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Civil society and the European Union. From enthusiasm to disenchantment

Zivilgesellschaft und Europäische Union. Zwischen Begeisterung und Verdrossenheit
  • Jürgen R. Grote

    Jürgen R. Grote, Senior Researcher, DOC Berlin. Contact: JGrote@doc-research.org

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Abstract

This paper adopts the wide definition of civil society, namely the one suggested by the EU. It includes all sorts of private collectives from producer groups, trade unions, care and common cause organizations, NGOs, to social and protest movements. Distinguishing between a structural (governance) and an actor-centred perspective (collective action) and, orthogonally, two levels of territorial complexity (the sub-, and the supranational), the history of the relationship between the EU and civil society is presented for the period of the past 35 years. It turns out that despite enormous efforts invested in the relationship from the part of both sides, and of many heroic declamations aimed at pathbreaking reform, the outcome tends to be relatively meagre and disenchanting both in institutional and organizational terms.

Zusammenfassung

Ausgehend von der seitens der EU verwendeten Definition wird der Begriff Zivilgesellschaft in diesem Beitrag sehr weit gefasst. Er umfasst Wirtschaftsverbände, Gewerkschaften, karitative und freiwillige Vereinigungen, NGOs sowie soziale und Protestbewegungen. Unterschieden wird zwischen einer strukturellen, auf Formen des Regierens orientierten und einer akteurszentrierten, auf Kollektivhandlungen ausgerichteten Perspektive. Hinzu kommt eine territoriale, die sub- und die supranationale Ebene umfassende Dimension. Diesem Schema folgend wird versucht, die Geschichte des Verhältnisses von EU und Zivilgesellschaft für den Zeitraum der letzten 35 Jahre nachzuzeichnen. Das Resultat bleibt zumindest für zivilgesellschaftliche Akteure enttäuschend: Trotz enormer Anstrengungen und auf beiden Seiten vorgenommener Investitionen - Reformrhetorik und heroische Absichtserklärungen eingeschlossen - ist es mit Blick auf institutionelle und Organisationsreformen außerordentlich bescheiden.

About the author

Jürgen R. Grote

Jürgen R. Grote, Senior Researcher, DOC Berlin. Contact:

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Published Online: 2020-02-12
Published in Print: 2020-02-25

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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