Engaging with Civil Society
The involvement of civil society in decision-making has been one of the cornerstones of the EU institutions legitimacy-seeking strategies since the late 1990s. Whereas the EU policy-making process has traditionally favoured institutionalised Brussels-based peak associations and umbrella groups that aggregate and represent diverse interests at EU level, the European Commission has attempted to formally open the policy process to diverse civil society groups. Brussels-based organisations tend to focus their messaging and work towards EU institutions, and, consequently, are likely to act within the framework provided by the European Commission. This implies that these organisations react to the ideas and frameworks that resonate within EU institutions and have fewer channels available for other subjects.
In contrast, the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) encourages a fundamentally different type of civil society involvement in EU policy-making. The main innovative aspect of the ECI is that actors can set the agenda themselves. This is unprecedented, because it was previously the European Commission who framed all issues, and civil society actors had to engage within them.
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