Beate Kohler-Koch, Christoph Humrich, Barbara Finke
Enhancing Multi-level Democracy by Organizing Civil Society


In political theory and political practice an activated civil society is seen as a solution to the EU’s democratic deficit. The EU-Commission actively engages in relating to civil society. Any judgement on the impact of this engagement on the democratic quality of the EU depends on an appraisal of the factual influence of the Commission’s activities on the structuration of civil society itself and on the preference for a particular normative theory of democracy. We share the normative view and the function ascribed to civil society in Jürgen Habermas’ theory of deliberative democracy. In this perspective, we explore the EU-Commission’s engagement with civil society. We first give account of the evolution of this engagement by using the heuristic concept of ‘generations’. We then introduce the concept of ‘consultation regime’ which helps us to develop causal hypotheses concerning the consequences for the structuration of civil society. We differentiate four models of consultation regimes which condition civil society in distinctive ways: For each model we describe a set of the Commission’s relevant actions and relate them to the likely effects on the structuration of civil society and the potential for enhancing democratic legitimacy in the EU multi-level system. When confronted with the empirical reality, we have to take notice that the present consultation policy does not support the diversity of civil society organizations and their self-reflective public interaction in a way that is sufficient for enhancing the democratic legitimacy of the EU.