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Informal Governance in the European Union

Edited by Thomas Christiansen and Simona Piattoni

This book addresses an issue of paramount importance concerning the politics of the European Union: aspects of governance and policy making in the EU that are labelled ‘informal’. Much of the literature on the EU focuses on the formal facets of EU politics, but uniquely, the subject matter within this book deals with informal aspects such as: the role of personal relationships, the presence of non-hierarchical policy-networks and non-institutional channels of interest representation, and the relevance of the unwritten rules and routines which govern these aspects of EU politics.
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Chapter 5: Building velvet triangles: gender and informal governance

Alison E. Woodward


Alison E. Woodward INTRODUCTION A leading factor in citizen disillusionment with the EU has been the impression that the European decision-making process is dominated by non-transparent institutions that fail to take up their issues. Proponents of social movement questions such as gender, the environment and global development frequently make this argument. Yet despite their limited power resources, these movements have been uncommonly successful. This is due to their use of the more informal features of EU decision-making including the social content of policy networks. By and large, social movements’ demands are taken on board thanks to a patterned dance of needy bureaucrats, dedicated activists and eager academics who are active at national and international levels and frequently linked to each other through informal as well as formal processes. These groups’ political marginality and low power resources have led to a patterning of interactions in policy-making reminiscent of patron–client relationships, which is a feature of what we here call informal governance. The informal patron–client relationships in the EU institutions are a two-way street. The listening ear providing access to the policy agenda also receives something besides trust and loyalty. These are the new ideas, which can increase their bureau’s internal prestige and resources. This chapter explores the implications of a paradox of informal governance in order to assist an understanding of the social dimension of interactions between EU policy-makers and interest groups. The diverse voices brought into policy-making ensure a more legitimate agenda. Yet at the same time their...

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