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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 4: Civil Society and Legitimate Governance in a Flexible Europe: Critical Deliberativism as a Way Forward

Alex Warleigh


Alex Warleigh INTRODUCTION Legitimate Governance in the EU: Involving the Citizen, Managing Diversity The role of civil society in legitimising EU governance is beginning to attract widespread attention. Because civil society acts as an intermediary between the citizen and the state, energising and drawing upon civil society would potentially do much to reduce the EU’s ‘democratic deficit’. It could breach the knowledge and interest gap that exists between the great majority of citizens and the practitioners of EU politics. It could ‘upskill’ citizens, making them more capable of engaging with EU governance in a meaningful way. As an effort to entice such engagement, and also as a result of it, increasing the role of civil society in EU governance could make the catalogue of EU competences more in keeping with those which citizens regularly demonstrate they think suitable for the Union, which often differ significantly from those it has acquired over time through its own efforts and as gifts from the member states (Blondel et al. 1998). Additionally, increasing the role of civil society in EU governance could help rekindle practices of active citizenship at national and sub-national levels, because the innovations in democratic governance that are required by reform of the quixotic EU polity cannot be carried out solely at ‘EU level’. Instead, they require attention to practices of governance at all levels of the ‘fused’ Euro-polity, meaning that efforts to reinvigorate EU democracy should have benefits for, and in turn benefit from, such efforts at national level (Schmidt...

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