Repairing the Link? Civil Society’s Role Regarding Accountability Deficits of the German Government in EU Affairs


  • Jan Baars


civil society, accountability, Germany, European Union


National governments acting in the Council of the European Union can rarely be held to account by parliaments and the public. This is because secrecy prevails in Council negotiations, and institutions of democratic scrutiny often lack information and resources to effectively control the executive. This study focuses on the involvement of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) as a potential remedy to the lack of democratic control over governments’ positions in Council negotiations. Examining the German case, a qualitative analysis of 13 interviews with German CSO representatives shows that CSO involvement concentrates on direct dialogue with the German government: Although lacking formal sanctioning powers, CSOs engage in an informal, voluntary consultation with policy-makers, based on co-dependency. Thus, they enact a loose form of social accountability with the German government. In this role, CSOs are however constrained by several factors, such as access to policy-making arenas. The paper further shows that CSOs seldom trigger formal scrutiny mechanisms by alarming the Bundestag or the public on potential governmental wrongdoings. Therefore, they rarely make use of their second potential role as political accountability facilitators. As a result, this raises the question whether CSOs’ impact on the accountability deficit can make up for the lack of popular scrutiny in EU policy-making.


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