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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 9: Comparing Civil Society Participation in European Environmental Policy and Consumer Protection

Hubert Heinelt and Britta Meinke-Brandmaier


Hubert Heinelt and Britta Meinke-Brandmaier INTRODUCTION There is a growing literature on civil society in general and on the role civil society can (and should) play in the multi-level system of EU policy making (from the EU white paper on governance (Com (2001) 428 final) to for example Rucht 2001, Heinelt 2002 or Curtin 2003). However, little is known about the existing structures and mechanisms of interest intermediation through civil society actors in the political system of the European Union and its member states and how civil society actors actually contribute to policy developments in the European Union. Based on own research on environmental policy and consumer protection and, within each field, on one particular legal act, this chapter tries giving some answers to the following questions: 1. How far can civil society influence policy making within the multi-level system of the EU? More precisely, are there specific points of access? 2. Which internal problems do civil society actors face when wishing to become politically influential and are they able to solve them? 3. Which contextual settings challenge or favour the influence of civil society actors – especially when decisions are being applied in the ‘world of actions’?1 The environmental policy case in point is the Fauna-Flora-Habitats Directive of the European Union.2 It was adopted in 1992 and is the first major piece of EU legislation providing for the designation of special conservation areas (being combined in a European network of conservation areas under the name ‘Natura 2000’). Following this...

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