The European Commission and Interest Groups

Authors: 
Irina Tanasescu

Stakeholder consultations are an important part of EU policy-making. On the one hand, the thousands of interest representation groups in Brussels target the European institutions, and more specifically the European Commission, with position papers and input on the various issues on the agenda. On the other hand, the European Commission itself is trying to structure this dialogue and to make it an essential element not only of decision-making in particular but of democratic life at the EU level in general. Since the beginning of the 1990s the European Commission has issued a series of Communications, White and Green Papers attempting at a consolidation of its relationship with interest groups along clear guidelines and principles, the latest in date being the European Transparency Initiative.

The analysis and understanding of the particular nature of the interactions between organized interests and the European Union institutions has had a prominent place on the research agenda of the past decade. This volume seeks to contribute to the debate by providing an in-depth assessment of European Commission consultation exercises from a novel perspective, namely a set of criteria inspired from deliberative democracy theories. While previous studies have explained how interest groups are organized at the EU level, which strategies they use and what the different access points to the EU institutions are, this book takes the analysis to the next level of understanding and analyzes what happens in concrete instances of consultation. More specifically, the focus is shifted from the interest groups as the main actor to the European Commission as the shaper (and main target) of interactions with third parties. In addition to the scrutiny of the general framework of consultation, three specific consultation exercises are investigated: the 2003 Communication on Integrated Product Policy, the 2005 Directive on the Ecodesign of Energy-Using Product and the Impact Assessment Guidelines.

The deliberative-inspired analysis allows for a more nuanced understanding of the interaction between the European Commission and interest groups but also, via the case studies, touches upon a series on related issues such as environmental governance, policy implementation, Better Regulation or the Lisbon strategy.

Irina Tanasescu is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of European Studies, Brussels. She teaches on EU decision-making and public policy at both the Vrije Universiteit Brussels and the Vesalius College, Brussels, and previously worked as an administrator in the European Commission. She obtained a PhD in Political Science from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and published extensively on voluntary policy instruments in environmental governance, EU social dialogue, deliberative democracy and stakeholded involvement in EU policy-making.