Mind the Gap - A Study of NGOs' Access to Supranational Decision-making

Laura Neerup Breiø, Maja Kirstine Nygaard Andersen, Thea Karma Kanafani Sandberg, Tea Holmgård Christensen & Mathias Hulgård Kristiansen

Studenteropgave: Semesterprojekt


Abstract This study investigates the procedures for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to gain access to the European Union agenda-setting. These procedures are sought investigated in the light of the globalizing world and the increased variety of actors influencing the decision-making process at a supranational level. This raises the question of democratic legitimacy at a supranational level. This study applies a critical theoretical approach and thus uses a normative ideal to establish how democracy at a supranational level should institutionalize procedures for involving NGOs in the agenda-setting. The empirical data are based on interviews with actors from the organized civil society. Through an exploratory interview with the NGO Danish Society for a Living Sea (LS), their different channels of access to the EU decision-making are established and found to be based upon membership of various networks. The empirical data in this study is thus based on interviews with key employees in the networks Concord Denmark and Concord Europe, in the association Seas At Risk, and in Long Distance Regional Advisory Council established by the EU Commission. To ensure that the complexity in the empirical data is not lost when analyzed in relation to the democratic ideal, there is conducted a thematical analysis. The ideal applied in this study is based on Habermas’ procedural theory of deliberative democracy. The analysis is based on two levels in reaching access to the EU decision-making process, which were extracted from the empirical data: the first level is perceived as the NGOs’ access to the networks, the second is perceived as the networks’ access to the EU institutions. The analysis clarifies that it is easy for LS to gain access to the networks, yet their ability to take part in the internal agenda-setting in the networks is determined by their capacities. At the second level there are more difficulties in reaching access. The access as well as the agenda-setting is based upon the informal communication between organized civil society and EU institutions. The analysis exposes two major procedural gaps in the EU’s institutional setup, which promote informal communication. The first gap is the inability to institutionalize a room for the inclusion of the NGOs in the decision-making process in the EU. The second is the institutional structure of the EU’s institutions, which provide a room and incentives for informal communication. Thus it is concluded that supranational institutions in order to achieve deliberative democratic legitimacy must not only institutionalize a room for communicative rationality but also reform their own administrative structures.

UddannelserGlobal Studies, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Bachelor el. kandidat
Udgivelsesdato17 jan. 2014
VejledereSanne Brasch Kristensen


  • EU
  • NGO
  • Habermas
  • democracy