Table of Contents

Civil Society and Legitimate European Governance

Civil Society and Legitimate European Governance

Edited by Stijn Smismans

This book explores the concept of ‘civil society’, which over recent years has been revived and introduced into the institutional debate within the EU. Significantly, EU institutions themselves have made reference to civil society and, on an academic plane, it has been argued that the debate on the legitimacy of European governance should value the role of civil society organisations.

Chapter 2: Democracy in the European Union: Why and How Combine Representation and Participation?

Paul Magnette

Subjects: law - academic, european law


2. Democracy in the European Union: why and how to combine representation and participation? Paul Magnette The political and academic discourse on the ‘democratic deficit’ in the European Union was marked by a noticeable semantic change in the 1990s. Until then, it had merely been cast in institutional and formal terms, and focused on the evolution of the European Parliament. In the EP’s argument, backed by a large part of the legal doctrine and by the Court of Justice, the EU’s democratic deficit was equated with a parliamentary deficit. Since the mid-1990s, this discourse has been less concerned with institutional issues and ever more concentrated on the role ‘civil society’ plays or could play in European governance. This chapter argues that these two streams of thought should not be divorced, as they often are.1 While the formalist parliamentary approach, ignoring the role of non-public actors in EU governance, missed a large part of the picture, the new discourse on civil society tends to overestimate the importance of ‘non-conventional’ forms of participation, and to neglect the central function of classic representative mechanisms. In the first part of this chapter, I recall that the semantic shift from representative government to participatory governance reflects intellectual evolutions as much as political changes. In the second part, I examine the most sophisticated attempt to theorise decentralised and participatory forms of EU governance, under the label of ‘directly deliberative polyarchy’. I then stress the limits of this new paradigm in the light of democratic theory and...

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