Participation of German Civil Society Organisations on EU-related issues
German version here.
Strenghtening civil dialogue on all levels is one of EM Germany’s political priorities: „Civil society must be strengthened at all levels to secure citizens’ participation rights throughout the EU, as provided for by the Lisbon Treaty. For this purpose, EM Germany calls on the German Federal Government to establish a framework agreement on civic dialogue between civil society organisations and local, regional and federal governments, and to improve the organisational and financial basis for youth organisations, especially in Member States hit by the crisis.“
Variety of Civil Actors and Medium-to-Strong Corporatist Political Structure in Germany
The Lobbying/Civil Society landscape in Germany offers a great variety of different civil actors that are regularly consulted by public institutions. In literature Germany is considered to have a medium-to-strong corporatist structure, although consistent rules for civil consultation processes do not exist. (Chabanet, Trechsel 2011: 69ff.)
Nevertheless, in Germany you will find a variety of formal and informal procedures, institutions, initiatives and networks that aim to connect political actors and civil society.
At federal level („Bund“) CSO-engagement is focused on the executive body (government, administrations), whereas federal ministries give priority to pick interest groups. Consultation procedures are normally regulated in the Common Rules of Procedures of the Federal Ministries (Gemeinsame Geschäftsordnung der Bundesministerien), but in fact ministries are given great discretion on how to organise civil dialog as line ministries follow the departmental principle of the Fundamental Law (Art. 65) . (Chabanet, Trechsel 2011: 70f.)
Though overall participation of CSOs in Germany is high, there exist only few binding rules and implementation varies across government institutions. Regarding EU issues public consultations have an ad-hoc character and are not institutionalised.
Two specific forms of consultation procedures in Germany are dialog forums and networks. Dialogue forums (in various forms: conferences, round tables, internet consultations) are appointed by the ministries to gain expertise in the policy forming process whereas policy-specific networks connect different CSOs giving them opportunity to exchange their views and aims among themselves, and with political institutions. At federal level one major CSO network is the “National Network for Civil Society” (Bundesnetzwerk Bürgerschaftliches Engagement, BBE).
Civic involvement on European issues in Germany is highly valued, although the lack of involvement on concrete European policy issues is criticised regularly. For instance, the European Youth Initiative “Structured Dialog” („Strukturierter Dialog“) is implemented through national working groups. In Germany one finds co-operation between the German Federal Youth Council (DBJR), a network organisation for youth organisations and the Ministry of Family Senior Citizens, Women and Youth.
The Impact of the European Movement Germany
The biggest network for European stakeholder engagement in Germany is European Movement Germany (EM Germany). Its 239 member organisations combine labour unions, economic and non-profit associations, political parties, companies and foundations. The network aims to improve German co-ordination of European policy and communication on European politics in close co-operation with political institutions. It therefore organises regular hearings between national and EU-politicians/experts and its member organisations to stimulate the exchange of ideas and expertise. EBD De-Briefings (as a reviewing tool for European Councils and Council formations) and Briefings (previewing upcoming EU-Presidencies) can be seen as sustainable practices for a structured dialogue with the civil society and interest groups. Regularly, between 70 and 100 participants join the briefings, giving positive feedback. The format Rapporteurs in Dialogue focuses on debating the European Parliament’s position in the legislation process. The Greenpaper Analysis are held in order to emphasise participation of CSOs in the prelegislative process of the European Commission. Respective federal line ministries and institutions are also closely involved here.
The Network European Movement Germany has extended this claims to other fields of European policy: bridging the gap between citizens and representative associations, and the EU; improving democratic governance in the EU; fostering citizenship and citizens’ participation at EU level; promoting civil society organisations and civil dialogue at all levels (Article 11 TEU); promoting debate and the consolidation of a European public sphere; promoting transparency of decision-making procedures and lobbying activities at all levels. (Political demands)
In order to combine national politics with European integration politics EM Germany and the BBE set up a reciprocal membership. The key objective is the improvement of the general legal, organisational and institutional conditions for civic involvement in the multilevel EU-system. Thus, EM Germany adopted BBE’s demand for a “Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-Making Process“.
In close cooperation with the Federal Foreign Office, EM Germany works on improving the European co-ordination and civil society involvement. The new official agreement was adopted in early 2015.
Not only is internal federalism a major challenge for German EU policy making, but also fragmented policy co-ordination makes it difficult to strengthen an open and sustainable structured civil dialogue. This is not just an issue for European politics but also for national consultation standards in accordance with Art. 11 TEU.
Above all the extensive use of trilogues in the EU’s legislative process makes it extremely difficult to balance between efficient law-making and transparency.
Chabanet, D./ Trechsel, A. H. (2011): EU MemberStates’ Consultation with Civil Society on European Policy Matters, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute. (Pdf)
External Links/Further Readings
- Hüttemann, Bernd (2015): Das „Schwarze Loch“ der deutschen Europapolitik. Lobbyismus und europapolitische Koordinierung in Deutschland, In: Göler, Daniel/ Schmid, Alexandra/ Zech, Lukas (Hg.): Europäische Integration. Beiträge zur Europaforschung aus multidimensionaler Analyseperspektive, Baden-Baden.