Democratic legitimacy?
: the online consultations of the European Commission

  • Julian Weller

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The central research puzzle of this thesis relates to new opportunities for political organisations due to technological change and non-electoral forms of creating democratic legitimacy. In particular, the thesis asks if new Information and communication technologies can address democratic legitimacy issues of the European Union. Without doubt, the European Union already has mechanisms for creating democratic legitimacy. However, does political participation based on new information and communication technologies offer an avenue for enhancing democratic legitimacy besides elections for the European Parliament and indirect democratic legitimacy provided by national governments in the European Council and the Council of Ministers? If we accept the assumption that technology offers new opportunities for the development of democratic legitimacy providing institutions then what are these new opportunities for the European Union? The methods used for this thesis are based on a qualitative case study design.
    The first case study is an online consultations for the directive on 'Harmonisation of legislation on industrial products', the second consultation is for the 'Community Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2006- 2010'. The main phenomenon, around which the research is built, is the input legitimacy potential of the Commission's online consultation regime. The unit of analysis are two online consultations of the Commission. The thesis uses three hypotheses to examine the input legitimacy potential dealing with accessibility of the participation arena, the meaningful transformation of inputs and participation patterns of participants. The gathered original data comes from four primary sources, semi-structured interviews with Commission officials directly related to case studies, semi structured interviews with consultation participants, interviews with so-called case study outsiders and a document analysis concerning the EU's communication strategies in connection with participation in policy-making.
    The key finding of this study is that the input legitimacy potential of the Commission's online consultation in its current form is negligible. Input legitimacy is not a prime concern, either for the citizens or for the Commission. There is no culture of inclusive participation aimed at individual citizens from within the Commission
    Date of AwardApr 2012
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Portsmouth
    SupervisorWolfram Kaiser (Supervisor), Sue Wright (Supervisor) & Karen Heard-Laureote (Supervisor)

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