Democratic Legitimacy via Civil Society Involvement? The Role of the European Commission (DEMOCIV)
The aim of the research project was to operationalise mechanisms serving democratisation that have been formulated by theories of deliberative democracy and to study in an empirical analysis the democratic potential of civil society involvement in EU policy-making. Procedure/Approach: Four central criteria for democracy were defined: representativeness of and reciprocity in discourse, publicity, and accountability. The empirical analysis concentrated on the consultation regime of the European Commission and the horizontal and vertical interaction of the European Commission and civil society organisations in two selected policy fields. A database on the Commission’s online consultations was generated; interviews and document analysis added to discourse analysis. Results: The new consultation policy of the European Commission has opened up the intermediary space for additional interests and changed the mode and intensity of political communication by allowing for participation of the so called “weak interests” on a more equal footing. Due to their increased integration ‘general interests’ groups have intensified their EU-level networks and professionalised. This has considerable consequences for their inner-organisational communication structure: While there is a gain in public discourse, it usually is confined to elite circles at EU-level and only exceptionally reaches the national or local level.