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Participatory democracy has become a buzzword in current discussions about how to democratize the EU. European institutions associate it with civil society involvement in European governance and claim that it might reduce its so-called democratic deficit. The Treaty of Lisbon formalizes this promise by enacting a new Article 11 TEU specifically dedicated to participatory democracy as a founding principle of the EU legal order. This participatory turn has already attracted much scholarly attention. However, two fundamental paradoxes have been overlooked.
Whereas participatory democracy was traditionally meant to further the maximum participation of citizens in political life, the EU supports a modern version of the participatory ideal where citizens are represented by a selfdesignated elite of civil society experts. This book takes a critical stance on that technocratic form of government. At the same time, it examines whether there are realistic ways for a bureaucratic organization like the EU to involve a truly civil society of active citizens in governance.
Participatory democracy was also intended to overcome the social inequalities of market capitalism. Yet, the EU came into existence as a European economic community embracing free and undistorted competition. This book claims that European civil society may only flourish if social Europe acts as a counterweight to economic Europe. So it analyses whether the EU has developed a social dimension strong enough to protect civil society from the colonizing forces of European economic integration.
The author is currently working as an attorney at Van Olmen & Wynant, a Brussels-based law firm with a niche expertise in social and employment law. He also holds a PhD in law from the University of Leicester, awarded for the doctoral thesis upon which this book is based.