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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 12: Governing by informal networks? Nuclear interest groups and the eastern enlargement of the EU

Sabine Saurugger


Sabine Saurugger INTRODUCTION Research on interest groups in the EU has long concentrated on their structured relationships with EU institutions. Since the middle of the 1990s, however, a growing number of scholars have proposed that parallel to these formal relationships, informal contacts between individual firms and European institutions have become more and more important (Green Cowles 1997, Coen 1997 and 1998). Unlike the formal democratic process, based on highly regulated arrangements of political representation, interest representation in the European Union has been largely unregulated. As the introduction to this volume underlines, the clash between highly formalized routines for decision-making, and the need for continuous negotiation of policies in order to achieve efficient and successful outcomes, is met with ample opportunity for networking and forms of informal politics. Based on a case study of German and French nuclear industry interest representation in the process of the eastern enlargement of the EU, this chapter will address the general question of relationships between interest groups1 and the European Commission in EU negotiation processes. While a number of strongly institutionalized business groups exist at the European level in the field of nuclear energy and are members in the institutionalized and formally created expert groups around the Commission, the relations between the nuclear industry and European institutions, in particular the European Commission with regard to enlargement policies, were characterized by networks created on an ad hoc basis.2 These nuclear networks must be considered as the basis of informal governance structures designed to deal with the...

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