Legal gaps in democratic scrutiny: the European Parliament and Civil Society in the Implementation of EU Trade Agreements
Brunel University London, United Kingdom
The paper maps and evaluates the mechanisms available to the European Parliament and civil society to meaningfully scrutinise the work of the joint committees responsible for the implementation of EU trade agreements. While much has been written on the role of the European Parliament and civil society at the negotiation stage, less is known about the avenues for democratic scrutiny once a trade agreement is concluded. As evidenced by the EU-UK TCA, post-Lisbon EU trade agreements establish a plethora of executive committees that can take decisions on a wide range of matters, with repercussions on the EU legal order. The article sheds light on major shortcomings in the mechanisms envisaged in the EU’s Treaties and trade agreements for the European Parliament and civil society to scrutinise the decision-making processes at the implementation stage. It argues that there is a mismatch between a wider remit of the powers delegated to executive treaty bodies, and legal gaps precluding meaningful democratic checks. It shows that the European Parliament is marginalised, both at the bilateral and EU level; and that the new mechanisms and bodies for the involvement of civil society remain ancillary, unable to hold decision-makers into account despite their advisory role. Against this backdrop, the article additionally calls into question the ongoing trend whereby the European Parliament is being deprived of the possibility to exercise its institutional prerogatives at new levels of trade law-making, vis-a-vis the creation of bodies for civil society that appear to be substituting it under the banner of enhanced democratic legitimacy.
United We Keep on Standing: The Determinants Of Durable Civil Society Coalitions On EU Trade Policy
In the past decade, EU free trade agreements (FTAs) stopped being the exclusive confine of executives and experts, as several negotiations became strongly politicized. While this can be attributed to different factors, there is widespread recognition that civil society organizations have been pivotal in raising awareness, increasing the salience of negotiations for a wider audience, and putting pressure on politicians to take action. To do so effectively, their joining together in coalitions has proven to be especially important. At the high point of the politicization of TTIP and CETA, broad coalitions of civil society organizations were active not only transnationally, but also within different Member States. After TTIP’s demise, many of these coalitions attempted to seize the moment and transform their ‘ad hoc’ TTIP-specific coalition into a general coalition on trade policy, aiming to work on different trade agreements, and even put forward alternative trade agendas. Nonetheless, there is considerable variation in the extent of visibility, group engagement, and activity of these coalitions across countries. On the basis of interviews with trade activists and organizations in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Austria, the aim of this contribution is to explore the determinants of this variation in the durability of civil society coalitions on EU trade policy. Doing so not only adds to our understanding of interest group politics on EU trade policy, but also contributes to explanations of differentiated politicization of EU FTAs.
Civil Society and Participation in the EU’s Neighbourhood: Towards a Bottom-up Approach
1Sorbonne Nouvelle University, France; 2BOKU, Austria
To what extent does participation in the policy process transform civil society and how does civil society respond to, and influence public policies?
This question has increasingly gained salience in the European Union (EU)’s neighbourhood as a result of both domestic and external pressure, including local demands for accountability and EU shift towards a “partnership with societies”. However, due to the restrictive conceptualisation of CSOs as instruments of EU-level actors in much of the governance-oriented literature, we miss a truly bottom-up perspective that would take into account CSOs as actors in their own right.
In order to bridge this analytical gap, we build on the governmentality perspective, which focuses on power and micro-practices and enables us to dig deeper by unearthing power relations in governance structures in a Foucauldian “archaeology of power” tradition (Burchell et al. 1991). Drawing on critical scholarship, we conceptualise what participation in the policy process does to civil society actors in the EU’s neighbourhood. We also study how hybrid regimes use civil society as part of their own legitimation strategies and how civil society actors respond to such challenges. Empirically, we offer a comparative analysis based upon empirical data on CSOs participation in four eastern and southern ENP countries (Georgia, Morocco, Tunisia and Ukraine), gathered as part of an international research project (INTEND, ANR-FWF).