Interest Groups

Topics: European Union, European Parliament, Treaty of Lisbon Pages: 6 (2336 words) Published: April 24, 2013
At present, there are approximately 3,000 different interest groups that are formally recognized by the European Union (Kirchner 2011). These interest groups represent a variety of interests and vary in the amount of influence that they actually have on the policy making process. These groups represent the interest of multiple sectors of both social and economic life within the European Union. Interests range from AGRICULTURE to BIG BUSINESS to HUMANITARIAN AID. In a truly pluralist nature, these groups are competing, either directly or indirectly, with each one another to have an influence in the legislation that is produced by the European Union. It is without a doubt that these interest groups within the European Union play an important part of the decision-making process. The blossoming interest group community within the European Union has both beneficial and detrimental impacts on the democratic quality of the European legislative process. By providing a background of interest groups and their influence in the decision-making process and comparing the role of interest groups within the European Union to those within the United States I will demonstrate the positive and negative qualities of interest group participation in the democratic process. In this paper, I will argue that interest groups are indeed a double-edged sword in affecting the democratic quality of European Union legislation. Before this topic can be adequately addressed, I believe that it is necessary to clarify a general definition of an interest group. For purposes of this paper, I will refer to Rainer Eising’s definition of an interest group, because I have found it to be the most expansive and relevant towards the argument being made in this paper. Eising chooses to define an interest group as a composite of three main factors: organization, political interests and informality. Jusitifying these factors Eising rationalizes: “Organization relates to the nature of the group and excludes broad movements and waves of public opinion that may influence policy outcomes as interest groups…. Political interest refers to attempts of these organizations to push public policy in one direction or another on the behalf of constituencies or a general poltical idea. Informality relates to the fact that interst groups do not normally seek public office but pursue their goals through informal interactions with politicians and bureaucrats (5). I chose to select this definition because of its inclusive nature and choice to not to exclude other politically motivated bodies that attempt to influence public policy (nongovernmental organizations, intergovernmental organizations, non-profit groups, etc.) For all intents and purposes, this term “interest group” refers to the any group that falls within these boundaries. The term “interest intermediation” is also frequently used when describing the interaction that interest groups have upon the policy making process. This describes the intention that the interest groups have of influencing opinions or actions of the European Union’s legislative process (Wonka 2004). Now that a standard definition of interest groups has been established, I will outline some of the major positive and negative components of interest group activity has on the democratic quality of European Union legislation. Major proponents of interest group activity within the European Union claim that interest groups have a great potential of helping to diminish the (real or perceived) democratic deficit amongst the Union and its citizens (Eising 2008). The capacity of the interest groups to represent the will of the citizens is a positive quality of interest group activity that cannot be understated. As most citizens have a primary priority for tending to the details of their everyday lives, activities and interests such as families, jobs and education consume the majority of a citizen’s time. After these necessary priorities are taken attended to,...
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