Vol. 7 (2012) > lreg-2012-2

Living Rev. Euro. Gov. 7 (2012), 2

Civil society participation in EU governance

1 Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Universitätsstr. 1, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany

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Article Abstract

For the longest time, the participation of civil society has not been an area of interest for neither EU researchers nor political decision-makers. This changed with a rising interest in the democratic credentials of the European Union. With the end of the initial permissive consensus on EU integration, civil society emerged as a possible remedy to bridge the gap between supranational governance and citizens. This Living Review presents the two dominant analytical perspectives on civil society participation: the notion of civil society as organized actors that contribute actively to multilevel governance, and civil society as the mold for an emerging European public sphere. Both these conceptual views are reflected in hands-on initiatives on the EU level. On the one hand, the European Commission in particular promotes the inclusion of organized societal interests in the informal decision-making procedures. On the other hand, various forms of deliberative practices have been introduced that build on the encompassing notion of constituting a trans-European public sphere. The review offers a comprehensive overview on the multiple definitions of civil society and the distinct role attributions these coexisting conceptions imply. The contribution draws a number of critical conclusions on the actual outcomes that the active promotion of civil society participation has thus achieved, and questions whether civil society participation has indeed led to a more grounded legitimacy of EU decisions or a more settled European public sphere.

Keywords: democracy, European public sphere, participation, governance, legitimacy, deliberative democracy, civil society

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Eva G. Heidbreder,
"Civil society participation in EU governance",
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Article History

ORIGINAL http://europeangovernance-livingreviews.org/Articles/lreg-2007-2
Title Civil society participation in EU governance
Author Barbara Finke
Date accepted 2 November 2007, published 21 December 2007
UPDATE http://europeangovernance-livingreviews.org/Articles/lreg-2012-2
Title Civil society participation in EU governance
Author Eva G. Heidbreder
Date accepted 5 October 2012, published 12 December 2012
Changes This Living Review is a completely re-written version of the original Living Review by Barbara Finke. It has been restructured and substantially expanded given the impressive increase of research on the topic in the past five years. However, the current version builds on the original text and has kept most of the reviewed work as part of this review. Thanks also to Barbara Finke for comments on earlier drafts of this revised review.

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