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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 14: Civil Society and European Governance: The Interdisciplinary Challenge of Reflexive Deliberative Polyarchy

Stijn Smismans


Stijn Smismans CIVIL SOCIETY’S CHALLENGE TO EU STUDIES The relationship between civil society and European governance constitutes both an analytical and a normative challenge to EU studies. This book has only taken a first step to reply to these challenges. The Analytical Challenge Beginning with the EU lobbying literature one has gradually obtained a better picture of the involvement of interest groups and associations in European policy-making. In addition to the initial more descriptive accounts, there has also been a further development of different theories to explain the dynamics of this reality, such as epistemic communities (Haas 1992; Richardson 1995), advocacy coalitions (Sabatier 1998; Ruzza 2004), political opportunity theory (Ruzza 2004; Hilson 2002), theory of demand and supply of access goods (Bouwen 2002); or policy network analysis (Schneider et al. 1994; Conzelmann 1995; Richardson 1995;1 Kohler-Koch 2002). The ‘civil society–European governance’ perspective provides additional lenses to examine this reality and to place it in a broader framework. The governance dimension allows us to analyse not only the role of civil society participation in agenda-setting and policy-formulation, but also to address the role of civil society organisations at multiple stages of policymaking, such as in the implementation and control of EU regulation (for example Heinelt and Meinke in this volume) or in the implementation of EU programmes (for example Etherington 2002). It is not merely a question of assessing their access and influence, but of understanding modern governance in which multiple actors interact in different policy instruments and modes...

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