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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.
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Chapter 3: Inclusive Governance? Civil Society and the Open Method of Co-ordination

Kenneth A. Armstrong


* Kenneth A. Armstrong INTRODUCTION The point of departure for this chapter lies in a criticism made by Stijn Smismans that much of the discourse on the role of civil society in European Union (EU) governance has under-valued and under-analysed the role of civil society actors in ‘new modes of governance’ (Smismans 2003: 490). This chapter also picks up the thread of an argument raised in an earlier work that criticised the European Commission’s White Paper on European Governance (European Commission 2001) as overly-preoccupied with attaching civil society to the institutional apparatus of the ‘Community Method’ of legislative governance while underplaying the potential of civil society actors within new modes of governance like the ‘open method of co-ordination’ (‘OMC’) (Armstrong 2002). The ambition of this contribution is, therefore, to seek to account for civil society in new modes of governance like the OMC. It would be useful to describe the role that civil society actors are, or are not, playing in OMC processes. Indeed, it would be of value to compare and contrast the degrees of civil society participation in different OMC processes and across different Member States. Nonetheless, the principal preoccupation of this chapter rests in articulating the conceptual basis through which to account for, or indeed critique, civil society’s role in OMC from the perspective of democratic constitutionalism. The argument develops in the following way. In the first section, the principal features of OMC as a new mode of governance are outlined. The intention is not to provide a...

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