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Interest organizations and European Union politics.

Greenwood, Justin


Justin Greenwood


William R. Thompson


Interest representation plays a systemic role in EU policy making and integration, recognised as such in the Treaty on European Union. Interest organisations supply technical and political information to the EU institutions, and EU institutions use interest organisations as agents of political communication. Interest organisations act as a proxy for an otherwise largely absent civil society, with a teeming population of groups advocating for every imaginable cause. Where groups are absent, so EU institutions have stimulated their formation. The result is a pluralist system of checks and balances, although the literature includes findings of ‘islands’ resembling corporatist practice. EU institutions have designed a range of procedures in support of ‘an open and structured dialogue between the Commission and special interest groups,’ now largely packaged as a ‘Better Regulation’ programme. Measures include funding for NGOs, consultation procedures accompanied by impact assessments, a Transparency Register to provide lobbying transparency, and measures for access to documents that enable civil society organisations to keep EU institutions accountable. A multi-level governance system further strengthens pluralist design, making it impossible for any one type of interest to routinely capture the diversity of EU decision making. A key controversy in the literature is how to assess influence, and whether lobbying success varies across interest group type. EU public policy making is regulatory, making for competitive interest group politics, often between different branches of business whose interests are affected differently by regulatory proposals. There are striking findings from the literature, including that NGOs are more successful than business organisations in getting what they want from EU public policy making, particularly where issues reach the status of high salience where they attract the attention of the European Parliament. A key innovation of the Lisbon Treaty involves a European Citizens’ Initiative, which takes dialogue between civil society and EU institutions outside the ecosystem inhabited by civil society organisations and EU institutions known as the ‘Brussels bubble’ and into the member states.


GREENWOOD, J. 2019. Interest organizations and European Union politics. In Thompson, W.R. (ed.) Oxford research encyclopedia of politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press [online], article ID 1162. Available from:

Acceptance Date Dec 13, 2018
Online Publication Date Apr 26, 2019
Publication Date Apr 30, 2019
Deposit Date Apr 26, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 27, 2021
Publisher Oxford University Press
Book Title Oxford research encyclopedia of politics
ISBN 9780190228637
Keywords EU lobbying; Interest representation; European integration; Pluralism; Civil society; Dialogue with civil society
Public URL


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