Table of Contents

Civil Society and Governance in Europe

Civil Society and Governance in Europe

From National to International Linkages

Edited by William A. Maloney and Jan W. van Deth

The contributors to this new book analyse the opportunities for civil society associations to contribute to European integration and decision-making from various perspectives. The research demonstrates that the Europeanization process – in terms of civil society actors adapting to the European political space – has an uneven development.

Chapter 4: The Political Opportunity Structure for Civil Society Organisations in a Multilevel Context: Social Movement Organisations and the European Union

Marc Hooghe

Subjects: politics and public policy, european politics and policy, public policy, regulation and governance, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy

Extract

Marc Hooghe 4.1 INTRODUCTION In the White Paper on European Governance (Commission of the European Communities 2001) the European Commission argues for a stronger involvement of civil society organisations in the European decision-making process. The Commission considers these associations as important partners in its effort to develop open and transparent governance procedures at the European level. The European Commission wants to achieve this goal by providing more access and participation opportunities for non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It is hoped not only that these opportunities will increase the quality and legitimacy of European decision making, but also that they will contribute to the creation of a truly European civil society. Basically, the European Commission follows a topdown method of reasoning: it is expected that the incentives provided by the political system will result in the flourishing of civil society organisations at the European level. Various authors have questioned whether the European Union is likely to achieve this goal, or whether the intentions in the White Paper should be considered as mere window dressing that will not change the elitist character of European interest mediation practices (Armstrong 2002; Magnette 2003; Tsakatika 2005). Nevertheless, from a theoretical perspective, the top-down perspective used by the Commission is more than plausible. In the field of social movement studies, it is generally expected that opportunities created by the political system will have major consequences for the development of social movement organisations. Since the 1990s, this ‘political opportunity structure’ approach (or POS) has become one of the...

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