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The Political Participation Of European Civil Society Organizations In The Multilevel Governance Of The European Union

Posted on:2011-11-15Degree:DoctorType:Dissertation
Country:ChinaCandidate:A M HuFull Text:PDF
GTID:1116330335485377Subject:International politics
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Since the enactment Lisbon Treaty in December 2009, the history of European integration steps on a new platform. After more than 50 years practice, The European. Union grows into a powerful institutional player, and gains more competence. The decision taken at the European Capital are increasingly influencing and changing the national political ecology as well the daily life of common people. Under the sui generis and complex circumstances of the EU, it is an urgent and severe problem, to accomplish the goal of effective governance, via social coordination, the participation of societal groups, and also scientific decision. However, the Union is sui generis system so that it could not simply duplicate the democratic system like the national states. The drawing back of the European political integration, in particular the failure of the EU Constitutional Treaty drive EU institutions to recognize the significance of respecting the public opinion, and of strengthening the participation of diversified societal actors in policy process. On the other hand, in modern society most of citizens could only participate in the political life through appropriate medium and representatives (such as political parties or interest groups), to articulate their interest and demand, rather than present themselves at the level of decision making. Civil society organizations are just such participatory channel for citizens. Under the framework of EU multilevel governance, civil society organizations as institutional representatives of various interests are active player in the European affaires.The thesis presents a new perspective on the European governance, namely, extending the Lincoln's definition on democracy (government of the people, by the people and for the people) to the European level. It is of great interest to investigate the potential contribution of European civil society organizations to the democracy in the sense of "governance by the people" in this specific polity of EU. The thesis proceeds as follows.CHAPTER 1 Historical Evolution of the Civil Society TheoriesThe long tradition of the concept of Civil Society in Europe could trace back to ancient Greek and Roma times. Classical civil society theory regards civil society as civilized society that is opposite to the Barbarism society, and also political society composing citizens. In late medieval times, modern cities became into being with the development of east-west trade. With the view of protecting their own interest, the residents of cities voluntarily joined the guilds and associations, which could be viewed as enfant form of civil society organization. Hanseatic League in 13-15 century as a commercial and trade federation with political function also could be regarded as European civil society organization in some broad sense.In the eyes of enlightenment thinkers, such as Locke, Montesquieu, civil society equated to political society, namely the state. Hegel and Karl Marx separated civil society from political state, and civil society mainly referred to the economic relations.Contemporary theorists regard the civil society as a social sphere different form state (political sphere) and market (economic sphere), whilst the students of international relation turn to the civil society concept beyond the nation state, such as the global civil society and European civil society. In official documents and governance practice of the EU, the civil society concept also has undergone different stages, which represent the gradual transformation of role and function of civil society, also the relationship between the EU institutions and the civil society.CHAPTER 2 European Multilevel Governance: Historical and Institutional Background for the Participation of Civil Society OrganizationsAfter the Governance turn, the European Union turns into a diversified, multilevel network governance structure. European governance brings pluralist actors into its system, including EU institutions, national governments and administrative of member states, sub-national and local governments, political parties, NGOs, interest groups, media and public opinion, as well as the citizens of member states. Hence, with great openness and inclusiveness, the unique governance arrangement of EU offers civil society organizations an opportunity structure, and then becomes the institutional framework for the for the participation of civil society organizations.In recent years, EU institutions have recognized the need to establish a more coherent framework to improve their relation with civil society actors. This holds true, in particular, for the supranational institutions of the EU, above all the European Commission (EC). The European Parliament (EP) and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) have been very active in bringing the civil society organizations into the policy making, which offers access and possibility for various societal actors.CHAPTER 3 Historical Development and the Status Quo of European Civil Society OrganizationsIn pre-EU time in Europe, as part of political life in nation states, civil society groups bear territorial, political and cultural imprint, which serves as deep-rooted social embeddedness of today's civil society organizations.Since the establishment of European Community, Civil Society Organizations appeared at European level and evolve with the development of European Integration. At the early period, European organizations on workers and consumer were established. Since the Maastricht Treaty the number of Community level organizations increased fast, the range of their activities got widened. In Recent 10 years, beyond the increased number and issue areas, there is a trend of professionalization in the European Civil Society Organizations.In terms of the organizational structure, European Civil Society Organizations come under the category of network of networks or umbrella organization, federation of federations, involving thousands of organizations and associations. They are active at high salient policy areas, such as social policy, environment protection, health and consumer, etc. Thus, they offer channel for citizens, give voice to the weaker in society in a manner of collective action. In other words, civil society has been organized on European level.CHAPTER4 Political Participation of European Civil Society Organizations: incentives, diversified channels and patternsRegarding the incentives for the Participation of European civil society organizations, there are favorable external environment and conditions, and also incentives based on subjective cognition and capability of the civil society actors themselves. For the former factor, EU institutions, above all the European Commission, European Parliament and European Economic and Social Committee, recognized the potential contribution of civil society actors to EU politics in a series of policy documents and treaties, and take various effective measures to involve the civil society into the policy process. For this purpose, the consultation and dialogue mechanisms with civil society organization have been strengthened, and thus set up legal basis and institutional guarantee for participation of European civil society organizations.In terms of the subjective factor, civil society organizations are subject to the logic of membership and the logic of influence. EU institutions together with the policy process shaped the civil society discourse under the background of EU governance, and this influences the cognition of civil society organizations on their own role and function. Moreover, civil society organizations gain experience of interacting with supranational institutions and governments, and thus are equipped with capabilities of competing and cooperating with other institutions and interest groups. In short, European civil society organizations have acquired capabilities of democratic participation, self-management and self-regulation in practice.There are diversified channels for civil society organizations to engage in the European governance: direct participation in policy process, such as consultation, dialogue and feedback etc.; indirect influence on the decision-making, such as lobbying, demonstration, campaign etc. In addition, it is another strategy influencing the policy process for civil society organizations to take part in the interactive network of the EU e-government.CHAPTER 5 Assessment Participation of European Civil Society Organizations in European Multilevel GovernanceAs one institutionalized channel of interest intermediation of citizen groups, civil society organizations are active players in EU governance. It is the expectation of EU institutions and academia to eliminate the democratic deficit via involvement of European civil society organizations.Civil society organizations serve as school of democracy, offering citizens necessary training, knowledge and experience. That is to say, civil society organizations bear the function of socialization. In the European governance structure, civil society organizations also take the role of organizing social life, adding legitimacy to the public institution and the governance structure. They motivate, encourage and facilitate the alienated individuals to engage in politics. As a result, the workload of public institution would be reduced, and the solidarity among citizens strengthened. In the democratic life of the EU, participation of European Civil Society Organization equate to "governance by the people". In the democratic representation system of the EU, on one hand, civil society organization is important constituency, since they represent the citizens on supranational level, and monitor the political process to make the decision maker accountable. In EU participatory democracy, on the other hand, civil society organizations are foremost actors. Under the framework of European governance, representative democracy and participatory democracy complement each other, thus constitute EU democratic life. Under such circumstances, civil society organizations comprise the source of democratic legitimacy. Nonetheless, the civil society organizations only acquire voice rather than vote in European governance, and their influence on the politics is rather weaker than economic interest groups.To be sure, EU governance offers societal actors including European civil society organizations political opportunity structure, channeling their interests and opinions heard on EU institutions. Hence, civil society organizations and common people could actively join the policy process of the EU, rather than passively respond to the policies. Such practice would influence the cognition of the European citizens on the Union, and this may contribute to the further European identity.
Keywords/Search Tags:Civil Society, European Civil Society Organization, Multilevel and Network Governance, Political Participation, Democratic Life in the EU
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