The role of specialised groups in the debate about the European Constitution.
Garcia, Luis Bouza
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This thesis uses the notion of specialised publics in order to analyse whether the participation of civil society organisations in the European Convention contributed to make European publics more aware of this debate. In particular it asks whether activism by European civil society organisations about participatory democracy has contributed to a stronger linkage between the EU and Spanish and French general publics. The thesis analyses the role of a group of 22 civil society organisations in the agenda setting process where the discourse of the EU about participatory democracy was built ahead the Convention. Furthermore the role of 25 Spanish and French organisations active in the Convention is considered as well. 51 in-depth interviews with members of the Convention, officials of European institutions, European, French and Spanish civil society organisations have been conducted in the frame of the thesis. These provide abundant information about the way in which these organisations were involved in the Convention and more in general about biases in action at EU level between European and national organisations. The analysis of the evolution of the organisations‘ demands and justifications demonstrates that these consultations were an important agenda-setting process where the demands of civil society for institutionalisation were framed as a way to introduce participatory democracy arrangements in the EU. It is found that during the Convention participation was a strong priority for these organisations which had a great impact on article 47 of the TCE on civil society participation. It appears that contrary to expectations the Convention was not a meeting point for European and national organisations and contributed little to the diffusion of this debate beyond European specialised actors. Furthermore it appears that Spanish and French organisations had no motivation to "download" the Convention debates in the context of the national referenda. European organisations did not need to mobilise their members to meet their objectives, Spanish organisations were stronger at the EU level than in the national debates and French organisations did not share most of the participatory frame elaborated the EU level. However it is found as well that national organisations did not ignore this topic. In this sense Spanish organisations shared it strongly although they had little effect on the national debate, whereas French organisations scepticism on the Convention's commitment to the question of civil society participation contributed to their involvement against the Treaty in the national campaign. In doing so they contributed to frame the French referendum as an occasion for citizens‘ participation in the EU, and thus circulated a version of the European frame. Albeit in an exceptional setting, the thesis finds that civil society organisations have a strong potential to contribute to Europeanising debates and to articulate participation in the EU. These results contribute to a better understanding of the dynamic connections between different publics in the European public sphere by pointing to the importance of considering the political opportunity structure and the institutional barriers to the Europeanisation general publics.