The democratic legitimacy of the European Union has become an increasingly urgent issue. In searching for a way out, academics, EU institutions, and political forces advocate the involvement of civil society. The Commission's new governance approach and the Lisbon Treaty introduced elements of participatory democracy and elevated civil society to a key actor in democratizing the EU. Does this hold upon closer scrutiny? This is the main question of the book. It investigates how the promise of civil society participation is put into practice and, based on an elaborate theoretical framework, evaluates whether the political practice deserves the quality attribute 'participatory democracy'. The book presents the results of a large research project composed of several highly original empirical studies. The research team used various methodological approaches and generated a rich data set. The wealth of empirical insight is evaluated against clear criteria deduced from normative democratic theory.
As key elements of the analyses - democracy, participation, and civil society - are contested concepts, the authors placed particular emphasize on clarifying their understanding of these concepts and on considering competing interpretations. By relying on a consistent theoretical approach the authors present an unusually balanced evaluation. They come to convincing, though rather skeptical conclusions. Civil society participation in EU governance is not the democratic remedy its advocates had hoped for. This may not be a welcome but nevertheless it is an important finding both for European decision-makers, for civil society organizations and for scholars.
Beate Kohler-Koch, Professor Emeritus, University of Mannheim, is a project director at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES). She is an internationally leading researcher in the field of EU-Studies and has an excellent reputation for combining theory and empirical research always seeking to probe and to push the boundaries of analytical insights. Christine Quittkat, post-doc, is a project director at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES), University of Mannheim. She is highly recognized as an expert in studies on European interest intermediation.
1. Civil Society and Democracy in the EU: High Expectations under Empirical Scrutiny ; 2. Governing with the European Civil Society ; 3. Involving Civil Society in EU Governance: The Consultation Regime of the European Commission ; 4. Consultation in Daily Practice: An In-depth Analysis ; 5. New Instruments Serving Democracy: Do Online Consultations Benefit Civil Society? ; 6. The Balancing Act of European Civil Society - Between Professionalism and Grassroots ; 7. Information Strategies of Organized Civil Society: Does Anyone Listen? ; 8. Civil Society Participation: More Democracy or Pluralization of the European Lobby? ; Appendix