From National to International Linkages
Edited by William A. Maloney and Jan W. van Deth
Chapter 4: The Political Opportunity Structure for Civil Society Organisations in a Multilevel Context: Social Movement Organisations and the European Union
4. The political opportunity structure for civil society organisations in a multilevel context: social movement organisations and the European Union Marc Hooghe 4.1 INTRODUCTION In the White Paper on European Governance (Commission of the European Communities 2001) the European Commission argues for a stronger involvement of civil society organisations in the European decision-making process. The Commission considers these associations as important partners in its eﬀort to develop open and transparent governance procedures at the European level. The European Commission wants to achieve this goal by providing more access and participation opportunities for non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It is hoped not only that these opportunities will increase the quality and legitimacy of European decision making, but also that they will contribute to the creation of a truly European civil society. Basically, the European Commission follows a topdown method of reasoning: it is expected that the incentives provided by the political system will result in the ﬂourishing of civil society organisations at the European level. Various authors have questioned whether the European Union is likely to achieve this goal, or whether the intentions in the White Paper should be considered as mere window dressing that will not change the elitist character of European interest mediation practices (Armstrong 2002; Magnette 2003; Tsakatika 2005). Nevertheless, from a theoretical perspective, the top-down perspective used by the Commission is more than plausible. In the ﬁeld of social movement studies, it is generally expected that opportunities created by the political system will have major consequences for the...
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