Asymmetric Patterns in the Civil Society’s Access to the European Commission: The Cases of DG FISMA and DG TRADE

Giuseppe Montalbano

How does the European Commission’s participatory regime shapes the patterns of EU-civil society partnership throughout the initiating stage of the legislative processes at EU level? This chapter investigates a crucial aspect underlying this question, which has hitherto received relatively little attention in the literature: that is, the various factors that enable competing corporate and non-corporate organized interests to gain access to the European Commission’s policy-definition venues. The hypothesis presented can be summarized as follows: if the lobbying resources (see below) ensure privileged access for business representatives in general, and in particular for the large European associations and firms, non-corporate organized groups improve their chances of access when the policy issues they address—together with the objectives they strive for—gain a sufficient degree of public and political salience. Such a salience opens up new strategic opportunities for key societal entrepreneurs and organized groups, favouring the building up of large alliances with relevant policy-makers and pressuring to reconfigure the balance of corporate and non-corporate access to Commission policy-makers. In order

G. Montalbano (H)

Department of Political Science, LUISS, Rome, Italy

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2017 149

R. Marchetti (ed.), Partnerships in International Policy-Making, International Series on Public Policy,

DOI 10.1057/978-1-349-94938-0_8

to test such a hypothesis, I focus on three main participatory instruments: (1) expert groups, (2) stakeholders’ consultations and (3) grant programmes allocated to civil society organizations. I conduct an in-depth analysis of these access channels in the DGs Fisma and Trade, addressing two policy areas that came to the fore between 2008 and 2015, namely European financial services regulation and international trade negotiations.

In Section 1, I briefly review the relevant literature on interest groups’ access and participatory democracy as relevant to the Commission. In Part 2, I present the main hypothesis regarding the institutional, economic, and political/contextual variables considered, operationalizing them in relation to the three participatory channels I focus on. In Part 3, I test these hypotheses against the participatory regimes embedded in the Commission DGs Fisma and Trade. In the final section (Section 4) I draw some general conclusions from the empirical analysis.

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