Beate Kohler-Koch
Organizational challenges to economic interest representation in the EU

First Annual Research Symposium, CRN Centrifugal Europe: Territorialisation of interest representation in times of economic crisis, University of Wroclaw, 31. Januar bis 01. Februar 2014

In the past decade Europe has succeeded in enlarging and deepening the EU and, as a consequence, interests have become more diverse and reconciling diverging interests has become pressing. This constitutes a major challenge for the representation of economic interest. EU institutions call for representativeness when dealing with interest groups and take this to refer first of all to balanced territorial representation. Economic realities, however, do not meet these expectations. The EU of 28 is essentially a Union of small states with a weak industrial base and the process of deindustrialisation has also weakened the voice of industry in some of the larger member states. The paper examines how business associations try to meet the challenge. It makes the assertion that we witness a new wave of Europeanization of interest organisation. Strong national associations reach out to Brussels by taking European sector associations under their wings or by sponsoring new specialised associations with direct firm membership. By doing so they incur the competition of EU level umbrellas that also strive to boost their position by strengthening their alliances with European sector associations. The analytical focus is on contextual factors such as economic diversity, resource endowment, different roles attributed to associations, changes in the EU system of decision making and how these factors impact on the choice of strategies and patterns of re-organisation.