focus has been on what CSO involvement contributes to deliberation, participation and the emergence of a public sphere. We therefore now have a fairly good understanding of the involvement of CSOs in EU policy-making as well as of the Commission consultation regime. What we lack is theoretical reflection and empirical research about the influence of the institutional EU environment on CSO’s and their capacities and strategies to democratically represent a constituency or a cause. This is where the present paper steps in. The specific context conditions that we need to consider are the funding and consultation regime of the Commission (and the EP) and the multi-levelness of the EU. The Commission has a vested interest in defending and possibly expanding its competences, not least through the legitimacy broad CSO consultation seemingly lends her. As a result, CSOs may find themselves coopted by the Commission. The multi-levelness may be an aggravating factor with regard to accountability. CSOs must satisfy multiple ‘forums’ with possibly different preferences: the “principals” at domestic level and the peers and the Commission at EU-level. In order to know whether participating in EU policy-making promotes or hinders non-electoral representation, we will first develop an understanding of democratic representation by CSOs and how it can be influenced by processes of Europeanization. We will then move to three different ways in which the Commission-CSOs relationship has been conceptualized and actually been implemented by the Commission before we empirically discuss the ways the Commission influences the activities and capacities of CSOs to represent a constituency or a cause and how CSOs (in the field of social policy and agricultural policy) react to this influence in their strategies and internal organization. Concluding, we will discuss in how far participating in EU policy-making promotes or hinders democratic non-electoral representation.