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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 13: Business Interest Representation and Legitimate European Governance

Pieter Bouwen


Pieter Bouwen INTRODUCTION1 There is agreement in the field of European interest politics that business interests are much better represented in Brussels than other societal interests (Mazey and Richardson 1999: 121). The majority of the national and European interest groups and consultants in Brussels represent producer interests (Greenwood 1997: 101; Buholzer 1998: 13; Schmitter 2000). This chapter starts from the observation that whereas there have been numerous studies contrasting the participation of business interests in European public policy with the participation of diffuse and/or non-business interests (Pollack 1997), no research has been undertaken comparing the access of different forms of business interest representation to the EU institutions. Indeed, while the unequal participation of business interests as opposed to consumer groups, environmental groups and human right groups, and so on, has been extensively analysed, the access of different organisational forms of business interest representation to the EU policy-making process remains understudied. Four main organisational forms of business interest representation can be distinguished: national and European business associations, individual company action and political consultants (Bouwen 2002: 373). The aim of this chapter is to analyse the extent to which the participation of these different organisational forms of business interest representation in EU decision-making contributes to the legitimacy of EU governance. First, it will be argued on the basis of a theory of access that the differences in the degree of access that the organisational forms have, is likely to have significant repercussions on the legitimacy of EU governance. The main reason is...

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