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Palgrave Studies in European

Political Sociology

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Carlo Ruzza
Department of Sociology and Social Research
University of Trento
Trento, Italy

Hans-Jörg Trenz
Department of Media, Cognition & Communication
University of Copenhagen
Copenhagen, Denmark
Palgrave Studies in European Political Sociology addresses contempor-
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Cristiano Bee

Active Citizenship
in Europe
Practices and Demands in the EU,
Italy, Turkey, and the UK
Cristiano Bee
Kadir Has University
Istanbul, Turkey

Palgrave Studies in European Political Sociology

ISBN 978-1-137-45316-7 ISBN 978-1-137-45317-4 (eBook)
DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-45317-4

Library of Congress Control Number: 2017937943

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2017

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To Stavroula and Kimonas

The analysis presented in this book refers to original insights and data
that I collected over the years as part of my direct involvement in a
number of EU-funded projects. The book presents data collected as part
of fieldwork that I conducted in Brussels in 2008/2009, thanks to my
involvement in the GARNET JERP 5.2.7 ‘The Role of Non-State
Actors and Civil Society in the Global Regulatory Framework’; to data
collected in Italy, Turkey, and the UK between 2009 and 2012 thanks
to my involvement in the PIDOP WP2 ‘Analysis of Current Policies’; to
data collected in Turkey in 2015/2016 as part of my Marie Curie IEF
fellowship titled ‘The Europeanization of the Organized Civil Society in
Turkey. The case of the Youth organizations in the prospect of the
European Integration’ (EUROCS) and to data collected independently
through interviews and analysis of policy documents between 2012 and
2016. In addition, it also benefitted from the interaction with the
numerous scholars that took part in the activities of the Jean Monnet
Module that I coordinated at the University of Surrey (UK) in the
period of time 2013–2016 and titled ‘Current trends in European
Integration Studies: Beyond the Eurocrisis.’ I would like to thank the
European Commission, main funder of these grants, the coordinators of
such projects and of relative work-packages for their support, and all the
research fellows that participated in the PIDOP WP2.

viii Acknowledgments

Besides, I would like to thank all the colleagues I worked with at the
European Institute of the Free University of Brussels, at the Department
of Politics of the University of Surrey, and at the European Institute of
Istanbul Bilgi University. Compiling a long list of names would be
difficult, probably impossible, without incurring in the risk of forgetting
someone important. The interaction with these colleagues has had a
strong impact on my professional development. Besides, I would like to
thank the students that attended my classes at the University of Trento
(Course Sociology of European Integration), at the University of Surrey
(Course European Social Dimension), and at Istanbul Bilgi University
(Courses Political Sociology of European Integration and Politics of
Cultural Diversity in the European Union). Various parts of the book
have significantly improved, thanks to the interaction with them and
their critical point of view has been essential in order to revisit and
question specific issues.
I also would like to express my gratitude to my family, in Austria,
Chile, and Greece, for the support across the years and since I started my
academic career.
Last and most important, I would like to thank Stavroula, for the
help, feedback, support, and fondness that she transmitted to me across
these years and that has been a key determinant to write this book, and
to our son, Kimonas, for his indirect support but overall for his patience
while I was trying to explain him that the drafts of the book were not a
game to be spread around the house. This book is dedicated to them.
About the Author

Cristiano Bee is assistant professor at the Department of Political

Science and Public Administration of Kadir Has University in
Istanbul. He was a Marie Curie Fellow at the European Institute of
Istanbul Bilgi University where he was principal investigator in the
research project ‘The Europeanisation of the organised civil society in
Turkey. The case of youth organisations in the prospect of the European
integration’ (EUROCS – www.actineurope.com). In the past, he was
lecturer in public policy at the University of Surrey, where he also held
the Jean Monnet Module ‘Current Trends in European Integration
Studies: Beyond the Eurocrisis.’ He has published widely on the devel-
opment of active citizenship in Europe, European public sphere, and
identity. His work appeared on Turkish Studies, Southeast European and
Black Sea Studies, Journal of Civil Society, European Societies, European
Political Science, Journal of Contemporary European Research, Perspectives
on European Politics and Society, and Sociology Compass.


1 Preamble and Introduction 1

2 Insights on the Social Construction of Europe: Patterns in

the Permanent State of Euro-Crisis 13

3 Europeanization, Public Sphere, and Active Citizenship 37

4 Active Citizenship and Its Components 57

5 Active Citizenship: Policy Developments at the EU Level 81

6 Engagement and Participation: Opportunities and

Challenges for the Organized Civil Society in the EU 107

7 Active Citizenship in Italy 133

8 Active Citizenship in Turkey 159

9 Active Citizenship in the UK 185

xii Contents

10 Conclusion 211

Bibliography 223

Index 255
List of Abbreviations

ACEVO Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organizations

AKP Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party)
ARCI Associazione Ricreativa e Culturale Italiana (Italian
Recreational and Cultural Association)
CGIL Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (Italian General
Confederation of Labour)
CHP Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party)
CILAP Collegamento Italiano Lotta Povertà (Italian Network for the
Fight Against Poverty)
CIR Consiglio Italiano per I Rifugiati (Italian Council for Refugees)
COSPE Cooperazione per lo Sviluppo dei Paesi Emergenti
(Cooperation for the Development of Emerging Countries)
CRER Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights
CSO Civil Society Organisation
EAPN European Anti-Poverty Network
EESC European Economic and Social Committee
ENAR European Network Against Racism
EPN European Neighborhood Policy
ERYICA European Youth Information and Counseling Agency
EU European Union
ESF European Social Fund
EWL European Women’s Lobby
EYF European Youth Forum

xiv List of Abbreviations

FONDACA Fondazione per la cittadinanza attiva (Active citizenship

JEF Jeunes Européens Fédéralistes (Young European Federalists)
HDP Halkların Demokratik Partisi (People’s Democratic Party)
İHH İnsani Yardım Vakfı (Humanitarian Relief Foundation)
KADER Kadın Adayları Destekleme ve Eğitme Derneği
LEF Coordinamento Italiano della Lobby Europea delle Donne
MHP Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi (Nationalist Movement Party)
NAGA Associazione Volontaria di Assistenza Socio-Sanitaria e per i
Diritti di Cittadini Stranieri, Rom e Sinti onlus (Voluntary
Association for Socio-Sanitary Assistance and for Foreign, Sinti
and Roma Citizens’ Rights)
NCVO National Council for Voluntary Organizations
NGO Nongovernmental organization
OXFAM Oxford Committee for Famine Relief
TOG Toplum Gönüllüleri Vakfı (Community Volunteers
TÜSEV Türkiye Üçüncü Sektör Vakfı (Third Sector Foundation of
UKIP UK Independence Party
UKREN UK Race and Europe Network
YEU Youth for Exchange and Understanding
List of Tables

Table 3.1 Phases of the empirical research 51

Table 4.1 Examples of components and indicators of active
citizenship 71
Table 4.2 Examples of components and indicators of active citizen-
ship as a practice 74
Table 4.3 Examples of components and indicators of active citizen-
ship as a demand 77
Table 10.1 Characteristics of each country 216

Preamble and Introduction

In the course of writing, the issue of active citizenship has become even
more prominent and contentious than it was when I started working on
the contents of the book. Various dynamics have emerged both at the
supranational level and in the national arenas under consideration. In
particular, different events have affected the domestic contexts of interest
for this book (Italy, Turkey, and the UK). These three countries have in
fact recently experienced mobilizations of various kinds, offering valu-
able insights in terms of civic participation and conventional and non-
conventional political participation. Between the many, it is worth to
remind briefly here three recent examples of bottom-up processes of
mobilization that are particularly significant because of the resonance
they had in the contexts under consideration but also internationally.
In the spring of 2016, wide mobilizations have taken place on the
Italian borders as a result of the threat of the Austrian Government to
build a wall in order to block the influx of migrants in the Tyrolean part
of the region. This event has attracted much attention, triggering strong
reactions, both from the organized civil society and from newly emerging
social movements that actively protested on the site. This reaction of the
civil society is rather important for at least two reasons. First of all, it has

© The Author(s) 2017 1

C. Bee, Active Citizenship in Europe, Palgrave Studies in European
Political Sociology, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-45317-4_1
2 1 Preamble and Introduction

to do with the affirmation of democratic rights that emerges from the

bottom and radically questions and challenges the institutional levels.
Activists, through the expression of different means that can be classified
as nonconventional political participation (such as protesting, boycot-
ting, etc.) advocated the importance of a borderless European public
space. Secondly, and connected to this, this contestation is a clear
expression of demands for social and fundamental rights despite the
closure of borders by different member states in 2015/2016. In analy-
tical terms, mobilizations of this kind are particularly important in so far
they provide evidence of calls for an alternative view of Europe based on
social rights and the respect of fundamental freedoms.
In Turkey, on 25 November 2016 thousands of people took the streets in
occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against
Women. The aim of this worldwide event is to end gender-based violence.
In this time context, this rally assumes significance for the Turkish context
for at least three reasons. First of all, it is one of the first mass demonstrations
allowed under the state of emergency declared by the Turkish government in
the aftermath of the attempted military coup of July 2016 and extended
until at least July 2017. Second, it holds great significance because it can be
interpreted as a valuable mass reaction to the highly contested government
proposal to nullify the sentence of men guilty of committing child sex
assaults if they marry their victim. This motion was then withdrawn seeing
the opposition of a high number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)
both in Turkey and in Europe. In a joint declaration titled ‘We Will Not
Accept Any Bill That Legitimizes “Rape” of Women and Children!’,
a number of Turkish organizations condemned this proposal stating that:

While there is a worldwide fight against child sexual abuse, and forced
marriages and child marriages are prohibited and the minimum age of
marriage is increased around the world, the course of events in Turkey is
extremely worrisome. Those who wish to lower the age of consent to 12,
who have proposed the amnesty bill for the convicts of child sexual abuse
and those who approved the bill should urgently reverse this wrong.
Doing otherwise, will lead to irreversible consequences and marks the
usurpation of the rights of the children and women by the Parliament, the
representatives of the public. (FILMMOR 2016)
Preamble and Introduction 3

Third, this rally was part of a global event – initiated in 1991 and
coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership – that starts
the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign and that
runs from 25 November 2016 through 10 December 2016. This pro-
vides evidence of the importance and the positive impact that processes
of transnationalization have on the Turkish context – as well as in other
countries – for bringing about claims for democratization and respect of
human rights. These considerations show the significance played by such
mass mobilization for the vindication of basic freedoms in Turkey. Also
in this case there are analytical consequences that an event as such
determines for studying active citizenship in Turkey.
In the UK, the referendum to decide upon the membership of the EU
that took place on 23 June 2016 is significant for a number of reasons.
The decision to leave has been taken through the use of an instrument of
conventional political participation that is symbolizing the expression of
direct democracy. It is important to note here that, as a consequence of
the leave vote, a number of EU scholars have critically discussed about
the validity of the referendum as a participatory instrument. Shaw, for
example, in an interview released on 24 June 2016 argued the following:

I am not a fan of referendums at all, and I’ve definitely had my fill of them after
yesterday’s. I don’t think referendums are the appropriate mechanism for
dealing with these types of issues – I rather agree with what Richard
Dawkins had to say about that issue. Citizens in general here do not have
the necessary expertise. That might sound elitist, but actually it’s simply in
support of representative democracy. We elect members of Parliament to deal
with such questions. (Verfassungsblog 2016)

The issues raised by Shaw are rather critical; in so far she puts under
question the value of direct democracy, weighting it in respect to represen-
tative democracy. The lack of expertise by citizens is in my book classified as
a component of active citizenship, and more precisely as an indicator that
can be used to measure political engagement. It is not a case that this has long
been a controversial issue for the European project itself and – as I will
discuss in Chapter 5 – one of the main triggers of the reforms undertaken by
the European Commission as a consequence of the rejection of the
4 1 Preamble and Introduction

Constitutional Treaty in 2005 by French and Dutch citizens. Besides of

this, another particular point to note is the number of rallies organized by
the supporters of the ‘remain’ vote in the aftermath of the Brexit. Across
most of the second part of 2016 and initial part of 2017, thousands of
people have marched for Europe in London and in other British cities in
order to affirm their support for the membership of the EU and ultimately
vindicating their pro-Europeanism. Also in this case, even if it is beyond
my aims to delineate empirically the significance of these events, it is
important to remark that the issue of active citizenship and the activation
of participatory behaviors (pro- or anti-Brexit) reveal to be extremely
important issues that need to be looked at.
My contribution in the field of active citizenship is based on data collected
in the period of time 2005–2016 with groups that are part of the organized
civil society and with members of the European Commission (see Table 3.1
for a detail of the methods used). Hence it deals with one but yet very
important side of the debate regarding engagement and participation and the
mechanisms that stimulate active behaviors of a civic and political nature. At
the EU level and in all the three countries that I investigated, to different
degrees, networks of interests have generated in order to fulfill the task to be
part of wider deliberative and participatory systems that are crucial in order
to overcome the limitations of representative democracy.

The book provides an overview of key issues in the debate concerning the
emergence of active citizenship. The specific focus of enquiry is the promo-
tion of patterns of civic and political engagement and civic and political
participation by the EU and the relative responses drawn by organizations of
the civil society operating at the supranational level and in three different
countries (Italy, Turkey, and the UK). More specifically it addresses key
debates on the engagement and participation of organized civil society
(Boje 2015) across the permanent state of euro-crisis, considering the produc-
tion of policy discourses along the continuum that characterized three
subsequent and interrelated emergency situations (democratic, financial,
and migration crises) that hit Europe since 2005. As such, it sheds light on
Introduction 5

the reframing of key policy priorities by institutional and nonstate actors in

regard to civic and political engagement and civic and political participation
along this period. At the same time, the book discusses the key challenges
emerging for civil society activists in terms of capabilities to guarantee social
inclusion and solidarity across these crises. Of particular interest are in fact
the debates about the nature and level of political participation and engage-
ment of civil society organizations representing disadvantaged groups, as
they are vulnerable to social exclusion, especially in the present financial and
migration crises.
My key argument is that the permanent state of euro-crisis is first and
foremost the expression of a crisis in European core values at the basis of
the European Social Dimension (Giddens 2006, 2007). The assumption
of different participatory behaviors by policy actors that are part of the
organized civil society along this context of time is a central theme of
interest for the book, with the scope to understand better the processes
that drive forms of criticism, antagonism, and ultimately the formula-
tion of alternative policy interventions in order to guarantee equality,
social rights, and social protection.
Active citizenship is the central concept of my book. This is a powerful
idea used to denote all the processes through which citizens assume own-
ership of the community they live in, by taking the responsibility to have a
say in the elaboration of civic and political matters (Bee and Guerrina
2014; Hoskins and Mascherini 2009; Marinetto 2003). My typology
revolves around two alternative conceptualizations (see Chapter 4). On
the one side, active citizenship can be thought of as a practice stimulated by
public institutions through public policy with the aim of promoting civic
and political engagement, in order to shape participatory processes and
ultimately improve the democratic bases of policy-making. On the other
side, active citizenship can be thought of as a demand, which becomes
particularly important whenever certain competing claims are made in civil
society through different means by using both traditional and alternative
channels of mobilization. This typology is particularly important in order
to map both top-down and bottom-up processes that lead into the activa-
tion of participatory behaviors. As I argue, taking into account both of
these conceptualizations can help shed light on the conflictual discourses
produced by institutional and nonstate actors.
6 1 Preamble and Introduction

The Supranational Discourse on Active Citizenship

The analytical part of this book deals first of all with the establishment of
active citizenship at the supranational level, by taking into account
policy discourses about participation elaborated by the European
Commission and by supranational umbrella organizations.
On the one side – central in my analysis – is the promotion of govern-
ance reforms by the European Commission that has pushed for a better
performance of public policy-making, clearly aiming at establishing active
citizenship as a practice, in order to find a solution to the ever-urgent issue of
the resolution of the democratic deficit. It is important to note that this
process of reform of the EU policy-making is to be understood in light of
the governance reforms undertaken since the publication of the White
Paper on Governance (2001a, 2001b, 2001c). The European Commission
in particular has been a key player in this endeavor. An expanding emphasis
on the need to widen the democratic bases of the project, through the
adoption of principles such as those of openness, participation, account-
ability, effectiveness, and coherence (the five governance principles estab-
lished by the Commission) proves the institutional attempt to open up
patterns of participatory democracy at the EU level. The core approach
followed by the European Commission is one that looks at a radical reform
of public policy-making, by enhancing the bases for providing forms of
input legitimacy, besides of output legitimacy (Greenwood 2007; Kohler-
Koch and Rittberger 2007; Kohler-Koch 2009; Smismans 2006, 2009). In
other words, as a consequence of this process the EU started to adopt
principles of reform of public administration that are typical of New Public
Management approaches (Dawson and Dargie 2002; Ferlie et al. 1996;
Hood 1991; Hood and Jackson 1991). In order to do this, the establish-
ment of new patterns to interact better with citizens, as well as to engage
them in policy-making becomes a rather crucial issue.
On the other side, studying the discursive interactions of institutions with
civil society actors not only at the supranational level but also at the national
level help us understanding better their demands and priorities vis-à-vis the
institutions. The advocacy and lobbying of NGOs in Brussels through
institutionalized instruments, like the civil dialogue procedures, is a good
Introduction 7

example of the development of structured dialogue between institutions and

civil society organizations. Over time the civil dialogue has become an
institutionalized form of interaction between NGOs and European institu-
tions, and can be considered a fundamental tool for strengthening partici-
patory democracy at the EU level. However, this instrument has a functional
dimension, since it is closely linked to the advocacy and lobbying routines
NGOs are committed to as part of their activities. It is important to note,
that the civil dialogue has been fundamental to the processes of change,
through its influence on policy-making, and in realizing a shared responsi-
bility for decision-making on political priorities. However, NGOs have
varying abilities to influence the agenda depending on their position within
both horizontal power nexuses (between the different organizations, net-
works, and platforms in Brussels) and the vertical ones (between actors in
Brussels and those at the subnational and national levels). In this sense, in the
first instance, the book sheds light on the relevance of structured dialogue for
organizations that are placed at the supranational level, by outlining strengths
and limitations of this instrument in terms of impact in the policy process
and by looking at the demands put forward by umbrella organizations in
order to overcome shortcomings. In second instance, the book maps the
constraints emerging in Italy, Turkey, and the UK in the exercise of active
citizenship. Besides, it focuses on the impact that Europeanization had in
these three contexts in determining new modalities to participate and in
offering opportunities to mobilize in experiences of civic and political
participation. These three countries are rather important to take into account
because of their different experiences in regard to the Europeanization
process as well as because of rather different experiences in terms of active
citizenship development.

Italy, Turkey, and the UK: Common and Diverging


The comparison between Italy, Turkey, and the UK is valuable for at

least two reasons. First, these contexts have experienced processes of
reform of the public administration that entailed the adaptation to New
Public Management principles. As I argue in Chapters 7, 8, and 9,
8 1 Preamble and Introduction

Italy has been subjected to a process of public administration reform

since the 1990s, in order to radically challenge its state-centric tradition,
but at the same time with the aim of finding viable solutions to the
political crisis that led to the collapse of the First Republic in 1992, as a
consequence of the ‘Tangentopoli scandals.’ Turkey, has witnessed a
process of public administration reform more recently, by enhancing
processes of decentralization and devolution and by adopting a number
of governance reforms. The process that started in the 1980s has how-
ever developed further in the last 15 years under the pressure of the
Europeanization process. In the UK, principles of New Public
Management have been adopted under the New Right government of
Thatcher in the 1980s and were pushed forward in different stages under
different political conditions (New Labour, Coalition government,
Conservative government), across time. This entailed a radical reform
consisting of both a territorial reconfiguration (decentralization and
devolution) and a redefinition of the role of the state in respect to
market forces and the civil society.
A second common pattern between these three countries is the
redefinition of state-society relations as a consequence of reforms of
governance through a major openness to the civil society. Hence all
three countries have opened, to different degrees, their system of
policy-making with the aim of favoring more participation and
accessibility. Active citizenship is then a common denominator, as
well as a challenge in Italy, Turkey, and the UK. Whilst in the
Italian and Turkish cases, the development of active citizenship has
been challenged by the strong bureaucratic traditions that both
countries hold, in the case of the UK the development of this
practice has taken place with a specific conception of the British
minimal state and the development of proper partnerships between
the civil society and state institutions.
It is important, for the scope of this book, to outline some important
patterns of differentiation between these countries in regard to the
Europeanization process. Italy is traditionally a pro-European country
which has recently experienced a rise in populism as a consequence of
the emergence into power of political forces such as the Five Star
Movement, or the political shift of parties such as the Northern
Introduction 9

League that have framed clear-cut euroskeptical political discourses.

Turkey is a country that since long has been negotiating its access to
the EU and has experienced different forms of pro-, anti-, and critical
Europeanism (Kaya and Marchetti 2014; Kaya 2017). More recently, in
the aftermath of intensification of the migration crisis and the conse-
quent agreement between EU and Turkey, and after years of stalling
negotiations, new discussions about the Turkish accession have been
taking place. The UK, traditionally a contentious partner for the EU,
has recently opted out from the membership as a consequence of the
leave vote of 23 June 2016. This, between others, can be interpreted as
the result of the growth of populist and euroskeptical feelings brought
forward by political parties such as the UK Independence Party (UKIP)
that increased its influence in the last few years. In all these three
countries, the development of active citizenship has been favored by
the EU civil society policy, as part of specific financing offered to
organizations. My analysis offers the ground to provide an evaluation
of the impact of these policies in a comparative manner.

Outline of the Book

In Chapter 2, I argue that, with ever-increasing strength, the importance

of analyzing the social construction of Europe and the transformation of
the European public space has become a main concern for different
scholars throughout Europe. The chapter is grounded in the social
constructivist insights that have been driving the theoretical discussions
surrounding EU studies and the social and cultural aspects of European
integration since the late 1990s. Critically it accounts for the discursive
challenges put forward by European integration as well as the commu-
nicative practices developed through processes of social interaction and
socialization happening in the public sphere. The chapter is based on the
consideration that the European Commission has – across the years –
acted as an identity builder with the scope to promote a specific form of
engagement with European citizens. In doing so, it has put a specific
emphasis on the promotion of active citizenship in order to widen the
bases of democracy. This top-down project however has stalled – and
10 1 Preamble and Introduction

probably failed – because of the permanent state of euro-crisis that made

more evident the democratic, social, and political deficits suffered by the
In Chapter 3, I contextualize the book in respect to recent debates
concerning Europeanization and multilevel governance. I argue that
the development of networks of civil society is a consequence of the
current processes of transnationalization and Europeanization taking
place in a multilevel structure. According to this, a number of
sociologists have claimed that it was necessary to find ways to unpack
this transformation of the EU on social realities, by focusing on the
emerging fragmentation occurring in the European public space
(Eriksen 2004; Soysal 2002). This discussion is central in order to
consider different dynamics where active citizenship can be exercised,
taking into account both top-down and bottom-up dimensions. In
order to understand these dynamics, the book looks at the discursive
interactions between strong (European commissioners), transnational
(umbrella organizations), and weak (organizations representing dis-
advantaged groups) publics. On this regard, discourse analysis is
increasingly being adopted by social scientists as a useful tool for
understanding the complexities of social and political structures.
Essentially, discourse analysis is useful for studying the interactions
between different publics, the reciprocal dynamics of power, and the
establishment of specific argumentative strategies formulated to
impose a certain meaning on social reality. In these terms, discursive
approaches require an understanding of the systems of meaning
prevailing at different levels of the EU system of governance. On
the basis of this background, the chapter presents the research ques-
tions that drive the analysis.
In Chapter 4, I focus on the development of active citizenship. In
particular, I present the typology that I suggest and which accounts for
practices and demands of active citizenship. I argue that both dimensions
are important and need to be addressed: on the one side, public institu-
tions have been promoting specific public policies with the scopes of
favoring the emergence of engagement and participation; on the other
side, civil society activists – between other policy actors – have been
exercising modalities of participation outside the realm of formal politics
Introduction 11

and often in contestation to public intervention. These two trajectories

of active citizenship are particularly important to apply in the EU
context and also in the case studies that are investigated. In order to
study the different components of active citizenship and to gain an
understanding of the processes that lead into the assumption of partici-
patory behaviors, I discuss in more details the existing differences
between civic and political engagement and civic and political participa-
tion. This chapter presents the indicators used in the research as well as
the analytical expectations that I set prior to my fieldwork.
Chapter 5 is oriented at developing an understanding of the effects of
the permanent state of euro-crisis in bringing to the fore the institutional
discourse on active citizenship. In the outset of the euro-crisis, active
citizenship has been severely questioned and reframed on the basis of the
political debate currently ongoing at the EU level and is centrally shaped
by a number of recent policy developments that are taking place and
impacting upon the member states as well as in non-EU countries. More
specifically, it is argued that the drivers of the social construction of
active citizenship by the European Commission are consequent to the
institutional debate surrounding the democratic crisis of 2005. The
policy response, consisting in the promotion of a citizen-centered
approach to solve the democratic deficit, has been accompanied by a
number of programs. Various policies initiated by the European
Commission aim at fostering social cohesion and inclusion, improving
integration and equality by targeting specifically a number of social
groups (such as youth, women, migrants, and minorities). The specific
focus on active citizenship in recent EU policy discourses provides
evidence of the institutional priority to foster social inclusion by widen-
ing the bases for civic engagement and political participation. The
chapter furnishes the results of the analysis of policy documents as well
as of key interviews with policy-makers, with the scope of highlighting
the institutional priorities established in order to overcome the current
permanent state of euro-crisis.
Chapter 6 has the objective to shed light on the bottom-up processes
that shape new patterns of civic and political engagement and civic and
political participation of umbrella organizations operative at the EU
level. This chapter provides further information on the interaction
12 1 Preamble and Introduction

between civil society groups and policy-makers in order to address the

development of practices of civic engagement and political participation.
Policy priorities, modalities of participation (such as the structured or
civil dialogue) and means to stimulate engagement (such as empower-
ment) are highlighted in a comparative manner, in order to outline
forms of compliance or divergence with the strategies envisaged by the
European Commission. Besides of this, the chapter focuses on the main
discourses put forward by umbrella organizations in the context of the
intensification of the financial and migration crises. Different challenges
for participation are highlighted in respect to the social groups of interest
for this book. This allows mapping the diverging modalities that are
enabling or hindering the full inclusion in policy-making at the EU
level, as well as in the broader public sphere.
Chapters 7 (Italy), 8 (Turkey), and 9 (UK) focus on the comparison
between the three countries. This is drawn first of all according to three
dimensions: (1) state and society relations, (2) determinants of reform
and political conditions, and (3) characteristics of active citizenship. In
each case, in the first instance, I briefly introduce the characteristics of
each bureaucratic configuration, by looking more precisely at the mod-
alities through which the administrative models of Italy, Turkey, and the
UK are permeable or not to the issue of activism. In second instance, I
discuss the processes that led all these three countries to engage in
processes of reform of their public administration structures in order
to open up their processes of policy-making and guaranteeing wider
possibilities for participation by civil society activists. Needs for reforms
are different between these contexts and this is often linked to the
divergent political conditions that characterized them. Finally, for each
country, I address the core discussion concerning active citizenship, by
looking at the patterns that led to its emergence as well as at the core
academic work on this issue. In the second part of each chapter the
results of the research on the case studies are presented. The analysis is
divided on the basis of the positioning of the activists in respect to the
issue of active citizenship, on their elaboration of a specific discourse
regarding the European integration and on their positioning in respect
to the financial and migration crises.
Insights on the Social Construction
of Europe: Patterns in the Permanent
State of Euro-Crisis

The theoretical background of this book follows the social constructivist
insights that have been driving the theoretical discussions surrounding
European Union (EU) studies since the late 1990s. It is indeed
particularly important the emphasis given on the development of
practices, points of view, and beliefs stimulated through the interac-
tion between institutional actors and nonstate actors that ultimately
influence patterns of civic and political behavior. It is therefore argued
that citizenship is a socially constructed concept that involves both
passive and active elements and it is mediated through interactions
between different policy actors that associate different meanings with
its exercise (Bee and Guerrina 2014). This pattern clearly emerged in
EU integration studies across the 1990s and furnishes a valid inter-
pretative framework in order to understand the adoption of identity
building instruments by European institutions and foremost by the
European Commission (Christiansen et al. 1999; Laffan 2004). At the
same time, it provides invaluable elements in order to interpret con-
flicting and diverging discourses that emerge from the civil society at

© The Author(s) 2017 13

C. Bee, Active Citizenship in Europe, Palgrave Studies in European
Political Sociology, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-45317-4_2
14 2 Insights on the Social Construction of Europe . . .

the EU level, in one member state (such as Italy), in one associated

country (such as Turkey), and in a leaving country (such as the UK).
The emergency situation that is characterizing the EU since at least
the start of the democratic crisis in 2005 had the effect to inspire
processes of formation of active citizenship that have undoubtedly
been stimulated by the EU through public policy, but at the same
time are resulting from the embracement of participatory behaviors by
civil society activists that more and more have become critical voices
in EU politics. This chapter introduces the theoretical framework of
the book, while at the same time it looks at the challenges emerging
along the democratic, financial, and migration crises, with a specific
focus on active citizenship.

Social Constructivism
Social constructivism is important because it emphasizes the discursive
challenges put forward by the European integration as well as the
communicative practices developed through processes of social interac-
tion and socialization happening in the public sphere (Habermas 1989).
This has been extensively discussed by various scholars in European
studies (Checkel and Katzenstein 2009; Christiansen et al. 1999; De
Beus 2010; Risse 2009). This agenda highlights that Europe is not a
bargaining arena among states asserting their power and interests but can
be discursively impacted by the socially constructed nature of the
environment actors are a product of. It has thus been established that
communication, discourse, norms, structure, and agency make up the
core elements of social constructivism (Cederman 2000; Checkel 1999).
In this respect, the choice of focusing on discursive practices between
activists and policy-makers is in line with this agenda. The scope of the
book is in fact to unpack the core issues, themes, and points of view that
surround the construction of meaning around active citizenship at the
EU level and in three different countries (Italy, Turkey, and the UK).
The social interaction between EU institutional actors and nonstate
actors provides interesting insights in respect to the social constructions
Social Constructivism 15

of practices and demands regarding active citizenship, by looking at the

development of civic and political activism.
The important contribution social constructivism offered is related
with issues that are central for the discussion addressed in this book.
Central concepts, such as those of identity, public sphere, citizenship,
and civil society, have assumed a central significance for the European
construction. Much debate in the literature has been focused on their
meaning in respect to the transnational dimension and the process of
development of European integration. Centrally orienting this debate is
first of all and foremost the question of European identity. In adhering
with the social constructivist agenda (Cederman 2000) it is argued here
that identity is enforced through the selection of certain political and
cultural variables that are key for shaping the feeling of belonging, or the
imagination of belonging, to a certain community (Anderson 1983).
This is in contrast with essentialist perspectives that put emphasis
instead on the direct reproduction of cultural and ethnic variables in
defining the boundaries of a community. This is the perspective, for
example, put forward by scholars such as Smith (1992), who argues for
the existence of families of cultures in Europe rejecting possibilities for a
transnational community to emerge. The promotion of civic and poli-
tical dimensions of identification plays a central role for social construc-
tivist scholars, who find in the development of citizenship practices a
central component for enforcing mutual recognition and awareness
between individuals in a community.

Institutions as Identity Builders

One of the main assumptions of the constructivist theory is that

European identity is shaped, created, and manipulated by institutions.
The EU directly affects people’s life, shaping behaviors and drawing EU
institutions deeper into the national social contexts.
The process of application of social constructivism to the EU case can
be considered as a natural evolution of integration theory. It is important
to underline that as the European project evolved, so also did integration
theories, raising and addressing different questions over time. Wiener
16 2 Insights on the Social Construction of Europe . . .

and Diez (2004) explain that the European integration process has
followed three phases in which different kinds of questions are raised
by different kinds of theories. In the first phase, characterized by theories
such as intergovernmentalism and neofunctionalism and elaborated in
the 1960s, the aim was to discover the roots of the integration process; in
the second phase, characterized by theories known as neo-(neo-)func-
tionalism and liberal intergovernamentalism, the aim was to understand
the kind of political processes that were going on within the EU.
Subsequently, new set of concepts were elaborated and analyzed,
which had to discover the nature of the beast, using a formula proposed
by Thomas Risse (1996). In this second phase, the EU has been con-
ceived as a multilevel governance system, being characterized by differ-
ent levels (supranational, national, regional, local) and more importantly
with different patterns of identification across those different levels
(Soysal 2002).
This last assumption has been central for the constructivist turn in
European integration theories. Since the early 1990s, when the Treaty of
Maastricht was established, a new set of questions aimed at discovering
the general conceptualization of European integration and the conse-
quences of such a process for constructing identities have been raised. In
the third phase of European integration theory, sociology and its theo-
retical and methodological instruments have gained a new role within
the area of European studies.
The emphasis upon European integration as a process that is con-
tinuously changing is quite important, because it is through this assump-
tion that we realize that European identity is something which is being
continuously forged and constructed (Christiansen et al. 1999). The EU
influences the cognitive schemas and the social representations of
people’s life through a never ended process of identity building:
‘Identity building had been fostered by membership, the external pro-
jection of an EU identity, the appropriation by the EU of the concept of
Europe, and the cement provided by the founding values and the
addition of EU symbols to Europe’s forest of symbols’ (Laffan 2004:
76). This process of appropriation, as it is emphasized in this chapter, is
not free from controversies, because of the impact of the democratic,
financial and migration crises in Europe.
Social Constructivism 17

Citizens’ Europe: Citizenship and the Centrality

of the Identity Question

A core argument of this chapter – and of the book – is that the EU across
the years has acted as an identity builder and artificially adopted mea-
sures in order to shape an imagined Europe. This is the reason why
central in the discussion concerning citizenship and active citizenship is
the issue of identity. As Closa and Vintila for example recently under-
lined, ‘the legal status of the European Citizenship, together with the set
of rights associated with it, have often been seen as a means by which to
promote the consolidation of a European Identity that would bind
citizens with it’ (Closa and Vintila 2014: 24).
On this regard, it is worth reminding that European institutions have
strategically promoted a set of initiatives, employed by the EU in order
to create a sense of commonality and belonging in the area of citizens’
Europe (Bee 2008; Sternberg 2013; Pukallus 2016). In this sense, the
issues concerning citizenship and active citizenship are crucial for devel-
oping a socially constructed European sense of identification. As I will
remark further below, the idea of European citizenship can be seen
either in legalistic terms, in example by considering an analysis of the
status in legal terms or, in a broader sense, by accounting not only its
symbolic value but also the practices it arouses. In these terms, it is a
concept of a socio-anthropological nature through which spaces of
belonging to a supranational community are shaped and defined.
The development of European citizenship has been on the top of the
European Agenda since at least the early 1980s, when a number of measures
were initiated in order to shape a better relationship with the European
citizenry and to bind citizens. The perceived social and political needs at the
time were to transform the widespread perception of the EU as being a
merely economic enterprise into a civic cultural and political entity.
It is therefore essential to stress the importance and centrality of the
actions taken by the EU in order to enhance its own idea, or strategy,
concerning the process of identity building. A strategy clarified in 1984
when at the Fontainebleau Council it was stated that: ‘The European
Council considers it essential that the Community should respond to the
expectations of the people of Europe by adopting measures to strengthen
18 2 Insights on the Social Construction of Europe . . .

and promote its identity and its image both for its citizens and for the
rest of the world’ (European Council 1984: 11). Strengthening and
promoting identity were established as the two basic elements on
which to forge the image of the European Community.
Through the report of the Committee for the ‘Citizen’s Europe’,
known as the Adonnino Report, presented in 1985, the European
Community identified different areas in order to develop a European
sense of belonging. The Commission in particular sought to develop tools
for making Europe a social reality, setting different initiatives in order to
enforce citizens’ rights and perceptions of the existence of the suprana-
tional entity.
An entire chapter of the Adonnino Report was aimed at the
‘Strengthening of the Community’s image and identity’ (CEC 1985:
29). Also very relevant for forging an imagined Europe was the defini-
tion of all those instruments aimed at creating a new symbolic realty:
‘Symbols play a key role in consciousness-raising but there is also a need
to make the European citizen aware of the different elements that go to
make up this European identity, of our cultural unity with all its
diversity of expression, and of the historic ties which link the nations
of Europe’ (CEC 1988: 9). Through the use of symbols the Commission
invented a new kind of identity, establishing and remarking the ‘Unity
in diversity’ elements on which it should be based.
In order to frame this discussion and gather a better understanding of
the importance of these developments, it is worth reminding the analysis
of Shore, who underlines the importance of the symbolic construction of
ethnic and national communities. Symbols in some ways reflect the
cultural heritage of a particular community, as anthropological theory
has widely argued (Barth 1969; Cohen 1985), insofar it is through
symbols that it is possible to learn ‘how to be social’ through an ongoing
process of socialization. In fact, in Cohen’s famous conceptualization
individuals are involved in a lifelong process of learning through which
they get integrated in and they assimilate the rules and the traditions of
their groups of belonging (Cohen 1985: 16).
According to this analysis, the EU has in some ways selected particular
symbols in order to develop a common identity. The creation of a
common symbolism together with the diffusion of the so-called
Evaluating European Citizenship 19

European dimension in areas such as culture and education could be

considered as aimed at constructing the EU identity.
Throughout the years the European Commission has been trying to
figure out a possible solution to the different deficits characterizing the
European Area, inventing a pattern of symbols which in Shore’s point of
view are represented by a set of agents of European consciousness,
described by the author in the following way:

I refer to those forces and objects through which knowledge of the European
Union is embodied and communicated as a socio-cultural phenomenon: in
other words, all those actors, actions, artefacts, bodies, institutions, policies
and representations which, singularly or collectively, help to engender
awareness and promote acceptance of the European idea. (Shore 2000: 26)

Shore is quite skeptical about the possibilities the institutions have for
developing a feeling of being European. The European identity in some
ways seems to be limited to European elites, especially those working in
Brussels, rather than other spheres of the civil society. The following
passage is in fact quite representative: ‘Although on some levels it
appears that a common European consciousness is developing amongst
those working in the institutions it is difficult to see how it relates to the
population in general’ (Shore 1994: 288).
It is important here to outline that, across the years, the development of
key programs in various areas that have to do with cultural and social
policy has been key in order to foster this mechanism of identity building.
The establishment of the European citizenship in the Maastricht Treaty is,
symbolically speaking, a central component of the citizens’ Europe set of
policies. As I overview in the next paragraph, its value can be interpreted
in two different directions, one minimalist and one maximalist.

Evaluating European Citizenship

The literature emerging in the 1990s and discussing the actual value of
European citizenship is clearly divided when it comes to its evaluation,
as explained for example by Weiler: ‘for many the concept is considered
20 2 Insights on the Social Construction of Europe . . .

one of the least successful aspects of Maastricht, trivial and empty, and
hence irrelevant ( . . . ) For others, European citizenship is an important
symbol with far-reaching potential and dangers’ (1999: 495). It can
therefore be argued that, on the one hand, a broad set of scholars
pointed to the limitations of European citizenship, because of the scarce
implications entailed by this set of rights for the everyday lives of
citizens, for its neoliberal shape and for the highly exclusionary value
inherent to its selective attribution to current member states’ nationals
(see, e.g., Closa 1992; Roche 1997; Lehning 1997). On the other hand,
a number of scholars, commenting later in the 1990s, interpreted the
status of European citizenship in respect to wider considerations regard-
ing practices and possibilities to engage and participate in European
politics (Wiener 1998; Kostakopulou 2001, 2008).
For the first strand of literature, the status of European citizenship was
considered market based and largely influenced by the need to
strengthen one of the core liberties formalized in the 1950s with the
Treaty of Rome, which is the freedom of movement for workers within
the EU. The political dimension of European citizenship, consisting of
the right to stand and vote at local elections in any country of residence,
was certainly not considered to be guaranteeing the full civic inclusion
and motivation for the engagement of citizens in public affairs.
Moreover, the lack of account of the social dimension was considered
to be one of the most relevant limitations of this status (O’Leary 1995;
Meehan 1997; Sykes 1997), accentuating even more prominently its
neoliberal connotation.
Closa, in one of the many articles published at the time, in commenting
upon the highly exclusionary character of European citizenship, raised the
concern that ‘citizenship of the Union may not be individually acquired
and, therefore, individuals who are not nationals of a Member State may
thus not be considered citizens of the Union and, as a consequence,
experience their possible exclusion from the catalogue of rights of citizen-
ship’ (1995: 509). Follesdal (2001) instead points at the contradictions
inherent in European citizenship, by arguing that its establishment soli-
dified the democratic deficit because it raised issues in respect to the lack
of legitimacy of the European project as a whole. This question looks
directly at the development, or lack, of a demos and opens up questions
Evaluating European Citizenship 21

concerning the political identification with a wider community (see e.g.,

Faist 2001; Lehning 1997). This first strand of comments and evaluations
about the European citizenship is thus based on the argument that both
democratic and social deficits were enhanced, rather than challenged, as a
consequence of the establishment of this status. Roche, in commenting
upon the highly elitist character of the European integration process and
by consequence of the status of citizenship, argued that ‘we are all, to a
greater or lesser extent ‘denizens’ rather than citizens in Europe ( . . . ) we
are all significantly excluded from full civil-political citizenship and also
from social citizenship’ (1997: 8).
The literature emerging at the end of the 1990s, acknowledging some of
the criticism directed at the value and implications of the European citizen-
ship, argued that the missing link in these evaluations was the lack of account
of ‘the transformative resources entailed by European citizenship’
(Kostakopolou 2008: 293). This stream of research evaluated this status in
the light of a broader set of practices and policies that are involved and are
relevant for social and political identification with the European polity.
Social constructivist scholars (such as Checkel 2001; Checkel and
Katzenstein 2009; Christiansen et al. 1999; Laffan 2004) in particular have
shaped a research agenda that has been looking at the effects of European
integration in changing the sense of belonging and the patterns of identifica-
tion with a wider public and social space. The dynamic role of citizenship
(Wiener 2007) is better understood if we take into account the sociopolitical
notion of citizenship as a social construct that is shaped through social
interaction and practices of political socialization within the European polity.
In this light, a prominent interpretation of European citizenship looks at
civic republican elements (Bellamy 2000) and associates it with the various
conditions for the actual development of a European demos, such as a public
sphere, a civil society, and a shared political culture (Habermas 1994, 2001).
According to the civic republican reading (Miller 2000; Bellamy 2000),
citizenship is a civic virtue that entails the individual’s active participation in
the political and social life and his/her full integration into the community.
Mouffe, for example, describes active citizens in the following terms: ‘ . . . a
radical democratic citizen is somebody who acts as a citizen, who conceives of
herself as a participant in a collective undertaking . . . ’ (Mouffe 1992: 234).
The key research question is subsequently oriented at understanding the
22 2 Insights on the Social Construction of Europe . . .

conditions that are enabling, or not, the development of a post-national

model of citizenship based on an active sense of participation in democratic
processes of governance with the individual assuming a set of responsibilities
in balance with a prescribed set of rights.
According to this perspective, it can be argued that European citizen-
ship and its value can be better understood if linked to the actual
practices that it entails and its consequences in terms of political,
cultural, and social transformation. Citizenship practice, as argued by
Wiener (1998, 2007), ‘sets the terms for the institutionalized relation
between the citizens and the political community. The institutions
which regulate the practice of citizenship include principles of justice,
the adherence to formal political and legal procedures, as well as a set of
norms and values. All contribute to establish the procedures of political
participation and day-to-day practices of citizen participation within a
particular politically defined community’ (Wiener 2007: 11).
The social constructivist agenda has therefore influenced a whole set of
research that has been taking place in the last decade and that has been
looking, besides other aspects, at the drivers of engagement and participa-
tion in the European public sphere (Eriksen 2004; Schlesinger 2003;
Trenz 2010), at the transformative aspects entailed by an increased spatial
mobility within the European territorial space (Favell and Recchi 2011),
at the role of European cultural and educational programs in fostering a
sense of Europeaness (Sassatelli 2009), and at the development of the
social dimension of European citizenship with a particular focus on gender
equality (Kantola 2010). Overall, it is worth emphasizing that some
common research questions that characterize this set of academic work
look at the actual implications of European integration in developing, or
not, patterns of European political, social, and cultural identification
(Risse 2010) and give relevance to the processes of political socialization
and at the determinants of citizens’ active participation at the EU level
(Warleigh 2001; Sánchez-Salgado 2007), in the form of either coalitions
of organized interests, pressure groups, or social movements (Greenwood
2007; Ruzza 2004). The discussion on active citizenship has thus become
prominent in the last few years (Bee and Guerrina 2014; Boje 2010, 2015;
Hoskins and Kerr 2012), with a focus on the factors that motivate the
engagement and participation of citizens in organized civil society.
Challenging the EU’s Identity Building: A Permanent State of Crisis? 23

The research aims of this book fall within this research agenda, but
provide an emphasis on a rather neglected area of study, which is the
positioning of traditionally marginalized social groups in the public
sphere. The analysis presented here looks in particular at the develop-
ment of a European discourse about the need to engage and include
these groups in public policy-making. As I argue in Chapter 5, European
institutions, and the European Commission in particular, have played a
key role in shaping the policy agenda on target groups such as young
people, women, minorities, and migrants.

Challenging the EU’s Identity Building:

A Permanent State of Crisis?
The current discussion regarding citizenship and active citizenship needs to
be contextualized in respect to the different waves of crisis characterizing
the European integration process and that are challenging the core values
inherent to the European construction itself. This book puts in a con-
tinuum the democratic, financial, and migration crises, as three related
emergency situations that are radically challenging the European integra-
tion, by bringing on the surface a number of core issues that are currently
putting at stake the foundations of the European political and social project
as well as its constructivist bases and the process of identity building.

Democratic Crisis (2005) – Reforming Policy-Making

Through Communication and Citizens’ Empowerment

The rejection of the Constitutional Treaty by France and the Netherlands

in 2005 intensifies the democratic crisis, enhancing the perception of a
sense of distance and mistrust of citizens toward the EU project. This event
opened up windows of opportunities for the European Commission to
find doable solutions to overcome such crisis by enhancing processes of
empowerment and the citizen-centered approach, or in other words, by
implementing principles of participatory democracy. Hereby, the strong
emphasis on the enhancement of active citizenship becomes a central driver
24 2 Insights on the Social Construction of Europe . . .

of the institutional reflexivity at the EU level. The policy responses to such

crisis are medium-term plans such as the Plan D for Democracy Dialogue and
Debate (CEC 2005a) and the White Paper on Communication Policy (CEC
2006a). As part of these different key actions were implemented through for
example key funding in different member states, in order to enhance the
public communication about EU themes, policies, and debates. By looking
critically at these developments, it is worth highlighting here that this policy
response by the European Commission was blurred, resulting from the
need to find policy solutions to the democratic crisis by structuring better
communicative means. As research shows (Pukallus 2016), it has been
argued that policy actions aimed at developing a system of participatory
democracy pushed forward by the European Commission (CEC 2005a;
CEC 2006a: CEC 2008a) are characterized by the attempt to improve
engagement with organized civil society (Kohler Koch and Rittberger 2007;
Greenwood and Halpin 2007) in order to provide a better basis of legit-
imization for policy processes. The goal declared by the European
Commission is to develop the basis for a civic republican model of civic
engagement based on a citizen-centered approach (CEC 2006a: 4), where the
development of a European-wide public sphere, of active citizenship, and
the empowerment of civil society actors are key drivers of the process of
public policy reform at the EU level. If, as outlined previously, issues such as
citizens’ participation have received a long-standing attention by the
European Commission throughout the time, what is particularly important
in this context is the strong emphasis on the role of citizens that are more
and more considered as critical actors, putting forward new challenges in
terms of policy-making. If the issue concerning the democratic deficit until
that time mostly regarded the deficiencies of the EU as a system of
representative democracy, after 2005 the discussion has concentrated on
the possibilities to develop instruments of engagement and participation
that are typically characterizing participatory and deliberative models of
democracy (Bellamy and Castiglione 2001, 2011, 2013). In adopting these
principles the European Commission engages in a process of reform of its
own public administration that entails the establishment of a system of
public relations (Bee 2010). However, and this is a key point emerging from
my analysis (see Chapter 5), this declared goal was responsive to the
institutional need to promote the European project, rather than being
Challenging the EU’s Identity Building: A Permanent State of Crisis? 25

based on the need to stimulate a truly critical engagement and participation

in European politics.
At the same time these policy responses need to be looked at together
with the subsequent – and more effective – programs that were launched
afterward and that were actually aiming at furnishing support for the
development of interest groups starting from national and local levels.
The launch of the Citizenship Programme 2007–2013 (CEC 2007a) fits
in this context and enhances the principles established by the previous
framework for shaping European Active Citizenship coordinated by the
DG Education and Culture from 2004 to 2006. The strategic super-
vision of the program under the DG Communication is worth noticing
and is coherent with the overall strategy undertaken by the European
Commission with the Plan D (CEC 2005a) and the White Paper on
Communication (CEC 2006a). As remarked in the Citizenship
Programme the actions regarding active citizenship are meant to shape
the institutional relationship with the citizenry of the EU. This ‘materi-
alizes the legal framework to support a wide range of activities and
organizations promoting “active European citizenship”, i.e. the involve-
ment of citizens and civil society organizations in the process of
European integration’ (CEC 2007a: 3). The strengthening of the dialo-
gic and communicative relationship between citizens and institutions is
widely reaffirmed. Between the four core aims of the Citizenship
Programme 2007–2013, it is relevant to point out the recognition of
the necessity to give citizens the ‘opportunity to interact and participate
in constructing an ever closer Europe, which is democratic and world-
oriented, united in and enriched through its cultural diversity, thus
developing citizenship of the European Union’ (CEC 2007a: 4).
The Europe for Citizens funding program for the period 2014–2020
(CEC 2014a) adopted in April 2014 is the latest step. Between the
various priority areas that have been set, the focus on democratic engage-
ment and civic participation aims at developing the responsible, demo-
cratic civic engagement of the general public in the process of European
integration, attempting therefore to keep pursuing the aims established
in previous programs.
Article 11 of the Lisbon Treaty has also formalized this dialogic
relationship between institutions, on the one hand, and civil society,
26 2 Insights on the Social Construction of Europe . . .

on the other. This established that ‘The institutions shall maintain an

open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations
and civil society’ (Art. 11.2) and that ‘The European Commission shall
carry out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure
that the Union’s actions are coherent and transparent’ (Art.11.3).
However, it is worth mentioning that engagement in public consulta-
tions has been a common practice by the European Commission at least
since the governance reform of 2001. In this respect, Article 11 therefore
simply formalizes an already existing practice of engagement between
institutions and civil society.
In this sense, citizenship becomes a broader concept, going beyond a
mere consideration of the European citizenship rights as they emerge from
the treaties. The emphasis is on some cognitive aspects such as conscious-
ness and on the relation with principles such as dialogue and participation.
Citizens are considered necessary in order to create a political Union, and
also to overcome the democratic deficit. Here the role given to nation-
states in developing a sort of connection between Europe and citizens
becomes important, with the aim to ‘bring Europe closer to its Citizens’.
This attempt to develop an artificial top-down model of public sphere
has proven to be a limited approach to stimulate political integration,
effective civic engagement, and to improve political participation. The
aim is to establish the means to engage more and better citizens with
European affairs. In regard to the discussion addressed in this book, it is
worth to look at this process through empirical senses in so far, as an
approach, it means a renewed emphasis – at least in principles – on civic
and political engagement and civic and political participation in public
policy processes. In this sense, in Chapters 5 and 6, I will present data
aiming at providing a policy evaluation of the approach, by comparing
institutional and nonstate actors’ discourses on active citizenship.

Financial Crisis (2008–) – European Solidarity at Stake

The challenge of the financial crisis that hit the world in 2008 has
provoked a set of unique effects on Europe, with a worsening of socio-
economic conditions in different European countries (Guiraudon et al.
Challenging the EU’s Identity Building: A Permanent State of Crisis? 27

2015). The academic literature has been concentrated with causes,

effects, and possible policy solutions of the crisis as well as it has
delineated the present and the possible future scenarios that can shape
the European integration process (Vilpišauskas 2013; Schimmelfennig
2014). Mostly, the financial crisis has put under questioning the legiti-
macy of European institutions. What is particularly important to note,
for the purposes of this book, is the emergence of radical forms of
contestation generating from the civil society, in different countries.
These experiences tell us about the struggle for critical voices to be
heard and taken into account. They provide evidence of the importance
of locating active citizenship as a process of participation in the public
sphere. Following the consideration that the financial crisis ‘has not
extended European democracy, but has instead caused it to shrink’
(Garrido 2014: 14), it is therefore worthwhile to underline that unpre-
cedented patterns of contestation have emerged. These are targeting
social, cultural, and political dimensions of European integration. For
instance, evidence shows that the European social dimension –
constituted by core values that should tie Europeans together (Giddens
2006, 2007) – is critically undermined when looking at the harsh
questioning of social solidarity, which emerged as a consequence of the
financial crisis and the fragmentation across several regions in Europe. In
the past, the literature has been acknowledging that mistrust toward the
EU was due to a sense of perceived distance from the European project
(Hooghe and Marks 2005). However, it is now evident that a reciprocal
cross-country lack of confidence is being enhanced as a consequence of
the euro-zone crisis and the implementation of austerity measures. As
noted for example by Garrido:

The severity of the crisis, with its appalling impact on the lives of
European citizens through unemployment, under-employment, poverty
and so on, as well as on the European social model as a whole, have
exposed the fragility and vulnerability of the concept of European citizen-
ship. We need to recognize that, rather than feeling themselves to have
been defended by the Union, citizens have felt threatened by the policy of
austerity. They have not benefitted from European solidarity. The result
has been rising inequality and imbalances between north and south,
28 2 Insights on the Social Construction of Europe . . .

between the center and the periphery, and within individual member
states. At the same time, the tragedy of the tens of thousands of women
who suffer at the hands of the perpetrators of gender violence has con-
tinued, without any effective response from Europe. (Garrido 2014: 14)

The stigmatization of various European countries – blamed for their

incapability to maintain a solid socioeconomic structure that can guar-
antee stability in the European Economic Area – is a rather meaningful
example of this. The constant use by the media of the term ‘PIGS,’ then
reformulated into ‘PIIGS,’ to negatively portray countries such as
Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain is rather indicative. The
development of a cognitive frame, represented by a stereotypical acro-
nym, is by no doubt enhancing the burden on some of the countries that
have been severely afflicted by the financial crisis. The emergence of this
social representation has been undermining, rather than favoring, social
solidarity, not only between countries and governments but also most
importantly across European citizens. This is quite significant in light of
the discussion addressed in this book. It highlights the ambiguous nature
of the European social model and the fragmented outlook of citizens’
participation in the European public sphere. At the same time, when
looking at the political dimension of European integration, evidence
shows the emergence and fostering of anti-European feelings caused by
the instability produced by the euro-zone crisis. If euroskepticism is a
persistent phenomenon that has been following the different stages of
the integration process throughout its development (Usherwood and
Startin 2013), it can be argued that only in present times this has
emerged in forms of hard euroskepticism also in traditionally pro-
European countries such as Italy. The shaping of euroskepticism goes
in hand with this scenario and could be considered as being both a
trigger and a direct consequence of the euro-crisis. In relation to my
discussion, the rise of euroskeptical forces across the EU has radically
challenged the development of a wide European public sphere, and
research has more and more focused on patterns of contestation to
European integration (De Wilde and Trenz 2012), showing the highly
ambiguous nature of the European political integration project. Last but
not least, the process of identity building stimulated by the European
Challenging the EU’s Identity Building: A Permanent State of Crisis? 29

Commission (Laffan 2004) is now revealing its limitations. In the after-

math of the euro-crisis, the rise of far-right movements and political
parties across Europe (Halikiopoulou et al. 2012; Vasilopoulou 2011)
and the intensification of discrimination toward minority groups put
into question the institutional attempts to promote intercultural dialo-
gue and the overall scope of cultural integration challenging the range of
activities, between others, of nonstate actors that represent such mino-
rities (Ruzza 2011).
It is rather important to note that the financial crisis has been contextual
to the launch of key wide programs such as Europe 2020 (CEC 2010d), the
EU’s ten-year jobs and growth strategy, that is subsequent to the failed
Lisbon Strategy agenda. Even though it is out of the scope of this book to
offer an evaluation of the success or failure of the program, it is worth to
note the overall approach followed in order to design it. Europe 2020 is in
fact organized through an approach based on the sharing of responsibilities
between institutions, member states, and civil society organizations. In
principle, it remarks the importance to consider the centrality of civil
society in promoting governance at the EU level. In the aftermath of the
launch of Europe 2020, the European Economic and Social Committee
(EESC), for example, called for a major responsiveness in the implementa-
tion of the strategy underlining ‘the need for pro-activeness on the part of
civil society organizations themselves. It is mentioned that the Europe
2020 Strategy will depend largely on how effectively it is taken up across
society. Implementation of a coherent combination of national and
European policies is needed’ (EESC 2011: 3).
Other issues to consider are the radical effects created by the failure of
the European Economic Area in fostering the promised growth and a
better economical but also political and social cohesion. This radically
challenges the process of European integration. The image and portrayal
of the euro and its symbolic value is of central importance here. In
different countries, the euro was promoted by the EU as a symbol of a
passage into a new era built on prosperity and growth. The public
communication campaigns that accompanied the launch of the common
currency in various countries (Shore 2013), for example, were all stres-
sing this element and announcing the passage to a new era. Few years
afterward, the scenario has completely turned on the upside down and
30 2 Insights on the Social Construction of Europe . . .

has produced unpredictable results. The previous propagandistic politi-

cal messages surrounding the promotion of the euro to the public
opinion have enhanced a sense of mistrust toward the European integra-
tion, toward key European institutions, but also toward national poli-
tical leaders. What was once considered as a symbol of prosperity is now
stigmatized, often with excessive tones, as a driver and perpetuator of
new social problems, new political instabilities, and social fractures. As
Shore puts it well:

Ten years ago it was considered heresy among EU leaders and supporters
to question the assumption that monetary union was a necessary and
inevitable path to European unification. Now it seems that the instrument
designed to unite Europeans and foster a shared citizenship has come to
symbolize division and disorder in Europe. One positive outcome from all
this is that the received wisdom of past economic orthodoxies and uncri-
tical acceptance of the grand narrative of European integration are increas-
ingly being challenged. Perhaps that scepticism is a necessary precondition
for the accountability and active citizenship that Bini Smaghi and others
are now calling for. (Shore 2013: 181)

On the same argumentative line, Matthijs argues that ‘rather than produ-
cing wealth, affluence, and peaceful harmony for southern Europe’s still
relatively young democracies, the euro has become synonymous with
general strikes, mass protests, violence, riots, and tear gas in the streets
of Athens, Madrid, Lisbon, and Rome. New antiestablishment parties
have emerged to challenge their countries’ elites and EU membership, and
popular support for the EU has plummeted’ (2014: 102).
This book critically looks at the interaction between civil society
actors and the European Commission in setting specific discourses on
the core responses, policy priorities, and demands along the financial
crisis, offering a view on the variable approach to active citizenship
followed through according to different social groups, such as youth,
women and minorities, and migrants. As I will discuss in Chapter 6,
these different groups participate with different capabilities in policy-
making, showing that the development of active citizenship is highly
Challenging the EU’s Identity Building: A Permanent State of Crisis? 31

Migration Crisis (2015–) – New Challenges

in a Permanent State of Crisis

The recent migration crisis, which intensified in 2015 and 2016, is the
latest important development that signifies an enhancement of the
permanent state of euro-crisis of European integration. The influx of
migrants toward EU borders and particularly to Greece and Italy – as
countries of first entry – has, more than ever, put into deep crisis EU
capabilities to produce proper policy responsiveness to such a crisis. This
has partly to be interpreted with the high politicization of the issue of
migration that started across the 2000s and is represented by ‘a backlash
against multiculturalism and a rise of anti-immigrant sentiments, and in
some countries even anti-immigrant parties’ (Scholten and Van Nispen
2015: 3). This has significantly contributed to shaping the perception of
a crisis ‘involving concerns about levels and types of immigration as well
as concerns about the integration of migrant groups and categories’
(Scholten and Van Nispen 2015: 3).
The emergence of euroskeptic and populist parties, along with the
closure of borders by a high numbers of member state has dramatically
revitalized the debate regarding Fortress Europe (Geddes and Taylor 2016;
Sommer 2013), putting into question the development of the freedom of
movement within the European territory and shedding further light into
the inclusive and exclusive elements of the European integration project.
If, as outlined before, the financial crisis has impacted upon core
social, political, and cultural values that are at the basis of the
European integration project questioning them, with the migration
crisis we are currently experiencing a radical intensification of the crisis
of solidarity in the EU, associated this with the retention of borders by
different member states. At the same time, in direct continuum with the
effects produced by the financial crisis, it can be argued that at present
times a radical growth in extremist behaviors directed at migrants is
reflected in a transborder political discourse established by extreme right
movements and political parties. As Heisbourg puts it well, ‘This sudden
and massive flow of population has already had a substantial impact on
the domestic politics of most European countries. It has generated new
tensions, and exacerbated pre-existing ones, between the member states
32 2 Insights on the Social Construction of Europe . . .

of the EU, and promises to be critically important for the Union as a

whole’ (Heisbourg 2015: 8).
In this context, the planning of the EU intervention is centered around
the European Agenda on Migration (CEC 2015a) that has the aim to ‘build
up a coherent and comprehensive approach to reap the benefits and address
the challenges deriving from migration’ (CEC 2015a: 2). The agenda calls
for a homogeneous approach to the issue of migration, basing this on
principles of solidarity and shared responsibility between all different actors
involved. As affirmed in the agenda ‘Member states, EU institutions,
International Organisations, civil society, local authorities and third coun-
tries need to work together to make a common European migration policy
a reality’ (CEC 2015a: 2). The agenda sets short-term objectives – finding
an immediate answer to the human tragedy in the Mediterranean – and
medium- to long-term priorities – with a better definition of European
cooperation in the area of migration – and the scope to create a common
policy. The current management of the migration crisis is – as a conse-
quence of the Agenda on Migration – constantly evaluated through an
extensive number of monitoring documents published in the second part of
2015 and initial part of 2016 (e.g., CEC 2015b, 2015c, 2016a, 2016b,
2016c, 2016d, 2016e, 2016f).
Even if it is too early to furnish a well-rounded evaluation on the actual
impact of this policy response, scholars and commentators across Europe
have provided first critical insights on the value of the approach followed by
the EU. For instance, as noted by d’Oultremont: ‘despite the efforts of the
European Commission, the short-term measures adopted by European
governments in the last few months can be best described by a lack of
solidarity and an absence of long-term vision for an issue that will become
increasingly important’ (d’Oultremont 2015: 2). Trauner, in looking at
this policy response by adopting a long-term perspective, argues that
‘uncommonly high numbers of refugees, triggered by the wars in nearby
regions, in combination with tight budgetary constraints of some member
states have exposed the deficiencies of the EU asylum policy, such as lack of
comparability of the asylum standards of certain member states’ (2016:
312). Overall the lack of coordination of asylum policies across member
states, as well as the evident emergence of fragmentations between coun-
tries, creates strong obstacles to the implementation of the policy.
Challenging the EU’s Identity Building: A Permanent State of Crisis? 33

On the other side, however, this last period tells us about a wide self-
mobilization of organizations providing help and support for migrants
across the borders of Fortress Europe, showing evidence that, in the lack
of actual intervention by governments and European institutions, there
are important patterns of active citizenship as a demand that are emer-
ging. This is noted by Triandafyllidou (2015) who argues that ‘This is a
critical moment for Europe and the international community: both
because the emergency has escalated and because European citizens
have mobilized in a spectacular expression of solidarity and compassion.’
The mobilizations of NGOs providing support for refugees offer a
unique and invaluable example of active citizenship in absence of insti-
tutional responsiveness.
Interestingly, the issue of migration is contentious for all the three
countries and case studies that are presented in this book. Being Italy
one of the countries of first entry, the long-standing influx of migrants
on the Italian seashores has dramatically intensified since 2011, with
peaks in 2015 and 2016. Overall, the difficulty of the country to deal
which such issue has on the one side attracted criticism for the inability
to compile to EU law, while at the same time has corresponded to the
launch of a number of programs, such as Mare Nostrum in 2013 aiming
at the rescue of migrants, soon replaced by Frontex-coordinated opera-
tions, such as Operation Triton which is based on border security. On the
political level, Italy has experienced a revitalization of xenophobic dis-
courses of populist parties such as the Northern League (Bobba and
McDonnell 2016; Passarelli 2013; Verbeek and Zaslove 2016) whose
anti-immigration agenda has been recently shaped under the new leader
Matteo Salvini.
Moving on to the Turkish case, the issue of migration is a central
feature regarding the recent revitalization of Turkish/EU relations, in
the aftermath of the controversial joint action plan activated on 29
November 2015 (CEC 2015d) and discussed further in a meeting
between EU Heads of State or Government and Turkey that took
place on 18 March 2016 in Brussels. This had the scope to finalize
the agreement to end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU.
The aim of the so-called refugee deal is to ‘replace disorganized,
chaotic, irregular and dangerous migratory flows by organized, safe
34 2 Insights on the Social Construction of Europe . . .

and legal pathways to Europe for those entitled to international

protection in line with EU and international law’ (CEC 2016g: 1).
This has attracted criticism (Memisoglu and Ilgit 2016; UNHRC
2016) because return arrangements envisaged as part of the deal
actually violate international refugee law but also because ‘the agree-
ment is not only coercing refugees and asylum seekers to relocate
from Greece to Turkey but it is also forcing them to experience an
unpredictability and insecurity of their lives and status’ (Baban et al.
2017: 43). It is particularly important to note here that the agree-
ment is to be interpreted in light of the recent dynamics currently
emerging in Europe and foremost as a way through which member
states have attempted to find a short-term solution to a growing and
dramatic humanitarian emergency (see, e.g., Baban et al. 2017;
Collett 2016).
In the UK, the issue of migration has been a central determinant of the
Brexit vote of 23 June 2016 (Wadsworth et al. 2016). The euroskeptical
political discourse of various right-wing British populist parties, such as
the UKIP (Clarke et. al. 2016; Usherwood 2016), has particularly con-
cerned both intra-EU migrants and refugees. The infamous poster por-
traying a line of migrants fleeing from war zones nearby the headline
Breaking point the EU has failed us all presented by Farage soon before the
referendum has been widely criticized because it dramatically resembles
many regrettable images used in the Nazi era in order to stimulate anti-
Semitic feelings. The key message of the poster sustains the position that
British people should choose to vote Brexit under the claim that ‘we must
break free of the EU and take back control of our borders.’ This clearly
shows that the retention of national sovereignty has played a key role in
the leave campaign, where it was asserted that it was necessary to opt out
from the EU in order to secure the British territory.
In respect to the scope of this book, the aim is to focus on the
responses by civil society, by looking specifically at the values and
priorities, as well as at the critical issues emerging in the discourses of
NGOs at the EU level and in the three countries. In particular, the
analysis will unpack the principles that activate processes of mobilization
by organizations and the social representations of Europe emerging in
their political discourses.
Conclusion 35

This chapter located the development of active citizenship as part of the
constructivist project of identity building followed by the European
Commission since the mid-1980s in the context of citizens’ Europe set of
policies. The main argument is that European citizenship first and foremost
entails a set of prescribed rights formally recognized by the Treaty of
Maastricht in 1992. It however acquires a broader value when we interpret
it as part of a wider set of practices that subsume, between others, the
assumption of awareness of the existence of civic and political dimensions
relative to EU civic and political institutions (civic and political engage-
ment) as well as it involves the development of participatory behaviors in
public policy processes and more widely in the public sphere (civic and
political participation). The development of active citizenship at the EU
level goes hand in hand with the intensification of the European crisis, and
more precisely with the emergence of the democratic, financial, and migra-
tion crises that have radically challenged the project of unification in the last
ten years. Along this context, the book aims at evaluating the role of civil
society organizations vis-à-vis the European Commission in bringing about
specific political and social values, in prioritizing certain social problems,
and in designing possible ways forward in order to overcome the permanent
state of euro-crisis. The next chapter furnishes insights on the nature of the
study that I conducted in order to analyze the production of discourses and
counterdiscourses along the crisis by the European Commission and civil
society organizations. As part of this, it delineates the assumptions and the
approach that I followed – Europeanization and multilevel governance –
and puts forward the model of discourse analysis that drives the empirical
Europeanization, Public Sphere,
and Active Citizenship

Two central concepts, Europeanization and multilevel governance, are
central in order to address the methodological framework of the book.
Europeanization is employed in order to study the process of change
happening as part of the European integration process. The book acknowl-
edges that Europeanization has two basic distinct dimensions, top-down and
bottom-up, to be taken into account. In both cases, Europeanization is to be
conceived as a process (Radaelli 2003; Exadaktylos and Radaelli 2009, 2012)
and not an outcome. A process that, because of its nature, has a varied impact
and it is to be framed in respect to the complex nature of the EU governance
system. Because of this, it implies on the one side compliance – whenever
there is mutual agreement between policy actors – and on the other side
conflict – whenever instead there is dissent or in some cases rejection of
European values, norms, procedures and, important for this book, systems of
meaning promoted by the EU on specific political concepts, such as the one
of active citizenship and its associated components. The framework of the
book combines Europeanization with an account of the concept of multi-
level governance by putting into particular emphasis the emergence of a

© The Author(s) 2017 37

C. Bee, Active Citizenship in Europe, Palgrave Studies in European
Political Sociology, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-45317-4_3
38 3 Europeanization, Public Sphere, and Active Citizenship

networked territorial space made up of political and social struggles where

different articulations of discourse are taking place. The discursive turn in
public policy analysis is delineated by scholars such as Fischer (2003), that
put emphasis on the importance of language in policy-making by focusing
on values, discourses, and meanings that are emerging in deliberative pro-
cesses (see, e.g., Dryzek 2000). This is the core methodological framework
adopted in order to study the emergence of discourses and counterdiscourses
developed through interaction by institutional and noninstitutional policy
actors. On this basis, the chapter introduces the levels of analysis and the
research questions that drive the empirical research.

Europeanization: Ambiguities and Dynamics

The ambiguous nature of Europeanization and its conceptualization has
produced a wide and lively debate in EU studies (Cowles et al. 2001;
Olsen 2002; Thomson 2011). Europeanization as a top-down process is
traditionally used in political science literature in the attempt to under-
stand the process of political change initiated at the institutional level,
and in particular by the EU, by looking at the impact upon the member
states and on the domestic structures. As underlined by Börzel and
Panke (2013), the study of Europeanization implies, on the one side,
the analysis of how EU policies are shaped by the member states and, on
the other side, the study of the impact of the EU normative system in
triggering social and political change at the domestic level (2013: 116).
In the particular stance that I take in my book, I look at how a specific
discourse on European citizenship is framed by European institutions,
with a particular emphasis on the European Commission, through
policy discourses that concern specifically three target groups (young
people, women, migrants, and minorities).
On this account a mainstream definition of Europeanization considers
this term as referring to: ‘Processes of (a) construction (b) diffusion and
(c) institutionalization of formal and informal rules, procedures, policy
paradigms, styles, “ways of doing things” and shared beliefs and norms
which are first defined and consolidated in the making of EU decisions
Europeanization: Ambiguities and Dynamics 39

and then incorporated in the logic of domestic discourse, identities,

political structures and public policies’ (Radaelli 2003: 30). The strength
of this definition lays on its focus on the change in practices, procedures,
norms, but also cognitive structures of the social groups that more and
more refer to – and recognize – a new social construction, the one of
Europe, in their everyday life and social interaction.
Acknowledging current criticism toward dominant conceptualizations of
Europeanization (Buhari 2009), that take for granted the top-down impact
of the EU, the book focuses on bottom-up logics as well, considering the
central role played by a variety of policy actors in constructing, defining, and
also criticizing policy processes, the political agenda, and policy outputs. It is
therefore important to focus on bottom-up trajectories of social change by
looking at different challenges that are posed at the institutional level by
nonstate actors in Brussels and in the three territorial contexts that are taken
into account. On this regard, Diez et al. (2005) suggest to get into the
complexity of Europeanization, by taking into consideration four different
interrelated dimensions in the empirical research, that are ‘policy
Europeanization’ (e.g., the effects of the European Integration at the domes-
tic level), ‘political Europeanization’ (e.g., the effects of the European
integration on domestic political process by considering its influence on
the political actors), ‘societal Europeanization’ (e.g., the effects of
Europeanization in changing identities and cognitive schemas), and ‘discur-
sive Europeanization’ (e.g., the change on political discourses produced by
the European integration). Moving on from this, the book focuses on the
processes of mediation by civil society actors in the EU, in Italy, Turkey, and
the UK in defining active citizenship, by first looking at the policy evaluation
of civil society initiatives promoted by the EU, and secondly by shedding
light on the different discourses that put forward clear demands for active
In a nutshell, the empirical analysis presented in the last part of the
book is focused on the existing interchange between institutional actors
and civil society. The aim is to map, first of all, the policy priorities of
the European Commission in respect to active citizenship and, in second
instance, the system of values and meanings associated to this concept by
civil society actors in Brussels and in the three countries. The basic key
point that drives the analysis is the definition of patterns of compliance
40 3 Europeanization, Public Sphere, and Active Citizenship

or divergence in defining active citizenship comparing the supranational

and the national levels, by looking at the interaction of institutional and
nonstate actors at different levels of governance. Because of this, it is
necessary to take into consideration a perspective that looks at the
different dynamics and challenges posed by the emergence of multilevel
governance in the EU.

Multilevel Governance and Networks

of Interest
The debate on multilevel governance has reinvigorated since at least the
beginning of 2000s, when the European Commission published a White
Paper (CEC 2001a) through which a new approach to EU policy-
making was declared, reinvigorating the political discourse on citizen-
ship and establishing the need to promote active citizenship (CEC
2001b, 2001c). The European integration process has brought forward
the necessity to search new forms to promote participation and transpar-
ency, antagonizing state-centric conceptions. Considering the EU as a
multilevel system of governance allows the conceptualization of the
European public space as multilayered, opposing in so far intergovern-
mental approaches that conceive the nation state as the main maker of
policy. By bringing governance into play, we conceive authority as being
something that is more and more dispersed on various levels. In this
perspective, civil society assumes a central role, becoming a key provider
of input legitimacy to public policy processes (Hooghe and Marks 2001;
Greenwood 2007).
In discussing the EU approach to multilevel governance, a necessary
reference has to be made to Castells’ work on the network society and in
particular to his theory of the network state (Castells 1996). This is
based on the assumption that by consequence of the processes of
globalization and the consequent crisis of the traditional national states
structure there has been a search of new forms of governance (Castells
2008: 87). In particular Castells indicates three mechanisms through
which nation states can adapt to these supranational processes: through
Multilevel Governance and Networks of Interest 41

associations of states and the development of networks; through the

development of associations of international institutions and suprana-
tional organizations; and through the development of processes of
decentralization. The combination of these three elements is fundamen-
tal in order to understand the new processes going on at the local and
supranational level. Under these circumstances also the concept of the
public sphere and the new arena is characterized by a transformation in
the different communicative relations existing between institutional
actors – such as the UN, the WTO, and the EU – and noninstitutional,
such as NGOs, private companies, media.
The concept of network elaborated by Castells can be fully applied
to the case of the European integration. Indeed the author says that
‘around the process of formation of the European Union, new forms
of governance, and new institutions of government, are being created,
at the European, national, regional, and local levels, inducing a new
form of state that I propose to call the network state’ (1996: 339);
therefore he claims that Europe is governed by a network state which
is composed of shared sovereignties and different levels of negotiated
decision-making. The peculiarity of this form of state is not only the
different levels involved, but the diverse kinds of actors included in
this process. The EU, with its system of governance, which is net-
worked around different levels and different actors, then seems to
respond to these exigencies. As it will be underlined later in this book,
the complexity of the EU is shown by the different interactions
characterizing this supranational form of governance and by the
spectrum of actors which are in communicative relation with each
The role of networking has in fact gained a new relevance in the EU
context as Kohler-Koch and Eising (1999) explained, as new transnational
policy communities have emerged around different areas of concern for
the European Commission, with the involvement of subnational actors
such as agencies, NGO groups, and so on. Although the Commission has
a prominent role in shaping and stimulating the development of networks
in Europe, Kohler-Koch and Eising (1999: 19) assert that there are
different actors interested in redefining the political space and that are
active in political processes.
42 3 Europeanization, Public Sphere, and Active Citizenship

In considering the EU as a multilevel system, it should be stressed that

the participation of its citizens in the European integration process,
although necessary, does not imply the formation of a European demos
in the traditional sense (Soysal 2002: 265). The European space is thus
constituted by a multiplicity of levels and subjects and defined by the
interaction of different social and political actors activated by the EU
institutions. In this terms – and in line with the constructivist agenda
introduced in the second chapter – it can be argued that from a sociological
point of view it becomes particularly important to focus on the processes of
construction of identities through social interaction as well as – coherently
with the scopes of this book – on the processes of mediation between
institutional and noninstitutional policy actors at different levels of govern-
ance in defining spaces for the exercise of civic and political participation.
In other words, it can, be argued that this process of transformation has
implied the development of new forms of discursive interaction and the
enhancement of dialogic communicative ties at various levels of the EU
system of governance, bringing on the surface new modalities of participa-
tion and deliberation. In a nutshell, this implies a reframing on the notion
of the European public sphere.

Empirical Research on the European Public Sphere and

Civil Society: Researching Patterns of Europeanization

It can be argued that the empirical research on the European public

sphere has been looking at the ‘feasibility’ and ‘reproducibility’ of a
model of the public sphere that looks beyond the boundaries of the
nation state (Eder 2013; Eriksen and Fossum 2002; Fossum and
Schlesinger 2007; Habermas 1995; Harrison and Wessels 2009;
Schlesinger 1999; Van de Steeg 2002, 2010). In respect to this con-
cern, different scholars have neglected the existence of a wide pan-
European public sphere and have instead pointed to the fragmentation
and fluidity of this construct (Wessels 2010) calling for the employ-
ment of ad hoc analytical instruments finalized at understanding how
and why public spheres are changing following the pressures of the
Europeanization process (Salvatore et al. 2013; Trenz 2008, 2010).
Multilevel Governance and Networks of Interest 43

The lack of a common media, of a common civil society, of a shared

language, or of a shared political culture are all valuable arguments
drawn against the formation of a homogenous European public sphere.
On this account Eriksen (2004) looks at the fragmentation of the
publics that act at the different levels of European governance and
have an influence on policy-making. By accepting that a public sphere
based on the nation state as the main locus of public life is not feasible,
he affirms that ‘the European public space is currently fragmented,
differentiated and in flux’ (2004: 18). The discussion has thus been
looking prominently at the development of a multilevel public sphere
following the widespread consensus that national, unitary models of
the European public sphere cannot simply be transposed to the EU
level (Soysal 2002).
Following this debate, research directed its attention to the analysis of
different components of the public sphere, and has investigated issues such
as the comparison between media reporting on EU issues and politics in
different European countries (de Vreese 2002; Gleissner and de Vreese
2005; Liebert 2007; Koopmans and Pfetsch 2003; Koopmans and
Statham 2010; Sifft et al. 2007; Trenz 2005, 2007; Triandafyllidou
et al. 2009; Statham and Gray 2005; Wessler et al. 2008); the role of
mass media in the politicization of European issues on specific key matters
and policy issues or developments (Statham and Trenz 2013a, 2013b); the
emergence of forms of political mobilization and political contestation in
respect to European integration (De Wilde et al. 2013; Della Porta 2009;
Marks and Steenbergen 2002); the definition of bottom-up processes of
Europeanization and the role of civil society actors acting transnationally
and making claims on the European structure (Bouza Garcia 2015;
Liebert et al. 2013; Perez Diaz 1998, Ruzza 2004); the structure of
political communication in the EU (Seoane Pérez 2013; Schlesinger
1999); the models of communication policy put forward by European
institutions, either through public or online campaigning (Bee 2010;
Brüggemann 2005; Michailidou 2010; Sarikaris 2005); the role of poli-
tical journalism in constructing debates about European issues (Balcytiene
and Vinciuniene 2010; Statham 2007, 2008).
This growing agenda on public sphere studies provides evidence of
the fact that European scholars have moved the research on the public
44 3 Europeanization, Public Sphere, and Active Citizenship

sphere a step further, by advocating for a reframing of methodological

nationalism and for investigating instead the mutual overlaps between
different public spheres in terms of topics and themes but also repre-
sentations of political actors and mechanisms of contestation to EU
issues, policies, and practices (Ruzza and Bozzini 2008). In short, the
literature has tried to foster an analysis and analytical dimensions that
look at the transformations ongoing in Europe (Trenz 2008, 2010) at
the supranational and domestic level. This books fits with this body of
work, by taking a particular stance on the role of civil society actors.

Civil Society as a Key Actor in the Public Sphere:

Segmented Publics, Inclusion, and Exclusion

The particular angle that this book takes in this broad constellation of
empirical work links with literature that has explored the drivers of engage-
ment and participation in the European public sphere (Fossum and Trenz
2006) and that studied the role of civil society organizations in fostering
public policies and promoting active citizenship (Balme and Chabanet 2008;
Smismans 2006, 2009). Overall, it is worth underlining that some common
research questions that characterize this set of academic work, look at the
actual implications of European integration in developing, or not, patterns of
European political, social, and cultural identification (Checkel and
Katzenstein 2009; Hermann et al. 2004; Risse 2010) and give relevance to
the processes of political socialization and the determinants of active partici-
pation of citizens at the EU level (Warleigh 2001; Sánchez-Salgado 2007),
either in the form of coalitions of organized interests, pressure groups, or
social movements (Coen 2007; Greenwood 2007; Ruzza 2004). The discus-
sion on active citizenship has thus become prominent in the last few years
(Boje 2010, 2015; Hoskins and Kerr 2012), with a focus on the factors that
motivate engagement and participation of citizens in an organized civil society.
This discussion has mostly been concentrated on the functions per-
formed by the civil society for the improvement of standards in terms of
input legitimacy to public policies and by consequence on the promo-
tion of outputs based on participatory approaches. If on the one side,
research on civil society as a key actor in developing a European public
Multilevel Governance and Networks of Interest 45

sphere has significantly increased in the last decade, on the other side it is
worth observing that this is in line with the institutional agenda that
looks at the enhancement of governance principles by the European
Commission, that more and more has become aware of the necessity to
improve democratic performance by injecting input legitimacy. As
research shows, policy actions aimed at developing a system of partici-
patory democracy pushed forward by the European Commission (CEC
2005a, 2006a, 2006b, 2008a) are characterized by the attempt to
improve engagement with the organized civil society (Kohler Koch and
Rittberger 2007; Greenwood and Halpin 2007) in order to provide a
better basis of legitimization for policy processes.
In evaluating this approach to civic engagement and active citizenship,
it is worth underlining that, even if welcomed, the strategy undertaken by
the European institutions and the European Commission in particular,
has been subject to criticism in the literature on governance studies
(Magnette 2003; Kohler-Koch 2009; Smisman 2007, 2008, 2009).
Overall, it is argued that the approach to governance followed by the
European Commission suffers from being an account of political and civic
participation that could be considered selectivist rather than inclusive of
the whole civil society. The emphasis on the term organized civil society is
representative of this approach. This is a danger that Magnette noted
when commenting on the principles of governance and the measures put
in place to enhance civic and political participation in the time context
following the governance reform. The scholar argued that these instru-
ments ‘are only designed to stimulate the involvement of active citizens
and groups in some precise procedures and not to enhance the general
level of civic consciousness and participation’ (2003: 5).
Moreover, as a consequence of the preceding consideration, another
element for discussion emerging in the literature has to be noted. As
Heidbreder argues, for example, the ‘increased participation of civil
society was not primarily the result of a bottom-up process in which
civil society pressured for access into EU decision-making’ (Heidbreder
2012: 16). This top-down development of the organized civil society is
thus stimulated by the European Commission’s necessity to formalize
procedures, norms, and practices that enhance the possibilities to actu-
ally participate in the governance of the EU rather than stimulate an
46 3 Europeanization, Public Sphere, and Active Citizenship

open and transparent system of participatory democracy. The limita-

tions and the ambiguities of this approach to active citizenship are thus
widely remarked. On this account Kohler-Koch, argues that ‘though
European citizenship is a cherished concept in the EU, it is not linked to
the idea of a politically active European civil society’ (2009: 55).
When looking at the role of civil society in developing the European
public sphere, it is quite important to underline that the different
dynamics of engagement can fit into at least three broad conceptual frames
that link the EU and civil society, that conceive the EU as being either ‘a
regulatory political system with civil society involvement’, or ‘a system of
participatory governance’, or ‘an emergent polity with a social constitu-
ency in the making’ (Kohler-Koch 2009: 53). Only the last perspective
conceives of civil society engagement in the public sphere in terms of
dialogue that can be produced throughout deliberative practices as well as
through a contestation and fragmentation of EU policies. In all the three
perspectives discussed by the scholar, however, it emerges quite clearly the
legitimacy function performed by this increasing role given to civil society
organizations in the EU multilevel structure.
The research conducted in this book fits with this scenario and
assumptions, unpacking however further critical issues that emerge
when looking at the actual instruments of engagement and participation
of organizations active at the supranational and national level. The
empirical research reveals the mechanisms that civil society organizations
employ in order to influence public policy processes, as well as their
struggle to propose alternative means of participation and become
legitimate actors in the public sphere.

The aim of the research is to investigate systems of values, ideas, and
beliefs concerning different components of active citizenship at the EU
level and in Italy, Turkey, and the UK. In doing so, the impact and
development of specific systems of meaning by the various policy actors
involved in the research is being investigated by adopting a discursive
Methodology 47

approach to policy analysis that bring to the fore important sociological

elements (Fischer 2003). More specifically, the particular aim of the
research is to look at how language and communication play a central
role in shaping social action and policies as well as at the processes of
discursive interaction finalized at determining specific policy outcomes
(Dryzek 2008; Hajer 2002). The methodological approach that is
adopted is qualitative and focuses on the application of discourse analysis
(DA) to policy documents and transcripts from interviews conducted
with representatives of the European Commission and activists in
Brussels and in the three countries.
DA is increasingly being adopted by social scientists as a useful tool
for understanding the complexities of social and political structures
(Diez 2001; Dryzek 2008). This approach looks at the role of language
and communications in shaping the social world and, in turn in influen-
cing the formulation of public policies. As Hajer argued ‘discourse is
defined as an ensemble of ideas, concepts, and categories through which
meaning is given to phenomena. Meaning is thus produced and repro-
duced through an identifiable set of practices’ (2002). For the purpose of
this book, it is a useful approach as it looks at the interaction between
different publics, the reciprocal dynamics of power, and the establish-
ment of specific argumentative strategies formulated to impose a certain
meaning on social reality (Liebert 2007).
This is in line with the recent insights of the literature that has been
advocating for the emergence of a new vocabulary in public policy
analysis and that rejects the so-called state-centric approaches.
Discursive approaches take into account new sites, actors, and themes
in the development of key policies and their objectives. In referring to
Castells’ thinking on the network society that I introduced before, Hajer
and Wagenar emphasized a shift in the language from ‘institutions to
networks,’ underlining the complexity of policy-making which is
increasingly framed by a wide set of competing social actors vying for
a voice in the public arena (Hajer and Wagenar 2003). In these terms,
discursive approaches require an understanding of the structures of
power and systems of meaning prevailing at the different levels of the
EU as a system of governance (Ingram and Schneider 2008). This
approach allows assessing how institutional and noninstitutional
48 3 Europeanization, Public Sphere, and Active Citizenship

discourses compete to shape meaning around different means of engage-

ment and participation.
It is worthwhile to state that, in line with most research on
Europeanization, my book is not providing on outline of the success
of policy actors in imposing certain meanings upon key policy concepts
but instead looks more closely at the processes where discursive
exchanges happen. In a nutshell, the focus is on how discourses and
counterdiscourses emerge, throughout specific statements that are con-
textualized in given time frames.
The development of a networked territorial space is a consequence of
the current processes of transnationalization. In line with the social
constructivist approach that is at the background of the book, I take
into account the EU’s transformative effect on social realities
(Christiansen et al. 1999). This can be achieved by looking at the
dynamics and discursive interactions between constellations of strong,
transnational, and weak publics. These networks contribute to the
transformation of identities, cognitive schemas, and structures of mean-
ings for individuals. In turn, this process does not entail a passive
adaptation to the forces of Europeanization, but instead interacts with
conflictual and fragmented structures.
This book, focusing, on public discourses emerging at the European
level and in different European countries on active citizenship, relies
therefore on a methodological approach that integrates insights from
different traditions of DA, namely post-structuralism and critical DA. In
regard to the former, I look at the importance played by the power
relations existing between various policy actors and at their struggle to
shape meaning on specific policy concepts that become dominant dis-
courses. In regard to the latter, I looked at the importance that the
political context plays in shaping discourses, and in orientating the
political strategies of public institutions. On the one hand, the context
of production of meaning around key political concepts is particularly
important in critical DA (Wodak and Fairclough 1997). Following the
suggestions of critical DA scholars, the analytical framework looks at the
specific events that shape the priority to develop policies of active
engagement and participation by European institutions and by the
European Commission in particular.
Empirical Research 49

On the other hand, structuralist scholars attempt to understand who

imposes specific meanings on social realities and, in short, who partici-
pates (or not) in the framing of public discourses and in the social
construction of reality. The concept of hegemonic discourse, elaborated
by Laclau and Mouffe is central in this account (Laclau and Mouffe
1985). Different discourses in fact take place at the same time, compet-
ing with each other, challenging each other, and often overlapping each
other. In analytical terms, the scope is to understand why particular
meanings become dominant and authoritative, while others are discre-
dited along the different crises characterizing the European integration
since 2005.

Empirical Research
In developing a discursive approach to map the interactions going on
between different policy actors, institutional and noninstitutional, I
am foremost interested in understanding how through social inter-
actions different beliefs, ideas, and participatory behaviors are
adopted. At the same time a point of interest is the exploration of
the actual systems of meaning developed through this interaction. In
a nutshell, I examine how different policy actors interpret differing
notions of the same concept, and I look at the values and policy
priorities that are foreseen as necessary. In doing so, the analysis is
focused on the interaction going on between different policy actors
at different levels of governance. The aim is to collect information
concerning specific discourses on active citizenship and its core
components (see Chapter 4).

Research Design

This study is qualitative and based on a DA of policy documents and

transcripts from interviews conducted in Brussels and in the three
countries. A preliminary investigation has been supported by a ques-
tionnaire designed for the analysis of qualitative data divided into seven
50 3 Europeanization, Public Sphere, and Active Citizenship

analytical categories key to unpack the core narratives and themes and to
elaborate a codebook through a process of ‘open coding’ (Charmaz
2007). The key categories I looked at are: (1) components of active
citizenship; (2) facts and events; (3) social representation of Europe; (4)
European debates and policies; (5) policy solutions; (6) visions on the
euro-crisis; and (7) evaluation of the euro-crisis. The analysis has been
supported by Atlas.ti through which I associated different narratives and
themes to specific codes.
The analysis has been conducted in three stages (see Table 3.1). This
is particularly relevant in order to gather evidence concerning the estab-
lishment of active citizenship by looking at the effect that specific
contextual dynamics relative to the permanent state of euro-crisis had in
shaping meaning around civic and political engagement and civic and
political participation.

Levels of Analysis and Research Questions

Supranational discourse on active citizenship – Institutional: at this level

the aim is to map, through an analysis of policy documents and tran-
scripts of interviews, the narratives that are associated with the notion of
active citizenship by the European Commission. This part of the
research has been looking at the institutionalization of rules, procedures,
norms concerning active citizenship by the European Commission in
the period of time 2005–2016. A more specific scope of the analysis is to
focus on the core discourses surrounding different components of active
citizenship (civic engagement, political engagement, civic participation,
political participation) in the official institutional discourse. Besides, I
look at the production of meaning regarding active citizenship in respect
to young people, women, and migrants and minorities. In doing so, the
analysis is specifically focused on the promotion of practices of active
citizenship devoted to traditionally marginalized groups. From a theore-
tical point of view, this follows the insights described above, in so far the
sample of policy documents that have been collected and analyzed are
particularly refereed to weak publics.
Table 3.1 Phases of the empirical research

Time context Methods Site Subjects

Phase 1 (2005–) Democratic deficit crisis Interviews Brussels European Commission
Umbrella organizations
Phase 2 (2008–) Financial crisis Interviews Brussels European Commission
Analysis of policy documents Turkey Umbrella organizations
Italy Nation-based organizations
Phase 3 (2011–) Migration crisis Interviews Brussels European Commission
Analysis of policy documents Turkey Umbrella organizations
Italy Nation-based organizations
Empirical Research
52 3 Europeanization, Public Sphere, and Active Citizenship

The key research questions driving this level of analysis are the
– How are practices of active citizenship that emerged during the demo-
cratic crisis promoted in subsequent stages (financial and migration crises)
through policy programs? With this first research question my aim is to find
patterns of discursive convergence or divergence in respect to the stated aims
of developing a citizen-centered approach produced by the European
Commission in the aftermath of the democratic crisis.
– How does the European Commission promote specific meaning on
active citizenship and its relative components in respect to the margin-
alized groups at hand? With this research question, the aim is to unpack
the values attributed to different components of active citizenship (see
Chapter 4) according to youth, women, and migrants and minorities.
– Supranational discourse on active citizenship – nonstate actors: the scope of
this phase of the research is to map – through an analysis of policy docu-
ments and transcripts from interviews – the narratives that are associated
with the notion of active citizenship by nonstate actors, and in particular by
umbrella organizations. More precisely, I focus on the development of a
supranational discourse on active citizenship by interest organizations such as
– for example – the European Women’s Lobby, the European Network
Against Racism, the European Youth Forum, the Social Platform, Solidar,
between others. These groups are part of the organized civil society (Kendall
2009; Ruzza 2004), in the sense that they have a direct and institutionalized
relationship with the European Institutions. As outlined before, the
European Commission has considered this as a key priority since the 2001
governance reform. The organizations selected are representing the three
social groups mentioned above (youth, women, and migrants and mino-
rities) and are actively involved through formal (e.g., consultations) and
informal (e.g., civil dialogue activities) procedures in policy-making at the
EU level. In this sense, a more specific scope of the research is to map the
specific narratives concerning active citizenship, by looking at policy
responses and at the positioning of supranational organizations in respect
to core EU policy programs promoted by the European Commission.
The key research questions driving this level of analysis are the following:
– Do umbrella organizations follow a construction of meaning regard-
ing active citizenship that is in line with the principles established by the
Empirical Research 53

European Commission? With this research question, I aim at focusing

on whether NGOs are compliant, or not, with the European
Commission’s promotion of practices of civic and political engagement
and participation.
– To what extents do umbrella organizations produce compliant or
diverging practices of participation and engagement in respect to the
European Commission? With this research question I aim at under-
standing whether NGOs are producing similar or different narratives in
respect to the values attributed to civic and political engagement and
civic and political participation.
– National discourse on active citizenship: at this level the aim is to map –
through an analysis of policy documents and transcripts from interviews –
the narratives that are associated with the notion of active citizenship by
nonstate actors, and in particular by organizations that are acting at the
national level and representing social groups such as young people, women,
migrants and minorities. More specifically the research looks at the framing
of specific narratives regarding active citizenship in Italy, Turkey, and the
UK by taking into account a fieldwork conducted with activists working
with NGOs representing marginalized groups. The criteria followed to
include specific organizations in the sample were to select those NGOs
that are either part of the aforementioned umbrella organizations in
Brussels, or have been active in applying for EU funding, or provide, as
part of their activities, interventions that make them visible in the interna-
tional/transnational arena. In doing so, the research unpacks definitions of
active citizenship emerging at the national level as well as policy evaluation of
EU programs in this field, by taking into account the impact these had for
changing practices and demands of active citizenship. This allows to under-
standing whether a new set of rules, procedures, and norms, is under
construction, diffused and institutionalized as a result of Europeanization.
At the same time, this part of the analysis focuses on the actual reaction of
NGOs activists to the various crises that have been characterizing the EU
The key research questions driving this level of analysis are the
– How do NGOs based in Italy, Turkey, and the UK evaluate active
citizenship and its components? With this research question, I aim at
54 3 Europeanization, Public Sphere, and Active Citizenship

understanding the different values attributed to active citizenship at the

national levels in order to frame distinctions and challenges that emerge
as a result of the comparison with supranational NGOs and the vision of
active citizenship proposed by the European Commission.
– How do NGOs at the national levels evaluate the impact of
Europeanization in changing their active citizenship practices? This
research question addresses the issue of Europeanization, in order to
unpack meanings attributed to European citizenship as a status by
members of civil society organizations, as well as in order to evaluate
the impact of EU policies and funding in changing their practices and
influencing their areas of activity.
– How do they frame the issue of the European crisis? With this
research question, I aim first at gathering information concerning the
meaning associated to ‘European crisis’ for activists (e.g., democratic
and/or financial and/or migration) and in second instance at collecting
information regarding the implications of this for the groups they
represent (e.g., emerging social problems, shifts in values, etc.).

The methodological approach of this book combines a top-down
approach – the development of specific discourses on active citizen-
ship by the European Commission – and a bottom-up perspective –
the development of counterdiscourses by civil society organizations
at the EU level and in three different territorial contexts. In parti-
cular, by referring to the development of a network governance
approach to policy analysis, the chapter sets the framework that
characterizes the empirical analysis, contextualizing it in respect to
the studies that look at the emergence of discursive approaches in
public policy analysis, following the insights of scholars such as
Fischer (2003) and Dryzek (2008). The development of a discursive
approach is meant to shed light on the different controversial narra-
tives that are generated by the policy actors that are part of the
European discursive battleground (Diez 2001).
Conclusion 55

The nature of active citizenship needs of course to be clarified. This is

the scope of the following chapter, where this notion is defined in light
of two working definitions – active citizenship as a practice and active
citizenship as a demand – and where the discussion concerning the
different components of active citizenship – civic and political engage-
ment and civic and political participation – are unpacked and addressed
for the purposes of this book.
Active Citizenship and Its Components

In this chapter, I discuss models for the understanding of active citizen-
ship that take into account various mobilizing dynamics that pertain to
different core dimensions, specifically civic and political engagement on
the one side and civic and political participation on the other. I argue
that in order to gain a profound and well-rounded understanding of this
concept, this issue should be studied through the adoption of a multi-
disciplinary methodological approach that can shed light on the complex
components of active citizenship that influence both civic and political
behavior (Barrett and Brunton-Smith 2014). More specifically the
chapter introduces the determinants that are essentially providing
insights into the adoption of individual and collective participatory
behaviors. The schema of indicators elaborated in the chapter (see
Tables 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3) is useful in order to establish whether the EU
has in the first instance developed measures aimed at stimulating engage-
ment and participation, and the nature of these. Besides of this, this
discussion is key in light of the comparison with civil society discourses
at the supranational level and in the three countries.

© The Author(s) 2017 57

C. Bee, Active Citizenship in Europe, Palgrave Studies in European
Political Sociology, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-45317-4_4
58 4 Active Citizenship and Its Components

The Emergence of Active Citizenship in Political

and Scholarly Debates
Two traditional ideological viewpoints on citizenship, namely the liberal
(and neoliberal) and the civic republican, have influenced the political
setting of different European countries and resulted in different models
of balance between two core components, rights and responsibilities,
and also for the overall practices that this status entails (Bellamy et al.
2004; Carrera and Guild 2009; Delanty 2000, 2007; Isin et al. 2009;
Miller 2000, 2008a, 2008b). While the neoliberal perspective of citizen-
ship accounts for a ‘passive citizen’ and the rights that are ensured in
order to guarantee the expression of certain freedoms, the civic repub-
lican perspective refers to an ‘active citizen’ and the reciprocal responsi-
bilities that members of a political community have toward each other
(Heater 1999; Pateman 1988; Lister 1997).
The theoretical debate concerning active citizenship is contextually
framed within the civic republican account of citizenship and is com-
mon to a number of Western countries. It is also connected to broader
themes, such as the best ways to deliver rights and entitlements, the
balance between duties and responsibilities, the emergence of participa-
tory systems of public policy, the strengthening of the role of the civil
society in policy-making, and the assumptions of new roles for local
governments with the consequence of strengthening the communitarian
dimension. Although this theoretical perspective addresses the mechan-
isms that may encourage public participation and civic engagement, it
remains open to interpretation when considered from alternative ideo-
logical standpoints.
Marinetto (2003) explained the emergence of the debate on active
citizenship in the 1980s in the Western world with reference to the
existing fragmentation between right-wing and left-wing ideologies. In
this time context, two opposite definitions of active citizenship emerged:
‘Protagonists of the right emphasized the importance of promoting
active citizenship to achieve a balance between rights and duties. This
was seen as a logical extension of the prevailing political orthodoxy of the
time which sought to reduce the burden of state and introduce greater
Methodological Challenges in the Study of Active Citizenship 59

private sector provision of public goods’ (Marinetto 2003: 107). Based

on neoliberal roots, the concept of active citizenship put forward by
right-wing politicians was aimed at preserving and promoting individual
liberty by enhancing a sense of utilitarian responsibility toward the
community. Social democratic viewpoints addressed instead the emer-
gence of active citizenship from a different point, looking at the broader
civic involvement of the individual in a given community: ‘People on
the centre left also took up the question of active citizenship for quite
different reasons. Their concern was to defend the collective fabric of
public life against encroachment by the market’ (Marinetto 2003: 107).
The case studies presented and discussed in this book, as I will argue in
Chapters 7, 8, and 9, are exemplificative of this fragmented scenario,
where active citizenship has been key to promote, in some cases neolib-
eral values (such as in Turkey) and in others has been put forward in
political discourses that belong to mixed ideological standpoints (such as
in Italy and in the UK). In all cases, it has partly been promoted in order
to satisfy specific sociopolitical needs that are contextualized in respect to
governance reforms that took place in such countries.

Methodological Challenges in the Study

of Active Citizenship
The study of active citizenship has recently attracted increasing attention
in academic circles because of the growing challenges represented by the
multifaceted forms that participation in the public sphere takes. Recent
contributions in the field have shed light on the best ways to measure
active citizenship, including different factors of value-based participa-
tion. Hoskins, for example, defines active citizenship as ‘Participation in
civil society, community and/or political life, characterized by mutual
respect and in accordance with human rights and democracy’ (Hoskins
2006: 2). This very broad definition sheds light on different civic and
political components, bringing to the fore the power of social solidarity
and equality in determining the bases of active citizenship. Elaborating
on this, Hoskins and Mascherini further argue that ‘this definition of
60 4 Active Citizenship and Its Components

active citizenship includes a broad variety of participatory activities. It

ranges from participatory democracy, including actions that hold gov-
ernment accountable, to representative democracy, including actions
such as voting, and also to participation in the everyday life of the
communities’ (Hoskins and Mascherini 2009: 462). The authors use
four main dimensions to build their Composite Indicator, which are
protest and social change, community life, representative democracy,
and democratic values. The indicators that are included in their analysis
range from classic measurement that aims at understanding political
participation (both conventional and unconventional) and civic and
political engagement. Some limitations of their model are, however,
emerging in so far as they do not account for dimensions linked to
processes of deliberation that are bottom-up and thus not necessarily
linked to formal channels of representation. It is believed here that the
study of active citizenship and the dimensions of civic and political
participation and civic and political engagement need to be addressed
by first gaining a broader understanding of all of the dynamics – both
top-down and bottom-up – inherent to these concepts, but also of the
different contextual factors that are inherent in them.
Therefore, it is necessary to distinguish different trajectories that
active citizenship can take. These are not necessarily inclusive one
of the other and we might find cases – and the Turkish case is one of
these – where they can actually be antagonistic. On the one side, I define
active citizenship as a practice stimulated by public institutions. On the
other side, I define it as a demand that emerges from the civil society. It is
important to take into account both of these dimensions, which are fully
explored below.

Active Citizenship as a Practice

Evidence shows (Bee and Pachi 2014; Ribeiro et al. 2014; Şener 2014)
that in different European countries as well as in the EU, active citi-
zenship has become a public policy with the aim of promoting demo-
cratization, integration, participation in public policy-making and
accountability, among others. In the first perspective, active citizenship
Methodological Challenges in the Study of Active Citizenship 61

is therefore the result of a complex process of development that is

institutionally driven because of certain social and political needs. In
these terms, we can argue that it follows top-down patterns where public
institutions promote public policies aimed at stimulating civic and
political engagement and civic and political participation. As it is
noted in Chapter 6, the organized civil society has become a central
player in European politics which has facilitated this process at least
since the White Paper on Governance of 2001 (CEC 2001a). The
expansion of key umbrella organizations in Brussels has been funda-
mental in fostering this pattern and also in creating forms of civil society
governance that are determinant in building a relationship with policy-
makers. For example, the role of organizations – such as the Social
Platform, the European Network Against Racism, the European
Women’s Lobby, the European Youth Forum – has been central in
the last few years in initiating forms of civic dialogue and fostering social
policy in the EU. Legal instruments, such as Art. 11 of the Lisbon
Treaty, provide the opportunity for the organized civil society to become
formally involved in policy-making processes. This is an important shift
that paves the way for a wide range of interests and voices to be part of
the negotiating table.
In various parts of Europe the noticeable increase of concern toward
public policies aimed at promoting and fostering practices of engagement
and participation is due to different reasons. In Italy, for example, this
has been associated with the need to build a better structure of the public
administration and served the need to develop forms of mutual respon-
sibility between citizens and institutions in dealing with public matters
(Arena 2006). In Turkey, the institutional drive to foster active citizen-
ship has appeared in the public discourse more recently, with particular
reference to certain social groups, such as young people and has been
pushed forward by the Europeanization process (Bozkurt et al. 2015). In
the UK, active citizenship has been pivotal in solving certain social
problems that have emerged over time but it has been key as well, in
order to promote principles of New Public Management in the reform
of public administration and public policy. Besides, it is linked with the
building of community cohesion across different regions of Britain
(McGhee 2009).
62 4 Active Citizenship and Its Components

On this basis we can define active citizenship as an institutionally

driven process aimed at favoring participatory behaviors with the pur-
pose of facilitating access to the political system, to share responsibilities
with the broad polity in determining public policies and also of promot-
ing democratization. This is essential in neoliberal settings where the aim
is to enlarge the basis of democracy via the promotion of input legiti-
macy and to facilitate participation in governance, as well as it is
functional to solve emerging social and public problems. Channels for
participation can be different, but all serve the purpose of providing
feedback and input to public institutions in planning specific policy
interventions. Citizens, for example, will participate in the community
in order to provide reciprocal assistance through volunteering; be
actively involved in processes of deliberation regarding certain public
policies by communicating with policy-makers about their preferences;
engage in different groups of organized interest in order to participate in
community life; and express dissent toward the making of a policy by
referring to the right to protest, etc. These are some examples of this
typology of active citizenship that fit with the definition provided by
Hoskins and Mascherini (2009). The analysis of active citizenship as a
practice is prevalent in the literature. Current research has predominantly
focused on the analysis of civil society engagement and participation as a
factor normatively stimulated by public institutions rather than on the
different factors that hinder or enable active citizenship per se.
Perspectives solely looking at these top-down dynamics in the analysis
of active citizenship are valuable, although limited in the scope and reach
of results that can be obtained, because the focus is mostly on the
relationship existing between the institutional domain and the civil
society. In short, my argument is that this definition – and research
agenda – on active citizenship is biased because of the fact that it mostly
conceives of civil society as being a functional actor in processes of
democratization whose activities are stimulated by policy-makers. This
undermines the ideal of an autonomous civil society, a civil society that
‘is a sphere of political struggle’ where ‘CSOs are autonomous actors
with competing ideological preferences that have linkages with politics’
(Zihnioğlu 2013b: 382).
Methodological Challenges in the Study of Active Citizenship 63

Active Citizenship as a Demand

In order to provide a more rounded definition of active citizenship, the

idea of active citizenship as a demand is introduced. This becomes
particularly important when the civil society express certain claims
through different means, by using both traditional (such as protest)
and alternative channels of mobilization (such as social media). From
this perspective, active citizenship can in fact be thought of as a bottom-
up process where civil society actors engage and participate in the civic
and political domains seeking to ‘raise their voices’, within the scope of
shaping forms of reciprocal solidarity or expressing dissent toward the
current political status. In these terms, I define active citizenship as a
bottom-up process through which the civil society comes together in
order to shape forms of reciprocal solidarity or through which forms of
dissent toward the current political status is expressed. In these terms,
active citizenship becomes a demand for democratization and for extend-
ing the social bases for participation in a particular society. From this
perspective, the figure of the activist citizen who ‘makes claims to justice’
becomes particularly relevant, as stated by Isin (2009: 384).
This form of active citizenship is expressed outside formal channels of
political participation – such as electoral politics – and takes expression
thanks to the implementation of various forms of deliberation (Delli
Carpini et al. 2004). At the same time, it takes place when public policy
is insufficient or nonexistent, and individuals mobilize in collective
action in order to solve a particular problem, therefore acting apart
from – or in some cases replacing – public intervention. Under this
perspective, for example, citizens will attempt to gain ownership of the
social and political settings by trying to subvert the existing order (in the
case of protests against an authoritarian government); self-mobilize for
the purpose of guaranteeing the well-being of the community, replacing
the functions of policy-makers when there is a lack of intervention;
occupy and use abandoned public spaces for the organization of cultural
and/or social activities, such as, for instance, providing help for immi-
grants or acting as a meeting point for the support of disadvantaged
people in a particular community.
64 4 Active Citizenship and Its Components

Political and civic participation and political and civic engagement are
also in these cases central categories, but take place in nontraditional
channels of representation, often associated with deliberative models of
democracy. Natural contingencies, such as an earthquake or conflicts,
can have the effect of opening up windows of opportunities that moti-
vate individuals to mobilize and to express solidarity. At the same time, a
pacific protest can turn into a claim for an alternative society and entail a
demand for a radical change in the social and political structures.

Components of Active Citizenship

In distinguishing different trajectories that active citizenship can take, it is
necessary to bring about a clear definition regarding the different compo-
nents – civic and political – of active citizenship. Both of these dimensions
are important to be taken into account and are fully explored below.

Civic and Political Components

In order to define precisely the civic and political components of active

citizenship, and construct appropriate indicators to measure them, con-
ceptual clarifications need to be provided by referring to recent literature
in the field (Berger 2009; Barrett and Zani 2015; Adler and Goggin
2005). Here I refer to definitions of civic engagement, political engage-
ment, civic participation, conventional and unconventional political
participation. As I will discuss later (Table 4.1), all of them have both
an individual and a collective dimension that needs to be accounted for.
Before I proceed with defining these terms, the distinction between
engagement and participation is necessary to be drawn. In this respect, the
recent work carried on as part of the Processes Influencing Democratic
Ownership and Participation (PIDOP)1 project is essential as a reference

The Project PIDOP (Processes Influencing Democratic Ownership and Participation) financed by the
7FP aimed at the analysis of civic and political engagement and participation in eight European
countries. Full details on the Project can be found at http://www.fahs.surrey.ac.uk/pidop/
Components of Active Citizenship 65

point in order to provide these distinctions and to discuss different

dimensions pertaining the determinants of active citizenship. Barrett
and Brunton-Smith (2014: 6) underline that engagement refers to
‘having an interest in, paying attention to, or having knowledge, beliefs,
opinions, attitudes, or feelings about either political or civic matters.’
Having an interest, a feeling or an idea toward something, being this a
civic or a political matter, as the authors underline does not necessarily
imply assuming a participatory behavior. In a nutshell, an interest in a
civic or political matter, does not directly correspond to open participation
in the polity or the community and does not necessarily lead to active
forms of civic and political participation. For instance, someone could be
interested in who is running for elections in a particular community
believing that, according to her/his opinion, a specific candidate should
win, without participating in any campaigning for the support of such
candidate. Or, to draw another example, someone could have an interest
toward the well-being of everyone in the community and acknowledge the
fact that there should be safety nets and mutual support for the poorer,
without actively participating in any volunteering activity or being part of
an organization providing mutual help or try to lobby policy-makers to
introduce specific policies targeting such groups. As Barrett and Zani
argue, ‘individuals can be cognitively or affectively engaged without
necessarily being behaviorally engaged’ (Barrett and Zani 2015: 4). By
consequence of this, on the other side, it can be argued that participation
involves the active involvement in civic or political matters and is ‘beha-
vioral in nature’ (Barrett and Brunton-Smith 2014: 6).
Thus, examples of engagement in civic and political matters, at the
individual level, could be considered having a personal interest in the life
of the community or reading a newspaper to gather information about
political issues, whereas examples of individual participation in civic and
political matters could be for instance adopting environmentally sustain-
able behaviors, such as for example recycling, or donating money to a
green organization or a charity, supporting therefore their initiatives. On
the other side, at the collective level examples of civic participation could
imply the active involvement with community-based organizations that
promote sustainability and examples of political participation could be
joining a protest against a ruling party that promotes unsustainable
66 4 Active Citizenship and Its Components

behaviors. Before I proceed into the description of further examples and

indicators, it is necessary to provide a detailed definition of each one of
the terms that I introduced above, by starting with the definition of civic
and political engagement.

Civic Engagement

Civic engagement is often considered as a policy response to various

social and public problems and is part of public policies aiming at
stimulating active citizenship. The rationale is that civic engagement is
central for community building and for the enhancement of the social
capital (Putnam 2000). Communitarian intervention, for instance, or
community engagement, have been considered strategic by govern-
ments and by supranational organizations for favoring the fostering
of forms of civic ownership in the community, whereby there is a lack
of integration and solidarity between ethnic and social groups or
The difficulty to provide a precise definition of civic engagement is
due to the fact that this term is often used to refer to different forms of
individual and/or collective involvement in the community and more
broadly speaking in the polity of belonging.
In research terms, the operationalization of civic engagement has
attracted the interest of many scholars, that have been using indicators
such as the participation in volunteering groups, voting at elections, the
personal interest in politics, among others, to measure levels of civic
engagement in a given community. This unpacks the discussion relative
to the ambiguities and controversies existing in finding a common
denominator and definition of civic engagement. The concept is in
fact a highly contested one. This is due to the multifaceted forms that
it can take and to the various possible uses and operationalization that
can be made with it. It is important to note that in most cases civic
engagement is used interchangeably – and often mistakenly – with
cognate but distinct terms such as civic participation, civic activism,
political engagement, political participation, and more broadly speaking
with active citizenship.
Components of Active Citizenship 67

Adler and Goggin (2005) argue that definitions vary according to the
different points of view and types of activity that are under consideration
and in this respect they claim that the existing literature can be summar-
ized into four typologies of activities that entail: community service,
collective action, political involvement, and social change (Adler and
Goggin 2005: 238, 239). The authors attempt to narrow down these to
a working definition: ‘Civic engagement defines how an active citizen
participates in the life of a community in order to improve conditions
for others or to help shape the community’s future’ (Adler and Goggin
2005: 241). As it can be seen, this definition suggests the application to
an infinitive set of processes of mobilization and participation that can
be either civic or political, or both of them at the same time.
In the last few years much criticism has been raised toward the use of
approaches of this kind to the definition of civic engagement, with
authors even calling for the necessity to replace a term considered
ready for the ‘dustbin’ (Berger 2009). Berger, in his critique of the
concept points at the various ambiguities that are inherent to this
discussion, arguing – probably correctly – that: ‘What thread could
coherently link bowling in leagues, voting alone, writing checks to
political candidates or interest groups, attending dinner parties, creating
politically conscious work, volunteering at soup kitchens, attending
church and watching politically relevant television programs, all of
which have been counted as forms of civic engagement?’ (Berger 2009:
337). The author unpacks all the ambiguities inherent to the usage of
civic engagement made in the literature and underlines the lack of
coherence existing when indicators to measure it are being built. In
this chapter, I acknowledge the critique of Berger by remarking the
importance of emphasizing the civic component of engagement. In doing
this, as other authors did, it is important to draw a clearly separate line
with the political dimensions of engagement.
Acknowledging this criticism I can therefore argue that civic engage-
ment consists in the expression of ideas, interests, feelings, knowledge,
opinions, and attitudes toward the life of a given civic community. It can
be argued that civic engagement is a concept that has individual and
collective dimensions and, most importantly takes expression in com-
munitarian and collective attitudes that are central in determining the
68 4 Active Citizenship and Its Components

social capital of a given community. Barrett and Zani in underlining that

civic engagement is a term used to ‘denote the engagement of an
individual with the interests, goals concerns and common good of a
community’ (Barrett and Zani 2015) draw on examples such as having
interests, feelings, ideas that are exclusively referred to civic dimensions.
Last but not least, engagement is to be understood in light of its
counterpart, which is disengagement. Again, the work of Putnam is essen-
tial in this sense, with a specific reference to his writings published in the
second part of the 1990s that culminate with the publication of the book
Bowling Alone. Disengagement can be described as, for instance, the lack of
interest, knowledge, emotional attachment to civic and political institu-
tions, and/or in the refusal of recognizing certain dominating ideologies or
lifestyles. This results in a lack of behavioral and participatory attitudes
toward the life of the community or polity. Different categories can be
thought of in order to describe disengagement: apolitical, antipolitical,
acivic, and anticivic. Each of them indicate, for instance, a refusal, a lack of
interest, and in some case the expression of explicit forms of antagonism
toward the existing civic and political institutions.

Pre-Political Elements: Political Engagement

Having said this, how can we account for forms of civic engagement that
are pre-political? It is worth to underline, and the criticism of Berger is
enlightening in this sense, that much of the confusion in the literature
regarding civic engagement has to do with the fact that most authors
draw a link with formal and informal dimensions of political action and
participation attaching a strong political meaning in its definition. This
confusion is created by the fact that, as Ekman and Amnå (2012) argue,
civic engagement can be seen, in some cases, as a latent form of political
participation insofar it implies forms of engagement that might actually
be of great significance for future political activities (Ekman and Amnå
2012: 287). In short, showing an interest toward crucial matters con-
cerning a given community, can eventually lead into forms of participa-
tion and therefore to engage in political activism within the community.
Just to draw an example, showing an interest toward environmental
Components of Active Citizenship 69

matters and gathering information about this on the internet, can

potentially lead into the assumption of specific behaviors that could
entail political activism, such as for instance supporting a political party
that advocates for a better environment or joining a protest organized in
order to rise consciousness about environmental risk. In short, civic
engagement has to be distinguished from – but can in some cases lead
into – political engagement. This is instead defined as ‘the engagement
of an individual with political institutions, processes and policy making’
(Barrett and Zani 2015: 4). Example of these can be found in the
expression of interest toward political matters by following news con-
cerning specific events, but also the identification with a particular
political ideology.

Civic and Political Participation

Engagement, either civic or political, can obviously, but not necessarily,

subsume participation, or lead into the activation of individual or
collective participatory behaviors. Some of the literature on civic engage-
ment include in its measurement the use of indicators that are meant to
be applied on cognate concepts, such as civic and political participation.
Examples include enrolling in NGOs that promote healthy living;
voting at local or national elections; rallying against a government to
stop the implementation of a bill. All these cases have been accounted for
as examples of civic engagement, raising the criticism of Berger that I
introduced before. In light of the definitions and the discussion
addressed by Barrett and Zani (2015), it is appropriate to argue that
they are different. More precisely they can be defined as examples of:
civic participation (participation in a group of interest focused on
health), conventional political participation (exercising the right to
vote), and nonconventional political participation (protesting outside
formal channels of participation).
Civic participation refers to the set of voluntary activities that are
meant to provide, for example, mutual help or trying to face social and
public problems emerging in the community. In this sense engagement,
either civic or political, can obviously, but not necessarily, subsume
70 4 Active Citizenship and Its Components

participation, or lead into the activation of participatory behaviors.

When we talk about civic participation we refer to the set of voluntary
activities ‘focused on helping others, achieving a public good or solving a
community problem, including work undertaken either alone or in
cooperation with others in order to effect change’ (Barrett and
Brunton-Smith 2014: 6). This of course implies a form of civic activism
that is oriented at the improvement of a particular society. As it is
arguable, many activities of voluntary organizations are behavioral in
the sense that they have the scope of promoting forms of mutual help
and are based on the fostering of social solidarity.
Political participation encompasses various modalities through which
the influence on the political system and on public policy can be exercised:
examples being voting, campaigning, protesting, expressing opinions or
dissent through the use of social media, actively joining a political move-
ment. Barrett and Brunton-Smith (2014) define political participation to
denote the ‘activity that has the intent or effect of influencing either
regional, national or supranational governance, either directly by affecting
the making or implementation of public policy or indirectly by influen-
cing the selection of individuals that make that policy’ (Barrett and
Brunton-Smith 2014: 6). This definition, inspired by the seminal work
of Verba et al. (1995) on political participation, encompasses various
modalities through which this influence can be exercised: voting, cam-
paigning, protesting, expressing opinions or dissent through the use of
social media, actively joining a political movement, etc. In short, it
encompasses both conventional and nonconventional forms of political
participation, which are the two last terms that I seek to define before I
present my indicators. In the former, dimensions that are directly linked
with the political arena can be included and are linked with electoral
processes and therefore crucial for the survival of representative democ-
racy. The latter instead involves a variety of actions that are usually not
taking place in usual channels of political representation and therefore can
be located outside electoral processes.
The table below summarizes the different components of active
citizenship that are emerging from this discussion. The indicators that
are reported are not of course exhaustive but a selection of some mean-
ingful examples.
Table 4.1 Examples of components and indicators of active citizenship
Political participation Political participation
Civic engagement Political engagement Civic participation (conventional) (nonconventional)
Individual - Paying attention to - Paying attention to news - Donating money to a - Voting in elections or - Boycotting
news media on civic media on political issues charity referenda - Signing petitions
issues - Following political - Fundraising activities - Contacting political - Handing out political
- Following civic affairs affairs for good causes representatives or leaflets
- Having civic knowl- - Having political knowl- politicians - Civil disobedience
edge or beliefs edge or beliefs - Running for public - Writing letters to politi-
- Understanding civic - Understanding political office cians or to the media
institutions institutions - Donating money to - Join groups on the
- Understanding civic - Understanding political political parties or Internet with political
values values organizations focus
- Having feelings - Having feelings toward - Wearing symbols in sup-
toward civic matters political matters port of a political cause
Collective - Belonging to a group - Belonging to a political - Informally assisting the - Being a member of a - Membership of political
with societal focus movement well-being of others in political party or poli- lobbying organizations
- Identifying with a - Identifying with a speci- the community tical organization - Active involvement in a
specific civic move- fic political movement - Community problem - Activity within a politi- new social movement or
ment or ideology or ideology solving through com- cal party, organiza- forum
- Lifestyle-related - Lifestyle-related munity organizations tions or a trade union - Demonstrating, partici-
involvement (music, involvement - Volunteering in volun- pating in strikes, pro-
identity, clothes, etc.) (e.g., veganism, right tary organizations tests and other actions
wing skinhead scene, - Membership of nonpo- - Squatting buildings
left-wing anarcho- litical organizations - Participating in violent
scene) demonstrations
Components of Active Citizenship

- Violence confrontations
with political opponents
or police

Elaboration based on: Barrett and Zani (2015); Barrett and Brunton-Smith (2014); Ekman and Amnå (2012).
72 4 Active Citizenship and Its Components

The application of this conceptualization on the European context is

rather important in order to understand the fluidity and volatility of the
concept of active citizenship emerging throughout time in the EU and in
the three countries. Different events and trajectories have in fact brought
to the surface the emergence of civic and political dimensions of engage-
ment and participation.

Discussing Challenges and Expectations

Since the research looks at institutionally constructed dimensions of
active citizenship, by consequence the main approach to active citizen-
ship emerging at the institutional level refers to the definition of active
citizenship as a practice that is stimulated through public policy. At the
same time, being the organizations part of structured networks and the
so-called organized civil society, they are more likely to engage in open
dialogue and structured forms of consultations with the institutional
levels. This is not to say that the second category introduced above,
active citizenship as a demand, is not emerging from the analysis of the
book. As the data show, this is crucially emerging in the discourses of
NGOs whenever forms of open contestation toward public institutions
are expressed but also when, in the absence of a solid political interven-
tion by public institutions, bottom-up mechanisms of civic participation
emerge. This is well representative of what happened in respect to the
migration crisis, that has seen a large mobilization of NGOs throughout
Europe that are acting independently and in most of the cases without
any form of economical but also political support.
Active citizenship as a demand, thus becomes particularly important in
regard to the situation consequent to the financial and migration crises,
that opened avenues for mobilization that are not institutionalized. In
these contexts, civil society organizations frame narratives that are meant
to criticize and at the same time antagonize or replace institutional
intervention. In this sense, it is important to look at the reactions to
the crisis by the activists of civil society organizations, in order to map
the conditions under which patterns of active citizenship as a demand
Discussing Challenges and Expectations 73

emerge and characterize the development of specific counterdiscourses

and criticism. Key to this, is the mobilization of civil society through
activities of civic participation in the context of the migration crisis. In a
nutshell, by looking at the development of counterdiscourses emerging
and challenging dominant narratives promoted by the European
Commission, I focus explicitly on the emergence and formulation of
specific demands by NGOs. Elaborating from Table 4.1 the following
tables (4.2 and 4.3) provide some examples of the indicators used in the
research according to the two typologies of active citizenship drawn
The indicators described in Table 4.2 are falling into the category of
active citizenship as a practice and based on the elaboration made in
Table 4.1. Because of the nature of the research and the kind of
empirical analysis that is carried on, in the phase of the research design
I formulated the following expectations on the basis of my indicators:

Institutional level – European: at this level, I expect European Institutions,

and more specifically the European Commission, to promote specific pre-
political dimension of political participation (dimension of civic and
political engagement) aiming foremost at stimulating awareness of the
EU system of values and of the EU political system. Specifically, in
coherence with the political discourse on the democratic crisis, I expect
the European Commission to design instruments (work programs, fund-
ing schema, formalized instruments of participation, etc.) in order to
stimulate both forms of conventional and nonconventional political par-
ticipation as well as to promote civic participation by sponsoring transna-
tional projects based on the principle of solidarity.
Nonstate actors – European: at this level, I expect activists of umbrella
organizations to promote civic and political engagement at both the
individual and collective level, and to be fully committed – because of
the nature of their role and privileged position at the supranational level –
to promote first and foremost forms of civic participation and political
participation, both conventional and nonconventional.
Nonstate actors – national: at this level, I expect activists of organizations in
the three countries to promote civic and political engagement and because
of the nature of their professional activity, to cooperate in various

Table 4.2 Examples of components and indicators of active citizenship as a practice

Political Political participation (non
Civic engagement engagement Civic participation (conventional) conventional)
Individual - Knowledge of EU - Knowledge - Supporting volun- - Voting at EU elections - Writing letters
institutions of EU poli- tary groups that - Supporting specific to politicians or
- Paying attention to EU tical deal with civic mat- political parties at the to the media
developments processes ters (i.e., donating EU level regarding EU-
- Awareness of European - Paying money) - Running as a candidate related issues
values attention - Activating groups in EU elections - Join groups on
to EU poli- of peers for raising the Internet
tical issues EU funding with political
- Awareness - Contributing as an focus on EU
of EU poli- individual to EU’s
tical sys- consultations
4 Active Citizenship and Its Components

tem, his-
tory, etc.
Collective - Identifying with parti- - Belonging - Informally assisting - Being part of a politi- - Membership of
cular ideologies or to a parti- the well-being of cal party or organiza- political lobby-
stand points regarding cular poli- others through tion that expresses ing organiza-
EU integration (i.e., tical active involvement specific standpoints on tions at the EU
Greenisim, Social movement in local and EU-related matters (i. level
Europe, Federal - Identifying national NGOs e., pro-Europeanism, - Involvement in a
Europe) with a par- - Membership of euroskepticism) new social
ticular nonpolitical movement or
- Belonging to a group movement organizations that - Activity within a EU forum at the
with a specific focus on or ideology actively apply for party or organization European/trans-
EU matters EU funding national level
- Volunteering (i.e.,
through the
Voluntary service)
- Contributing as
part of a civil
society group or an
informal group of
people to EU’s
Discussing Challenges and Expectations
76 4 Active Citizenship and Its Components

volunteering activities, framing therefore discourses that put civic participation

as a core value that activate their behavioral processes of involvement in their
organizations of belonging. I expect however that the nature – and the values –
attached to both conventional and nonconventional political participation is
variable according to the country and the social group of belonging.
Table 4.3 summarizes some of the indicators used in order to measure
active citizenship as a demand. As it can be seen, I assume that the pre-
political dimensions (civic and political engagement) as well as the forms
that conventional political participation can take are equal. In other
words, I expect activists of NGOs in the three countries to hold a strong
interest toward civic and political issues, expressing this at both the
individual and collective level. What is important to understand, in
this case, are the conditions under which narratives that I can identify
as fitting into the categories of civic participation and nonconventional
political participation are emerging and to what extent these are
expressed in order to directly question, contest, or replace public institu-
tions’ policies and intervention.
In the phase of the research design I formulated the following expec-
tations on the basis of my indicators:

Institutional level – European: at this level I assume that the European

Commission, being a key advocator of active citizenship as a practice,
mostly promotes in its political discourse narratives that are coherent
with this strategy. At the same time, I expect that along the enhancement
of the financial and migration crises the European Commission produces
policy responses aimed at providing solutions to demands coming from
the civil society.
Nonstate actors – European: at this level I expect that umbrella organiza-
tions mobilize in compliance with the channels of participation that are
formally promoted by the European Commission (i.e., consultations, civic
dialogue, usage of art. 11). Because of their structure and their nature –
that of being representative of the organized civil society at the suprana-
tional level – I expect them not to engage in forms of open contestation
toward the European Commission but to comply with the standard of
participation promoted by such institution.
Nonstate actors – national: at this level, I expect nation-based organizations
to mobilize outside formal channels of participation in order to contest,
Table 4.3 Examples of components and indicators of active citizenship as a demand

Political Political
Political participation participation (non
Civic engagement engagement Civic participation (conventional) conventional)
Individual - Knowledge of EU - Knowledge - Sustaining volun- - Voting at EU - Expressing dissent
institutions of EU poli- tary groups that elections on current EU poli-
- Paying attention to tical deal with civic - Supporting specific cies by writing let-
EU developments processes matters (i.e., political parties at ters to politicians
- Awareness of - Paying donating money) the EU level or to the media
European values attention acting outside of - Running for elec- - Join groups on the
to EU poli- formal channels tions as a candidate Internet that dis-
tical issues - Advocating for the cuss possible alter-
- Awareness formulation of natives to current
of EU poli- voluntary groups policies
tical sys- outside of formal
tem, his- channels
tory, etc.
Collective - Identifying with - Belonging - Sustaining the gen- - Being part of a - Activity within a
particular ideolo- to a parti- eration of inde- political party or social movement in
gies or stand points cular poli- pendent groups in organization that order to reject a EU
regarding EU inte- tical answer to emer- expresses specific policy program or
gration (i.e., movement gency situations standpoints on EU- policy
Greenisim, Social - Identifying (i.e., financial crisis) related matters (i. - Active involvement
Discussing Challenges and Expectations

Europe, Federal with a par- - Providing assis- e., pro- in a new social
Europe) ticular tance and mutual movement or

(continued )

Table 4.3 continued

Political Political
Political participation participation (non
Civic engagement engagement Civic participation (conventional) conventional)
- Belonging to a movement support outside of Europeanism, euro- forum at the
group with a speci- or ideology formal channels skepticism) European/transna-
fic focus on EU - Lobbying in orga- - Activity within a EU tional level that
matters nizations that party of advocate for an
advocate for a organization ‘alternative
4 Active Citizenship and Its Components

radical change in Europe’ (such as,

policy-making i.e., social Europe)
Conclusion 79

express dissent, or antagonize political discourses emerging at the

European level but also in respect to their national context. I expect the
emergence of modalities of civic and political participation that challenge
institutional activity to take place along specific peak moments, and when
the financial and migration crises are intensified.

This chapter overviewed different connotations that active citizenship
can take. I argued for the necessity to take into account different view-
points in order to gather a well-rounded understanding of the processes
that lead into the assumption of active behaviors. The categorization
that I introduced – active citizenship as a practice and active citizenship as
a demand – is meant to complement different trajectories that need to be
taken into account when studying the processes that transform engage-
ment into participation. On this account, scopes of this chapter have
been (1) to provide conceptual clarification in regard to different com-
ponents of active citizenship, with a specific focus on civic engagement,
political engagement, civic participation, and political participation
(both conventional and nonconventional) and (2) to discuss the applica-
tion of various indicators in order to study the emergence of active
citizenship in the EU and in Italy, Turkey, and the UK. Following on
this, the next chapters will focus on the development of active citizen-
ship at the EU level and in the three countries.
Active Citizenship: Policy Developments
at the EU Level

In this chapter, I provide an overview of the policy developments on
active citizenship at the EU level emerging during the three time periods
under consideration. The analysis is first of all focused on the results of
fieldwork conducted in Brussels in 2008/2009 with representatives of
the European Commission. The scope is to evaluate the orientation of
policy-makers in regard to the establishment of active citizenship, the
needs associated to the building of communicative structures in order to
solve the democratic crisis and the policy solutions put forward in order
to overcome such crisis. This phase of the research maps the core policy
objectives and priorities pursued by the European Commission in order
to stimulate engagement and participation. Following on from this, a
number of policy documents targeting young people, women, minorities
and migrants, have been analyzed in order to map the policy reflection of
the European Commission about the best modalities to make active
citizenship an institutionalized and working practice. Core issues, such
as the stimulation of empowerment and structured dialogue are driving
the agenda, with varying degrees across the three social groups under

© The Author(s) 2017 81

C. Bee, Active Citizenship in Europe, Palgrave Studies in European
Political Sociology, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-45317-4_5
82 5 Active Citizenship: Policy Developments at the EU Level

consideration. The analysis in the final part of the chapter focuses on the
emerging social problems and policy interventions across the financial
and migration crises.

Institutional Responses to the Democratic

A number of representatives of the European Commission working for
the DG communication and DG Culture were interviewed, with the aim
to determine the core policy discourse surrounding the establishment of
active citizenship with functionaries directly involved in producing policy
responses as part of the establishment of programs such as the Plan D for
Democracy, Dialogue and Debate (CEC 2005a) and the White Paper on
Communication (CEC 2006a). It is in fact rather important to contextua-
lize this part of the fieldwork in respect to the dynamic and ever-changing
context at the EU level and in the member states in the aftermath of the
2005 democratic crisis opened by the rejection of the Constitutional
Treaty in France and the Netherlands and the subsequent rejection of
the redrafted Treaty in Ireland in 2008. The aim of this policy response
was multifold and for the purpose of this book, it is worth reminding here
the priority to developing a citizen-centered approach to policy-making, by
enhancing the relationship with civil society organizations. The impact of
these objectives is therefore evaluated through a number of semi-struc-
tured interviews. The results of the analysis shed light on the complexity
of the dynamics existing in Brussels and the challenges to establish active
citizenship as a practice.

The Rude Awakening: Stimulating Practices of Civic

and Political Engagement

During the interviews with policy-makers of the European Commission,

core dimensions driving the discussion focused on the policy aims and
policy means followed in developing a citizens’ centered approach but
also in enhancing the relationship with civil society actors. Discursively
Institutional Responses to the Democratic Crisis 83

it emerges quite clearly a remark on the social and political needs

expressed by EU officials in promoting dialogue and empowerment
between different key actors. An important issue that is discussed per-
tains the stimulation of pre-political forms of civic engagement both at
the individual and collective level. A core result of the fieldwork is the
priority given by the Commission to the promotion of forms of knowl-
edge and engagement regarding EU issues. These lay at the background
of facilitating the transition to active forms of political and civic parti-
cipation in EU affairs. The lack of engagement toward the EU is
considered to be the expression of the alarming, and persisting –
according to the European Commission – distance existing between
the European project and citizens. The promotion of a public policy
on public communication is therefore the basic policy instrument put in
place in order to fill this gap.
The context faced by the European Commission in the aftermath of
the 2005 crisis is well described in the following extract taken from an
interview with a representative of such institution:

It was a rude awakening for all of us just a few months later with the No in
France and the Netherlands. The reason why Europe decided to go for a
Plan D . . . well, those against the Constitution at the time they said well, it
doesn’t really matter what people say because the Commission, the
Brussels’ guys, they always has a Plan B. Well, I can tell you that that
was not definitely the case. It was absolutely taboo to speak about the
Constitution soon after the referendum in 2005. But then, all this
discussion about a Plan B, but there was not a Plan B but there was a
need for a Plan D. The referendum results showed clearly the wide gap
between the political elites and the citizens so, time for democracy,
dialogue and debate. (Interview n. 1, European Commission)

Criticism toward this approach has been widespread across European

scholars. In so far it clearly implies the institutional level taking the lead
to instruct citizens about the European project. In this term, the
European Commission keeps its leading role in injecting those con-
structivist principles of identity building that I discussed in Chapter 2.
In other words, it stimulates a process of top-down Europeanization
84 5 Active Citizenship: Policy Developments at the EU Level

with the scope of promoting the practice of active citizenship with a

focus on EU matters.
The rude awakening referred to by the interviewee is then describing
the confusion emerging after the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty
in France and the Netherlands. A state of confusion consisting in the
need – for the European Commission – to find an immediate policy
response to the democratic crisis. The awakening, according to the
position of the European Commission, concerns first and foremost,
the consciousness that ‘Europe’ as a project and as an idea has not
been well explained to citizens, causing therefore a misperception of its
aims and also achievements. The same interviewee reiterates the neces-
sity to ‘Explain what Europe is about’ in the following passage:

We had to think about what we need, because before that we came up

with an in house action plan to put our house in order . . . so to make a
long story short, from the start we wanted a long term planning – the Plan
D 13 concrete actions – to engage people more. So Plan D was not a one-
off, the crisis shouldn’t come back again. What we planned was a long
term of plan of actions with one aim, to explain what Europe is about.
(Interview n. 1, European Commission)

This passage talks directly to the necessity, by the Commission, to

stimulate an important and essential component of civic and political
engagement, which is the understanding of how civic and political institu-
tions operate. The stimulation of pre-political dimensions of civic and
political participation through knowledge and awareness-building mea-
sures finds however a big challenge, that is making citizens interested in a
project that – according to the evidence collected by the Commission – is
complex because of its technicalities. The extract below shows the sig-
nificance of this consideration in the planning of policy responses to the
crisis, highlighting precisely the point taken forward by the Commission
in its approach to the stimulation of civic and political engagement:

It’s the political substance of the EU that needs to be communicated, not

the technicalities, that is our big change in approach, a change in mind.
Political substance is much more interesting. If you take for example the
Institutional Responses to the Democratic Crisis 85

Constitutional Treaty, are we correct to asking people in putting that

much demand on them to understand the whole Constitution? That is
technical. It might be controversial to say that but I believe we need to
communicate better other things about the EU. (Interview n. 5, European

Following this strategy the European Commission puts forward a process

of ‘awareness building’ supported by the enhancement of public commu-
nication structures. The effort is to promote and develop a model of
bidirectional public relations (Bee 2010) that allows the continuous
exchange of feedback between institutions – on the one side – and citizens
and the civil society – on the other. This is a particular important issue to
note. This effort is to be contextualized in respect to the European reform
of governance of 2001 and the injection of principles of transparency,
openness, accessibility, or in other words, the opening of public policy
processes, with the aim of making them less technocratic.
The underlying rationale for enhancing active citizenship through
public communication is a central issue that has been explored further
during the interviews. In a nutshell, the key question, that is unpacked
and that is addressed below concerns whether the European
Commission has followed a pattern that considers the existence of a
mere deficit of communication – hence equating the democratic deficit
with a communication deficit – or, more broadly, has been addressing
also social and political dimensions along the period of reflection conse-
quent to the launch of Plan D (CEC 2015a), widening up considera-
tions – and solutions – regarding its deficiencies in respect to
accountability and legitimacy.

Deficit of Communication or Deficit of Democracy?

In the view of the Commission, public communication serves the need

to provide stimulus to engage citizens with European political processes,
and at the same time to activate forms of participation from bottom-up
levels. This promotion of active citizenship as a practice is seen as a central
tool to develop in order to enlarge the democratic basis of the European
86 5 Active Citizenship: Policy Developments at the EU Level

project. As part of this, during the interviews, it has been important to

discuss different issues concerning the importance of public communi-
cation and the overall approach to this matter followed by the European
Commission. Hence, the following extract reiterates again the strategic
effort of the European Commission, to use public communication as a
leverage to stimulate processes of cognition and knowledge (such as for
instance showing an interest toward a civic or political matter, being
aware of certain processes, holding an opinion toward something) that in
my scheme I classified as civic and political engagement:

Communication is not one thing but many things. Before communication

we need to think about the right to know. If you don’t have the right to
know, how can you formulate an opinion? So even before we discuss
communication, that’s the second or even third step, before that we have
the right of information with the corresponding duty for institutions to
make information available. Then we are talking about openness, transpar-
ency, active dissemination, citizens’ summaries and all that . . . people should
know what we are doing, they have a right to know, we have a correspond-
ing duty to give them that information so they can form an opinion, and
take a stand and try to make us go in another direction perhaps. So, it is a
tool for democracy. (Interview n. 4, European Commission)

This extract therefore shows us that in the effort of activating participatory

behaviors, the overall strategic aim of the Commission is to equate the
democratic deficit with an information and communication deficit.
It is important to note, in light of the results that will be presented in
Chapter 6, the priority given by the European Commission to the
development of dialogic dimensions of participation with the civil
society. The model of participatory democracy that is promoted is
based on the enhancement of participatory means that would allow an
exchange of information between different actors:

Much of decision-making has moved from national to European level, but

little of the debate has moved with it. Media is predominantly nationally
focused, discussions and debate are nationally focused. We want to drag
up the discussion and debate with the decision making to the European
level. If we do so we need to have a European discussion. We have this
Institutional Responses to the Democratic Crisis 87

duty to hand out the information and then to listen and to act on it, to
make it known, to make it seen. I don’t mean that we should just do what
the public opinion want, we can also say no, but we have to explain it. It’s
a question of explaining better democracy, listening better.
Communication . . . is it to reach consensus or is it to make people more
enlightened about EU affairs or what else? I think it is all of that, but first
of all it should start even before the communication is there and that is the
right of information and the duty for us to be open about things and be
available, but first of all there is dialogue. But long gone is the time of just
information. What we want is a dialogue. (Interview n. 7, European

Besides of this, in evaluating the achievements of the Plan D, interviewees

of the European Commission assess the means of participatory and
deliberative democracy that have been promoted in the member states.
This evaluation follows two intertwined patterns. The first looks at the
achievements reached thanks to the development of online communica-
tion tools, whereas the second is focused on the implementation of
modalities of engagement on the ground. In regard to the former, in
assessing the impact of the Plan D through online communication, one
representative of the Commission states that:

Plan D made people think, made people act. The debate Europe website,
the discussion forum, everybody said at the beginning that no one would
have been interested but it has had 10000 comments and it has shown
that the Commission is willing to listen, that we are willing to listen. This
shows that we have a new way of dealing with things. (Interview n. 8,
European Commission)

This self-assessment draws on the positive impact of online communica-

tion. However, this positive evaluation conflicts with research recently
conducted on this matter (Michaloudou 2010), that actually puts empha-
sis on the limitations and ambiguities inherent to the EU’s approach to
online public communication. On another level, during the interviews,
part of the discussion focused on the evaluation of the impact of various
activities inherent to the Plan D implemented on the ground, such as
roundtables, workshops, and seminars, between others. These are based
88 5 Active Citizenship: Policy Developments at the EU Level

on dialogic exchanges and consultations between various representatives of

the institutions and the public. The underlining goal of these kinds of
activities is not only to promote the exercise of participatory democracy
but also to showcase a proper European model of public policy, via
communication policy. This is an issue that is well described, for example,
in the following extract, where the interviewee directly celebrates the best
practices – in terms of democracy promotion – developed through the
Plan D, by claiming that these experiences represent a success story, that
have been replicated in different contexts throughout Europe:

It’s not the Commission who should invent things and do things but we
should act as a trigger and facilitator and show, by example, what can be
done in terms of outreach, what kind of meetings can be done, how you
organize them, why you would do them, etc. The Plan D was actually a
tool box for democracy and we have seen a lot of success in many different
ways, one of them being that we found out that many regions and cities
and Member States . . . I mean they found an excuse for doing something.
So for example when we come to citizens consultations, we launched,
financed and triggered the whole thing, but what we have seen in some
Member States . . . they have done it themselves . . . they found this hook
to hang it on, they needed an excuse to run something and, then you can
always say . . . well the Commission has tried this and it has worked so we
can try it by ourselves. This happened completely without our involve-
ment and that is success in itself because we have shown by example what
can be done and it has been picked up not necessarily for European affairs
but as a general tool for outreach and engagement and democracy.
(Interview n. 4, European Commission)

It is important to note here however that the establishment of proper public

policies based on participatory instruments has been a common practice since
years in many different European countries. The promotion of models of
bidirectionality in public administration and the enhancement of civic and
political engagement through public policy are well-established practices at
the local levels in different contexts (i.e. Bee 2010). This has not been in most
cases the result of the Europeanization process, but an outcome of different
domestic internal processes that have been accompanied by public policy
reforms implemented because of different social and political needs.
Institutional Responses to the Democratic Crisis 89

Empowering Civil Society in Policy-Making Through

Structured Dialogue

In respect to the focus of this book, it is important to note that these

principles, enhancing democracy by communication, and gaining legiti-
macy through dialogue, are the central drivers of the strategy toward the
civil society. Widely remarked, in the political context subsequent to the
democratic crisis, is the political priority to enhance formal instruments
to cooperate with NGOs, at the supranational, national, and local levels.
The issue of input legitimacy emerges then rather clearly in the dis-
courses elaborated by the representatives of the European Commission.
Good outcomes, on this regard, are the ones developed thanks to
participation, via dialogic means. The following extract remarks the
rationale of the approach followed by the Commission, which is to
‘obtain good policies’ through structured dialogue. This highlights
therefore the need to ensure the effectiveness of the outputs in the policy
process, through the enhancement of input legitimacy:

The importance with communication is that if we listen to what civic

society actors think, what are their reasons, we will get better policies.
Without preparing the ground, consulting, having a dialogue it wouldn’t
be good policies. We need a structured dialogue with them. (Interview
n. 2, European Commission)

This is a political priority that is also contextual to the drafting of art 11

of the Lisbon Treaty, as I outlined in Chapter 2. It clearly talks to the
necessity of establishing working relationships with civil society actors.
Hereby, the concept of empowerment comes forward as a key component
that can actually guarantee the transformation of those components of
active citizenship that in Chapter 4 I defined as pre-political. These can
result, through the use of instruments of empowerment, in the assump-
tion of participatory behaviors, either of a civic or political nature:

We need to empower civil society organizations, make them more aware,

that we are willing to listen, to cooperate. And for this we need
90 5 Active Citizenship: Policy Developments at the EU Level

empowerment. Also at the local level. Also in the Member States. They are
our critical voice. (Interview n. 5, European Commission)

Two important dimensions emerge from this extract. The first concerns
the implementation of principles of empowerment of the civil society,
that is promoted through the structured dialogue. The second has to do
with the challenge to stimulate the involvement of organizations at
different levels of the European system of governance, following a pattern
of top-down Europeanization. Both these dimensions are extremely
important. As I discuss below, they radically influence the approach
followed by the Commission during the subsequent financial and migra-
tion crises, but at the same time – as I argue in Chapter 6 – they are by
consequence contentious issues for civil society organizations.
The priority to enhance the bases for the promotion of structured
dialogue, but also to institutionalize its practice in policy-making, is well
described in the following two extracts:

( . . . ) dialogue is a structured relationship between public institutions and

organized civil society. Now, ok, we know that civil society is more than
organizations but that’s what I am saying, I think it’s not the only thing in
terms of participatory democracy, but it is certainly one field that we want
to promote. So that’s what I want to say, structured dialogue is the
relationship, partnership, between institutions and organized civil society,
in terms of organizations. (Interview n. 8, European Commission)
Structured dialogue is a must, we cannot have a functioning system with-
out discussing with the civil actors, with the civil society. It’s a counter-
balance, it provides intelligence, analysis, points of view of citizens. It is
essential for decision-making, so clearly, we need to have a civil dialogue.
What is interesting is that now civil dialogue is institutionalized normally,
so it is a matter of what to put inside it, how to make it work. How do you
make sure that is it transparent, inclusive? How do we make sure that is
not fake? We need to make sure that we talk to the people. (Interview n. 9,
European Commission)

These principles, that remark the importance of structured dialogue as

an important tool for democracy, are focusing on the usage of such
Active Citizenship as a Practice . . . 91

instrument as an operational mean to create and institutionalize a work-

ing relationship between institutions and civil society actors. Yet, as I
will discuss extensively in Chapter 6, civil society activists, even if
welcoming this approach by the European Commission, raise a number
of critical issues concerning its limited impact in determining the policy
agenda, pointing at a number of existing shortcomings inherent to this

Active Citizenship as a Practice: Challenges

Across the Financial and Migration Crises
This second part of this chapter provides an overview of the main
European policy priorities – emerging during the financial and migra-
tion crises – in respect to active citizenship for traditionally marginalized
groups. In particular, according to the three subgroups that have been
selected for the analysis – young people, women, and migrants and
minorities – the aim is to map the processes followed by the European
Commission in order to activate those mechanisms of civic and political
engagement promoted during the democratic crisis, and to favor the
emergence of participatory behaviors in policy-making with the aim to
enlarge the bases of civic and political participation.

Obstacles to Civic and Political Participation

As I discussed previously, one of the main priorities of the European

Commission, in the aftermath of the democratic crisis was to develop
the awareness of the European project through key policy actions aiming
at stimulating first and foremost engagement in political and civic
processes at the EU level. The scope of the analysis is then to look at
how the European Commission produced a transformative impact in
practices of active citizenship through a number of measures aimed at
stimulating participatory behaviors. By looking at specific policy pro-
grams targeting disadvantaged groups, the priority to transform engage-
ment into full participation in policy-making results quite clear.
92 5 Active Citizenship: Policy Developments at the EU Level

With varying degrees, this policy need – promoting civic and political
participation – encounters, however, major challenges that need to be
accounted for. In the first instance, it can be argued that the European
approach to active citizenship is not built along a ‘one size fits all’
strategy but it is instead tailored and differentiated according to various
social groups. This reflects, in my view, variable social problems that
distinctively affect young people, women, migrants and minorities. A
second issue, consequent from this, concerns the dimension of institu-
tionalization of practices of active citizenship, that is radically different
according to each one of the social groups under consideration.
Additionally, the EU policy action considers dimensions of intersection-
ality (Lombardo and Rolandsen 2012; Kantola and Nousiainen 2009)
for these social groups, without however accounting for a specific
approach to this issue. A third and important point, is relative to the
fit with the different political priorities established as part of Europe
2020, the mainstream and overly ambitious social policy program
launched by the European Union after the end of the Lisbon 2000
Civic and political participation of youth has been a priority for the
EU since at least the publication of the White Paper on Youth in 2001
(CEC 2001d), that was produced and elaborated through a participatory
process in partnership with different youth organizations. This experi-
ence of deliberation has put the participation of young people at the core
of policy-making. We can find further evidence of this in the aftermath
of the European democratic crisis:

Youth participation in democratic institutions and in a continuous dialogue

with policy makers is essential to the sound functioning of our democracies
and the sustainability of policies which impact on young people’s lives. The
Commission recently called on Member States to continue their efforts to
increase youth participation and formulate coherent information strategies
for young people. The Commission also launched a genuine dialogue with
young people, structured from the local through to the European level
which needs to be fully implemented. The European Youth Summit ‘Your
Europe’ held in Rome in March 2007, the European Youth Week and
regular Presidency Youth events are positive steps toward such a structured
Active Citizenship as a Practice . . . 93

dialogue with young people. Involvement in cultural activities can also

enable young people to express their creative energy and contribute to
fostering active citizenship. (CEC 2007b: 9)

The structured dialogue is therefore the policy instrument designed in

order to make the interaction between youth organizations and policy-
makers workable. The more recent developments in this area are fully
coherent with these principles. This centrality of the structured dialogue
has recently been noted in the 2015 EU Youth Report, where it is seen as
the core instrument to be enforced furthermore in respect to EU Youth
Cooperation, by making it more inclusive. At the same time, it is worth
to note the concern regarding the actual reach of weaker groups of young
people that have not been fully included in current policy actions:

The Structured Dialogue has evolved since 2013 and is better anchored in
the youth policy agenda. The number of participants has more than
doubled and some 40 000 young people responded in the last cycle,
many of them on behalf of larger groups. Also, national dialogue processes
are taking inspiration and beginning to emerge. The Structured Dialogue
has yet to fulfill its full potential: It still fails to reach a wider group of
young people with fewer opportunities and a weaker political voice. (CEC
2016h: 14)

As a consequence of this, a specific instrument developed in order to

promote civic participation, and therefore key for encouraging the
activation of participatory behaviors by young people, are the so-called
Youth Initiatives.

( . . . ) through transnational Youth Initiatives, young people have the

opportunity to see more clearly what European citizenship is, and to
become active in civic, social and political fields. (CEC 2012a: 1)

Besides of this, the EU through key programs, such as for instance Youth
in Action, has favored the implementation of projects aiming at stimu-
lating political participation and a direct experience of democracy where
young people can actually exercise active citizenship (CEC 2006b).
94 5 Active Citizenship: Policy Developments at the EU Level

A valuable example is found in the so-called Youth Democracy Projects

that ‘aim at boosting young people’s involvement in the democratic
process at local, regional and European level’ (CEC 2012b: 1). The value
of this set of initiatives – that are taking place in various parts of Europe
through direct sponsoring and financing of projects – stands in the
stimulation of active citizenship as a practice that combines principles
of civic and political participation that are both traditional – through for
example simulations that take place in the reproduction of discussions in
youth parliaments – or nontraditional – such as for example by promot-
ing simulations of processes of deliberation on specific policy issues.
The setting of these programs is coherent with the core principles
outlined above and that emerged in the policy reflection that took
place at the institutional levels across the democratic crisis. They are
mostly focused on the empowerment of specific target groups, since
they aim at furnishing first-hand experiences of political participa-
tion, showcasing examples of how representative and participatory
democracy works.
From the above, we see that young people are considered a privileged
target for the process of European democratization. It is important to
note that the approach to civic and political participation is however not
fully inclusive, with specific categories of social actors struggling to make
their voices recognized and heard in EU governance. Taking the sub-
group of women, for example, it emerges quite clearly the vision of a
policy reflection answering to needs and priorities that are completely
different in respect to the subgroup of young people. First and foremost,
institutional programs are focused on the need to guarantee equality
between men and women, putting forward the priority to establish fair
bases for participation. A number of policy reports and strategic docu-
ments aiming at tackling this issue have been published in the last years.
These are consequent to the publication of mainstream work-programs,
such has the Roadmap for Gender Equality 2006–2010 (CEC 2006c), the
Strategy for equality between women and men 2010–2015 (CEC 2010a),
and the recent Strategic engagement for Gender Equality 2016–2019 (CEC
The Roadmap, in seeking to promote a broad-based approach to
equality that moves beyond formal rights, directly deals with the issue
Active Citizenship as a Practice . . . 95

of disparities existing in decision-making, noticing therefore a lack of a

favorable environment for the effective exercise of active citizenship:

Women’s persistent under-representation in political decision-making is a

democratic deficit. Women’s active citizenship and participation in poli-
tics and in senior management public administration at all levels (local,
regional, national, European) should be further promoted. The availabil-
ity of EU-comparable and reliable data remains a priority. (CEC 2006c: 6)

In this document enhancing women’s voice in decision-making is part of

the wider drive by the EU to improve democratic governance and thus
needs to be seen in the context of current debates about improving the
links between the EU and its citizens. This has recently been reaffirmed
in the Strategy for equality between women and men 2010–2015, where it
is stated that:

In most Member States, women continue to be under-represented in

decision-making processes and positions, in particular at the highest levels,
despite the fact that they make up nearly half the workforce and more
than half of new university graduates in the EU. (CEC 2010a: 7)

Ensuring participation in policy-making is considered by the European

Commission as central in order to enhance the process of democratiza-
tion. Safeguarding the right to participate is considered to be a funda-
mental right that frames the European discourse on gender policy and it
is key in terms of democratic performance. However, as remarked else-
where (Bee and Guerrina 2015), the strategy of the European
Commission seems to fall short on measures aimed at guaranteeing the
full participation of women in the public sphere. It is worth noting that
this problematic has been acknowledged further by the Commission in
the recent Strategic engagement for Gender Equality 2016–2019, where it
is stated that:

Worldwide, women’s fundamental rights continue to be violated and they

face discrimination in access to education, work, social protection, inheri-
tance, economic assets, productive resources and participation in decision-
96 5 Active Citizenship: Policy Developments at the EU Level

making and society at large. Women spend two to ten times more time on
unpaid work than men, which is one of the main obstacles to economic
and political empowerment. (CEC 2015e: 8)

While in the case of youth it is quite evident that a set of institutiona-

lized instruments for participation are in the making, in the case of
women we can identify the struggle to guarantee full participation in
formal processes of decision-making, with the clear identification of
various obstacles – as it will be discussed again below – that are hinder-
ing the exercise of active citizenship. Even though the full development
of participation in decision-making is considered a priority, what is
peculiar to note, in the current development, is the absence of recogni-
tion of mechanisms that can institutionalize the practice of active citizen-
ship for women. The reference to economic and political empowerment
is rather meaningful in this sense, in so far it looks at the various
conditions that hinder equality and the full inclusion in different spheres
of social and political life. The lack of political participation, and the
absence of concrete instruments allowing its exercise, is then dramati-
cally reproducing forms of discrimination based on gender.
On the same line, it is necessary to explore further the persistent difficulty
to engage more broadly with interest groups that represent women rights.
Even if the priority to shape a direct relationship with civil society actors has
been widely remarked, for example, in the Mid-term progress report on the
roadmap for equality between women and men (CEC 2008b: 9), the lack of
development of formal initiatives such the structured dialogue between
institutions and NGOs is rather important to point out. This raises a
number of issues regarding the governance of gender policy at the EU
level, which, from my point of view, is still not fully inclusive or based on
participatory means. The recent developments in the policy are remarking,
on paper, the core principles and priorities to establish close cooperation at
all levels, civil society included, by enhancing the structured dialogue. Yet,
the approach to this matter is rather elusive and not accounting for the actual
measures to make this a proper instrument of participation:

Close cooperation with institutions and stakeholders active in the field of

gender equality (Member States, the European Parliament, the European
Active Citizenship as a Practice . . . 97

External Action Service, social partners, civil society organizations, equal-

ity bodies, international organizations and EU agencies) will be continued.
This will take many forms, from bilateral and multilateral exchanges to
structured dialogues. (CEC 2015e: 20)

Similar considerations can be drawn for another specific group of

interest for my analysis, which are minorities and migrants. Here, the
issue of discrimination is pivotal, being this the key factor undermining
the full participation in policy processes. Migrants and minorities are
mirrored as a weak social group that do not play a key role in the EU’s
policy-making, because of the scarce possibilities to engage, interact,
exchange practices and have an impact. This is a particular important
issue to note, on which further information will be provided while
addressing the issue of empowerment of minority groups and migrants
in respect to political communities. From a historical point of view, it is
worth underlining that drawing on the wide range of policies, EU
legislation takes a broad approach to the issue of migrants and mino-
rities and much of the policy discourse is to be found in the antidis-
crimination law. It is worth mentioning the great emphasis that is given
to ensuring the full development of policies enhancing citizenship,
monitoring and promoting respect for fundamental rights, and shaping
of integration policies. More recently, as a consequence of the financial
and migration crises, a number of policy documents have been pro-
duced in order to reflect about viable policy solutions. The implemen-
tation of key programs, such as the European Agenda for the Integration
of Third-Country Nationals (CEC 2011a) and the European Agenda for
Migration (CEC 2015a) is followed by a coordinated approach with
civil society organizations. This has the scope to create the basis for
guaranteeing social integration and inclusion on different levels and in
different spheres (social, cultural, political).
The Agenda for Integration follows these principles, with the
general aim to improve the participation of migrants in the society
where they live:

It is clear that integration policies should create favorable conditions for

migrants’ economic, social, cultural and political participation to realize the
98 5 Active Citizenship: Policy Developments at the EU Level

potential of migration. Effective solutions to integration challenges must be

found in each national and local context but as these challenges are common
to many Member States, experiences could be shared. (CEC 2011a: 3)

The strategy of the European Commission, however, is limited by the

nature of development of social policy and the soft law mechanisms that
accompany its implementation in the policy process. Most measures are
based on a set of scrutinizing processes upon the member states, consisting
these of monitoring, benchmarking, and exchanging of good practices. As
part of the agenda, one of the priorities is to enhance participatory bases as
a benchmark for guaranteeing full integration. In this respect, active
citizenship is one of the four core indicators – besides of employment,
education, and social inclusion – that are used in order to measure the
integration of minorities and migrants, especially at the local levels.
The Agenda on Migration, that can be considered as a policy response
to the recent emergency situation, puts forwards a number of recom-
mendations, stressing the importance of putting in place ‘effective
integration policies’ (CEC 2015a: 16) and remarking the importance
to foster cooperation with civil society actors in this endeavor. However,
this leads into a number of negative reactions by the organized civil
society. As I will argue again later when looking at the evaluations drawn
by civil society actors at the EU level and in the three countries, the
policy interventions designed as part of this program are not considered
sufficient. At the same time it paves the way for the emergence of a
number of social movements whose activities and mobilizations can be
considered as a meaningful example of active citizenship as a demand.

Empowerment and Integration

A specific emphasis on the instruments that can lead into the assumption
of participatory behaviors – and consequently to gain ownership of policy
processes – is linked to the issue of empowerment and its development in
EU policy discourses. As I argued previously, the European Commission
has given great emphasis to stimulating active civic and political engage-
ment of civil society in public policy processes. It is therefore worth to
Active Citizenship as a Practice . . . 99

look at how this top priority has impacted upon disadvantaged groups. In
line with what I discussed in the previous paragraph, where I argued that
different instruments for participation have been implemented with a
varying impact upon the three groups, the issue of empowerment is rather
controversial and contested, assuming different meanings and connota-
tions. Especially when it comes to women and migrants and minorities,
this is associated with a wide set of measures aiming at guaranteeing social
and economic inclusion and integration, rather than meaning simply
empowerment for participation. This shows the difficulty but also the
challenge to put in place means for enforcing the full participation of such
social groups in policy processes. When it comes to young people, instead
the shaping of collaborations and interchange between youth organiza-
tions in Europe, the promotion of European cooperation in the youth
field as well as the enhancement of the European Voluntary Service are
seen as cornerstones of the youth programs. These clearly have the
function – coherently with a number of European mobility programs –
to facilitate an exchange of practices, knowledge, and ideas that is pivotal
for enabling social interaction and socialization processes in the wider
European territory. Looking at the development of the policy, it can be
argued that youth policy is based on a dual strategy that includes actions
in two areas: Investing in Youth and Empowering Youth (CEC 2009a: 4).
Importantly, youth empowerment is seen as essential in order for ‘young
people’s access to rights as a means of fostering their autonomy and
participation in democratic life’ (CEC 2016h: 76).
This centrality, has been recently remarked by the Trio Presidency –
Italy, Latvia, and Luxembourg – that, together with the European
Commission and the European Youth Forum, proposed Youth
Empowerment for Political participation as the overall thematic priority
for its 18 months presidency between July 2014 and December 2015. As
part of this, during the recent EU Youth Conference in October 2014,
hosted during the Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU, both the
importance of empowerment as well as the current challenges to make
this become an effective instrument, have been noted:

Genuine youth political participation exists when young people form an

integral part of political decision-making processes at all levels as equal
100 5 Active Citizenship: Policy Developments at the EU Level

stakeholders. As few participatory structures are available at the local level,

that is closest to young people, this does not facilitate their involvement in
bottom-up approaches. (Italian Presidency 2014: 1)

The issue of women empowerment is centrally orienting at the same

time the agenda of the EU on gender policy as well as the EU’s
intervention through external relations. Besides of taking into account
a number of instruments that can actually improve participation of
women in policy processes, the EU’s policy action encompasses a
wider strategy that looks at factors that include economic, social, and
political dimensions. Recently, in the Gender Equality and Women’s
Empowerment. Transforming the Lives of Girls and Women through EU
External Relations 2016–2020 (CEC 2015f: 2–3), it is stressed the fact
that the gender equality framework has been applied unsystematically
across countries and regions, with high levels of discrimination that
women still suffer besides of a number of other social problems. The
ambition of the EU policy is therefore to enforce the empowerment of
women, by facilitating processes that can help them gain ownership of
the economic and democratic dimensions of their life:

Women’s empowerment is a question of democracy and good governance.

Strengthening women’s voice and participation at all levels of society can
have significant positive impacts. It can facilitate peace, reconstruction
and state building processes. (CEC 2015f: 4)

This is particularly important with the intensification of the migration

crisis, where empowerment is made a key priority in respect to the EU’s
external action and framed under the umbrella of the 2030 UN sustain-
able development goals. In occasion of the 2016 International Women’s
Day, a Joint Statement points out that:

The European Union is also committed to taking forward the new 2030
United Nations Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, which
includes a strong commitment to advance gender equality and empower
women and girls around the world. In humanitarian emergencies, includ-
ing the current refugee crises, the European Union strives to ensure that its
Active Citizenship as a Practice . . . 101

humanitarian assistance responds to specific gender needs, in particular

the vulnerabilities of migrant women. We are taking steps to empower
women, to fight for their rights and their equal access to economic
resources, and to address all forms of violence against women and girls,
especially trafficking, female genital mutilation and early or forced mar-
riage. Women, as key agents and drivers of sustainable development and
sustainable peace, have a crucial role to play in a world so hard hit by
conflict and inequality. (CEC 2016i: 1)

It is rather important to note here that this is a key priority as well in the
European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals (CEC
2011a). Although however not directly referring to different instruments
for empowerment, the agenda gives space to the issue of participation
stating that:

Integration is a process that starts on the ground and integration policies

should be developed with a genuine ‘bottom-up’ approach, close to the
local level. Such policies include actions such as support for language
learning, introductory measures, access to employment, education and
vocational training and the fight against discrimination, which all aim at
increasing migrants’ participation in society. (CEC 2011a: 4)

The integration of migrants is part of the European Agenda on

Migration (CEC 2015a), that puts in place the Asylum Migration and
Integration Fund. This is key for sponsoring initiatives to improve
language and professional skills, increase access to services, stimulate
access to the labor market, inclusive education, foster intercultural
exchanges, and promote awareness campaigns targeting both host com-
munities and migrants. The strategy is mostly aimed at providing an
immediate response, in terms of intervention, that targets both migrants
and host communities. It also calls upon a shared responsibility by
various policy actors for taking action for favoring integration:

Our migration policy will succeed if underpinned by effective integration

policies. Although the competence lies primarily with Member States, the
European Union can support actions by national governments, local
102 5 Active Citizenship: Policy Developments at the EU Level

authorities and civil society engaged in the complex and long term process
of fostering integration and mutual trust. (CEC 2015a: 16)

Social Problems and Policy Intervention in the Financial

and Migration Crises

Youth policies, gender policy, integration policies have been framed in

light of recent developments produced as policy responses in order to
face the financial and the migration crises. As I argued before, of
importance is the fight against discrimination by implementing mea-
sures enhancing social inclusion and solidarity (CEC 2008c, 2009a,
2009b, 2010a, 2010b, 2010c). Recurrent narratives in the documents
analyzed – and concerning young people – outline the need to promote
an inclusive approach to youth policy that is meant to target especially
groups in disadvantaged positions, such as young people belonging to
minority groups, refugees as well as the key target group of women.
When looking at youth policy, core aims are to:

( . . . ) develop a sense of engagement in public and community life, and to

tackle issues of importance to them, ranging from the rights of young
refugees and migrants to youth unemployment and the functioning of the
EU. (CEC 2012b: 1)

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, good part of the discussion at the
institutional level is focused on the mechanisms to provide social protec-
tion for young people against emerging social problem, such as the
alarming growth of unemployment. The policy responses to this are
contextual to the instruments designed as part of Europe 2020 and more
specifically part of the Youth on the Move flagship initiative. The 2012
EU Youth Report (CEC 2012b) remarks the centrality of this umbrella
program in the context of the financial crisis:

Europe is undergoing a crisis that has hit young Europeans with unpre-
cedented levels of unemployment and the risk of social exclusion and
Active Citizenship as a Practice . . . 103

poverty. Europe 2020, the EU strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive
growth, sets the framework for a coordinated European response in order
to emerge stronger from the crisis and to improve the long-term prosperity
of Europe’s citizens ( . . . ). The Commission is also endeavoring to lift
obstacles that EU citizens, including the youth, encounter when invoking
their rights as EU citizens, notably their right to free movement within the
EU, including for volunteering, study or work. (CEC 2012c: 9–10)

It is rather important to note the emphasis given to the necessity of

guaranteeing the full inclusion of particularly vulnerable target groups,
such as young people at risk of marginalization and a migrant background,
including newly arrived immigrants and young refugees (CEC 2015h: 15).
Besides of this, of relevance is that the approach to gender main-
streaming taken by the European Commission with the 2016–2019
working plan accounts for the recent developments in the EU, in
relation to the migration and financial crises:

Action over the past five years to address gender inequalities needs more time
to secure the necessary changes and support in the form of new measures in
these areas. At the same time, recent socio-economic changes resulting from
the economic crisis, the rapid spread of digital technology and immigration
and integration impact on gender equality. (CEC 2015e: 6)

This consideration draws upon the negative impact of the financial crisis, in
implementing the 2010–2015 working plan. This point has been noted,
between others, in the Evaluation of The Strengths And Weaknesses Of The
Strategy For Equality Between Women And Men 2010–2015 that directly
points at ‘the dramatic financial and economic crisis and the austerity
measures that have negatively affected gender equality developments’
(CEC 2015g: 18) and therefore causing the fact that gender equality in
the EU is considered an ‘unfinished business.’ At the same time, in a context
where there is a clear decrease of attention toward gender equality because of
the financial crisis, the Evaluation Report notes that ‘more attention should
be paid to evaluating and tackling the gendered effects of the economic crisis
and integration of gender perspective in the design and the implementation
of the responses to the crisis’ (CEC 2015g: 42).
104 5 Active Citizenship: Policy Developments at the EU Level

The urgency to tackle these priority areas has intensified as a conse-

quence of the migration crisis, where the necessity to guarantee first-
hand support and long-term commitment for integration of migrants is
key. As part of the evaluation reports produced by the European
Commission it is important to note foremost the effective difficulties
in implementing the plan for action and the objectives of the agenda on
migration. Between the overarching elements of the agenda, one of the
core objectives is to develop a coordinated effort between different actors
in facing the crisis. In particular, the agenda remarks that:

Our migration policy will succeed if underpinned by effective integration

policies. Although the competence lies primarily with Member States, the
European Union can support actions by national governments, local
authorities and civil society engaged in the complex and long term process
of fostering integration and mutual trust. (CEC 2015a: 16)

It is important to argue that the migration crisis dramatically reflects a

crisis in the principles of social solidarity, enhancing, between others,
fractures between the EU and member states and among member states.
As I will argue in the following chapters, the tensions that are being
created in terms of institutional responsiveness to such crisis, are a
specific area of reflection for civil society organizations. Criticism is
pointed at the inefficiency of the EU’s intervention while at the same
time organizations produce a number of specific recommendations and
counterdiscourses elaborating different solutions to overcome the crisis.

The chapter sheds light on the European Commission’s reflexivity upon
active citizenship in the context of the democratic crisis. Besides it looks at
the policy development and main priorities across the financial and
migration crises. Core instruments, such as those of empowerment and
structured dialogue, have the aim to stimulate the participation of various
social groups. It can however be argued that there is an evident struggle –
on part of the European Commission – to promote an homogeneous
Conclusion 105

strategy that guarantees the full participation and inclusion in policy-

making at the EU level. From the narratives concerning civic and political
participation expressed in different policy programs, I argue that in the
European Commission’s rhetoric young people are fully empowered
actors in EU policy-making– women are struggling to make their voice
recognized and, finally, migrants and minorities are a social group widely
excluded from discourses regarding processes of participation and
deliberation. This becomes even more dramatic with the intensification
of the financial and the migration crises, that brings about a number of
social problems that directly affect disadvantaged groups. It also reflects
the struggle of civil society organizations representing such social groups.
In Chapter 6, I will turn to the difficulties of NGOs to make their voices
heard and recognized at the institutional level.
Engagement and Participation:
Opportunities and Challenges
for the Organized Civil Society
in the EU

This chapter is focused on the main discourses concerning active citizen-
ship emerging at the supranational level, with particular regard to the
organized civil society. The analysis is divided into two parts. At first,
I report results from a fieldwork that consists of 25 semi-structured
interviews with civil society activist of social NGOs conducted in
2008/2009 in Brussels. This part of the analysis is essential in order to
map points of view, values, and challenges in interacting with the
European Institutions in the aftermath of the democratic crisis. Next,
I present the results of an analysis of policy documents produced by
NGOs until up to 2016. The focus here is on the impact of the
promotion of active citizenship practices for organizations representing
disadvantaged groups (young people, women, migrants, and minorities),
along the context of the financial and migration crises. The analysis
reveals a number of contentious issues in regard to the current instru-
ments of participation, their effectiveness as well as the actual values and
policy priorities of the organizations.

© The Author(s) 2017 107

C. Bee, Active Citizenship in Europe, Palgrave Studies in European
Political Sociology, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-45317-4_6
108 6 Engagement and Participation: Opportunities and Challenges . . .

Evaluating the Approach of the European

The interviews with representatives of umbrella organizations have the
scope to evaluate the interaction with the European Commission in the
aftermath of the democratic crisis, as well as to map the actual instru-
ments of participation that are implemented and promoted within that
time context. It is worth to note that the fieldwork outlines a number of
challenges faced by organizations in establishing a working relationship
with the institutional domain. Besides the research unpacks some of the
challenges in providing forms of representation for organizations at the
local and national level. Both these issues emerged during the discussions
with activists of NGOs representing young people, women, migrants
and minorities.

Networking the EU: Governance and Representation

The discussion concerning the emergence of interest groups in Brussels

regarded on the one side the role of umbrella organizations vis-à-vis the
European Institutions and, on the other side, the functions of the
organizations with a focus on their capabilities of acting as representative
bodies of decentralized groups of the civil society. Two critical points are
emerging from the interviews. The first regard the importance attributed
to the EU as an actor for promoting the fostering of networks at the EU
level, by sustaining NGOs through funding. The second concerns the
balance of power existing between organizations active in Brussels and
their capabilities to act as bodies representative of interests emerging at
the decentralized level. The significance of the EU as a supporter of
organizations of interests is well described in the following extract:

The EU for us is a very important actor, because it is a recipient of

ideas, it is the structure that can make the difference, because they are
doing projects, developing ideas, so the recommendation we have we
can share them together. They are also funders, EU money to do
projects is very important for us. To achieve our goals. So it’s very
Evaluating the Approach of the European Commission 109

important to have a relationship with the EU. (Interview n. 9 with

activist of civil society, Brussels)

The EU is considered as a catalyst and supporter of NGO activities.

Hence, this has created the necessity for a wide number of organizations
of interests to emerge and target – through different means – the
European institutions. It prevails therefore the necessity for organiza-
tions to structure themselves at the supranational level in order to
improve their capacities, their power structures and maximize their
impact. While discussing about the prominent emergence of networks
in the EU and in evaluating the reasoning for this promotion by both
the European Commission and the organizations themselves, one acti-
vist noted that:

I mean, organizations realized that alone they have a limited power, so

there is a clear need to work together in order to exchange information
about the situation because they gain time as well knowledge and capacity
through networks, they also represent more people. I mean the EU is
always asking . . . who do you represent? What is your weight? So if you
represent more people, then they are going to listen to you, your point is
taken into consideration because that makes you different. This is why lots
of organizations have decided it was time to organize networks. And
naturally you organize yourself around a theme, around a global
issue . . . you know, they also realized that it was time for them to work
together in order to find their interest. (Interview n. 15 with activist of
civil society, Brussels)

Networks are therefore important for at least two reasons. The first,
described above, is the necessity to increase representative power and by
consequence gain more weight in policy-making. In addition to this, as
described in the abstract below, they are functional in order to minimize
the complexity of European processes. This rises the point of the
importance of holding expertise – for NGOs – that can be essential in
order to communicate better with their members, especially when these
are decentralized. In the following extract, the interviewee describes
quite efficiently the process that led to the development of networks in
110 6 Engagement and Participation: Opportunities and Challenges . . .

Brussels, but also the structural differences existing between formal and
informal networks:

You need capacity and expertise as well to manage this process. It’s so
complex, so difficult. So that’s why you have different functions for an
organization. So, now organizations are much more organized, you need
experts to understand what is going on. So basically, there was an on-
going process, it was a natural thing to come. At some point people started
to understand that it was better to work together, but you have a diversity.
Some are more formal networks, such as the European Youth Forum,
Concord, etc, so you generally have managers, gathering information for
the members, publishing advocacy work, statements, etc, and informal
networks, meaning that people are just gathering together, exchanging
information, working together, publishing a statement, without a formal
structure. So for example we don’t have a legal structure, because we don’t
think it is necessary, maybe one day we will see that is necessary, but now
it is not. (Interview n. 21 with activist of civil society, Brussels)

Critical issues emerge in regard to the functionality of the organizations

in the provision of input legitimacy to public policy processes. This
point is reiterated furthermore, especially with the scope to improve
efficiency of public policy processes in the EU system of governance
through networking and capacity building. In this regard, the strong
emphasis on the promotion of participation by the European
Commission is seen as necessary to satisfy the political need to legitimize
public policies. In the following two extracts, these points are reiterated
further. On the one side, a number of rather critical issues are directed at
questioning the democratic setting of the European Commission itself.
On the other side, there emerges a clear challenge for NGOs, that of
being credible actors, not only in respect to the institutional level but
also vis-à-vis the broader civil society:

I think the European Commission as such is not a democratic body. No

one there is representing anyone, at the end it is a public administration,
this is what it is. When you have so much advocacy and lobby or interest
or civil society . . . they are playing this to have legitimacy because for me
they don’t have it by their own. The Commission itself cannot pretend to
Evaluating the Approach of the European Commission 111

draft a proposal, I mean, by representing what? By representing whom?

They are using those networks, including us, also us we are used in a way,
to ensure legitimacy of European Commission decisions. This is why we
have interest groups. That’s exactly the logic, we need to be representing
to make sure that decisions, what they are preparing, is going in a certain
way and is representing the interest of those who they engage with-
. . . which is for me linked to the historic development of the European
Commission and the EU, which is mostly a technocratic construction. We
take the people we know, and we drive the decisions, it is how it started
and how it continues. From me all this is quite weird. (Interview n. 18
with activist of civil society, Brussels)
( . . . ) they are using the issue of participation because they need the
legitimacy of our sector or platform representing something external to
the EU. They need it for their legitimacy because I think if in a way,
which is unfortunate, civil society might have more credit than the general
opinion and sometimes even of the European parliament, I think for a lot
of people in Europe knowing that there is discussion by the sector that
knows what they talking about, this makes their decision more relevant.
(Interview n. 4 with activist of civil society, Brussels)

The issue of representativity is therefore a central point of reflection for

the organizations themselves. This clearly speaks to their capability to
transfer policy needs and priorities from the subnational and national
levels at the supranational level. In this sense the issue of empowerment
is extremely important for civil society organizations, although a highly
contested one. Because of this, a common issue debated with civil society
activists is regarding the instruments to widen up the basis for the
representation of decentralized organizations of the civil society. A rather
important process in order to face this challenge is the stimulation of
civic and political engagement. Besides, an obstacle is found in the
relevance of EU activities and policies for local organizations:

I think there is a lot on both sides. From our side, there is also a lot of
work at the local level and from the institutions. I mean there is a difficulty
in the civil dialogue if the European agenda items are not relevant for local
organizations. I just wonder how you can reach them. (Interview n. 6 with
activist of civil society, Brussels)
112 6 Engagement and Participation: Opportunities and Challenges . . .

According to this, a certain attention is given to the so-called hard to

reach communities, on which efforts for empowerment should be
devoted. It emerges quite clearly the issue of the membership to
umbrella organizations in Brussels, which is open to all NGOs of a
similar nature, but at the same time highly selective. This is a point that
is well described in the following transcript, which addresses the process
of application to become part of a transnational network for a decen-
tralized organization, together with the standards that need to be

It is difficult to make people involved, there is concern about hard to reach

communities, and this is why it is so complex. If you pay to be part of
these structures ok, if you don’t pay (laughs) you wait for things to
happen. Our membership is open to everybody, we are based in
Brussels, we are working on human rights and democracy, they have to
interact in Brussels on different bases, there are various criteria, we don’t
want to have partisan organizations. We have to work on transversal
issues, we wouldn’t accept for example a political organization. Is it
democratic? Yes, we have an application system, everybody can apply,
and then we vote on the application. Are we are enough representative? It
depends on the process of establishment of processes of transparency in
the civil dialogue toward the organizations that apply. (Interview n. 7 with
activist of civil society, Brussels)

The European Commission’s Strategy for Democracy:

A One Off-Road Show?

During the interviews, a number of critical points emerged in regard to

the evaluation of the European approach toward the promotion of
democracy, dialogue, and debate as part of the Plan D. In particular,
this discussion becomes particularly relevant when seen in conjunction
to the importance of holding a strong relationship with the European
Commission. Secondly, and more important, of relevance is activists’
self-perception of their centrality in respect to the European normative
project, and more specifically their functionality in setting the ground
for the European democracy. On the one side, the analysis shows that
Evaluating the Approach of the European Commission 113

interviewees acknowledge – and somewhat welcome – the change of

approach by the Commission toward the issue of participation, with the
increasing possibilities for organizations to be involved in policy-making

There has definitely been more emphasis on participation in the last

couple of years. There is a big gap between Brussels and people, and
they tried to make all more participatory. The institutions tend to be more
open also toward us after a crisis like that. (Interview n. 24 with activist of
civil society, Brussels)

Under this logic, there is compliance with the European Commission’s

discourse on a number of issues. In particular, it is relevant the focus on
the dimension that – according to both the Commission and NGOs –
undermines the activation of participatory behaviors, and more specifi-
cally the lack of civic and political engagement. The following extract
addresses this point, that – according to the interviewee – is caused by a
lack of interest but also knowledge of the European political project and
its implications. Interestingly, the activist associates this discussion to a
number of crucial issues:

( . . . ) there is a revival of the democracy in the EU, but there is still this big
big problem which is, I mean, if you think about European issues, a lot of
people when you discuss with them about the EU, they don’t even know
what you are talking about, even if they are in Brussels. It means that there
is not a European public opinion. Maybe there is a European feeling but for
sure no public opinion, because there is no European political area,
European public space. Maybe there is a European feeling, but you don’t
need an institution to do that. (Interview n. 14 with activist of civil society,

Hereby a substantial difference in respect to the European Commission

can be noted. Whilst for this institution the lack of knowledge toward
the EU is resulting from civic and political disengagement, activists
identify broader issues, such as the lack of a transnational public sphere,
of a public opinion or of a political union.
114 6 Engagement and Participation: Opportunities and Challenges . . .

On the other side, however, part of the discussion with civil society
activists concerns the salience of the approach promoted by the
Commission. This is linked to an evaluation of the instruments –
particularly the Plan D – put in place in the aftermath of the democratic
crisis. The following extract comments on the self-positioning of an
activist in respect to the European Commission’s approach to promote
democracy through empowerment. The interviewee expresses a clear and
critical view upon the Plan D and the efforts of the European
Commission for promoting democracy. In this case, it appears quite
clear that the measures implemented at the institutional level to increase
civic and political engagement toward the EU are seen as limited. On the
one hand, there is a rejection of the functionality and usage of NGOs for
the promotion of European democracy. On the other hand, activists
seek to find viable solution for the establishment of permanent measures
to establish a working relationship with the institutions. As a result,
there is a specific criticism moved toward the Plan D:

We did not see anything good for us. We are not here to promote the
European integration as such, or the EU. We are here to promote dialogue
between our members and the European institutions, but we are not here
to run the dialogue for the institutions. And, when looking at the different
programs that they have now, there is nothing we are interested in. We are
interested in having our direct relationship with the institutions. We
organize dialogue between our organizations and we give them the oppor-
tunity to relate with the European institutions, but the Plan D to me
seems too much the Commission running out of time and going through
Europe and organizing debates about Europe in and there. Which
is . . . I mean . . . I don’t have anything against it, but it is not our role.
We are building our relationship with institutions, we have a long term
program for this, so we are not jumping on any of this. We decided that
for us this is not interesting. We think we can make a difference and try to
use our privileged contact with them, you know, to make this difference.
So I think it this is something of a relationship that has to be built, and
this is not something that you can do with a one off-road show through
Europe and make some debates, which is also nice but there will not be
very many lasting things. (Interview n. 1 with activist of civil society,
Evaluating the Approach of the European Commission 115

A specific measure envisaged to build a better relationship with institu-

tions is the civil – or structured – dialogue.1 This, as I outlined before, is
also on the top of the agenda of the European Commission, as part of
the strategy for improving governance and participation in public policy
processes. The following extract addresses explicitly the limitations of
this instrument:

Inside the institutions there are structures focused on favoring the dialo-
gue. There are consultative groups, working groups but the problem is
also who is going there? Who is participating? Who is already active, who
has an interest already, but are they really representative? I mean there is a
problem there of representativity. It’s a good thing to have this dialogue of
course, but it does not lead to any decision taking process. So the question
then is if this dialogue has an impact. I mean it’s better than nothing, but
real dialogue is limited to consultations to certain papers or programs. So,
yes there is dialogue, but not in the way that you sit, discuss and decide.
When you go in a meeting you know what is going on, there is dialogue,
but concretely nothing than leads to decisions, decision power. There is a
strange mix there. (Interview n. 22 with activist of civil society, Brussels)

The extract above is important in so far it sheds light on the strengths

and limitations of structured dialogue as an instrument for participation.
In regard to the actual influence on decision-making and instruments of
political participation, the discussion focuses on the formalization of
instruments of structured dialogue and their salience in respect to
lobbying practices as well as the importance that is given to informal
practices of participation.

Influence on Agenda Setting: Means of Participation

Contentious issues for civil society organizations are concerning their

actual possibilities to influence the EU policy agenda through formal
and institutionalized instruments. In this regard quite clear evaluations

The two terms, civil and structured dialogue, were used interchangeably by the interviewees.
116 6 Engagement and Participation: Opportunities and Challenges . . .

of the instruments available for organizations are expressed in the

following extract, that sheds light on the differences existing – according
to the interviewee – between modalities to interact in policy-making,
with a specific focus on the importance given to lobbying mechanisms:

In terms of setting the agenda, civil society organizations don’t really set
the agenda. We are consulted, we can say what we think, but it is not
really setting the agenda. There are also examples where we are able to
influence, not only what they already have on the table but to tell them
what they should put on the table but this is something that is set outside
the structured dialogue, because obviously the structured dialogue that we
have with them . . . I mean we feed them but this does not necessarily
make them move, it is more regarding what is already on the agenda. So,
let’s say, through lobbying campaigns, you build your allies, so we have
pressure from different sides to make them move. This is more agenda
setting, which in our case happens outside of the civil dialogue. (Interview
n. 20 with activist of civil society, Brussels)

The discussion is then revolving around the effectiveness of the instru-

ments put in place in order to guarantee the making of participatory
policies at the EU level. The bottom-up development of practices of
structured dialogue is considered extremely important in order to guar-
antee full participation in policy-making. At the same time, this instru-
ment is seen limited because one-sided, with most activists lamenting the
fact that the interaction on specific policy proposals is mostly based on
the provision of comments or opinions rather that on the shaping of
programs themselves.

I mean I don’t know if they treat the other organizations in the same way
but from the meetings I actually have been to, you get the feeling that it is
really more talking participation process, but they . . . they don’t . . . I
mean . . . I really don’t know if they really want to consult us, and how
much of the consultation they think is really useful for them rather than just
pretending that they are involving all these organizations. It is really difficult
to understand what they want as well, you see that some ideas, ok they want
them and some instead are dismissed . . . but there is no discussion on it. So,
yes, I would like the consultations to be a bit more open, I would like the
Evaluating the Approach of the European Commission 117

institutions to actually want to get input from people and not just to involve
at the last minute and simply have a brief input, so . . . that they can say that
we consulted them. I mean, they should start involving from the beginning.
(Interview n. 4 with activist of civil society, Brussels)

In addition to this, the impact of structured dialogue mechanisms, such

as consultations, seems to be ineffective because NGOs do not intervene
at an early stage of the policy process. In the extract below, the inter-
viewee claims to have the possibility to have a say at an advanced stage,
and more specifically during policy formulation. The impossibility for
the activist to intervene in previous phases, such as decision-making or
agenda setting, undermines his/her possibilities to effectively deliberate
on the policy that is in the making.

( . . . ) but also the problem is about how you consult, when you consult. I
mean you know for example that there are consultations, next week I will go to
one. So I was preparing this consultation yesterday, then I found out that the
Parliament already gave its report. So half of the job is already done and
finished, and then you are consulted on some things that cannot actually be
changed, because it cannot go back to the Parliament. Because it has already
given its comments on one version. So you just wonder what is the point to
have a consultation if it’s happening at the wrong moment. So the consulta-
tion most of the times is just ticking a box, ok you consult the civil society, you
consult the stakeholders. There is surely more representation of civil society,
willingness to include the civil society, but there is still a lot of work to do to
make it work properly. (Interview n. 5 with activist of civil society, Brussels)

The lack of possibilities to have an actual impact through formalized

instruments of participation has to be confronted with a peculiar aspect
of the Bruxellese policy environment, which consists of the importance of
face-to-face and informal exchanges between different policy actors. This
is an issue that came up frequently during the fieldwork and is well
described during a conversation with an activist:

( . . . ) from my perspective the more people you know the better. This is
much related to the reality in Brussels, it is a sort of mini social network
and you should know the people you need to know, and if they will listen
118 6 Engagement and Participation: Opportunities and Challenges . . .

to you, maybe they will leak some documents, and they will ask you
informally an opinion. The informal enhances . . . I mean, for me . . . the
informal consultations are more effective than the formal consultations. I
mean I will go to some consultations next week, on financial instruments,
for example, it’s ok but I will there with over 50 people, to discuss, I mean
it is more effective to have a face to face meeting with them, and say here
we can change this or that, I mean this is working quite well. (Interview n.
18 with activist of civil society, Brussels)

The possibilities of structured dialogue to become a formal instrument

to gain more power in influencing the policy process are therefore highly
contested by civil society activists. It is important to note here two
possible solutions to improve the impact of civil society in EU policy-
making. The first is the enforcement of a system of comanagement of
public policy. In commenting about the possibilities for structured
dialogue to become an effective instrument of participation, thus key
to influence the agenda, an interviewee argues that:

( . . . ) there should be some responsiveness and I think there should be

more of a structured power for the dialogue partners, because what we
have now is dialogue in a way, because we are consulted and sometimes we
can also influence the agenda, but it is not really a partnership, you know,
like this comanagement system that exists and, you know, the
Commission is saying that they want to go with it, but I think this
would go more toward what we call real dialogue or partnership, it is
even more than dialogue. (Interview n. 20 with activist of civil society,

The second solution, interlinked with the need to promote a system

of comanagement of public policy, is the necessity to clearly define
participation and its means in respect to civil dialogue. The practices
followed by the Commission to promote this second instrument are
seen as ambiguous, because they are not integrative of principles
enabling the exercise of active citizenship. Structured – or civil-
dialogue – because of its many shortcomings – is not seen as an
effective deliberative instrument.
Disadvantaged Groups and Demands of Active Citizenship 119

I don’t know why they always talk about civil dialogue and not participa-
tion. Probably because participation means something more than dialo-
gue, I mean, by participation you give inputs and you participate in the
decision-making. I don’t know why they are using so much the word
dialogue, and they are using it for everything. There must something very
political behind it. If you talk about participation it means that you are
integrating people in the decision-making, which is not the case here, we
are talking about taking ideas from different groups and testing ideas,
because that’s it, I mean, all these consultations, that’s how it works. It’s
testing. (Interview n. 1 with activist of civil society, Brussels)

This part of the chapter outlined some limits and controversies that
are emerging in the aftermath of the democratic crisis. The analysis
reveals the struggle to implement participatory instruments that can
guarantee an effective exchange of dialogue between organizations
and institutions, with many shortcomings emerging in regard to the
use of structured dialogue and the approach followed at the institu-
tional level. The second part of this chapter focuses on policy
discourses concerning active citizenship elaborated by umbrella orga-
nizations that are operative at the supranational level and represent-
ing disadvantaged groups.

Disadvantaged Groups and Demands of Active

The analysis on policy documents produced by NGOs reveals clear
differences in respect to the approach promoted by the European
Commission. Especially organizations representing women and migrants
and minorities, elaborate a number of counterdiscourses and put forward
specific demands for active citizenship (see Chapter 4). These consist of the
elaboration of different instruments to overcome the shortcomings of the
policies initiated by the European Commission. In fact while it is arguable
that umbrella organizations act and interact in compliance with the
institutionalized means of participation promoted by the Commission –
that is, through the structured dialogue – at the same time they frame
alternative approaches and elaborate counterstrategies for participation.
120 6 Engagement and Participation: Opportunities and Challenges . . .

The Struggle to Enhance Engagement and Participation

It is important to note that – when looking at the role of youth NGOs

and their involvement in the structured dialogue – it emerges, on the
one side, a full cooperation with the European Commission in order to
make this instrument fully operative but, at the same time, activists
outline a number of contentious issues. In the 2014 document
Structured dialogue from A to Z/toolkit for International Youth NGO’s,
for example, it is pointed out that:

Throughout each step of this process, the European Youth Forum ensured
that the voice of young people and youth organizations were accounted for.
Indeed, the Youth Forum is active in the preparation, running – Member
States – together with the other stakeholders of the consultations as back-
ground for the Youth Conference. Moreover, it also takes part in the joint
discussions political decisions and actions. The European Youth Forum is
committed to improve and further develop the process in order to involve
young people even closer in shaping policies that directly affect them. (YEU
2014: 10)

Even though there is compliance and cooperation in making the instru-

ment operative, a number of issues emerge in regard to the actual usage
of the instrument by organizations. In a previous note, the European
Youth Forum (EYF), for example, produces a specific discourse focused
on the need to increase participation of youth organizations and to
strengthen their participation in the process of decision-making, by
enforcing the figure of youth managers. This is coherent with the
discussion concerning the need to shape processes of comanagement of
public policy that emerges during the interviews and has been suggested
as a possible solution to overcome the deficiencies inherent to the civil

( . . . ) to achieve the highest level of involvement of young people and youth

organizations in decision-making at EU level and learning from our experi-
ences and good practices from the Council of Europe, the Structured
Dialogue should in the future develop into a system of co-management
Disadvantaged Groups and Demands of Active Citizenship 121

on youth affairs. This will put the European youth policy at the forefront of
including civil society in its governance. (EYF 2012: 3)

It is rather important to note this, in so far it highlights rather signifi-

cantly the push toward an institutionalization of practices of civic and
political participation, that are shaping the model of active citizenship as
a practice discussed in Chapter 4.
When looking instead at the discourses regarding civic and political
participation produced by organizations representing women and mino-
rities and migrants, it results quite clear the formulation of a narrative
that calls for demands for a better inclusion of such groups in policy-
making. This is a key issue for instance for the European Women’s Lobby
(EWL). The organization discusses clear priorities for challenging this
situation. Recently, the EWL noted that:

Women are still seriously under-represented in political decision-making

in all European countries and in European Union institutions. Only 35%
of members of European Parliament and just 24% of members of
National Parliaments are women. And only three out of 14 European
Parliament Vice Presidents are women. (EWL 2014: 3)

Importantly, the EWL notes – and this is part of its lobbying activity –
that there is a lack of binding decisions to make sure that participation is
increased and that there is equality of participation for both men and
women in policy-making in all European Institutions. Between the
many, a recent policy response that EWL has promoted in order to
overcome this deficiency of the EU political system is the 50/50 cam-
paign, that started in occasion of the 2009 EP elections and has been
designed for the 2014 elections as well. The campaign has the following

The aim of the EWL 50/50 Campaign is to ensure that social justice,
human rights and gender equality are at the core of EU policy-making
and that European women participate on an equal footing to men in
the making of all decisions which affect their lives and in shaping the
future of Europe ( . . . ).The overall aim of the project is to promote
122 6 Engagement and Participation: Opportunities and Challenges . . .

active democratic citizenship and parity democracy in Europe by

adopting a dual approach: direct engagement with all relevant stake-
holders in order to ensure their commitment to the development of
plans of action for the promotion of women’s political participation
on a national level; and an awareness raising and lobbying campaign
which aims to raise awareness on the importance of equal representa-
tion and parity democracy and to mobilize support from key stake-
holders including political parties, the media, as well as the public at
large. (EWL 2014: 5)

The approach of this campaign is based on addressing a number of

structural issues inherent to the political participation of women, framed
in terms of both conventional and nonconventional modalities. At the
same it challenges all forms of discrimination, one of the core determi-
nants undermining the exercise of active citizenship.
On this regard, the EWL’s campaign is based upon the promotion
of Parity Democracy as an alternative way to challenge practices and
approaches to participation promoted by European institutions.
Parity Democracy, as a concept, is based on promoting the equal
share of rights, responsibility, and power, with a specific focus on the
recognition of equal dignity of persons of both sexes and a shared
value of justice for the development of democracy in the political
system. It is rather important to note the terminological difference
that is outlined by EWL in regard to the distinction between Quotas
and Parity Democracy. The former is considered to be a ‘temporary
means used to protect the rights of a minority and ensure its
participation in decision-making’ (EWL 2014: 19), whilst the latter
is seen as an instrument for ensuring the full participation of women
in the political sphere radically transforming concepts such as citi-
zenship, equality, and universality. As remarked further by the

Parity Democracy does not treat women as a minority group within the
dominant framework. Women represent more than half of the citizens,
so they cannot be considered as a minority any more than men. (EWL
2014: 19)
Disadvantaged Groups and Demands of Active Citizenship 123

The lobbying activity of the EWL is rather central for shaping processes
that account for the full participation of women in the public sphere,
putting this social group at the center of public policy. In a nutshell, its
lobbying activity is a rather meaningful example of the challenges and
obstacles existing in transforming one-sided processes of engagement
into bidirectional and balanced modalities of full participation.
The struggle for being included as legitimate partners in policy-mak-
ing, becomes particularly intense across the emergency situations faced
at the EU level and across different parts of Europe. For instance,
contextually to the discussion regarding the financial crisis, activists
bewail the fact that there has been a lack of inclusion of civil society
actors on the negotiating table. In a joint statement aiming at producing
Alternative Country-Specific Recommendations, prepared in 2013 by an ad
hoc coalition of European NGOs including organization such as the
European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN) and the EWL, it is noted that:

As the EU enters its 5th year of crisis, the EU’s image is overwhelmingly
identified with austerity, particularly in countries under the ‘Troika
arrangements’. As a result EU popularity and legitimacy is at an all-time
low. Steps are urgently needed to restore the balance between social and
sustainable objectives and economic governance, if the EU is to revive
trust in its Europe 2020 promises of a smart, sustainable and inclusive
recovery based on democratic accountability and engagement. Civil
Society’s review of engagement in the 2012 European Semester high-
lighted again the lack of meaningful engagement of civil and social
partners in the development of most National Reform Programmes
( . . . ). A key recommendation is that the Commission ensures more active
engagement of Civil Society and Social Partners in the NRPs, CSRs and
whole European Semester. (Ad hoc Coalition on CSRs 2013: 4)

Similar considerations can be drawn in regard to the subgroup of migrants

and minorities. Interest organizations perceive to have been excluded from
the drafting of crucial programs such as the European Agenda the
Integration of Third-Country Nationals and the European Agenda on
Migration. In a 2010 report, the European Network Against Racism
(ENAR) elaborates a number of policy recommendations to be taken
124 6 Engagement and Participation: Opportunities and Challenges . . .

into account in the elaboration of the European Agenda for the Integration
of Third-Country Nationals. As part of these, strong emphasis is put on the
challenges to develop an inclusive model of participatory democracy:

The EU should operate as an inclusive democracy taking into account all

people who are living in its territory. Given the increasing discrepancy
between the European population and political representatives within the
EU, it is crucial that ways are developed for everyone to fully participate
and create a true European public space which is vital for the European
integration process. Political rights are important basic human rights that
make participatory democracy possible. However, not only do migrants
need political rights, but political parties and institutions also need to be
representative of all society and reflect the diversity of populations of
different regions at local, national and EU level. (ENAR 2010: 3)

In remarking upon the importance of promoting an inclusive society

based on principles of participatory democracy, the organization clearly
considers the issue of political participation as a core mechanism to be
enabled in order to promote and ensure the full inclusion of migrants in
the recipient society. Further ENAR’s criticism of this program is based
on the usage of the term integration proposed by the Commission,
which is seen as too much biased on the economic dimension rather
than on issues that are considered as inextricably linked, such as anti-
discrimination and social inclusion (e.g., ENAR 2011; Solidar 2011).
Overall, policy recommendations regarding the improvement of the
Agenda on Integration, are not dissimilar from those revolving around
the Agenda on Migration. These call upon the need to gain an over-
reaching approach to the short- and long-term challenges for the inte-
gration of migrants in the receiving societies. Solidar, on this account,
provides emphasis and recommendations regarding the review of the
European Neighborhood Policy in light of the recent migration crisis,
underlying that a:

( . . . ) rights-based approach to mobility and migration has to become an

integral component of the new ENP, promoting decent working and
social conditions for all migrants (conform to international labour
Disadvantaged Groups and Demands of Active Citizenship 125

standards), extending social protection for migrant women, men and

children in countries of origin and destination, increasing migrant parti-
cipation and contributing to public policy planning and implementation,
facilitating safe, orderly and regular migration, through enhanced inter-
national cooperation. (2015a: 7)

Empowerment, Its Challenges, and Social Inclusion

As I discussed in previous sections, the basic key concept promoted at

the EU level in order to facilitate and activate wider basis to participate is
the one of empowerment, meaning by this the stimulation of processes of
awareness, knowledge, and interest in civic and political matters. This is
a key principle that drives the establishment of active citizenship as a
practice. When looking at the actual perceptions and narratives about
empowerment elaborated by NGOs, a number of discrepancies in the
meaning associated to this term emerge.
The principle of empowerment as a process that transforms attitudes –
for instance the interest toward civic or political matter – into active
behaviors – is a driver for European NGOs representing young people.
In the strategic plan for 2015–2017 for instance, the European Youth
Information and Counselling Agency (ERYICA) points out that:

Engaging youth in decision-making is essential to their overall development

and to ensure stable values-based and democratic societies. The concepts of
‘participation’ and ‘empowerment’ in the youth information and counseling
context imply giving young people more control over their personal devel-
opment and decisions. The extended use of innovative ICT tools among
young people opens up interesting opportunities for increasing the partici-
pation of youth in decision-making processes. (ERYICA 2015: 4)

The organization sees empowerment as a necessary activating process, in

order to gain ownership of decisions that might affect the life of young
people, remarking in other words, the importance of engagement. Said
this, it is important to note the intersectional policy reflection that look
for example at the importance of empowerment for young people
126 6 Engagement and Participation: Opportunities and Challenges . . .

coming from a disadvantaged background or from minority groups. For

instance, EYF highlights the condition of disadvantaged groups and
looks at the possible policy responses in order to improve their social
inclusion, remarking the importance of providing assistance in order to
stimulate processes of empowerment:

Unfortunately, it needs to be said that poverty and social exclusion affect

active citizenship, hinder participation and set barriers for volunteering.
Youth organizations, in their daily activities often, contribute to the
activation and empowerment of young disadvantaged people that can
eventually allow them to break away from the vicious circle of poverty.
(EYF 2010a: 10)

In similar vein, and under the context of the financial and migration
crises, Jeunes Européens Fédéralistes-Europe (JEF-Europe) remark the
urgency of these principles, producing a policy narrative that cuts
across different categories of groups that are seen in a disadvantaged
position. The organization stresses the importance of:

( . . . ) empowering all citizens in the political participation process, especially

those groups who are found to participate less due to reasons of ethnicity,
socio-economic conditions, age and gender. (JEF-Europe 2015a: 2)

The analysis of policy documents produced by umbrella organizations

reveals the struggle to promote a model of empowerment that guarantees
the exercise of participation in public policy in order to extend the bases
of input legitimacy at the EU level, as it is in the vision of the European
Commission. At the same time, however, this should provide the inte-
gration of disadvantaged groups in the society of belonging, creating
therefore the instruments to reach a better equality.
On this particular matter, it is important to note the recent reflection
of Solidar, that promotes the idea of Democratic Community Learning,
basing this on the concept of Building Learning Societies. On this basis
the organization sets the priority of building empowerment through
formal and informal learning:
Disadvantaged Groups and Demands of Active Citizenship 127

Our vision is to promote the concept of Building Learning Societies – where

people are empowered to participate in society. We believe this is a successful
way to find and create new employment opportunities through non-formal
and informal learning. We therefore advocate for prioritizing of non-formal
and informal learning – for investing in validation in order to encourage
learning – and for investing in education for social justice. (Solidar 2014: 3)

The challenge, as part of the financial crisis, is further described in the

document in the following way:

( . . . ) the situation and reality in the midst of the economic crisis is not
that easily addressed. Within the European society, certain groups of
people are further removed from normative society, making the road to
full social, labour market and democratic participation longer and full of
obstacles. (Solidar 2014: 6)

These two extracts are rather meaningful, because they shed light on the
challenges existing in putting forward strategies to guarantee the imple-
mentation of an approach to empowerment that is not elusive and meant
to simply improve governance, but talks directly to the necessity of
tackling social exclusion in order to guarantee a fully inclusive society,
with a concern on the different harmful conditions that hinder participa-
tion of disadvantaged groups. In this sense, empowerment is a wider
concept, that does not only regard the stimulation of processes of aware-
ness and consciousness, but that is central in order to develop policies
aimed at the effective integration of these social groups in the society.

The Missing Link: The European Social Dimension

It is important to note that, as a result of the analysis on policy

documents, it emerges quite clearly that Brussels-based organizations
advocate the development of a European Social Dimension based on the
principle of equality. Despite the inclusion of this principle in the
founding treaties, its development in subsequent iterations of the trea-
ties, a large body of secondary legislation and public statements that
place equality at the heart of the integration process, the analytical
128 6 Engagement and Participation: Opportunities and Challenges . . .

sample produced a number of significant criticisms of the approach

adopted by the Commission in its implementation. For example, in
commenting on the Barroso II presidency, EWL argues that:

Equality between women and men is a fundamental right and value of the
European Union and should be central to all Commission initiatives,
policies and programmes. It is a legal, moral and economic imperative,
not a luxury to be addressed sporadically or only during times of prosper-
ity. While some positive steps are being prepared in this area – including a
new Commission action plan on equality between women and men which
will hopefully give flesh and bones to commitments – so far, the Barroso II
Commission’s performance has been disturbingly mixed, and concrete
actions in favour of a more equal society have been few. (EWL 2010)

EWL’s position provides a test for the Commission’s narrative, particu-

larly when the dominant perception is that it has not been accompanied
by substantive action. It also highlights some of the limitations of a
social agenda that is deeply normative in nature. Of particular concern
for organizations such as the European Women’s Lobby, the European
Network Against Racism and the Social Platform is the issue of inter-
sectionality. Mainstreaming the specific social needs and social problems
affecting different minorities into European policies, thus has become a
top priority. The EWL’s contribution to the consultation on the
Roadmap for Gender Equality and the follow-up strategy makes this
position very clear:

One of the related challenges has been that the gender angle is often
forgotten in policy areas that are not seen as related to gender equality, e.g.
disability, Roma inclusion or integration, migration and asylum, while in
turn this other policy angle is overlooked in gender equality policies. This
shows the need to increase policy coherence and effectively monitor
gender mainstreaming in other policy areas while there is also a need to
strengthen the intersectional approach in the new Strategic Action Plan
( . . . ). Without the effective implementation of an intersectional
approach, the specific needs of some groups of women ( . . . ) might be
overlooked in the policy areas covered by the Strategic Action Plan. (EWL
2009: 4)
Disadvantaged Groups and Demands of Active Citizenship 129

This extract highlights the increasing criticism toward the approach of

the European institutions that seem to adopt a one-dimensional view of
equality. With preferential access to the Commission, the EWL there-
fore provides a very useful source of – constructive – critique for
European political institutions.
The socioeconomic conditions of specific groups influence access to
power and decision-making mechanisms, especially when it comes to
European governance. The complexity of European processes increases the
distance between policy actors and citizens. This is particularly true of
traditionally marginal groups that rely on civil society organizations for
interest representation and access to political institutions. EYF’s narrative
reflects these concerns. When looking at the integration of ‘young people
with fewer opportunities’, the Forum points at the extent to which this
group is excluded from the civil dialogue and more broadly from the exercise
of active citizenship. EYF is particularly critical of EU youth policy:

Young people with fewer opportunities and small youth organizations do

not have the capacity to build the knowledge necessary to benefit from the
Youth in Action programs and from most of the EU programs ( . . . ). The
European civil society should be strengthened by including a truly
European level within the program and a recognition of the status of
European youth organizations who are the main channels through which
young people interact structurally with the EU democratic process. (EYF
2010b: 5)

These issues become particular important with the financial crisis first,
and subsequently with the migration crisis, where the impact on parti-
cularly disadvantaged people is particularly emphasized. As a result, the
danger is found in the increasing social problems – such as social
exclusion – that are emerging. EWL for example notes that:

It is clear that austerity measures have a huge impact on women’s employment,

health, income, pensions and work-life balance. Austerity measures have
proven to be failing citizens in general, and in particular, women. However,
it is vital that women are not seen solely as victims by policy-makers in times of
austerity, but instead as actors for change and development. (EWL 2015: 3)
130 6 Engagement and Participation: Opportunities and Challenges . . .

Similarly, Solidar points at the particularly harmful risks for migrants:

The economic and financial crisis in Europe has led to approximately 120
million people now living in or at the brink of poverty, with around 24
million ‘working poor’ – no longer being able to live on the income they
earn. The severely increasing levels of inequalities in society reflect this.
Additionally, groups of migrants are in danger of further exclusion as a
result of economic, social and political changes that affect the labour
market. (Solidar 2014: 3)

When discussing the implementation of key EU programs, such as the

European Agenda on Migration, organizations point directly at a number
of issues, that on the one side look at the inefficiency inherent to the
approach undertaken by the European Commission, but at the same
time address more profoundly one of the core problems that is actually
undermining the success of the strategy, which is the lack of a unitary
European vision. A meaningful example of this is found in a recent
statement produced by JEF-Europe, which – in coherence with the
philosophy underpinning its vision of Europe – argues the following:

( . . . ) the current European framework is insufficient in dealing with the

immigration challenges and opportunities since immigration policy requires
strong cohesion with a budget financed by own resources and with a more
concrete EU Common Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and common
management of borders at European level. ( . . . ) the European immigration
policy is merely a reactive one, and that the only way to implement a pro-
active policy is to formulate and realise a development plan, which only a
European government can design. (JEF-Europe 2015b)

The lack of a political union is therefore considered a harmful issue that

limits the EU approach and policy responses to the migrants’ crisis. At
the same time, it is caused more than ever by the consequent crisis in
solidarity that is enhanced by the fragmentations existing between
different member states in dealing with such crisis.
Solidar, for example, points exactly at this set of issues while
criticizing the European Agenda on Migration:
Conclusion 131

In Solidar’s view, the new EU Agenda is too unbalanced on the side of

securing borders than on guaranteeing human rights for everyone,
although this approach has proven its inefficiency in preventing deaths
and human rights violations. Furthermore, the Agenda does not include
enough tools for enhancing intra-EU solidarity and responsibility-sharing.
(Solidar 2015b: 2)

The questioning of core EU values across the migration crisis is a central

point of convergence between supranational and national organizations,
as I will argue more extensively in the following chapters.

The analysis of umbrella organizations’ discourses reveals a number of
contentious and important issues that shed light on their role as critical
voices in EU policy-making. Means of participation – such as the
structured dialogue – are surely welcomed because they result in the
attempt to find modalities to gain more weight in participatory processes
in policy-making. At the same time, however, their limitations stand in
the fact that they are not considered instruments of deliberation in the
full sense. Activists lament that possibilities to exercise influence on the
EU agenda are scarce and limited, hence downgrading their capabilities
to be full participants in the public sphere. On this regard, various
organizations put forward alternative demands for active citizenship
based on a wider and more encompassing vision of democracy grounded
on core values such as the one of equality. Emergency situations, such as
the financial and economic crises, have had a dramatic impact for
disadvantaged groups, with the emergence of core social problems and
the alarming rise in social inequality. These – according to my analysis –
are caused by the insufficient means put in place as part of the EU’s
policy intervention as well as a product of a more encompassing crisis of
solidarity characterizing the EU.
Active Citizenship in Italy

The chapter explores the development of active citizenship in Italy, by
summarizing first of all the core characteristics of the country, in terms
of state and society relations, public administration reforms and pro-
cesses that led into the emergence of different connotations of active
citizenship. It is argued that in a context where various problems still
exist in terms of accountability and accessibility to democratic structures
allowing full participation in public policy, the development of various
experiences that can be classified as demands of active citizenship is
particularly significant. When it comes especially to disadvantaged
groups, their participation is strongly affected by the lack of a full
integration in the Italian society. The chapter outlines the contested
nature of active citizenship, by focusing on the ambiguous impact of
Europeanization in the Italian context, an issue that becomes particu-
larly prominent with the intensification of the financial and migration
crises. I argue that civil society activists point at the shortcomings of the
status of European citizenship, in a context where various limitations
and fractures are emerging because of a socially, politically, and civically

© The Author(s) 2017 133

C. Bee, Active Citizenship in Europe, Palgrave Studies in European
Political Sociology, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-45317-4_7
134 7 Active Citizenship in Italy

weak EU. In this scenario, the possible policy solutions envisaged by the
activists are to strengthen the European social dimension and to recall
the importance of fundamental values.

State Society Relations

As much as other European countries (such as France, Greece,
Portugal, Turkey, and Spain), Italy is characterized by holding a strong
state tradition and it is being located in the Napoleonic administrative
model. In this model the state is ‘considered as unitary and indivisible’
(Peters 2000) and is highly centralized, with a consequent ‘direct
imposition of central state authority over its citizens’ (Peters 2000).
It is rather important to note, for the purposes of my book, that when
looking more precisely into the sphere of state-society relations, the
state is conceived as ‘a means of integrating the society’ ascribing by
consequence ‘less of an autonomous role to society and to citizens with
the state having an obligation to defend society’ (Peters 2008: 121,
122). The model of citizenship emerging from this structure is one
where there is a conception of the citizen ‘as first and foremost subject
of rights and duties’ (Ongaro and Valotti 2008: 179). Traditionally,
Italian institutions have been trying to preserve their independency
from the civil society, exerting power over it, excluding ‘influences of
interest groups and seek to preserve their autonomy in the face of
pressures from interest groups’ (Peters 2008: 128). As Peters argues ‘in
the Napoleonic tradition interest groups, although a necessity are often
considered almost as illegitimate interventions into the governing role
and autonomy of the state’ (Peters 2008: 128; see also Ongaro and
Valotti 2008).
The transformation of state-society relations in Italy is partly linked to a
sequential number of administrative changes, that – according to Capano –
put the country in a state of permanent reform (2000). Drawing on Ongaro
(2009), Vasilescu focuses on at least four cycles of reform that took place from
1992 onwards, and that include processes aimed at improving efficiency,
simplification and performance of public administration, devolution and
decentralization from central system to local governments, constitutional
Determinants of Reform and Political Conditions 135

reforms, introduction of instruments for the evaluation of performance and

improvement of accountability and relationships with citizens. To this never-
ending process we can add a fifth cycle, that includes the recent public
administration reform – knows as the Madia Law – promoted under the
Renzi government. All these processes of administrative change are charac-
terized by the adoption and implementation of New Public Management
principles (Ongaro 2009). The Italian case is a valuable example of a context
where active citizenship as a practice has been promoted through public policy
in light of different administrative reforms. At the same time however, as I
will outline later, it is well representative of a context where the second
category, active citizenship as a demand, is part of the sociocultural setting of
the country and often, as Moro (2015, 2016) argues, taking place outside
formal channels of representative democracy.

Determinants of Reform and Political

The end of the First Republic in 1992 is a central driver of the attempt to
transform the institutional machinery, marred by high levels of corruption,
scandals, unaccountability, and impenetrability. The adoption of New
Public Management structures characterizes the developments of the early
years of the Second Republic, with a specific renewed dimension given to
state/society relations and the role of citizens in public policy processes
(Turrini and Valotti 2016). In a nutshell, determinants of these processes of
reform are, between others, the necessity to gain the trust of the Italian
citizenry vis-à-vis Italian public institutions and to overcome the failures of
the political system as well as the need to improve its efficiency in order to
reduce public spending despite of the various phases of Italian economic
instability. As Calogero puts it well, the determinants behind the transfor-
mation of the Italian bureaucratic system are various:

Previously, public organizations had an organizational and managerial struc-

ture on the lines of a bureaucratic model and did not possess the necessary
capacity to deal with the new needs of the citizens. The rising complexity, the
136 7 Active Citizenship in Italy

lack of financial resources and European politico-economic integration

required a process of modernization in public administration. (Calogero
2010: 31)

The process of reform in Italy is also marred with the political instability
of the country and the subsequent shifts from governments belonging to
the center-left, to the center-right, and characterized from time to time
by short-term technical governments. All along this period of time,
public administration reforms have been top on the agenda and a key
objective of political programs of all spectrums. Just to name a couple of
examples, key advocators of such a process of reform were the center-left
governments of Prodi and D’Alema between 1996 and 1999, that
promoted laws in order to simplify administrative tasks, to enhance
the devolution from central government to local administrations and
regions, and to adopt New Public Management principles (Vasilescu
2014). Another fundamental step has been the so-called Brunetta
Reform under the Berlusconi government, considered highly controver-
sial for the content as well as the modalities under which this was
promoted. Brunetta’s aims were to enhance the measurement of public
administration performance, both from an organizational and individual
point of view, and the promotion of a better accountability.
In this context the process of Europeanization has played a funda-
mental role, especially in the aftermath of the collapse of the First
Republic in 1990s, where the EU symbolically represented the demo-
cratic accountability that Italian institutions were lacking. If the Italian
pro-Europeanism is a core value, it is at that time that citizens assimilate
a strong democratizing power to the European project. It can therefore
be argued that the process of Europeanization of public administration
in Italy has played a central role for at least two reasons. Firstly, it has
provided a push toward the adaptation, at least on paper, to principles
and structures dictated by the European normative system. This top-
down pathway of Europeanization started along the controversial acces-
sion of the country to the Eurozone under the center-left governments at
the end of the 1990s and continued throughout time. It implied,
between others, the adherence to the principles of governance promoted
by the EU. Secondly, an horizontal dimension of Europeanization can
Characteristics of Active Citizenship 137

be identified, in so far this process entailed the adoption of principles

that are typical of the Anglo-Saxon models, in particular the values of
open government and minimal state, that subsume a change in the role
and functions of public institutions (e.g., see Cominelli 2005: 4) in
respect to citizens. These two interlinked processes have, as I will argue
in the next section, influenced the current shape and dynamics inherent
to active citizenship in Italy.

Characteristics of Active Citizenship

In a political context marred with political scandals and by the growing
failure of the public administrative system, the political discourse sur-
rounding active citizenship is enhanced and shaped as a proper policy
response to establish better transparency and improve the overall per-
formance of the bureaucratic system. The discussion regarding active
citizenship in Italy is linked to the discussion concerning the enhance-
ment of participatory democracy that started in the 1990s.
These are drivers of specific institutional developments that resulted,
among other outcomes, in the establishment of Law 150/2000 that
regulates public administrations’ information and communication activ-
ities. The law represents an important development that poses a chal-
lenge to the typical structures of the Italian public administration, which
was put under pressure in order to reorganize its own practices and
improve its accessibility, openness, and overall performance. The law
implied the development of a set of specialized professionals, able to deal
with the complexities of communication management and to plan
specific strategies in collaboration with the various social actors involved
in public policy development.
In terms of overall assessment, this process entailed the widening of
responsibilities undertaken by state institutions, the acquisition by citi-
zens of a new form of awareness and consciousness regarding their rights,
as well as new responsibilities within a public sphere structure that was
under transformation (Rovinetti 2000). Arena (2001) talks directly
about a notion of citizenship based on ‘active consensus’ that should
aim to satisfy the public interest through a process where citizens are
138 7 Active Citizenship in Italy

coadministrators in deciding on public matters. Social problems should

therefore be commonly perceived by a number of institutional and
noninstitutional actors and involve cooperation between citizens and
institutions to find correct policy responses (Arena 2001, 2006). I argue
that this form of active citizenship includes civic republican principles,
while at the same time it integrates a wide number of neoliberal logics, if
we look at this through the lenses of New Public Management reforms.
The active citizen’s right to information and communication (Arena
2006) entails her/his transformation into a ‘customer’ of the public
administration (Caligiuri 1997; Ongaro and Vallotti 2008). Therefore,
in this process, communicating by focusing on the specific needs of the
target audience becomes one of the main ‘services’ that a public admin-
istration should be performing.
This overall discussion is parallel to, and for many reasons distinct
from, the academic debate that looks at the enhancement of processes of
participatory democracy based on a civic republican account of active
citizens. The Italian context is characterized by a vibrant civil society,
mostly independent from state institutions because of low levels of trust
(Civicus 2011) and often acting outside traditional modalities of repre-
sentation. This pattern offers a valuable example because it favors the
generation of experiences of active citizenship as a demand where organi-
zations mobilize in different activities of social nature, with a low pre-
sence of organizations that are politically oriented and a higher number of
networks that are instead socially oriented (Civicus 2011). Besides of this,
the configuration of the civil society is strongly affected by the North-
South divide as noted in the 2011 Civicus country profile for Italy:

While a developed country, and a long established member of the EU and

the G8, Italy has marked social and economic differences between its
north and south, with higher levels of poverty and exclusion in the south,
and this is reflected in the distribution of organized civil society, which is
weaker in the south than the north, but also plays a significant role in the
south in trying to address this challenge. (Civicus 2011: 203)

In terms of academic research, the discussion that accounts for this

typology of active citizenship, can be easily linked to the analysis of
Characteristics of Active Citizenship 139

bottom-up processes and refers to a lively multidisciplinary debate

concerning various forms/models of democracy, namely representative,
participative, or deliberative democracy (Allegretti 2006; Bobbio 2002,
2007; Ceri 1996; Gelli 2005; Mastropaolo 2001; Morlino 2003;
Pelizzoni 2005a).
This is a research agenda (Andretta and Caiani 2005; Bonanni and
Penco 2006; Della Porta 2004; Della Porta and Diani 2004; Fedi and
Mannarini 2008) that accounts for the growth of political participation,
civic activism, and civic engagement as constituent parts of the Italian
democratic sociopolitical setting. Pelizzoni (2005b) underlines how
Italy, in the present context, has been experiencing a form of revival in
citizens’ participation in public matters, marred by a growing mistrust
toward those who are in charge of controlling resources.
In this respect, Moro (1998, 2005, 2010, 2015, 2016) provides a
critical account of the bottom-up processes that underlie the dynamics
of active citizenship as a new form of political participation and widely
discusses the structures, and also the practices, that shape and enable
civic participation in Italy. The scholar provides an overview of the
forms of participation that are not linked to engagement with institu-
tionalized practices of representative democracy, but rather to broader
processes of involvement in the wider ‘political public space’ (Allegretti
2009) where civil society is acting, contributing, and criticizing.
Moro criticizes the establishment of formalized forms of consulta-
tion – which are commonly discussed in the first perspective described
above – by arguing that they provide evidence of the institutional
difficulty of dealing with the complexities represented by civic activism
and, more importantly, with civil society in general. He defines civic
activism in the following way: ‘we can define civic activism as an
organizational phenomenon which refers to the wide variety of mod-
alities that motivate citizens to get together, to mobilize resources and
play an active part in the policy cycle. In this way they undertake
powers and responsibilities with the final scope of protecting rights,
taking care of the common good and supporting subjects in less
advantaged positions’ (Moro 2010: 3, my translation).
Equally important are the effects that the process of Europeanization
had for the development of active citizenship in Italy. The project
140 7 Active Citizenship in Italy

funding offered by the EU, has in fact been key for supporting organiza-
tions, even with limitations. As it is for example noted in the country
profile for Italy drawn by Civicus:

Civil society has also long worked within the supranational framework
offered by the EU, which implies both a need for civil society to work at
the regional level and to take advantage of the domestic spaces created by
regional decisions. The opportunities created for civil society by EU
processes are acknowledged, but CSOs, particularly locally-based and
oriented CSOs, report still feeling somewhat distant from the EU, and
not having adequate information about how to use its opportunities for
participation and influence, distinct from any engagement with the fund-
ing opportunities it may offer. (CIVICUS 2011: 204)

The overall situation in Italy reveals different conditions under which active
citizenship is developed and is representative of a context where this is a
contested concept. In other words, practices and demands are intertwined. If,
because of the heterogeneous nature of the country and the cleavages that
still persist between different regions and more precisely between the south
and north, it can be argued that processes of reform promoted through
public policy had a limited impact – because of the persistent lack of trust
toward public institutions – on the other side it can be argued that the social
context is characterized by high levels of spontaneous civic participation that
led civic organizations to gain ownership of the public space. In short, it is a
context where both practices and demands of active citizenship intertwine in
setting the landscape for civic and political participation.

Practices and Instruments of Active Citizenship

in Italy
The Italian practice of active citizenship is linked with the establishment
and self-positioning of civil society in the broader institutional context.
The portrait of citizenship that emerges from the interview data with civil
society activists and the analysis of policy documents reflects a vision that
Practices and Instruments of Active Citizenship in Italy 141

mirrors all the ambiguities and ambivalences that surround civic engage-
ment. Under this perspective this is characterized by holding interest and
awareness toward the community, whilst civic and political participation
are seen as instruments to become more active through different partici-
patory behaviors in the civic and political life of such community. Part of
the discussion therefore concerns the meanings, values, and importance
attributed to civic participation, by looking as well at the practices inherent
to this.
It is rather important to note, for example, the strong emphasis on the
civic dimensions of participation, promoted by organizations, assuming
however that these have a political dimension as well. One of the most
prominent Italian organizations working in this direction is
Cittadinanzattiva, that was founded as a nonprofit organization in
1978. It claims independency from political parties, trade unions, pri-
vate companies, and public institutions and is recognized as a consumer
organization since 2000. One of the organization’s key aims is the
promotion of an active role of citizens in policy-making. The
Constitution of Cittadinanzattiva says that:

Cittadinanzattiva is a secular movement of civic participation. Its spheres

of activities range from the protection of human rights, to the promotion
and practical exercise of civic, social and political rights at the national,
European and international level, to the fights against any waste of
resources and corruption. Besides, being situated within the wider con-
sumerist movement it acts for safeguarding citizens’ rights, either as
consumers and/or users, and for protecting the environment, safeguarding
the territory, upholding health, protecting the security of individuals and
collectives. It aims at guaranteeing the truthfulness of public acts and
public trust. (Cittadinanzattiva 2016: 4; my translation)

By holding a strong social dimension, and being a key promoter of

various activities aimed at fighting discrimination toward marginalized
groups, Cittadinanzattiva is also a particularly important actor that
advocates for a radical reform of state institutions and the development
of a federal structure. In this sense, through civic participation, the
142 7 Active Citizenship in Italy

organization clearly connotes itself as a political subject, linking there-

fore the dimensions of civic participation with those of political

Cittadinanzattiva reaffirms the validity of pluralist democracy, but it

points at the inadequacy of the experienced democratic projects and orders
so far; it assumes the task to represent and fight against the gap between
the state and society, between political society and civil society, between
political parties and electors, between governors and governed, between
social welfare and needs, between political representation and human
beings; it proposes, in this regard, to provide the basic democratic powers
in a new system of social representation aiming at making possible the
widest and most effective modalities of direct democracy. Because of all
these reasons, Cittadinanzattiva is a political subject in the full sense. It
does not however aim to become a political party or being part of any
coalition. (Cittadinanzattiva 2016: 21; my translation)

Similarly to this, another valuable example of an organization that

promotes civic participation in Italy is the Active Citizenship
Foundation (FONDACA), that was established in 2000. Also in this
case, a look at the constitution of such organization is helpful in order to
acquire a better understanding of the modalities through which active
citizenship is promoted:

The Foundation is non-profit. The Foundation is exclusively promoting

activities of social nature; in particular it aims at supporting the develop-
ment of a culture of citizenship at the local, national, communitarian and
international level. This is inherent to the assumption of responsibilities
and safeguard of the common good by citizens, either as single units or as
part of organizations, by social entities, by the scientific community, by
public administrations and by private enterprises. (FONDACA 2015: 1;
my translation)

When looking at the actual values attributed to active citizenship by

activists of civil society, but also at the challenges inherent to its
exercise, multifold dimensions have emerged as relevant, with differ-
ent tensions attributed to the same notion of democracy and the
Practices and Instruments of Active Citizenship in Italy 143

cognate rights of participation. In particular, a rather recurrent

discussion has to do with the values attributed to the formal chan-
nels of political participation in representative forms of democracy –
such as the right to vote at local or national elections – vis-à-vis the
potential instruments allowing to have a say in public matters, such
as expressing opinions, dissent, or interacting with others – that are
channels enabling forms of participatory and in some cases delib-
erative democracy. It is important to note that the right to vote at
elections is seen as necessary in order to guarantee the full inclusion
in the society of belonging. The following extract is rather mean-
ingful because it touches upon the issue of participation in a broader
sense and at the promotion of social and cultural integration as
prerequisites for the exercise of conventional political participation:

Participation should not only be considered as social or cultural associative

participation. There are different layers of participation. The first level is
economic, then there are social and cultural levels and then the right to
vote. (Interview n. 1 with activist of civil society, Italy)

It is rather important to argue here that pre-political elements of civic

and political participation and the relative practices associated to the
assumption of more participatory behaviors are seen as important and
valuable only if and when these are associated to a full inclusion in the
political, economic, and social setting. The lack of this makes such
dimensions less valuable and meaningful for activists. In particular,
this has mostly emerged during the interviews with activists working
in the area of migration policy and therefore advocators of better
integration policies as a prerequisite for the development of active
citizenship. Being excluded from the traditional mechanisms of repre-
sentative democracy (such as the right to vote or acquire welfare
resources) implies a lack of opportunities to play an active role in
forms of participatory democracy. As a consequence, this weakens the
significance of active citizenship. The lack of access to formal channels of
representation, and traditional means that are associated with the right
to express democratic principles inherent to representative democracy, is
144 7 Active Citizenship in Italy

seen as undermining the possibilities to be full participants in collective

life and in public choice:

Citizenship entails the capacity to share public and shared interests, through-
out a process that can offer knowledge – that is the capacity to gather
different information from different sources, which means free information
– and participation in collective moments. We are in a phase where neither
of the two is fully guaranteed. In addition, in respect to foreigners, the lack of
the right to vote puts them immediately in a condition where they cannot
express and therefore participate, even if they are citizens in the full sense
( . . . ). When the weaker layers of society do not have possibilities to be
represented, they remain weak. At the least, there must be possibilities for the
weaker groups to be represented, at least the rights to have possibilities to
have an impact. . . . (Interview n. 4 with activist of civil society, Italy)

The issue of inclusion is therefore a rather basic element that is key to

create and promote a more integrated society. This is a central objective
of organizations such us for example the Cooperation for the Development
of Emerging Countries (Cooperazione per lo sviluppo dei paesi emergenti-
COSPE), a prominent Italian NGO that advocates for universal princi-
ples of citizenship detached from the principle of nationality:

The concept of rights of citizenship has become important in the last

twenty years because many citizens from non-EU countries did not
have access to some fundamental rights. It is necessary to have a new
vision of citizenship, which is more inclusive and can make rights
actually universal for all people residing on a stable basis in a country,
less of their nationality. The challenge for COSPE is to support the
exercise of granted rights and to promote the recognition of new rights
for linguistic, ethnic, national and religious minorities, and to encou-
rage the most vulnerable groups to become more aware and influential.
(COSPE 2014a: 8)

Besides of the discussion inherent to values attributed to active citizen-

ship and its actual limits, it is rather important to note that part of the
interviews with activists concerned the importance of the activation of
participatory behaviors that can allow them to be included in processes
Europeanization and Its Controversies . . . 145

of decision-making. In this sense, there is consideration of the values

inherent to civic and political participation as necessary principles for
providing input legitimacy to public policy processes. At the same time
it emerges quite prominently the importance attributed to forms of
participation that stand outside the usage of traditional channels.
When it comes to participation in processes of decision-making, a
number of strategies are envisaged in order to transform this into a
working practice. The following extract reports an example of strategies
that should be employed for civil society to have an impact and to
become an active player in social change:

Lifelong learning, the development of empowerment and the strengthen-

ing of possibilities to influence political decisions for organized civil
society. Civil society should become a player of social change, capable of
positively influencing political decisions at the local, national and
European levels. (Interview n. 3 with activist of civil society, Italy)

At this level, there is a wide recognition of the set of instruments that can
shape active engagement for NGOs. Providing a stimulus for the emer-
gence of bottom-up processes is seen as a possible solution. However,
this cannot happen when political institutions do not acknowledge the
importance that noninstitutionalized practices of engagement can have
for the fostering of the policy agenda.

Europeanization and Its Controversies:

Advocating for a Social and Political Dimension
In Italy, the impact of Europeanization and European citizenship is
considered important, although limited. If on the one side there is
convergence with the supranational level in the definition of priority
areas of intervention and core values (e.g., social solidarity, social cohe-
sion, lifelong learning, and antidiscrimination), Italian activists, how-
ever, appear to be ambivalent in the evaluation of Europeanization
defining it as a top-down process with highly exclusionary dimensions
toward weaker groups in society.
146 7 Active Citizenship in Italy

It is rather important here to note the advocacy provided by various

organizations in order to provide a baseline for improving the impact of
European Citizenship and enhance patterns of exercise of active citizen-
ship. For example, two of the mainstream organizations presented
above, Cittadinanzattiva and Fondaca, were partners in the drafting of
the 2006 European Charter of Active Citizenship. This document is
contextualized in respect to ‘the existence of a paradox concerning
citizens’ participation in the democratic life of the European Union
and the presence of a normative gap in European legal framework’
(Cittadinanzattiva/Fondaca 2006: 1). In a nutshell, the two NGOs
note the lack of a convergence between the demands emerging from
the civil society with the practices promoted by European institutions.
This, according to them, is reflected in the absence of a coherent legal
framework that allows organizations to be fully integrated as autono-
mous actors. Cittadinanzattiva and Fondaca have also been very active in
expressing specific demands during ad hoc consultations opened by the
European Commission. A valuable example is the participation in the
consultation EU Citizens’ Rights ‘The way forward’ opened between April
and June 2010, where a number of remarks regarding the actual impact
of civil society policies promoted by the EU are pointed out:

EU citizens’ rights suffer a number of implementation gaps that are partly

usual in rights matters and partly due to the under-construction character of
European citizenship. To address them it is needed not only a stronger EU
policy, but also the strengthening of the role of national-based autonomous
citizens’ organizations, whose main role is precisely to implement citizens’
rights where they are at stake. In other words, without recognizing and
enhancing the rights of organized citizens, a full implementation of indivi-
dual rights is not likely to take place. On this side, the EU and the EC in
particular, suffer a lack of initiative, while relevant documents as the
European Charter of Active Citizenship are still scantly considered.
(Cittadinanzattiva/Fondaca 2010: 1)

These two organizations clearly call for the need to develop further the
political bases of the European project. At the same time they claim the
Europeanization and Its Controversies . . . 147

necessity, by the European institutions, to favor the emergence of auton-

omous groups of civil society in order to widen the bases for representation.
It is rather important to note that, when looking more closely at
NGOs representing disadvantaged groups in the Italian society, further
controversial elements emerge regarding the impact of Europeanization.
The following extract – taken from an interview with a representative of
a youth organization – is quite meaningful in this sense, because the
interviewee clearly addresses this issue, by recognizing however one of
the core elements of European citizenship (freedom of movement) as
one of the few positive aspects of European integration:

It is a top-down process, which has a lot of technicalities but without a

soul. It is a long process in which we should try to engage more young
people. It is however worth taking into account that there have been a
number of positive effects, for example on the possibility of free move-
ment in the European territory. (Interview n. 5 with activist of civil
society, Italy)

Similarly, claims for a different approach to gender equality are drawn

from organizations representing women. In this case, the discussion is
very similar to the one addressed by umbrella organizations at the EU
level (see Chapter 6), where the lack of commitment toward the imple-
mentation of principles of gender equality is seen as an element down-
grading the overall approach to this issue:

Despite the Treaty commitment to gender mainstreaming all EU policies,

economic policies that have drastic consequences for women across
Europe are still not assessed from gender equality perspective. Activities
such as supporting women’s rights organizations at national and at EU
level, monitoring the implementation of legislation, awareness raising and
information, encouraging the participation of women in European policy-
making, and research are needed to make the EU Treaty commitment to
gender equality a reality. (Lef Italia 2013: 175)

Overall, European citizenship is not seen as a status that could produce

actual change, in respect to activating engagement and stimulating
148 7 Active Citizenship in Italy

political participation. Europeanization as a process is not perceived as

having particular effects on specific target groups, such as for example
young people, minorities, migrants and women. In another interview, it
is stated that:

( . . . ) since the process of Europeanization and the building of a European

identity started, what got lost along the way is the capacity of Europe to be
different in the whole international system. Different, in the sense of being
the Europe of the people or the Europe of rights. It does not appear to me
that we are going in that direction. (Interview n. 2 with activist of civil
society, Italy)

Therefore, in the Italian sample – and differently from the British and
Turkish cases – there emerge a high sense of dissatisfaction in regard to
European integration. As I argue, this is produced by the lack of
existence of processes of participation than can lead to the building of
a ‘Europe from below’ and overall from a lack of political leadership that
can promote encompassing European values. On the basis of this argu-
ment, this dissatisfaction is not associated with the European project as a
whole or with the European idea, but instead is portrayed as the
incapacity by the current leaders to foster a social Europe enabling
protection for weaker groups. It is also dependent on a perceived lack
of concrete opportunities to actively engage and, furthermore, by a
persistent failure in the attempt to evaluate and judge the impact of
EU programs on organizations’ daily routines. In addition, between the
factors that undermine the EU’s role, there is a focus on its limited range
of action. The lack of impact of European citizenship is therefore mostly
explained as being a deficiency produced by the limited powers attrib-
uted by member states to the EU, rather than being caused by the EU
itself. The lack of possibilities for action by European institutions, for
example, the lack of competences, is thus perceived in the following way:

In respect to immigration there are still too many restrictions at the

national level. It can therefore be argued that the EU still has limited
powers. There has been some progress since Lisbon, but the only signifi-
cant area in which there has been common consensus is regarding border
The Fragmentation of Europe Under the Financial . . . 149

control. The EU, in regard to promoting participation, has not acquired

enough competences. (Interview n. 1 with activist of civil society, Italy)

During the interviews, there is a lack of reference to more specific

European policies, or a lack of recognition of the supranational instru-
ments that have been designed for fostering active citizenship, such as for
example civil dialogue, as well as of a lack of visibility of the activities of
supranational civil society organizations that aim to foster transnational
forms of participation. However, dialogue, in its general understanding,
is mentioned as a possible instrument and as a policy solution to be
employed to foster European citizenship.

European citizenship has to become concrete throughout a structured

dialogue to be established between different civic and social parts. This
should be aimed at providing the EU with a better political leadership, a
new role as a policy driver. Europe should be able to export certain
democratic principles and its values that look at social inclusion.
(Interview n. 3 with activist of civil society, Italy)

Consequently, from the analysis, it emerges quite clearly a critical

positioning of Italian NGOs in respect to the current shape of the
European integration project and a call for fostering solid bases for the
development of a social and political dimension that is inclusive of an
effectively participatory democracy. The lack of this seems to undermine
the effective exercise of active citizenship. These are issues that are
reiterated further when looking more closely at the data regarding the
impact of the financial and migration crises for organizations.

The Fragmentation of Europe Under

the Financial and Migration Crises
The impact of the financial crisis, and the consequences of the austerity
measures, is a recurrent theme in the discourse of the Italian organiza-
tions that are included in my sample. These organizations mostly
structure their discussion in regard to the social consequences of the
150 7 Active Citizenship in Italy

crisis, by taking into account key policy priorities that are currently part
of the framing of the European social dimension, and more specifically
addressed in the policy development of long-terms programs such as
Europe 2020.
In particular, what is of particular relevance is the mapping of a wide
number of social problems that, according to the organizations, have
emerged as a side effect of the financial crisis. Austerity measures are seen
to foster new emerging problems such as poverty, social exclusion, and
discrimination. In these terms, it is quite significant the description of
the current situation by the Italian Network for the fight Against Poverty
(Collegamento Italiano Lotta Povertà- CILAP), an Italian-based organi-
zation that is part of the European Anti-Poverty Network, that in the
2013 activity report stated that:

2013 has been another very difficult year for Cilap Eapn Italy. As much as for
other networks, working at the European or national levels. The reasons are
multi-fold and here we list some of them: the economic crisis that massively
hit Italy, as much as other European countries, is still on-going and, actually,
looks like permanent and without ways out; austerity measures have paral-
yzed our welfare system with investments that are now at the minimal level
possible and determined radical cuts to social and health services ( . . . ).
(CILAP 2012: 1; my translation)

Therefore, if on the one hand austerity measures have paralyzed the

Italian welfare system, on the other hand the emergence of new social
problems goes together with the generation of new radical fragmenta-
tions that are often associated with the increase of racism and xenopho-
bia. In portraying social problems caused by austerity measures, for
example, the Italian Recreational and Cultural Association (Associazione
Ricreativa e Culturale Italiana- ARCI), that at the European level is part
of Solidar, puts emphasis on how, as a consequence of the crisis,
nationalism, and racism are rising all over the country. This is consid-
ered by ARCI as a product of the policies elaborated by the EU that had
the effect to worsen the economic, social, political, and institutional
crises of Europe rather than solve them. The association puts forward a
number of possible potential solutions, but overall clearly calls for a
The Fragmentation of Europe Under the Financial . . . 151

different and alternative model of European integration, for a radical

reform of the European governance, by improving the political partici-
pation in policy-making processes. It clearly outlines the necessity to:

( . . . ) make Europe become a civic, social, political, democratic and

multicultural space, and not a fortress. A space open to the
Mediterranean and to the world, capable to be a key player and mediator
for peace in all the conflicts that are currently characterizing the Continent
( . . . ). (Arci 2014a; my translation)

This brings to the fore a number of considerations regarding the devel-

opment by organizations of two interrelated discourses. On the one
hand, one is focused on the inefficiency of the current institutional
and political architecture of the EU, blamed to be the cause of the
current situation, and on the other hand, the second is focused on
narratives that call for a radical reform of the European integration on
the basis of basic social, cultural, and democratic values. This is an issue
that – as I will argue again later – dramatically emerges with the
intensification of the migration crisis.
Hence, it is rather important to underline a specific element that is
emerging from the analysis of policy discourses of different organizations
and that challenges the shaping of structured dialogue promoted at the EU
level. Both European institutions and umbrella organizations active at the
supranational level have been promoting instruments of participation
channeled through formal procedures, such as those established by Art
11 of the Lisbon Treaty. Hereby a valuable finding is the presence of frames
of protest and resistance to current developments. This questions the
formality of civil dialogue as a structured form of engagement with the
European level. In this respect, different calls for mobilization are
expressed. These partially concern very specific issues (such as the resistance
to privatization of water) at the domestic level that do not have an explicit
connection to broader European policies, but are anyway contextual to the
enhancement of the crisis. An example is the following comment by ARCI:

It is time to say no. Along the years, as part of all the conflicts that have
been emerged in the Country, a number of multi-fold and antagonist
152 7 Active Citizenship in Italy

feelings have flourished, all of them with a common denominator: there

will not be a scapegoat from the crisis that does not entail a diffused social
mobilization aiming at gaining ownership over the common good, of the
establishment of social benefits, of promoting new forms of participatory
democracy. (Arci 2014b; my translation)

At the same time, calls for protest in Brussels are rather diffused. These
are based on the enforcement of engagement with other national net-
works, with the explicit aim to produce alternatives and actual policy
solutions to the current situation and to raise concern in regard to social
problems. This is well described by the following extract taken from a
communication published by the Italian General Confederation of
Labour (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro-CGIL):

Just few weeks before the EP elections, Unions all across Europe will rise
their voice in the Belgian Capital; the aims and priorities of the protests
are to stop austerity, the need to change the direction of social and
economic politics that are condemning Europe to recession, the launch
of new strategic plans of investments at the European level aimed at
restarting the process of industrialization and at concretely facing the
dramatic situation that regard unemployment, overall of young people
and women. (CGIL 2014; my translation)

The financial crisis also intensifies the attention toward the condition of
illegal immigrants in Italy, opening up a number of narratives aimed at
reflecting upon the effects of the crisis on the living standards of
migrants. In a 2014 report, the Voluntary Association for Socio-Sanitary
Assistance and for Foreign, Sinti and Roma Citizens’ Rights (Associazione
Volontaria di Assistenza Socio-Sanitaria e per i Diritti di Cittadini
Stranieri, Rom e Sinti onlus- NAGA) notes that:

The NAGA Report on irregular foreign citizens falls in the context of the
annus horribilis of the Italian economic crisis and of the wretched percep-
tion of foreigners by the public opinion ( . . . ). What emerges from the
report is that in 2013 the irregular foreign population has fallen in a
grievous social situation. This, despite of their long standing struggle to
find opportunities, also of working nature, within the Italian society along
The Fragmentation of Europe Under the Financial . . . 153

the years. It is a population, that more than others has been severely
affected by the crisis. (NAGA 2014: ii)

The discourse concerning the alarming situation and consequences for

migrants under the financial crisis, goes together with the reporting of
events that follows the different tragedies happening on the seashores of
Italy across the last few years. A high number of organizations produces a
rather straightforward blame game, pointing first of all at the inadequacy
of the European policy responses, as well as at the same time reflecting
with alarming tones upon the emergence of processes of fragmentation
between member states, resulting in the retention of border systems
across Europe. COSPE, for example, raises a number of critical issues,
blaming the inadequacy of the approach undertaken at the EU level. A
valuable example of this is the organization’s condemnation of the
suspension of Mare Nostrum – an Italian-led operation that ran between
2013 and 2014 and aiming at rescuing migrants from Africa and the
Middle East – in favor of the Operation Triton, led by the EU border
security agency Frontex:

In the aftermath of yet another massacre of people in the attempt to reach

Italy and Europe via the Mediterranean, there is the need to identify all the
subjects that could have prevented this, but abstained to do so. The reports
of the last seven months make more evident the responsibilities of the
European Commission. This institution, on the eve of the first anniversary
of the 31 October 2013 sinking–when 366 people died – asked the Italian
government to stop the operations for the search and rescue of refugees,
asylum seekers and migrants. (COSPE 2014b; my translation)

Besides of this, major causes of concern for Italian organizations are

crucial issues such as the fragmentation between member states, the
incapacity to adopt a common plan to answer to the emergency situation
and the reconstitution of border controls. This, in their views, reflects a
crisis of European values and overall is caused by the lack of a coherent
political project. In an open letter written when Federica Morgherini –
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and
Security Policy – took office in November 2014, CILAP remarks the
154 7 Active Citizenship in Italy

necessity to think about a common defense system as a possible way

forward to create a political union based on strong unifying values:

The refusal and the defense of boundaries have replaced the pillars of
solidarity and hospitality. We repudiate this kind of Europe. We call for a
Europe based on its funding values. In order to diminish, we hope, the
sorrow and the pain of millions of people. The levels of poverty caused by
a lack of cooperation between Europe and the rest of the countries, are
added to the ever-growing poverty levels that we already have in Europe.
(Cilap 2014; my translation)

The inability of the EU to deal with the crisis and the lack of respon-
sibility from the member states in providing a unifying approach to this
issues, is also pointed out by the Italian Council for Refugees (Consiglio
Italiano per i Rifugiati- CIR):

There is evidence of a persistent incapability in adopting a European

plan and common rules for an effective and sustainable management of
migratory fluxes despite of the international meetings that are continu-
ously taking place. In the last few months, there has been an ever-
growing tension between Member States, between those that want to
welcome more migrants and asylum seekers and those that instead do
not reject the building of walls, the use of barbed wire, the erection of
any kind of barrier. Their scope is to stop and repel people that are
running away from their countries, because of persecutions, of wars, of
mass human rights violations, and also because of their dramatic life
conditions. Once more, European leaders, are stuck with surreal dis-
agreements regarding the admission of few thousands refugees within the
whole EU ( . . . ). (CIR 2015: 7; my translation)

This specific issue concerning the closure of boundaries between mem-

ber states has been particularly prominent in the spring of 2016, with
growing tensions – between others – on the Brenner Mountain Pass,
that is a point of passage standing in the borders between Italy and
Austria. The threat of the Austrian Government to build a wall in order
to block the influx of migrants in the Tyrolean part of the region, has
attracted much attention, triggering strong reactions, both from
The Fragmentation of Europe Under the Financial . . . 155

organized civil society and from newly emerging social movements. In

regard to the first, in a recent press release ARCI points out that:

The process of Europeanization of the alpine regions has been significantly

questioned in the last few months. Besides of being anachronistic, the
closure of the Brenner Pass proves the incapability of both the Austrian
government and the EU to face the issue of asylum seekers and migrants,
an epochal phenomenon ( . . . ). An irreversible crisis of the European
project can be consequent to this political and social involution happening
in the heart of Europe ( . . . ). The Brenner pass can become a no man’s
land. The Idomeni of the North. With the closure of the border, the
situation can only worsen further. The only gainers in this situation will
be the professionals that promote xenophobia and the organizations that
make profit on human trafficking. We need encompassing, unitary and
solid social and political answers. These do not have to isolate local
administrators, volunteer organizations, many citizens and all those reali-
ties that are advocating for keeping the Brenner Pass open. Across this
boundary a Europe based on rights can arise or die. (Arci 2016; my

In respect to the latter, a valuable example is the action promoted by the

social movement Acting in the Crisis – Confederating Autonomies that has
called for different mobilizations against the construction of such wall on
the site. The generation of this movement – that falls into the category
of active citizenship as a demand – is a representative example of the
emergence of bottom-up calls for alternative modalities to manage the
migration crisis. Besides it indicates the fostering of diverging interpreta-
tions around the meaning of Europe and European citizenship. An
extract from the note summarizing the results the 2nd general assembly
of the movement that took place nearby Venice, in the city of Marghera,
at the beginning of 2016, clarifies quite powerfully the demands of this
social movement:

The first theme that the assembly has dealt with is relative to migration
and the internal and external boundaries that signify a new political
phase of Fortress Europe ( . . . ). Our aims, as social movements, are to be
capable to face the challenges inherent to the political and material
156 7 Active Citizenship in Italy

collision happening on European borders. A challenge that, by taking

the side of the populations and the migrants, is clearly talking the
language of a Europe based on solidarity and openness. This is in direct
and unmediated confrontation with a Europe constituted by ethnic
cages and by austerity. The turning point in this challenge is that of a
renewed European citizenship, based on freedom of movement, on the
affirmation of new social and civil rights and on universal welfare.
(Globalproject 2016; my translation)

In the note, the movement calls for mobilizations targeting, symbolically

two regions, one laying in the boundary between Greece and Macedonia
and the other on the Brenner Pass, with the scope to vindicate freedom
of movement against the building of boundaries between countries, and
ultimately between people and cultures. The convergence between dis-
courses emerging from organized civil society and social movements
across the crisis is therefore a point that is important to underline.
Overall, both agree that it is necessary to think about alternative mod-
alities to overcome European deficits by demanding that social, political,
and civic values should drive the European integration.

The Italian case is well representative of all the ambiguities existing in
finding a common denominator for defining active citizenship. On the
one side, the analysis reveals that the promotion of both civic and
political participation is a core value of NGOs representing disadvan-
taged groups. Limitations in this sense appear to be emerging because
of a lack of full integration of specific social groups, such as for example
minorities and migrants, in the Italian society. Organizations call for
the redefinition of the concept of citizenship under different patterns,
firstly, on the basis of the principle of inclusivity and, secondly, on the
detachment of this concept from the principle of nationality. The
participation of many of the organizations included in my sample in
supranational networks based in Brussels is surely considered an
important opportunity, but at the same time this is seen as inadequate,
Conclusion 157

because of the limitations inherent to the idea of European citizenship.

The discussion in this case, is critically focused on the various short-
comings of such construction. Hence, calls for an alternative model of
Europeanization, based on social values and principles of solidarity are
seen as a possible way forward. This particularly emerges during the
intensification of the financial and migration crises. These are two
emergency situations that bring forward different experiences of mobi-
lization and bottom-up calls for active citizenship.
Active Citizenship in Turkey

This chapter is focused on the Turkish development of active citizen-
ship. This is initially presented by taking into account three core
categories that are: (1) state/society relations, (2) determinants of reform
and political conditions, and (3) characteristics of active citizenship. In
line with current literature, I argue that that the definition of different
components of active citizenship in the Turkish context is strongly
affected by the strong state tradition that still characterizes the political
and social context. Even if different processes and dynamics – both
internal and external – have emerged throughout the years posing a
clear challenge to the Turkish model, the possibilities to exercise parti-
cipatory behaviors are still rather limited. This results in the fact that
active citizenship in Turkey is an important yet volatile concept. The
analysis of interviews and policy documents confirms this trend, out-
lining some of the issues that are still contentious, such as the absence of
a legal framework for civil society organizations. Disadvantaged groups,
especially, lament the fact that various factors strongly limit their possi-
bilities to play a role in Turkish politics and society and eventually to

© The Author(s) 2017 159

C. Bee, Active Citizenship in Europe, Palgrave Studies in European
Political Sociology, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-45317-4_8
160 8 Active Citizenship in Turkey

exercise influence on the policy agenda. The Europeanization process is a

central dimension that emerged during the analysis, as an important
factor of democratization. However, the recent migration crisis and the
EU/Turkey agreement of 2015 have – in the views of the activists that I
interviewed – put at stake the validity of such values.

State Society Relations

The Turkish state is highly centralized and this characteristic dramatically
influences state/society relations, its model of citizenship as well as the role
of the civil society in the country. These are features embedded in the
connotation taken by the Turkish Republic and inherited by the
Ottoman Empire (Gül and Kiriş 2015). Recently, the 1982
Constitution ‘sets up a unitary state and a centralized political and
administrative structure’ (Gül and Kiriş 2015: 31). For the purposes of
this book, it is worth looking closely at the characteristics of the notion of
citizenship and the intrinsic link with the idea of civil society that are
peculiar to the Turkish context. On this account, Keyman and İçduygu
(2003) underline how the concept of civil society in Turkey must neces-
sarily be understood in light of the concept of citizenship, key in the
construction of the Turkish Republic and in establishing the processes of
identity and nation building. Similarly, İçduygu et al. (1999: 197) argue
that this link and overlap between the republican citizenship and identity
has been generated by a strong state-centric organization that shaped ‘a
monolithic unique culture and identity,’ where the citizen is conceived as
a passive actor that abides to a prescribed set of duties. The dominance of
the state over the individual is a peculiar characteristic of the militant
citizen: a citizen that is ‘active in terms of its duties for the state, but passive
with respect to its will to carry the language of rights against state power’
(Keyman and İçduygu 2003: 231). As much as Italy and the UK, Turkey
has entailed in processes of reform that challenged the structure of the
bureaucratic state. More specifically, domestic dynamics – such as the
enhancement of the Turkish emigration and the emergence of varying
ethnic identities within the country – have radically questioned the issue
Determinants of Reform and Political Conditions 161

of Turkish nationality, bringing to the fore the emergence of forms of dual

citizenship, through bottom-up pressures. At the same time, the growth
of civil society in Turkey in the 1990s has become more and more a
determinant for questioning the bond between state and citizens.
Previous analyses have pointed at the centralization of the government
and the bureaucratic structure of the Turkish state as one of the factors
critically undermining the influence and impact of civil society. However,
recent events opened windows of opportunities that radically questioned
the legitimacy of the state and paved the way for the Turkish democra-
tization process. It is important to remind here that the growth of civil
society in Turkey in terms of quantity (Şimşek 2004) has radically put
into question the passive and state-centered model of citizenship and
brought forward new forms of civic and political activism undermining
this unquestioned trust and dependency upon the state.

Determinants of Reform and Political

Under the political condition of the AKP rule since 2002 (Özbudun
2014), Turkey has engaged in a pattern of reform following the princi-
ples of New Public Management (Demirkaya 2016). This answered, as
Gül and Kiriş note, the need for ‘political, economic and administrative
reforms to improve flowed democracy, to establish fair competition and
remedy the extreme centralization and public sector deficits, to remedy
the extreme centralization and bureaucratization of state and adminis-
tration structures, to prevent delays, complexities, rigidities, and exces-
sive red-tape in service delivery, to enhance service quality and to meet
people’s expectations’ (2015: 37).
It is important to note here the centrality of Europeanization, as a
particular determinant of change that has put pressure on Turkish
domestic institutions to proceed toward managerial and governance
reforms (Sözen 2012) central in transforming the relationship between
state and society. On the one side, a number of managerial reforms have
been implemented in order to improve the effectiveness of the public
162 8 Active Citizenship in Turkey

sector, promote decentralization, and enhance the process of privatization

that started in the 1980s; on the other side, this process aimed at fostering
better governance by improving transparency, accountability, and partici-
pation. Different processes, therefore, have been pivotal in bolstering a
process of decentralization following key principles of openness toward
the civil society with the aim to increase transparency and accountability,
to strengthen administrative capacity and productivity, and to encourage a
participatory and results-oriented decision-making processes (Göymen
2006). On this account, between the many different causes for New
Public Management reforms, Gül and Kiriş, argue that: ‘( . . . ) reasons
for recent reforms are related to a lack of participation in public policy
making processes of those who “may be affected” by these policies and the
inadequacy of transparency, accountability, and dissemination of infor-
mation with the public or interested parties’ (Gül and Kiriş 2015: 38).
The peculiar challenges to the state-centric model of Turkey are
therefore enlightened by the discussion regarding the civil society in
the country, since at least the 1990s, with the emergence of a variety
of actors such as foundations and organizations that have been
central in enhancing a process of change in the bond between
citizens, on the one hand, and the state, on the other (Keyman
and İçduygu 2003). The challenge therefore has been rather impor-
tant and draws upon both internal and external conditions that have
emerged throughout time.

Characteristics of Active Citizenship

In discussing active citizenship in Turkey (Çakmaklı 2017), we need to
take into account the intersection of at least two processes: first, the
effects of Europeanization in stimulating engagement and different
forms of civic and political participation and, second, the domestic
development of practices of active citizenship promoted by the central
It is important to first address the relevance of the process of
Europeanization in developing a proper EU civil society policy in Turkey
Characteristics of Active Citizenship 163

(Zihnioğlu 2013a, 2013b) and its centrality for enhancing the process of
democratization in the country. In particular, the key action of the EU has
fostered different practices related to both civic engagement and participa-
tion, with a variety of key projects that have been based on activities
subsuming a strong social dimension (intercultural dialogue, gender equal-
ity, lifelong learning, environment and health, etc.) thanks to the develop-
ment of links domestically, transnationally and in Brussels.
The results of the Helsinki Summit in 1999, recognizing the
Turkish candidature to the EU, were rather significant in generating
a push toward democratization (Arabaci 2008; Kaya 2013). The
principle of conditionality, which is one of the instruments ensuring
that applicants can actually join the EU, has been directly linked to
the cultivation of democracy from below, thereby stimulating the
development of an autonomous and independent civil society
(Kubicek 2011), promoting a different relationship between the
state and the civil society. Key initiatives such as the EU-Turkey
Civil Dialogue, but also full participation in programs such as Youth
in Action, have been key in bolstering the dimension of active
citizenship in Turkey by promoting key projects in a number of
areas that range from environmentalism, integration policy, gender,
youth policy, etc. This enhancement of social capital through project
funding in these areas paved, in my view, the way for favoring the
process that stimulates the transformation from engagement into
active participation, by promoting opportunities for developing key
projects aimed at fostering the Turkish civil society.
It can thus be argued that the process of development of the Turkish
civil society in the last 15 years has proceeded hand in hand with the
Europeanization process, and has been critically enhanced by the sup-
port of the EU (Yilmaz 2014; Ergun 2010), bringing into the discussion
the process of top-down Europeanization of citizenship in Turkey by
touching upon a number of critical social issues. Additionally, the
financial support of the EU with key programs has been an essential
factor that facilitated the internationalization of Turkish civil society
organizations. This process has enhanced the structuring of organized
forms of civil society groups in a way similar to what has been happening
in many other European countries.
164 8 Active Citizenship in Turkey

In acknowledging this, it is important to point out that this relation-

ship and the overall approach to this issue by the EU is not to be seen as
unproblematic. In his analysis İçduygu (2011) points out that the
relationship with the EU has been a pragmatic one, mostly based on
the two interlinked dimensions of organizational strengthening – key to
organize interests but overall to apply for EU funding – and pro-EU
campaigning. The key question that remains open is regarding the
effective empowerment as well as independence of civil society organiza-
tions. On the same argument, the research of Zihnioğlu is both impor-
tant and enlightening. In arguing that the EU civil society policy, ‘a
golden goose of European integration, has become a dead duck in the
Turkish context’ (2013b: 397), the author notes two aspects that have
been particularly neglected. The first is the contextual characteristics of
the Turkish domestic domain and the second, the lack of conceptualiza-
tion of the heterogeneity of civil society actors. On this point Yilmaz
(2014) remarks upon the permanent sense of fragmentation of civil
society groups in Turkey, noting that even with the growth produced
by the EU and the legal, financial, and technical support, organizations
are still not fully empowered actors in processes of policy-making. In
short, the EU public policy toward the civil society has not fully
promoted forms of pre-political civic engagement enabling civil society
actors to gain ownership of policy processes.
Europeanization, as a top-down process, has also impacted upon the
domestic developments in the country, and the establishment of differ-
ent mechanisms of policy-making inclusive of the civil society. Examples
are found in the institution of the city councils, that serve as a platform
to enhance inputs from organizations and interactions between these
and policy-makers at the local levels (Karakurt and Keskin 2015) and the
practice to adopt formal instruments for guaranteeing participation such
as consultations (Yilmaz 2014; see also Gökçe-Kızılkaya and Onursal-
Beşgül 2017). Yilmaz notes that the practice of consulting civil society
has not, however, become a practice in all policies and sectors of
institutional activity, with the consequence that ‘the impact of organized
societal pressure via civil society in Turkey is still in the making’ (Yilmaz
2014: 308). This institutional discourse on governance and the opening
to the civil society, among other actors, is followed by an emphasis on
Characteristics of Active Citizenship 165

certain target groups on which there is specific attention, such as, for
example, young people, who are considered a privileged target. Şener
explains this emphasis on this social group by noting that youth in
Turkey have been ‘portrayed as an “apolitical” category whose political
engagement can be considered destabilizing or “dangerous” or, in other
words, a category to be controlled’ (Şener 2014: 69). The recent docu-
ment titled National Youth and Sports Policy Document published in
2012 by the Ministry of Youth and Sports is a meaningful example of the
ambiguities inherent to the approach toward civic and political engage-
ment and civic and political participation. The program envisages the
inclusion of young people with ‘high civic consciousness’ in social
processes with a transmission of democratic values to be absorbed in
order to foster a ‘democratic, accountable, transparent and participatory
social structure’ (MYS 2012: 29). If on a first reading this document
highlights principles that are surely important and remarkable, preli-
minary evaluations are, however, rather negative about the actual impact
this can have in promoting both civic and political participation
(Bozkurt et al. 2015: 430).
A specific element characterizing the Turkish context is therefore
found in the limitations of political participation for young people,
but more generally also for other social groups in Turkey, such as
women and minorities. At the same time, it confirms the emphasis
on the promotion of forms of civic engagement and participation
that are institutionally driven and controlled and rarely result in the
adoption of politically driven behaviors (Chrona and Capelos 2017;
Erdoğan and Uyan-Semerci 2017; Lüküslü 2013, 2016; Kayaoğlu
This is an issue that has recently been noted by the EU in the 2014
and the 2015 progress reports on Turkey, where the necessity to encou-
rage active citizenship by allowing the full inclusion of civil society in
policy processes is widely remarked upon (CEC 2014b, 2015h). The
recommendations of the EU touch upon crucial issues that up to now
have mostly remained untouched by Turkish public institutions, and
directly highlight the need to establish means of empowerment that are
deliberative and entail the full openness of policy-makers toward input
from the civil society.
166 8 Active Citizenship in Turkey

The implications of the promotion of civil society policies in Turkey,

as a practice, are to be seen in conjunction with specific bottom-up
dynamics that brought forward patterns of civic and political participa-
tion that are well representative of expressions of active citizenship as a
demand. Key events, such as the Marmara earthquake of 1999 and the
more recent protests linked with the occupygezi movement are well
representative of the emergence of different bottom-up dynamics of
mobilization, both of civic and political nature.
In respect to the 1999 Marmara Earthquake, there are two elements to
underline for the purposes of this book. The first concerns the fact that this
natural disaster ‘created the most difficult emergency management faced by
any nation in recent history’ (World Bank 1999: 8) corresponding to a lack
of governmental promptness in reacting to the dramatic event (Kubicek
2002). Secondly, this was followed by a huge mobilization of the civil
society, bringing forward an immediate reaction and a unique experience
of civic participation in Turkey. The dramatic events linked with the
Marmara earthquake of 1999 opened up a window of opportunity for
activating civic participation in Turkey by questioning the link with the
state, by enhancing social capital through volunteering, and by proving the
capability of Turkish civil society to provide reciprocal and mutual help
and civic intervention. Networks of people belonging to different social
groups were activated to spontaneously participate in an extremely relevant
experience of community building aimed at providing rescue and assis-
tance to the injured. As Jalali notes, for example, ‘The relief-and-rescue
efforts were mainly supplied by neighbors, relatives, individuals ( . . . ),
spontaneously formed voluntary groups ( . . . ), political parties, foreign
rescue teams and more established NGOs ( . . . )’ (Jalali 2002: 125). If this
unique social capital formed in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake
is remarkable, for a number of reasons this movement was, however,
superseded in the medium and long term by the governmental interven-
tion in providing rescue and help.
The second example, the occupygezi movement, can more directly be
interpreted as an antiauthoritarian movement, culminating in challenging
the existing setting and promoting the basis for democracy in Turkey (Özel
2014; Yörük and Yüksel 2014). The attempt to defend a green space
located in Taksim Square, in the center of Istanbul, followed by the
Practices and Instruments of Active Citizenship in Turkey 167

authoritative repression of the police, generated a social movement that

attracted different individuals belonging to various social groups.
Environmental claims soon became calls for social justice and for a
different society in Turkey. Defending and gaining ownership of the public
space became a claim of the right to democracy, and a breakpoint in the
strong link with the authoritarian state (Chrona and Bee 2017; David and
Toktamiş 2015; Vatikiotis and YörÜk 2016). In addition, its importance
lies in the reproduction of a social imaginary linked to the meaning
associated with the public space, and on different discursive practices of
deliberation that lead to the assumption of collective choices. Overall, it has
been interpreted by various scholars, as an important example of exercise of
active citizenship (Ozkaynak et al. 2015; Yalçıntaş 2015).
If events such as the Marmara earthquake and the Gezi Park protests
have opened up windows of opportunities to establish active citizenship
and signify the emergence of active citizenship as a demand – showing that
civic engagement is a latent and important factor that motivates Turkish
citizens to participate and mobilize in civic participation – it is important
to underline the fact that the limitation imposed upon the full develop-
ment of an autonomous civil society has to do with the institutional
disincentive to favor in any way the development of forms of participation
that might result in civic and political activism. In this regard, active
citizenship in Turkey is a volatile concept, whose dynamics and impact
appear to be still strongly affected by a solid state centrality that does not
fully favor the transformation of pre-political elements of civic and
political engagement into the assumption of more participatory behaviors
that can ultimately have an impact on the political system. These are issues
that are further explored in the analysis carried out in the Turkish context.

Practices and Instruments of Active Citizenship

in Turkey
The emergence of active citizenship in Turkey is strongly affected by the
political context that has been described above and is dependent upon a
highly centralized structure. If on the one side, it can be argued that the
168 8 Active Citizenship in Turkey

strong trade tradition of the country still affects the practice of active
citizenship – as I will address again later when discussing the reasons for
the limited impact of Europeanization – on the other side the civil
society has been a key player throughout the years bringing to the fore
demands for broader participation and engagement. Being the institu-
tionalized bases for participation more blurred and indefinite, this is the
context where – more than in Italy and the UK – active citizenship as a
demand – as a specific category – emerges more clearly,
In the 2011 Civil Society Monitoring Report, the Third Sector
Foundation of Turkey (Türkiye Üçüncü Sektör Vakfı- TÜSEV) discussed
a number of constraints to the emergence of civil society in the country.
In particular, it is noted the absence of a solid approach regarding the
issue of the relationships between institutions and civil society actors,
due to a lack of a comprehensive approach and understanding of what
‘civil society is about.’ The absence of a legal definition of civil society in
Turkey is considered as a shortcoming that undermines the impact of
civic and political participation:

There is no explicit definition of ‘civil society organization’ under the

Turkish legislation. Absence of a definition causes major problems and
confusions in practice. Turkey needs to adopt a definition of civil
society organization that is compatible with the universal criteria.
Adoption of such a definition will also help develop healthier relations
between government and civil society ( . . . ) The incompatibility
between the strong state tradition in Turkey and the participatory
decision-making mechanism envisaged by the EU integration process
continues to pose challenges to the development of government-civil
society relations. (TÜSEV 2011: 4, 5)

TÜSEV also notes that the enhancement of government-civil society

relations as a consequence of Europeanization, pointing at the impossi-
bility to define better the outcomes of the new processes of consultation
that started to take place with the civil society. This is a point that is
taken forward again more recently by the same organization, that
assesses the actual impact of consultative processes in Turkey, remarking
upon the aforementioned problems and noticing once more the
Practices and Instruments of Active Citizenship in Turkey 169

necessity to regulate better the relationship with civil society actors.

Besides, very importantly, the NGO points at the present limitations
existing in the exercise of civic and political participation, with the
consequence of a lack of impact on the agenda-setting:

In Turkey, in terms of participation in decision-making processes in the

framework of cooperation among public institutions and CSOs, public
institutions may consult the opinions and experiences of CSOs pertaining
to the policies they will implement. At this point participation is limited
merely to giving information and at times consultation. In other words,
the policy in question originates with the public authorities. The lack of a
legal framework to regulate this issue is the most important problem in
this field. However, in order to pave the way for such participation, albeit
limited, the issue should not be left only to the initiative of public
institutions and a legislation that will clearly regulate and safeguard such
a cooperation should be put in effect. (TÜSEV 2015: 89)

If active citizenship – and its practice – appears therefore to be limited

because of a vague definition of civil society, and the lack of legislative
measures that can regulate their role in policy-making, on the other side,
it can be argued that civil society activists are reluctant in giving
emphasis to the exercise of traditional and nontraditional political
participation, because of a lack of trust toward the current political
This raises the issue of the demands for active citizenship, and the
claim for more extensive bases of democracy and participation. The
following extract, taken from an interview with a civil society activist,
is rather meaningful in this sense:

Active citizenship is about many things, but mostly it is about demanding

the government, the policy makers to be more accountable. (Interview n.
9 with activist of civil society, Turkey)

Lack of accountability and – as we will see later – limited access to

political institutions, radically undermine the importance attached to
traditional means of political participation, such as voting. Besides of
170 8 Active Citizenship in Turkey

this, a number of obstacles to the exercise of active citizenship as a practice

are pointed out by activists and mostly found in long-standing problems
that characterize the Turkish social and political context. Issues such as
freedom of expression, that is seen as considerably undermining the
possibilities to participate, and human rights, the respect for minority
and cultural rights, discrimination, that are considered as key political
priorities in the prospect of the Turkish democratization process, are key
points emerging from the interviews and documents analyzed in the
Turkish case.
It emerges quite clearly the importance of the activation of bottom-up
modalities of active citizenship that signify clear demands for improving
democracy and participation and at the same time to challenge the
present political establishment. On this account, the legacy of occupygezi
is well established in the mind-set of activists that consider this event as
fundamental in order to produce a process of radical social change in the
country. One youth activist, for instance, states that:

Well . . . if I think about political participation, active citizen-

ship . . . you saw what happened with Gezi. Gezi has been a turning
point for us, because young people realized what they can do, that
there is something different. It was not only about the trees . . . it was
about something else. It has also changed a lot for us, for the organiza-
tions, people want to be involved more, they are not scared. Yes, for
sure Gezi was important for us. (Interview n. 39 with civil society
activist, Turkey)

In regard to specific social problems undermining the activation of

participatory behaviors, it is important to pinpoint the issue of gender
discrimination, with a specific focus on persisting inequalities, and
employment conditions. In these terms, civil society activists clearly
put forward – as political priorities to be promoted through public
policy – social solidarity, the struggle against poverty and social exclu-
sion, human rights and gender equality. The confinement of women in
the private sphere, and the persistent suffering of domestic violence are
the specific issues that a number of organizations advocating for women
Practices and Instruments of Active Citizenship in Turkey 171

rights point out. This is considered as one of the core aims of Mor Çati,
Women Shelter Foundation for example:

Like elsewhere in the world, violence toward women is one of the most
common human rights abuses in Turkey. Recent researches show that 4 in
10 women are subjected to domestic violence at home by their husbands
or boyfriends. Domestic violence against women isn’t limited to physical
violence; it has verbal, economic, psychological and sexual dimensions to
it as well. The source of this kind of violence is the male domination
which is evident at every level of the society in Turkey. It is well known
that domestic violence also affects children. Not just physical injuries but
also fear and loss of self confidence are among the damage inflicted as a
result. (Mor Çati 2012)

In terms of policy responses, the role of education is seen as an important

factor that determines the capability for women or young people to
define their role in the public sphere. During the interviews, it emerged
that an increase in the educational level of women not only contributes
to women’s self-development and welfare but also increases the eco-
nomic potential of the country. Illiteracy, low schooling, preschool
education and low higher education participation rates are considered
as problems from which women suffer the most. Furthermore, the
reproduction of the gender roles in the education materials is also
regarded as one of the primary defects in terms of gender inequality.
On this matter, as part of the advocacy work of organizations repre-
senting marginalized groups, part of the discussion and narratives emer-
ging from my analysis look at the values inherent to various modalities
for exercising political participation. Yet, the representation of women is
a major issue that is pointed out as a factor of discrimination. In
commenting upon the 2015 national election, Kadın Adayları
Destekleme ve Eğitme Derneği (KADER), a prominent women’ associa-
tion, remarks the necessity to keep alive the campaign to guarantee a 50/
50 representation of women in the Turkish Parliament. This is quite
important to be pointed at, in so far it contains many similarities to the
campaign organized by the European Women’s Lobby and noted in
Chapter 6. The organization argues that:
172 8 Active Citizenship in Turkey

We have just been through an election process where women who want to
be in politics have been facing opposition and suppression. Male execu-
tives from the 3 political parties who got seats in parliament selected
predominantly male candidates in their lists; leaving the percentage of
women in these parties under 20%. Women’s representation in this
election increased from 14% to 18%. This occurred alongside intense
campaigning, protests, lobbying and the HDP having 49% female candi-
dates. 41 women from Justice and Development Party (AKP), 21 women
from Republican People’s Party (CHP), 4 women from Nationalist
Movement Party (MHP) and 32 women from Peoples’ Democratic
Party (HDP) also gained seats in parliament. Women demanded half of
the seats; however, results are way below the 30% which would be the
critical threshold for women to engage in effective decision making.
Unfortunately, we have to say once again that the Turkish National
Assembly has been formed without the inclusion of half of the population,
ignoring women’s will. Our politicians have ‘once again’ failed to support
equal representation and disregarded true democracy! ( . . . )Until our
demands are fulfilled, and the percentage of women in decision making
positions is 50%, we will continue our struggle. (Kader 2015)

Besides of this, the civic and political participation of young people is

particularly prominent in the discussion that takes place in Turkey. As
outlined before, youth participation has traditionally been considered a
particularly contentious issue. Part of the reactions of youth organiza-
tions regard the necessity to guarantee a legal framework through public
policy in order to stimulate better engagement and consequently broader
bases for civic and political participation. Policy areas that are considered
fundamental in order to foster a new approach to youth policies are
those of human rights – with reference to the elimination of moral and
social deprivations of individuals and groups that have difficulties in
maintaining a good standard of life – and antidiscrimination – with a
focus on the provision of services to those who are in need regardless of
class, language, religion, and region. A particularly important issue that
youth activists perceive as necessary is the establishment of umbrella
organizations – such as an independent Turkish Youth Council – that
can help supporting members in the medium and long run, by proving a
better coordination of their activities.
Practices and Instruments of Active Citizenship in Turkey 173

Related to this, the emphasis given to the issue of empowerment is

important. On this particularly important matter, social workers and
NGOs’ volunteers argue that a peculiar modality that can help stimulat-
ing active citizenship in Turkey, has to do with the provision of skills
and capabilities to different social groups. This is an argument that is
repeatedly found in my analysis of the Turkish sample. In its 2014
Annual Report the Community Volunteers Foundation (Toplum Gönüllüleri
Vakfı-TOG) for example stated that:

We strive to change the stories of young people and empower them to

create new stories by offering opportunities and possibilities ( . . . ). On
the one hand we try to mobilize young people both in domestic and
international arena and on the other hand we try to mentor them with
peer-to-peer trainings in many different fields. Through this mentor-
ing (establishing a mutual, peer-to-peer learning environment), we
create both a common language and provide support to Community
Volunteers to implement projects they develop themselves in a more
qualified manner. (TOG 2014: 11)

The necessity to stimulate engagement through empowerment is also

described in the following extract as a way to stimulate consciousness
from the bottom levels. This is meant to challenge, according to the
interviewee, the persistent polarization characterizing the Turkish

We are mostly focusing on a down to top approach in terms of democra-

tization, because what we believe is that especially with all the polarization
in Turkey, I mean youth is the most affected group in Turkish society,
because the multiplying effect of polarization is increasing when it comes
to the youth, because of, you know, values. We are trying to intervene,
make young people understand that a new language can be possible . . . so
our understanding of democratization is not to lobby or rise our voice
about legislative or administrative issues in Turkey but we provide inter-
ventions, from the roots, that can help young people . . . so through that,
as an organization, we do our best to have more active young people.
(Interview n. 1 with civil society activist, Turkey)
174 8 Active Citizenship in Turkey

It is particularly important to note that this kind of intervention is a

fundamental activity implemented through different youth training
activities. Empowerment is seen as the fundamental instrument that
can facilitate the development of civic and political engagement, and
therefore an essential prerequisite for stimulating the activation of parti-
cipatory behaviors.

Europeanization as an Alternative
for Democracy: Contentious Issues
Turkish NGOs look at the principles established by the EU in a positive
manner. Europeanization is often seen as offering valid alternatives for
engagement and participation, and overall it is viewed as central in order
to overcome the ongoing problems within the country. This is because
through funding, even with many limitations, civil society activists have
received the support for establishing various activities of civic participa-
tion through volunteering, transnational exchanges, and training,
between others. This empowerment function of EU funding is noted,
between others, by TÜSEV, in the 2011 report:

EU funds constitute the primary financial resource of the Turkish CSOs.

In fact, EU funds play such a significant role in the financial sustainability
of some CSOs that become the only resource for the execution of their
projects. CSOs should develop their fundraising skills, diversify their
resources and use other funding options that are consistent with their
mission and area of work. (TÜSEV 2011: 8)

The acknowledgment of the importance of key principles established by

the EU – such as the promotion of active citizenship, the widening of
bases for participatory democracy but also the establishment of a struc-
tured dialogue with stakeholders – are considered as the core pathways
that can innovate the approaches to social policies in Turkey, besides of
the capacity building of Turkish organizations. In other words, by
adhering to the EU’s framework, NGOs acknowledge the strength and
importance of Europeanization in the light of the process of Turkish
Europeanization as an Alternative for Democracy . . . 175

democratization. This is a key point noted in similar research conducted

on the Turkish context (Isin and Saward 2013; Isyar et al. 2010). Isyar et
al. (2010), for example, look at the acts of citizenship (Isin 2008) through
which specific demands and claims are put forward in respect to
European and Turkish institutions.
On this account, TÜSEV remarks the significance assumed by one of
the core programs for the stimulation of a civil society policy in Turkey,
the Civil Society Dialogue initiative, commenting upon it in the follow-
ing manner:

CSOs, especially in the EU membership accession process, should pay a

special interest in international relations. Development of a civil society
dialogue programs plays a significant role in the capacity building of the
CSOs. So far, EU funds have been successful in promoting civil society
dialogue and cooperation. To foster the international dialogue, CSO’s
participation in the international networks and meetings should be pro-
moted. (TÜSEV 2011: 7)

Under this particular context, the Europeanization process has an ines-

timable impact. First of all, because of the opportunities that are offered,
and second because of its importance for activating participatory beha-
viors under the umbrella of core values that are seen as being specifically
‘European.’ Values that are commonly shared by activists and that the
EU, in their views, embody are: the freedom of thought and expression,
the prevention of torture, the strengthening of democracy and civilian
authority, the freedom and the security of the individual, the right to
privacy, the freedom of communication, the freedom of residence and
movement, the freedom of association and gender equality.
If we take a closer stance on young people it is indicated that, in the
process of full membership to the EU, Turkey should endeavor for
improving the capabilities of its young population that will give it a
competitive advantage. On this regard, it is stated that the developments
of cooperation with international organizations across Europe is funda-
mental in order to establish youth councils and youth policies in Turkey.
The enhancement of a dialogue with organizations that are acting on a
transnational scale is seen as fundamental in order to bring about forms
176 8 Active Citizenship in Turkey

of awareness and knowledge and ultimately to stimulate civic and

political engagement. This is also central for activating processes leading
into the appropriation of ownership of the public space.
Europeanization is therefore considered as a fundamental driver to
favor more consciousness about civil and political issues but also to
acquire the necessary skills to challenge the current status quo. As one
interviewee pointed out:

I think the European Union is really important for Turkey, it is

important for democratization, it gives some ideas for the Turkish
civil society, but I think the EU is for me . . . we need to finish the
negotiations, I mean, many other countries have problems in terms of
human rights, but not like Turkey. So the EU is a good chance for
Turkey for democratization, so that’s why I support the EU. It is
important because Turkey needs democracy, Turkey needs gender
equality, Turkey needs human rights, Turkey needs freedom of speech,
Turkey needs freedom of media, I mean we don’t have any choice, but
some people don’t understand that, most people when they think of
the EU they think about money, they don’t think about these things.
It is not about money, but most of the people think that, that’s why
they don’t understand the EU. The EU publishes the progress report,
but honestly I do not think that our policy makers care so much. Our
policy makers don’t have a vision for the European Union, today they
understand that it is not so easy. (Interview n. 10 with civil society
activist, Turkey)

Drawing upon the existing literature on the impact of Europeanization

in Turkey – we could categorize Turkish civil society activists as being
critical Europeanists (Kaya and Marchetti 2014) that act in compliance
with the EU’s normative setting and consider it essential in terms of
democratization. At the same time, the analysis shows the emergence of
a number of contentious issues. These are linked to the scarce impact
that the EU Civil Society Policy in Turkey had in effectively improving
– and favoring – the basis for the exercise of political participation. This
is a situation that is powerfully summarized in the following extract
taken from an interview with a civil society activist:
Europeanization as an Alternative for Democracy . . . 177

The EU has not done enough. The EU policy has many problems and is
not sufficient. The problem is that it doesn’t look at the structure of
organizations but only at mainstream ones, not taking into account the
complexity of the civil society in Turkey. Basically the EU yes gives money,
but the processes to apply are complex and do not follow mechanisms of full
empowerment of civil society organizations. There is then no real coherence
in the policy and most attention is on funding provision rather than active
citizenship. (Interview n. 3 with civil society activist, Turkey)

Two important controversial elements are emerging from this extract.

The first looks at the accessibility of EU funding. This does not facilitate
the survival of smaller organizations that often do not have the necessary
capacities to apply to specific projects. A second is the perception that
EU funding is not fully empowering civil society actors. More broadly,
by looking at the analysis of the data, it results that the shortcomings of
the EU policy action are caused – according to the interviewees – by two
interrelated issues.
First of all, a lack of understanding, from the EU side, of the
structural problems that NGOs have in the country. This is a conse-
quence of the lack of opportunities for organizations to maintain solid
and permanent structures. In other words, the EU has not fully com-
prehended the volatility of the notion of active citizenship that prevails
in the Turkish context. On this regard, part of the discussion with
NGOs has focused on the limitations inherent to the EU civil society
policy in terms of impact on policy-making. In the view of activists,
tackling these issues would provide better bases and visibility in the
public sphere for organizations. For these reasons, NGOs reiterate the
importance of establishing umbrella organizations at the national level.
This could help fostering a better coordination and could be pivotal in
order to enlarge the capabilities to exercise influence on the agenda.
In second instance, very importantly, this limited impact is caused by
the limitations in the exercise of political participation in a context that
is still holding a strong state tradition. This has not facilitated the
emergence of processes that can institutionalize, for example, practices
of civic and political participation, such as the civil dialogue. Hence, as a
consequence, the impact on public policy is limited and ineffective.
178 8 Active Citizenship in Turkey

European Discourse and Crisis

Differently from Italy and the UK – where the financial crisis is for
obvious reasons a core issue around which much debate takes place – in
Turkey the central discussion is focused on the migration crisis. Mostly,
Turkish organizations – as part of wider international networks – put
forward a first-hand intervention and extremely valuable experience of
civic participation since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011. This is
initially seen as an emergency situation that is described in the following
manner by the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation:

IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation has been undertaking various relief

efforts since March 2011 in order to provide those who have been
displaced within Syria and Syrian refugees who have sought asylum in
neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan with basic
supplies such as shelter, food and healthcare. Relief supplies are delivered
to Syrians through IHH Coordination Offices in Kilis and Reyhanli,
Hatay. IHH is serving Syrian refugees with 40 staff members and about
60 volunteers in coordination offices as well as with 60 nongovernmental
organizations within Syria. (IHH 2013: 8)

At the forefront of the provision of humanitarian assistance and

responses to the dramatic flow of immigrants from Syria and other
regions in the area, a number of NGOs dealing with human rights
reorganized their activities in order to focus on specific interventions.
A significant example of this is, for instance, found in the activities of the
NGO Refugee Rights Turkey that since 2015 continues and advances the
work of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Turkey – Refugee Advocacy and
Support Program (HCA-RASP). The need to provide specialized legal
assistance, monitoring, advocacy and capacity-building interventions in
light of the intensification of the migration crisis has therefore required a
specific specialization in such areas. As stated by the Statute, Refugee
Rights Turkey aims to:

( . . . ) empowering refugees and other persons in need of international

protection, other categories of vulnerable migrants and foreign nationals
European Discourse and Crisis 179

to claim their rights and entitlements and access protection mechanisms as

per Turkey’s obligations under domestic and international law; promoting
the improvement of Turkey’s legislation, policies and practices pertaining
to asylum in line with international standards, rule of law principles and
good practices; strengthening of public ownership and sensitivity toward
addressing the protection needs of refugees, asylum seekers and other
categories of vulnerable migrants; and contributing to the proliferation
and strengthening of information and assistance services available to these
groups in Turkey. (Refugee Rights Turkey 2015)

At the same time, it is rather important to look at the positioning of the

organizations included in my sample in respect to the recent migration
deal. The highly controversial agreement between Turkey and the EU,
that came into play as part of the emergency situation that became
dramatic in 2015, together with the retention by many member states
of national borders, has revitalized on the one side, the discussion
concerning the role of Turkey in international relations on a global
scale as well as it has enhanced further its centrality in the area. On
the other side, it has also enhanced controversies regarding the EU’s
crisis management (see e.g., Baban et al. 2017; Memisoglu and Ilgit
In occasion of the Valletta Summit on migration that took place in
Malta in November 2015, the Human Rights Association Turkey, signed a
joint declaration with a number of NGOs from different countries,
noting first of all a lack of involvement of NGOs in respect to the
management of the policy-making in the crisis, and secondly criticizing
an approach that is defined as Eurocentric:

No consideration has been given in this policy process to recommenda-

tions formulated by civil society organizations, which have been left aside
of the Malta summit and of the establishment of migration policies in
general, despite the effects of these policies on the lives, fundamental rights
and mobility of men, women and children. Once again, terms of coopera-
tion remain euro-centric and focused on efficient return/removal policies
as well as on the need for cooperation on behalf of non-EU countries to
fight so-called ‘irregular’ migration. (Joint Declaration 2015: 1)
180 8 Active Citizenship in Turkey

Besides of this, the debate concerning the migration crisis gives space to a
revitalization of the discussion regarding the accession process, as well as
the actual values and dimension associated to the process of
Europeanization, with a specific emphasis on the respect for human
rights. This point is particularly important, in so far it generates specific
narratives focused on the normative values that the EU embodies, with,
however, a number of ambiguities in terms of approach:

Until this year I did not believe that we would ever be a member of the
European Union. But nowadays it changed a little bit because of this
refugee issue. I personally do not care much about Turkey being part of
the EU, but what I care about is the issue of the human rights. This is
important. And in a way the European Union embodies that. (Interview
n. 4 with civil society activist, Turkey)

At the same time however, in regard to the respect of human rights as a

core value, the negotiation between the EU and Turkey is seen as
controversial, with patterns of contestation toward the capability of
finding solutions by the EU. In the following extract, the interviewee
discusses the issue of the migration crisis, pointing at the actual weakness
of the EU as a global actor and rising the point of the lack of institu-
tional responsibility in finding a viable solution:

This issue is not our fault, we did our task, taking the refugee, I think the
EU did not advocate the human rights, and as well, I mean, the EU if they
want to solve this problem, they need to do something in the Middle East,
I mean they need to solve the war, because if the EU wants to be a global
actor, it has to do something in the Middle East. In the refugees crisis the
EU I think has done something wrong, because if you advocate the human
rights, you need to do something, integrate this people I mean, not just get
rid them. This is bad for the idea of the European Union. I mean, if you
look at when it was made, they say that they want to integrate the people.
And also they need to think that this is a global problem. (Interview n. 9
with civil society activist, Turkey)

Criticism is therefore put forward in regard to the lack of accountability

by the EU – whose action along the crisis is seen as contradictory
European Discourse and Crisis 181

in respect to the normative system of values it embodies – as well as in

respect to core EU processes – that is represented by a lack of policy
instruments. Here, a particular link with the financial crisis and the
politics of austerity imposed on Greece is drawn. The specific issue that
is raised in this case is the dimension of European solidarity – or lack of
it – that is embodying the crisis of Europe in the wider sense. The two
topics – immigration and financial crises – are intertwined in order to
address the issue inherent to the evident fragmentation of Europe. This
connection between these two emergency situations is used in order to
showcase that the European crisis is first and foremost a crisis of values:

I mean, this issue of the refugees, it’s a crisis of the European values.
Where are them? We are talking about human beings here. In a way it’s
the same with what happened with Greece. There is no solidarity. I
personally feel pity for them. (Interview n. 14 with civil society activist,

A number of issues are particularly important to note. Even if, from a

normative point of view, the EU embodies a set of core values that are
nowadays put at stake, on the other side much criticism is raised in
respect to both European and Turkish public institutions’ role in the
refugee deal. If on the one side it emerges quite clearly a shortfall in
respect to one of the key drivers of Turkish Europeanization – the
promotion of democratization – on the other side it is important to
note that the controversial role of the government in negotiating the
terms of the deal are pointed out. The following two extracts taken from
interviews are rather significant in respect to this discussion:

The only good thing about this crisis is the coming together of the EU and
Turkey to start negotiations again, but the problem is that our govern-
ment does not have a European vision, I mean a European Union strategy,
they only think about saving the day, they only think about the problem
of the refugee crisis, but in pragmatic terms. I mean, they are saying, if you
don’t give visa free travel, we’ll we send them back. I mean it’s a total
blackmail. . . . (Interview n. 11 with civil society activist, Turkey)
182 8 Active Citizenship in Turkey

( . . . ) about the deal . . . well I think Turkey and the EU made a bargain on
the life of the people, and also on our side is bad. I mean, our country
wants to take money out of it, and I think that’s bad for us, it’s not
existing for us. They want to take money from the EU, and the EU is
saying, ok please do not come here, we can give you money, whatever you
want. Also I mean Merkel to come here to negotiate, I mean it’s a shame
for us but also for her. (Interview n. 4 with civil society activist, Turkey)

In these terms, Turkish NGOs represent a rather critical voice, key for
offering a first-hand intervention and policy intervention, but at the
same time they are excluded from the negotiating table. Their critical
Europeanism is questioned under the conditions of the migration crisis,
that is a key event that brings on the surface a number of crucial and
critical dimensions in the perspective of the Turkish accession to the EU.
This is not to say that the EU’s democratizing power has diminished in
the view of activists as a consequence of the migration crisis, but for sure
this is leading to a reevaluation of the importance of normative values
associated to European integration, the respect for human rights and
solidarity above all.

The analysis reveals a number of ambiguities and controversies in the
establishment of active citizenship in the Turkish context. The
volatility of this concept and the difficulty to activate participatory
behaviors for civil society activists is a result of the long-standing
strong state tradition. A number of dimensions – lack of account-
ability of state institutions and lack of trust toward the current
system – undermine practices of active citizenship. In this context,
Europeanization, as a process has offered – with many limitations –
different opportunities for mobilization to activists and different
possibilities to engage in various activities. It is important to note
– as the chapter outlines in the final part – that the EU on the one
side embodies a number of core values – the respect for human
rights overall. On the other side, Europeanization is considered as a
Conclusion 183

key process in light of the Turkish path toward democratization.

This is however a contested issue. Especially in the aftermath of the
migration agreement that has been signed by Turkey and the EU,
activists identify a number of critical questions, pointing especially at
a number of controversies that put at stake – in their view – the
respect for human rights.
Active Citizenship in the UK

In this chapter, I outline the core characteristics of the British model of
active citizenship. The institutionalization of practices of civic and poli-
tical participation has been a clear objective of both New Right and New
Labour governments and more recently of the coalition government led
by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Regardless of the ideolo-
gical differences, across time active citizenship has developed assuming
common patterns, with specific characteristics that put emphasis on
individual and collective responsibility, on the development of commu-
nity cohesion to solve specific social problems and on the provision to
the Third Sector of specific tasks in order to deliver public services. This
approach is not free from ambiguities, as it is argued in the presentation
of the data from the analysis. Activists vindicate their autonomy, claim-
ing that New Labour reforms as well as the recent Big Society approach
have been one sided and in some cases favored the emergence of coali-
tion groups in spite of the survival of smaller organizations. The chapter
also focuses on the active participation of British organizations in
European networks and at the opportunities that EU funding has

© The Author(s) 2017 185

C. Bee, Active Citizenship in Europe, Palgrave Studies in European
Political Sociology, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-45317-4_9
186 9 Active Citizenship in the UK

opened for activating projects of transnational solidarity. Under this

perspective, the chapter presents some first insights on the scenarios
opened by the Brexit and the consequences of the leave vote for civil
society organizations.

State Society Relations

The British context is dissimilar from the Italian and Turkish ones.
Britain is traditionally located in the Anglo-Saxon model of public
administration. This is characterized by a minimal state, the features of
which are well described by Peters: ‘within the Anglo-American tradition
the state commonly is conceptualized as arising from a contract among
members of society. The boundaries between state and society are there-
fore more distinct, and perhaps more flexible and bargainable’ (Peters
Andrews et al. (2013) outline the following characteristics of the
British state and its administrative culture: it is a unitary state, with
decentralized structures and devolved administrations, a common law
tradition and a powerful executive branch of government. It is first of all
guided by a notion of public interest, based on the principles that ‘civic
servants are regarded as people who work for the public, and who are, at
the most senior levels charged with upholding the public interest above
narrow sectional interests’ (Andrews et al. 2013: 11).
The idea of British citizenship is embedded in the neoliberal
model of Marshall (1950) that establishes a clear connotation in
respect to state/society relations. This perspective is based upon the
idea of citizenship as a status, based on a negative notion of freedom,
favoring the individual over the community and emphasizing a broad
set of rights guaranteed by the state. Marshall argued that the notion
of citizenship has evolved across time to include civil, political, and
social rights. In particular, the last phase of development discussed by
Marshall is important in so far it sets the basis for a model of
citizenship based on rights and entitlements that have been devoted
through universal principles. It also needs to be emphasized that the
Determinants of Reform and Political Conditions 187

neoliberal definition of citizenship has been subjected to a number of

criticisms in the literature (Heater 1999; Pateman 1988; Lister 1997)
especially in relation to the emergence of differentiated and multi-
cultural models of society. As I will argue again later, these trends
and phenomena have radically challenged the issue of British citizen-
ship, especially when seen in the context of the crisis of the British
multicultural society.

Determinants of Reform and Political

The emergence of the New Right in Britain at the end of the 1970s
signals the end of the universal principles upon which the welfare state
was based in the aftermath of WWII. The coming into power of
Margaret Thatcher and the subsequent government of John Major
brought forward, between others, the priority of radical reforming the
state by adopting a number of New Public Management inspired reforms.
These aimed foremost at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of
government (Dunleavy 1985; Ferlie et al. 1996; Hood 1991; Hood and
Jackson 1991).
This process of reform was determined mostly by the need to cut
public spending and to face the economic crises of the 1970s. As recently
noted by Andrews et al., for example:

In the wake of the economic crises of the 1970s, Thatcher’s government

determined that, amongst other things, an administrative revolution was
required to address the perceived failings of the state, principally by
reducing the size of the public sector, and making public services more
business-like and open to market forces. Inspired by neo-liberal economics
and public choice theory, the New Right ideology pioneered by the
Conservative governments in the 1980s paved the way for the rise of the
New Public Management in the UK. (2013: 8)

The managerial approach that was put in place under New Right was
therefore based on control of public spending with a strong emphasis on
188 9 Active Citizenship in the UK

service reorganization, and a strong focus on making public services

‘efficience and performance oriented’ (Acroyd et al. 2007: 11).
The political conditions, that changed with the New Labour govern-
ment elected in 1997 under Tony Blair, put forward new reforms,
enhancing principles of mixed economy in providing public services,
renewing the emphasis on the need for modernization, without however
departing from the New Public Management approach (Dawson and
Dargie 2002). In line with the Italian case, the key public service reforms
driving the agenda of New Labour were central in these terms, but at the
same time the process entailed openness to civic participation and
bottom-up processes of engagement. Andrews et al. (2008) show that
this process was similar to that implemented in many Western countries,
where policies of active engagement were being put in place in order to
shape policy-making. In these terms, under New Labour, a set of
initiatives aimed at improving this relationship, providing evidence of
the fact that ‘numerous public service providers are now engaged in
fostering links with citizens, predicated in part on the instrumental
rationale that this will improve service performance’ (Andrews et al.
2008: 226).

Characteristics of Active Citizenship

In comparison with the Italian and Turkish cases, the broader political
debate on active citizenship in Britain takes a completely different angle.
It has involved an intense discussion on the role of the individual in the
community of belonging that started at the end of the 1980s. It is more
politically driven than the Italian discussion, and is part of a wider
institutional and scientific debate that has been shaped by specific
ideological connotations, rooted either in Conservatism or in New
Labour’s political projects.
At the end of the 1980s (see Brehony 1992), active citizenship was
put forward as a possible policy response to a number of social problems
emerging in the country. The issues of engagement and participation
were at the time politically and socially at the forefront of the
Characteristics of Active Citizenship 189

Conservative policies of Thatcher and Major. In declaring that ‘greater

opportunities for active citizens are being offered and taken up ( . . . ) our
action against crime and against drugs relies increasingly on a partner-
ship between statutory agencies, the relevant professions and public-
spirited citizens,’ Hurd (cited in Faulks 1998: 128), Home Secretary at
the time, launched the neoliberal style of active citizenship in Britain,
expressing a commitment, which was consequently shaped and renewed
in Major’s government between 1990 and 1997. The political and social
needs at the time were to foster new values and were aimed at favoring a
better integration within political communities in Britain (Faulks 1998;
Marinetto 2003; Davies 2012). Even though principles evoking the civic
republican style of active citizenship were put forward, academic evi-
dence has been rather critical of the association developed by the
Conservatives. Research shows that the New Right approach to active
citizenship was far from being open and based on participatory means
(Faulks 1998; Kearns 1995), being the ‘active citizenship campaign’
coherent with the neoliberal politics of the Conservative government
at the time and based on the assumption of the need to foster a sense of
individual responsibility between members of a community. In inter-
preting this development, Faulks argues ‘the active citizenship campaign
was consistent with the Neo-Liberal agenda of Thatcherism, which was
concerned more with the development of a citizenship based upon the
assertion of the individual and the market, rather than a genuine concern
for the promotion of community values’ (Faulks 1998: 128).
In order to draw a parallel with the reforms of the public administra-
tion in Italy and in Turkey, it is worth remembering that this discourse
on active citizenship is shaped by another initiative that was taken at the
time, the Citizens Charter which was launched by Major in 1991. The
Charter was meant to establish better access of citizens to public services,
the need for public services to operate efficiently, and to guarantee a
higher level of choice for citizens based on new market mechanisms.
This program of reforms is to be interpreted in a wider context con-
cerning the reorganization of public services that includes programs such
as the 1988 and 1993 Education Act, the 1988 House and Local
Government Act, and the 1990 National Health Service and
Community Care Act. All of these, as Faulks explains, were attempts
190 9 Active Citizenship in the UK

to ‘increase personal responsibility and the basic market right of the

citizen’ (Faulks 1998: 133) by promoting a consumerist culture.
It can thus be argued that a change in the role and functions of the
public administration with a growing role given to local authorities was
central at the time (Kearns 1995: 159), and implied an opening to the
Third Sector, with a more prominent role given to voluntary organiza-
tions (Brehony 1992). The New Right style of active citizenship was
based on the neoliberal politics of the Thatcher and Major governments
and enhanced social divisions at the community level rather than creat-
ing principles and values allowing for conditions of social solidarity to
foster the actual exercise of active citizenship. Moreover, it was oriented
at the preservation of individual liberty rather than at actual engagement
with communitarian life (Faulks 1998: 130) and entailed neither
empowerment in the political community nor actual involvement in
the public sphere.
The shift in government that led New Labour to emerge as the
leading party in Britain was characterized by a renewed commitment
to the issue and definition of active citizenship and was based on the
political necessity to make ‘community a central political theme’
(Marinetto 2003: 114). Participatory democracy and civic engagement
were thus central in the political discourse of New Labour, especially
until the 7/7 events of 2005. During this time, the government put
forward a new set of innovative ideas and provided evidence of a
‘commitment to extending public involvement in the policy-making
and democratic process’ (Marinetto 2003: 116). In New Labour poli-
tical discourse, issues such as civic engagement, active citizenship, and
civil society at the local level were central in order to shape forms of
collective action allowing for increased participation in policy-making
(Giddens 1998, 2000, 2001). The pattern of active citizenship in Britain
under New Labour was thus framed by the establishment of a new
relationship with public institutions, not merely based on consumerist
principles but grounded instead on political and civic patterns (Andrews
et al. 2008: 225).
Critics, however, have argued that this approach had many common-
alities with neoliberal principles (Davies 2012). In particular, in compar-
ing the New Labour approach to community and deliberation with the
Characteristics of Active Citizenship 191

Habermasian ideal model of civic engagement and public participation,

Davies identifies a series of critical issues that emerge from a closer
analysis of actual policies. Overall, the partnerships developed under
New Labour embedded ‘the principles of “contributory consensualism”
– the duty of citizen activists to mobilise community resources in pursuit
of non-negotiable government policies’ (Davies 2012: 10). In relation to
this, Marinetto argues that New Labour’s policies of community invol-
vement ‘have not been accompanied by a substantive transfer of execu-
tive power from the centre to local institutions and people’ (Marinetto
2003: 116). The problem remained that there was an insufficient
transfer of power that could be thought of as creating a truly ‘citizen-
centred government’ (Marinetto 2003: 118).
It is worth noticing that, more prominently than in the Italian and
Turkish cases, the shaping of active citizenship under New Labour was
linked to the emergence of new social problems that resulted in aca-
demic and institutional debate on the reframing of integration policies
(see, e.g., McGhee 2003, 2006, 2008, 2009). Clashes between commu-
nities in Oldham, Burnley, and Bradford in 2001, and then the terrorist
attack of 7/7 in London in 2005, led to the questioning of a number of
policy responses to the fragmentation of British society that had been
adopted at the end of the 1990s. This essentially put multiculturalism
into question. The emphasis on the lack of integration and separation
between communities resulted in a series of policy actions that were
taken forward by the New Labour government between 2001 and 2010,
which have been characterized as a ‘model of civic assimilation based on
the idea of forging allegiance to core principles shared by all through the
effective engagement of responsible “active citizens” located in “active
communities”’ (McGhee 2009, p. 49).
A number of policy documents developed during this time help
understanding the centrality of active citizenship and community cohe-
sion for building a new approach to integration policy in Britain.
However, in evaluating these policy responses, Ratcliffe notes that ‘the
New Labour government remained, at least, somewhat equivocal on the
relationship between equality and (community) cohesion’ (2012: 275).
McGhee underlines how these strategies were actually biased by the fact
that they were not integrative in the full sense but more closely focused
192 9 Active Citizenship in the UK

on the adaptation and assimilation of minorities. In his evaluation of

New Labour’s policies McGhee states that they neglected ‘a balanced
integration strategy for both potential “host” communities and “new”
migrants. At the same time, the strategy of deterrence has had the
unintended consequence of legitimizing racism and asylophobia in
Britain’ (McGhee 2006: 118).
The events of the 7/7 London bombings, and then the shift in
government from Blair to Brown, produced a further change in the
policies of active citizenship. The strengthening of the assimilationist
approach as well as the shaping of ‘Britishness’ as a core value for
minority groups were expressed through the approach taken toward
citizenship after 2005 as represented by the 2008 Green Paper: The
Path to Citizenship, where the aim was to base integration policies on a
journey to citizenship. The three-stage journey (temporary residence,
probationary citizenship, and British citizenship/permanent residence)
proposed in the Green Paper were meant to set a requirement to earn
citizenship and the right to stay in the UK. This is marked as a core
principle in the section of the Green Paper dedicated to Active
Citizenship, where it is stated that:

We tested the idea of asking newcomers to participate in some kind of

community work. For many in the discussions this was an important idea
– in particular for the contribution it could make to better integrated
communities. It was generally thought to be an idea that should be
implemented as early as possible in the migrant’s journey into the UK,
and it was seen as a positive way in which newcomers could demonstrate a
commitment to Britain by making every possible effort to integrate into
the local communities where they lived. (Home Office 2008: 16)

It can therefore be argued that the discussion of active citizenship in

Britain has been closely linked to a process of closer integration of
specific communities in the country. In line with the criticism expressed
above and outlined in the literature, it possesses an exclusionary and
functional dimension.
It is also important to note the shift in political discourse happened
under the Coalition Government led by Conservatives and Liberal
Characteristics of Active Citizenship 193

Democrats between 2010 and 2015 and subsequently under the

Conservative Government of David Cameron until June 2016. The
Tory leader put on his agenda a number of initiatives, known as the
Big Society proposals. As noted by Hilton et al.:

The big society proposals assume that government alone cannot solve
complex social problems. Instead, by making the public services more
accountable to citizens, by decentralizing power and by expanding the
opportunities for civic participation, it is hoped that an active citizenry
will play a quantitatively and qualitatively greater role in tackling pro-
blems that affect communities. The package of policies is predicated on
the notion that there has been a decline in civic participation and that this
can be attributed partially to a dependency culture encouraged by ‘big
government.’ (2010)

In a nutshell, the proposals are based on a dual strategy. The necessity to

stimulate empowerment of civil society organizations at the local level
intertwines with the need to enhance their sense of responsibility in
taking action in regard to emerging social problems. The overall aim and
ambition, to stimulate civic participation, however clashes against what
different authors consider as being a lively and healthy tradition of civic
participation in Britain at least since then end of WWII (Hilton et al.
2012, 2013). In the context of the British austerity politics (Alcock
2010; Kisbi 2010; Levitas 2012), the Big Society proposals seem to be
instead a way for justifying the cutting of funding for organizations, by
stressing out that the solutions would be at the same time emphasizing
self-responsibility for civic action. The agenda is therefore characterized
by approaches that basically ‘encourage citizens to seek to do more for
themselves, in concert with others in their community and to look rather
less often toward the state to provide for them’ (Lister 2015: 355). At the
same time, as Alcock puts it well, the risks inherent to these proposals are
that they are selective, since they privilege certain selected categories of
the Third Sector: ‘one of the consequences of the Big Society could be
the heralding in of a more divisive third sector politics, which may not
be what all policy makers or practitioners had in mind in invoking a new
era of community engagement’ (Alcock 2010: 6).
194 9 Active Citizenship in the UK

The Big Society Agenda clearly sets principles for the development of
active citizenship that are rooted in the previous initiatives put forward
by the New Right and New Labour, by however injecting furthermore
liberal principles in its exercise. The emphasis on self-government, rather
than putting a clear edge on favoring the independency of civil society,
seem to be however a way out from the financial crisis, and a modality to
justify cuts on public spending.
These experiences show, between different ambiguities inherent to the
actual positioning of the citizens toward the state, that active citizenship
and the development of its different practices is a well-established dis-
cussion in the British context. As Lister argues, ‘Whether it is the Big
Society, the Third Way, the Good Society or some other concoction,
politicians are likely to continue to place more emphasis on citizens to
provide for their own, and society’s welfare. Any such effort to succeed
requires a much more consistent engagement with what motivates and
prompts people to partake in civic activism, and a rethinking of how
government institutions can support that’ (2015: 366). This commit-
ment to develop participatory instruments in Britain, results in a situa-
tion where practices of active citizenship clearly intertwine with demands,
and where there is, in my point of view, a profound institutionalization
of principles that allow the exercise of civic and political participation.
This is a central feature of differentiation from the Italian and Turkish
context that clearly emerges from the analysis of my data.

Practices and Instruments of Active Citizenship

in the UK
British civil society activists, consider active citizenship as a way to
foster democracy and to reengage citizens with the decision-making
process. In the first part of this paragraph, the New Labour model of
citizenship is discussed. This is seen as based on the fulfillment of
responsibilities, as part of active participation, and the attempt to
reengage citizens with decision-making processes. Participatory
democracy and deliberative practices at the community level are
Practices and Instruments of Active Citizenship in the UK 195

seen as the instruments to shape the relationship between public

institutions and citizens and therefore to improve decision-making.
Secondly, the evaluation is based on the assessment of the Big Society
proposals under the coalition government 2010–2015. Even if the
overall mission and underpinnings of the strategy were at ‘heart
positive’ (ACEVO 2014: 50), civil society’s views on the impact of
the proposals, especially in terms of autonomy and sustainability of
the voluntary sector have been rather negative.
According to my analysis, political participation is considered to be a
fundamental right that everyone should be entitled to. As shown in the
following extract, activists argue that mechanisms of empowerment are
needed in order to provide the basis for engagement. When one activist
was asked about the meaning associated with political participation, the
answer was:

It means more than consulting and informing (although people are

entitled to be informed and consulted) on matters affecting them.
Rather, it is about giving them the tools and knowledge to make decisions
or challenge decisions affecting their lives. (Interview n. 4 with activist of
civil society, UK)

This extract provides the basis for a link with the important issue of
empowerment, touching about important dimensions that can favor the
emergence of forms of awareness and capacities that are important
elements for the stimulation of engagement toward the civic and/or
political community.
The empowerment of civil society groups dealing with minorities,
migrants, women, and youth, in particular, is thus seen as a necessary
condition in order to set the bases for participatory democracy and
political participation. In this respect, intercultural dialogue is consid-
ered to be the specific instrument to develop because of its centrality in
bridging between different social groups. Dialogue is also seen as funda-
mental in building community cohesion and enabling different commu-
nities to engage with each other, by favoring the development of positive
relationships between minorities and creating opportunities to connect,
meet openly, and debate everyday life issues and concerns.
196 9 Active Citizenship in the UK

Furthermore, participation in community planning and generally in

political life at a local level is considered central for the improvement of a
communitarian identity and integration of different social groups.
Active citizenship could thus foster community cohesion and the defini-
tion of a more integrated society. My data provide evidence for this,
showing that civil society organizations acknowledge – and advocate for
– the inclusion of principles of differentiated citizenship. This shows that
the values of active citizenship put forward by the New Labour govern-
ment are widely recognized by civil society. There is however a wide-
spread criticism of the approach undertaken by New Labour, as it is
considered to be based on ‘one-sided engagement.’ During an interview,
for example, an activist declared that active citizenship:

‘( . . . ) is very much a one-sided process, where public institutions just ask

NGOs to work on issues that interest the national government and there
is no partnership in the design or the identification of the important
issues’. (Interview n. 2 with activist of civil society, UK)

The development of active citizenship in the UK is to be interpreted in

light of the New Public Management reforms that have been promoted,
as I argued previously, since the end of 1970s. In this context, the
enhancement of the Third sector has been key in order to deliver public
service. This is noted in a policy paper drafted by the National Coalition
for Independent Action in 2011:

Under the New Labour government some attention was given to the role of
community groups via empowerment initiatives. The main focus however
was on the role of professionalized voluntary sector agencies in meeting
government targets and, in particular, the delivery of public services under
contract to state agencies. Implementation of these policies was driven by
new, more rigid methods of commissioning services. At the same time,
distinctions were blurred between voluntary and private provision through
official support for social enterprises. (Independent Action 2011a: 1)

This process, that on the one side is meant to enhance functional partner-
ships with various groups working at the community level, is however
Practices and Instruments of Active Citizenship in the UK 197

having the countereffect to shape a highly professionalized volunteering

sector, undermining in so far the autonomy of such groups. In this sense,
the normative ideal of an autonomous civil society, which is acting
independently from state institutions, is by consequence significantly
undermined. This is a process that is enhanced further under the Big
Society proposals and initiatives, as noted by Independent Action:

Under the current coalition government the intention is that public

services which survive the cuts, with few exceptions, will be contracted
out to the private or voluntary sectors or to social enterprises. Large
national charities and businesses are in a strong position to secure these
contracts and extend their control of local services. Smaller, locally-based
voluntary agencies are being encouraged to ‘scale up’ their capacity
through mergers, acquisitions and consortia. At the same time, groups
active in the community sector are feted with the promises of localism and
‘big society’ initiatives that, as yet, have little substance and are widely
regarded with scepticism. (Independent Action 2011a: 1)

The further enhancement and promotion of privatization and the usage

of volunteerism for the provision of state services paves the way for the
development of highly specialized and centralized structures. NGOs are
seen as actors in an open market, enhancing the idea of competition
rather than collaboration, with the consequence that small-scale organi-
zations – unable to ‘scale up’ – are cut out. Besides of this, another risk
of the Big Society is identified in the danger to enhance inequalities at
the local levels, as a result of the funding cuts toward voluntary organi-
zations. The Big Society Audit 2012, published by Civil Exchange
pointed out this risk:

( . . . ) a question mark hangs over the ability of the Big Society to reach those
communities and individuals that might benefit the most. The Audit
identifies a ‘Big Society Gap’ in levels of trust, engagement and social action
between the most disadvantaged and affluent, urban and rural communities
and younger and older people. This will make it difficult for those commu-
nities to take up the initiatives being offered to them. Most worryingly,
public services delivered by voluntary organisations in disadvantaged areas
are more likely to be at risk from public sector cuts and to provide services to
198 9 Active Citizenship in the UK

disadvantaged people. More care is needed to address current inequalities if

the Big Society is to be successful. (Civil Exchange 2012: 9)

The initial assessments drawn by a number of groups and organizations

across the UK are thus rather straightforward in outlining the possible
risks and shortcomings of the Big Society proposals. As outlined before,
the first issue that is discussed concerns the autonomy of civil society,
whereas another particularly relevant issue, related to this, is the actual
undermining of capabilities to perform their particular functions.
It is important to note that, with the end of the Coalition
Government and the debate that led to the establishment of the
Conservative Government in 2015, a number of organizations offered
policy reflections on the five years experience, with the scope of provid-
ing recommendations for a radical change in the Big Society philosophy.
A meaningful example of this policy refection, is the 2015 ACEVO
General Election Manifesto that put forward a number of rather critical
points, claiming the necessity of rethinking from the roots the approach
followed in promoting active citizenship in Britain:

We are proud of our nation’s commitment to a free society, to free speech, to

a free civil society that sits between the individual and state. These are truly
our nation’s values. The third sector does not only hold society together or
deliver public services: it gives us an identity and makes us proud to be part of
our nation. That is why we are deeply ashamed of the attempts to gag and
stifle free speech and free association and the draconian laws that have been
passed over the course of this parliament. Our message to politicians is clear:
repeal these laws, stop undermining the third sector – and remember what it
means to be part of a free society. (ACEVO 2014: 49)

The point of view of Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary

Organizations (ACEVO) is well representative of the tensions inherent
to the promotion of active citizenship as a practice in Britain under the
principles of New Public Management. The undermining of critical
voices in the society corresponds to a call for more autonomy and
independency, or in other words, to demands for alternative modalities
to exercise active citizenship.
European Discourse and Compliance 199

European Discourse and Compliance

In Britain, according to the interviews there is an open recognition of core
EU principles such as social inclusion, integration policy, fundamental
rights, and citizenship of minorities that should be widely promoted, both
at the national and local levels. Contrary to the data that emerged from the
analysis of the Italian sample, the EU’s approach to civic engagement,
which promotes the networking of NGOs in local communities with the
scope of challenging ethnic discrimination, is welcomed by a number of
NGOs in the UK. Local and national NGOs appear to be committed to
‘network building’ with different European organizations by promoting
the understanding of minority issues and positive relations between min-
ority and majority communities across Europe. They also appear to be
aware of different EU programs, and in terms of policy and political
priorities these are convergent with British priorities, especially in the fields
of the gender equality and equal opportunities.
During the analysis of the interviews, it became clear that a number of
organizations are actually welcoming the forms of civil dialogue established
in Brussels and the current involvement with supranational organizations
such as the European Women’s Lobby, the European Youth Forum, the
Social Platform, and the Policy Migration Group. The process is reviewed
regularly and it has developed and matured into an important ongoing
feature of the current practices in which organizations are involved. The
interviews also highlighted how the participating organizations are able to
raise awareness of relevant issues – for example, by increasing networking
or enhancing communication practices within Europe, as well as with
contacts in developing countries – and how this ensures a mechanism for
flagging concerns and maintaining a two-way flow of information.
However, reflecting upon one of the main instruments aimed at
fostering civil dialogue in the first Barroso presidency, the Plan D for
Democracy, Dialogue, and Debate, an activist asserted that the imple-
mentation of this seemed to show that:

( . . . ) the EU is conscious that it is not effectively engaging with its

citizens in general. In the UK that can of course be because of an
ambiguity about membership of the EU. However, we are, in general,
200 9 Active Citizenship in the UK

very positive about engaging with it and look to it for support both
financial and legislative. (Interview n. 3 with activist of civil society, UK)

Difficulties encountered in accessing information coming from the EU

and coordination between governments and non-state actors are, how-
ever, pointed out as some of the factors that undermine NGOs’ cap-
abilities to adopt and make the best use of supranational resources. This
is an important convergence, I believe, with the Italian and Turkish
discourse. Yet, Europe is seen as a land of opportunities and resources
that, however, still seems to be lacking an impact in providing the bases
for enhancing active citizenship.
The prominent issue that emerges from the analysis is the lack of
funding and support, especially for small-scale NGOs, since most small
voluntary organizations are not able to engage with European funding.
The EU is perceived by NGO officials as unable or unavailable to answer
questions and give the support that small NGOs from different coun-
tries need. This is well expressed in the following passage:

I think one of the really biggest problems coming from an NGO perspec-
tive, is that their own house is so, in such disorder about the way they
manage their relationships through funding, so the ESF and all that, I
mean it’s a nightmare, and they can say lots of wonderful things about
engagement but when you have an organization, like Daphne which
delivers money as part of its funding in October that has to be spent by
the end of December, a year’s worth of funding, and then doesn’t give it
for six months, you know essentially what they are trying to do is kill off
NGOs, so, and that’s a major problem. (Interview n. 4 with activist of
civil society, UK)

During the interviews, the discussion regarding the European

Employment Strategy also emerged, as well as the opinion that some
member states have begun to develop a strategy combining measures to
promote the integration of disadvantaged groups with those aiming to
tackle discriminatory attitudes and practices. However, it is argued that
this dual approach could and should be further developed. Particular
emphasis is placed on the growing trend to deal with gender equality
Crisis Management and the Paradox of Brexit 201

alongside measures to combat discrimination set out in Article 13 of the

EC Treaty. Indeed, an integrated approach is foreseen in order to
respond to situations of multiple discriminations and to develop effec-
tive approaches to the promotion of equal treatment.
In terms of perceived policy needs, it is highlighted that the EU
should do more to enhance respect for human rights and fundamental
freedoms in countries and regions where they are most at risk; further-
more, it should increase its efforts to strengthen the role of civil society
in promoting human rights and bring about more democratic reforms,
in support of the peaceful conciliation of group interests and the con-
solidation of political participation and representation. Within the over-
all discussion concerning fundamental rights, a specific issue regarding
the impact of the EU Gender Roadmap also emerges, which is viewed
with general disappointment because of its lack of resources, targets, and
timelines. On the other hand, it is suggested that the EU could do more
to promote the valuable contributions made by migrants to the EU
economy and the EU member states. The issue of migration is perceived
as having become negatively politicized, as a problem, instead of posi-
tively promoted as a means of strengthening national economies and
promoting cultural diversity. In a similar vein, it is argued that mino-
rities should be supported where they need assistance in respect to
services, education, jobs, etc. Overall, it was proposed that the issue of
cultural diversity should not be seen as a threat, but as a positive
development, which should be positively embraced.

Crisis Management and the Paradox of Brexit

When looking at the British discourse, a number of overlapping narra-
tives with Italian-based organizations in terms of social priorities and
effects produced by the financial crisis can be identified. This overlap is
particularly evident in respect to new emergent social problems that
affect Britain domestically. At the same time, these are also discussed in
comparison with the wider European context. Common social problems
that are identified are poverty and unemployment, with the subsequent
202 9 Active Citizenship in the UK

alarming rise of racism and xenophobia. However, it is particularly

relevant to underline, the presence of a clearer understanding – in
respect to Italian NGOs – of the effects of the financial crisis on
particularly weak groups such as minorities, migrants, or women. The
Poverty Alliance describes very well this dynamic, by outlining the effects
that the crisis had in bringing new social problems to the fore:

The recession has significantly increased the number of men who are
under-employed; who are working part-time when they would prefer to
work full-time. Women have historically, and are currently, under-
employed in both the sense that they would wish to work more hours
than they are currently doing, and that they are working in a job that
does not require them to use the full range of their skills. (Poverty
Alliance 2012: 6)

Significantly, in respect to what has been just argued, there is a wide

reflection upon the effects of the crisis on marginalized groups, more
specifically on minorities:

In the UK, most minority ethnic groups have lower employment rates
than white British people, and these ethnic penalties have worsened
during the recession. Public sector cuts are also having a disproportional
impact on the employment situation of ethnic minorities, especially Black
African and Black Caribbean people, and women, who are more likely to
be employed in the public sector. (UKREN 2012)

In terms of policy responses, British-based organizations – in respect to

the Italian or Turkish ones – are proactively compliant to EU mea-
sures, programs, and policies. This is represented by the establishment
of an active commitment to the discussion concerning their imple-
mentation and overall to providing feedback in order to improve their
formulation. On this regard, within the documents that have been
included in the sample, I find evidence of two core interrelated
The first is relative to the actual political and social responsibility that
political leaders across Europe should assume in guaranteeing social
Crisis Management and the Paradox of Brexit 203

protection and fight against any form of discrimination. In the following

extract, for example, the UK Race and Europe Network (UKREN) states that:

Given the disproportionate impact that the economic downturn is having

on some of Europe’s ethnic minorities, European leaders should review
the impacts of their austerity policies on ethnic minority and migrant
groups, with a view to ensuring that the current economic crisis does not
continue to worsen the outcomes of some of Europe’s most vulnerable
communities. In addition, governments across Europe should avoid com-
placency over some forms of extremism and seek to counter the increasing
social acceptance of xenophobic and racist discourse. (UKREN 2012)

The second discourse revolves around the European strategic plans

adopted throughout the years and since the start of the crisis. On this
regard, contrarily from Italian organizations, activists argue that
European Institutions had a key role in trying to alleviate the implica-
tions of the crisis:

In October 2011, the European Commission proposed the draft regula-

tion for the next Round of Cohesion Policy, with a minimum share of
25% of the Cohesion policy budget devoted to the European Social Fund
(ESF) and at least 20% of the ESF earmarked for social inclusion and
fighting poverty. This was widely welcomed by Social NGOs as a concrete
proposal to give credence to the poverty reduction target agreed by EU
leaders as an integral part of the Europe 2020 Strategy. (Poverty Alliance
2012: 5)

On this matter, it is particularly relevant to underline that British

organizations widely refer to specific measures and the relative impact
of programs that have been adopted by the EU in order to alleviate
the impact of the crisis, such as for example the long-term program
Europe 2020 that is mirrored as being a mainstream EU policy
response put forward in order to face the current economic crisis.
Organizations such as Oxfam UK, UKREN, the Runnymede Trust,
the National Alliance of Women’s Organizations have actively parti-
cipated in the debate regarding the adoption of EUROPE 2020
targets. They produced a number of policy documents aimed at
204 9 Active Citizenship in the UK

stimulating an improvement of the program itself and at readdressing

its targets along a better realignment on the social protection of
marginalized groups.
In a recent statement, Oxfam UK provides policy recommendations,
calling for more open and democratic processes, as well as it proposes
adjustments that take Europe 2020 as a key instrument to improve the
bases of the European social dimension:

The EU should remain a beacon for hope, not an institution that breaks its
promises to European citizens. This is vital for the survival of the EU itself
– future support depends on a firm balance between economic and social
goals agreed democratically. Member states urgently need to agree to
challenge austerity collectively. They must defend universal social protec-
tion systems, pursue a balanced Europe 2020 growth strategy, and ensure
Europe is moving steadily toward making sure all citizens have enough to
live with dignity. Furthermore, the process of implementing any adjust-
ment or growth policies within countries must be accountable. Poverty and
inequality in Europe are a political choice. But Europe can choose to
change course now – choose to listen to its citizens and ensure the next
few years do not turn into hopelessly lost decades. (Oxfam UK 2013)

On this regard, it can be argued that British organizations, compared to

Italian or Turkish ones, are actively involved in forms of structured
dialogue with European institutions, by providing critical policy recom-
mendations to adjust the formulation of specific programs.
The urgency of the migration crisis puts at stake a number of issues
that are quite central for different NGOs based in the UK and part of
transnational networks. It is important to note that, in reaction to the
migration crisis, several organizations have provided – as it is in the case
of Turkey and Italy – a first-hand intervention that has brought to
surface the importance of civic participation as a peculiar activity
based on different demands for intervention. This is outlined for example
by Volunteering Matters, a British-based organization:

( . . . ) the crisis has drawn attention to the amazing work that volunteers
are doing to support fellow humans. It seems to me that volunteering has
Crisis Management and the Paradox of Brexit 205

come back to its origin, as a movement of ordinary people who sponta-

neously organise themselves to help those most vulnerable in society. In
other crises the role of the volunteers is to compensate the work of
professionals: but in this difficult time, volunteers are the active actors of
the humanitarian response. (Volunteering Matters 2016)

The British debate is particularly focused on two core directions. First of

all it is looking at the role and responsibilities of the UK in respect to the
migration crisis and the actual integration of migrants into the British
context and, secondly, at the overall crisis of values and solidarity that is
spread across different European Countries. Hereby a number of critical
points are directed foremost at the Conservative government of
Cameron. More specifically, the problem of the British government’s
attitude in respect to the migration crisis is criticized by the organiza-
tions of the civil society. On the one side, it emerges quite clearly the
vision of a political division where the construction of othering is in
place, with the government seen as responsible for not providing an
actual integrative intervention that account for this emergency situation.
The two following extracts are quite meaningful in this sense:

Current government policy does not provide the support that refugees so
desperately need, and fails to build the positive relationships we all want to
see between refugees and host communities. There is a better way. A
reformed system would improve the lives of refugees, enable them to
contribute more to the UK, improve community relations and save the
UK money ( . . . ). These are extraordinary times. No one chooses to be a
refugee. It’s the accident of birth that separates ‘us’ from ‘them’. Four
years of the brutal war in Syria have left 11 million people with no option
but to flee their homes. There appears to be no end in sight to this war and
the appalling suffering that comes with it. (Refugee Action 2016)
( . . . ) this is as much a crisis of racism as it is a crisis of refugees. Indeed,
the shocking images we have seen on the front pages of our newspapers,
and on our television screens, in the last few days is a political crisis of
failed Governmental responses to human mobility in the face of persecu-
tion. Further, this failed response to events in Syria – as well as countries
such as Afghanistan and Eritrea – is explicitly built upon the foundations
206 9 Active Citizenship in the UK

of a sedentary othering: a peculiarly European typology of racism. (CRER


On the other side, the discussion is addressing more directly, as it is both

in the Italian and Turkish cases, values such as human rights and the
respect of diversity, that should be key in order to define a common
European denominator of social rights. This is an issue that is reiterated
further, and that represents more broadly a crisis in western-based
values, in Britain, but more broadly in Europe. Recalling the importance
of these values, is a rather important issue that direct NGO discourses.
For example, UKREN affirms that:

Our shared future should be underpinned by the sorts of values and

history that will allow Europe to flourish in the twenty-first century,
and that is where all of us need to work harder to make our democracy
a more just and equal one. Our political leaders too should affirm the
value of our current diversity, and its consistency with the future based on
justice and democracy that we are all seeking to build. ( . . . ) (UKREN

This call for democracy and respect of human rights is inherent to a

strong criticism toward the government’s inaction. What is noticeable
from the analysis is the direction of the debate concerning on the one
side the process of Europeanization and on the other side the domestic
level. By looking at the former, it emerges quite clearly the importance of
opportunities and cooperation for various organizations in respect to
various areas of concern. British organizations, on this regard, consider
the development of transnational forms of solidarity as a core value
orienting their activities. On the other side, by looking at the latter,
there is an emerging criticism toward governmental responses, where the
Conservative approach to the issue of migration is deeply criticized.
It is not a chance that the enhancement of social problems, together with
the rise of political forces that aim at the reaffirmation of Britishness as a
core value, is seen with even greater worries by organizations especially in
the context of the discussion that surrounds the Brexit referendum of 23
June 2016. The Brexit vote has been mirrored – between other issues – as a
Crisis Management and the Paradox of Brexit 207

vote concerning immigration issues, with core contentious issues being the
flows toward Britain from other EU countries as well as the intensification
of the migration crisis in 2015 and 2016.
Migration rights, an NGO working and campaigning in support of
migrants in the UK, prior to the referendum pointed at the conse-
quences of Brexit for the British economy.

Whether in or outside the EU, the UK, as an open economy closely

integrated into global commerce and trade, will be required by competi-
tive pressures to maintain a large workforce that has the skills and the drive
to produce the goods and services that are in demand in the world
markets. Free movement amongst the EU countries has allowed this
workforce to be built-up over past years. If the country votes for Brexit
it will be required to come up with an alternative system for managing the
movement of people which is just as good and at the same relatively low
cost. (Migration Rights 2016: 8)

Initial reactions to Brexit from NGOs can be summarized in at least two

core dimensions that the debate takes. On the one side, organizations point
directly at the harmful consequences of Brexit in undermining NGOs’
scopes and activities, whilst on the other side they address the possible
harmful social consequences on disadvantaged groups. The National
Council for Voluntary Organizations (NCVO), for instance, discusses the
short-term and long-term consequences, underlying the possible risks
inherent to the outcomes of the British referendum (NCVO 2016). In
regard to the first, besides of describing with alarmist tones the economical
downfall subsequent to the collapse of the sterling in the aftermath of the
referendum, the organization outlines the present risks in a climate of
uncertainty. The focus is on the political paralysis subsequent to Brexit as
well the rise of social tensions toward minorities and migrants.
In respect to the long-term consequences, between the many risks
outlined, there is a clear concern of the negative effects that a lack of
access to EU funding will have for organizations, but also in guarantee-
ing the baselines for facilitating community cohesion in decentralized
territorial contexts that might actually experience a rise of social pro-
blems. What is at stake is the capability of NGOs to guarantee levels of
208 9 Active Citizenship in the UK

social protection in a period where in Britain – but also in different

European countries – social rights are at stake. This is the standpoint for
example of the Poverty Alliance that in a recent article outlined quite well
this risk:

The result of the UK referendum is clear and the decision to leave the
European Union will have long standing consequences for anti-poverty
campaigners here and across the continent. Those forces across Europe
that seek to reduce social rights, who wish to increase deregulation, and
who see migration only as a problem, will be bolstered by the UK result.
Campaigners who want their national governments to take real action to
address poverty, or to protect and extend rights at work, who want moves
for greater equality between men and women, may now find that their
task has become somewhat harder. (Poverty Alliance 2016)

The positioning of British NGOs across the financial and migration

crises puts emphasis on a number of rather important issues. First of
all, the value they associate to the transnationalization of their
activities by acting in compliance with the EU priorities and social
programs. At the same time, they prove to be critical actors, fully
engaged in challenging new emerging social problems on a wider
European scale. The uncertain times opened up as a consequence of
the Brexit are met, in my view, with great worries by organizations.
This is a result partly of the possible foreseeable lack of funding
provided by the EU, but at the same time consequent to the
threatening to community cohesion and the harm on disadvantaged
groups such as young people, migrants, minorities and women.

The chapter outlined important differences in respect to the Italian and
Turkish models of active citizenship. The institutionalization of prac-
tices of engagement and participation has gone along with the formali-
zation of a number of New Public Management reforms that – across the
years – have been central in order to structure groups of interests in
Conclusion 209

Britain. This has not happened without controversies, identifiable espe-

cially with the undermining of the autonomy of civil society, that is
more and more considered as a partner in the delivery of public services,
rather than a critical voice in policy-making. In this context, British
organizations show compliance and adherence to EU principles, being
some of the mainstream organizations active partners in supranational
umbrella NGOs. The financial and migration crisis opened up chal-
lenges and criticism toward the policy responses that have been planned,
with specific criticism and blame games regarding both European and
British intervention. In particular, the two subsequent governments led
by Cameron have not provided – according to my analysis – adequate
support in order to guarantee the necessary measures across these crises.
In a context where European funding is central and there is full com-
pliance with European values, the latest scenario opened by the victory
of the leave vote in the referendum held on 23 June 2016, shows great
and growing worries because of the perspectives that might open as a
consequence of the UK triggering Art.50 on 29 March 2017. This is
due, between other causes, to a foreseeable lack of funding to sustain
projects that aim at tackling persistent social problems.

The book presented the findings of a fieldwork that combines differ-

ent sources of data and evidence collected across the democratic,
financial, and migration crises. It outlines the main factors that
challenge the development of active citizenship at the EU level and
in Italy, Turkey, and the UK. The analysis looks at the intertwining
of practices and demands of active citizenship by civil society organi-
zations in the EU and in three countries. I argue that the institu-
tional project of identity building promoted by the European
Commission is seriously undermined under the pressures of a perma-
nent state of euro-crisis.
At the EU level, the intensification of different emergency situations
has obliged the European Commission to think about timely but not
sufficient policy solutions, placing the development of engagement and
participation with civil society at the top of the agenda. The institutional
policy intervention that consists of the promotion of specific mechan-
isms of participation – such as the structured dialogue – and specific
programs aiming at promoting participatory democracy has seen the
reaction of umbrella organizations in Brussels, which especially with the
impact of the financial and migration crises, have been struggling with

© The Author(s) 2017 211

C. Bee, Active Citizenship in Europe, Palgrave Studies in European
Political Sociology, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-45317-4_10
212 10 Conclusion

the task to ensure decent levels of social protection especially for dis-
advantaged groups such as young people, women, minorities and
migrants. Ensuring the mainstreaming of civic and political participa-
tion in EU policy programs – with the scope of guaranteeing that these
social groups have their voices heard but at the same time that the severe
impact of the crises on them is alleviated – has thus become a central
lobbying activity of various organizations such as the European
Women’s Lobby, the European Network Against Racism, Solidar, the
European Youth Forum, just to name a few. The analysis at the national
level shows, comparatively, the emergence of similar patterns in regard
to the impact of Europeanization for Turkey and Italy, especially. In
both countries, activists of the civil society question the policy responses
of the EU, by focusing on the negative consequences these had, because
of a lack of responsiveness by the EU and the member states but also as a
consequence of a broader European crisis of solidarity. This is a pattern
that is found also in Britain. However it can be argued that UK-based
organizations to a larger extent are first and foremost critical of domestic
politics and of the lack of commitment by the Conservative government
in providing sufficient policy responses in conjunction with interna-
tional partners. Overall, the book provides evidence of the relevance of
studying active citizenship, of the importance assumed by the civil
society – both as a critical voice and as a crucial actor in planning policy
interventions – and of the important nexus existing between engagement
and participation. The activation of participatory behaviors, in all cases,
happens within given constraints. Active citizenship as a practice, pro-
moted through public policy, reveals to have many shortcomings,
because it barely meets the needs of civil society organizations in terms
of resources but also in respect to the overall rationale underpinning the
promotion of active behaviors through the EU civil society policy.
Activists, both at the EU level and in the three countries, refuse the
idea of serving the need to be policy actors essential for providing forms
of input legitimacy. They instead clearly vindicate their independence
and struggle to be full participants players in the public sphere. This is a
finding common to other studies (Zinihoglu 2013a, 2013b). My book
brings this a step further by providing comparative data on three
The European Discourse 213

The European Discourse

It is argued that the strategy of the European Commission has not taken
into account the existence of fragmented and overlapping discourses put
forward by civil society organizations. Besides it has ignored the fluidity
of the processes of transnationalization and the existence of different
power structures that define access to policy-making and influence on
the policy agenda. Eventually, the EU strategy disregards the diversity in
European publics. The research shows that the present scenario is
characterized by the presence of different counterdiscourses going on
in the EU and within the three contexts. These entail a continuous
discursive confrontation between different publics in the struggle to give
a clear meaning and significance to practices of active citizenship.
The strategies put in place with artificial policy documents such as the
Plan D for Democracy, Dialogue, and Debate (CEC 2005a) are based
on the stimulation of forms of empowerment of nonstate actors and the
development of new forms of engagement with the aim to shape
a participatory model of democracy. It can be argued that in the
democratic crisis period, the European institutions attempted to develop
a precise model of public relations based on the pretentious ambition to
develop a bidirectional structure of public communication management,
by mixing different public relations models (Bee 2010), that ultimately
resulted instead in the building of a highly top-down structure. On this
regard, looking at the institutional discourse it emerges quite clearly the
prominent emphasis given to the concept of network governance – that
is addressed in Chapter 3 – as a constituent part of the European public
space by the EU, basing this, between others on two core principles,
decentralization and involvement of nonstate actors. The increased
necessity to put citizens at the center of public policy-making respects
the necessity to develop a system of public relations that is seen as
bidirectional and involves therefore the production of public policies
that account for citizens’ participation. In this respect, it is important to
remark that the principles followed by the European Commission
answer to the necessity to think about two-sided system of public
relations based on the development of strong links between institutions
214 10 Conclusion

and citizens themselves (Grunig and Grunig 1992; Grunig and Hunt
1984). In a nutshell, the promotion of instruments, such as consulta-
tions, or the development of tools such as the civil dialogue, is meant to
improve the communicative interaction between different actors at
different levels. The strategy of the European Commission in respect
to engagement and participation of disadvantaged groups show various
ambiguities in terms of approach. These clearly emerge in the analysis of
organized civil society discourses. The issues that are important to under-
line and that are based on the evidence collected through my analysis are
First of all, various limitations in the approach to stimulate engage-
ment and participation clearly emerge from the evidence collected as
part of my fieldwork. Means of formal participation are limited, and the
impact on policy-making is not sufficient to guarantee a clear influence
on the agenda. Organizations in Brussels mostly play a consultative role
and barely have the possibility to sit on the negotiating table. This is
even more evident when we look at the actual influence exercised by
organizations representing weak publics, such as for example women or
minorities and migrants that clearly struggle to emerge. Especially for
these groups, the demands for active citizenship expressed through
lobbying activities and by putting forward specific campaigns at the
EU level – such as the 50/50 campaign promoted by the European
Women’s Lobby and based on the principles of parity democracy – result
more evident. The necessity to guarantee equality, for example, between
women and men, in policy-making is a top priority that on the other
side downgrades and devaluates existing practices of active citizenship.
Secondly and linked to the above, mechanisms of empowerment
for civil society organizations entail a wide set of instruments aiming
at guaranteeing foremost the full inclusion of disadvantaged groups
in the societies of belonging, or in the receiving societies, in the case
of migrants and minorities. Hereby civic and political participation
play a key role in developing integration policies. However, umbrella
organizations point at the limits to empowerment in the present
time context. As a consequence of the impact of the financial crisis –
in terms of new social problems and the worsening of life conditions
– and of the dramatic developments associated with the migration
Italy, Turkey, and the UK: Comparison and Implications 215

crisis – with the consequent augmentation of episodes of hate and

racism – social exclusion and poverty have severely increased. This,
in the view of civil society activists, hinders participation, negatively
affect active citizenship, and at the same time has negative effects on
the activities of the organizations.
Thirdly, organizations clearly point at the insufficient means for
intervention planned across the crises, clearly declaring that wide
European programs – such as the European Agenda for the Integration
of Third Country Nationals or the European Agenda on Migration – are
not ensuring the necessary social protection. What is at stake is the
questioning of the European Social Dimension, resulting this in a crisis
of solidarity, and ultimately of European values. If these issues have
clearly emerged – according to NGOs – across the financial crisis and
the implementation of austerity measures, it is with the migration crisis
that this dimension has clearly blasted. The priority to secure borders in
spite of defending human rights is exemplificative of the persistence of a
divided and fragmented EU. The comparison with the discourses emer-
ging in the national arenas included in my analysis demonstrates the
existence of common patterns of criticism.

Italy, Turkey, and the UK: Comparison

and Implications
The following Table 10.1 summarizes the discussion that takes place in
the first part of Chapters 7, 8, and 9, where for each case study I
presented briefly the characteristics of each country in view of (1) state
society relations, (2) determinants of reform and political conditions,
and (3) characteristics of active citizenship.
Each chapter has highlighted some characteristics of the territorial
contexts of interest for the book. They key aspects that drive the
comparison are the differences that derive from different models of
state formation and the influence these have in determining contrasting
configurations of civic and political engagement and civic and political
participation. The data analysis presented in each chapter aims at

Table 10.1 Characteristics of each country


Characteristics of
State society relations Determinants of reform and political conditions active citizenship
Italy – Bureaucratic state – End of First Republic – Contested active
– New Public – Europeanization citizenship
Management – Shifts in government (center right and center left)
Turkey – Strong state – Europeanization – Volatile active
tradition – Single-party rule citizenship
– New Public
UK – Decentralized state – Crisis of British society – Institutionalized
– New Public – Shifts in government (New Right, New Labour, Coalition active citizenship
Management government, Conservative government)
Italy, Turkey, and the UK: Comparison and Implications 217

discussing further these differences, by outlining critical dimensions,

similar patterns but also peculiar characteristics of each context.
As it results from the analysis, Italy, Turkey, and the UK hold similar
characteristics. All of them have engaged in a process of profound reform
in their state organization, that implied a reconfiguration of public
administration – and consequently of public policy – that follows
principles of New Public Management. In all cases this implied a rene-
gotiation of the boundaries of the public space by enhancing principles
of governance. Processes of decentralization and devolution are central
in this sense, as well as the strong emphasis on the promotion of active
citizenship as a practice. At the basis of the attempt to stimulate partici-
patory behaviors there is the policy need to develop citizen-centered
models of policy-making. In terms of developments and principles that
orient this strategy, the prominence given to civic and political engage-
ment is considered essential. In other words, the three countries have –
at least on paper – committed to stimulate processes that enhance
participatory behaviors through civic and political participation. There
are however substantial variations in terms of development, and impact.
In Italy, the lack of trust toward institutional matters and the constant
process of reform of the public administration make the principles of
active citizenship as a practice blurred and somewhat inconsistent. At the
same time, this matches with the presence of different forms of civic
activism, generated through volunteering, social activity, etc. that are, as
Moro notes (2015, 2016), bottom-up and well representative of the
presence of various experiences and demands for active citizenship. These
are shaped outside channels of representative democracy, as a structural
element of the Italian context. At the same time, however, it is important
to note the persistent fragmentation between the Italian North and the
Italian South, and the consequent heterogeneity existing in developing
social solidarity between different Italian regions. This led into a con-
figuration that I defined as contested active citizenship, because of the
different voices – institutional and non- and processes – top-down and
bottom-up – that compete in the Italian scenario.
In Turkey, active citizenship as a practice has been promoted more
recently and particularly as a consequence of the impact of the process of
top-down Europeanization on both governmental structures and
218 10 Conclusion

nonstate actors. This has been key in stimulating the process of democra-
tization of the country and in influencing the pattern of reform that Turkish
public institutions have been following under the rule of the Justice and
Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi-AKP). Governance and
management reform have been promoted in order to challenge the tradi-
tional state-centric structure of the Turkish Republic, following an attempt
to promote a citizen-centered approach. However, research on the impact
of the EU civil society policy on Turkey, as well as the analysis of the
governmental initiatives for promoting active citizenship – for example, city
councils – shows that this approach still suffers from many limitations, with
the main shortcomings being the lack of activation of processes favoring
engagement and political participation in public policy processes. Turkey,
more than Italy and the UK, is a country with different experiences
regarding the emergence of active citizenship as a demand. Processes of
bottom-up mobilization however are volatile and appear to gain impor-
tance only in key moments, when windows of opportunities to initiate
processes of social change open up and put into question the legitimacy of
the political system to act in matters of public concern. Overall, I defined
the connotation taken in the Turkish context as volatile active citizenship,
because of the persistent impossibility for nonstate actors to act as critical
actors in public policy processes.
The British context is one that has favored the development of active
citizenship in different stages and under different political conditions
that have appeared in the last 30 years and even more. It has been on the
top of the agenda of the New Right (under Thatcher and Major), of the
New Labour (under Blair and Brown), of the Coalition government
(composed by Conservatives and Liberal Democrats), and more recently
by the Conservative government led by David Cameron until June 2016
when the Tory leader resigned as a consequence of the Brexit vote.
Across this period of time, it has been associated to different social and
political needs and has been strongly affected by different connotations
promoted under Neo Liberal, Third Way, and Big Society approaches.
At the same time – and this is a crucial issue – active citizenship as a
practice has intertwined with active citizenship as a demand in the context
of the emergence of various social problems that put into crisis the
British society in the last 15 years. The second category – expressed
Italy, Turkey, and the UK: Comparison and Implications 219

through volunteerism and the development of bottom-up demands for a

better integration between ethnic communities in Britain – has corre-
sponded with the first category – expressed through a policy reflection
that has put the need to develop community engagement as a key
priority. Britain, more that Italy and Turkey, is therefore characterized
by assuming a connotation that I defined as institutionalized active
citizenship, due to the wide set of measures developed in order to favor
the expression of civic and political participation in public policy.
These three configurations of active citizenship clearly affect the
process through which each country has reacted to the force of
Europeanization. The data collected through interviews of civil society
activists and analysis of policy documents reveal in fact three different
scenarios. In Italy, activists appear to be ambivalent in respect to the
evaluation of the European project and more precisely in regard to its
impact for enhancing bases for engagement and participation. The lack
of a political union and of a social Europe is what makes, in the views of
the activists, the EU as a top-down process without a soul, which becomes
even more evident with the intensification of the financial and migration
crises. These bring about different appeals for an alternative Europe and
calls for mobilization that I classified as demands of active citizenship. In
a nutshell, in a context where the institutionalization of practices of active
citizenship is limited and spaces of contestation are expressed through
different means of nonconventional political participation, Italian acti-
vists radically question the current status quo and claim alternative views
and social constructions of Europe.
In Turkey, the Europeanization process is seen by activists in the light of
the positive effects this had for the democratization of the country. In a
context where active citizenship is a volatile instrument because of a lack of
clear set of measures enabling the establishment of practices to express
participatory behaviors, the EU civil society policy has favored the emer-
gence of critical voices in the society. Europeanization is thus seen as a key
process, because it has brought to the fore the relevance of fundamental and
human rights and enhanced the need to protect basic freedoms. At the same
time, it has offered financial opportunities to civil society organizations to
join partnerships and become full actors in conjunction with other inter-
national organizations (see Kuzmanovic 2010, 2012). This is surely an
220 10 Conclusion

important aspect that should not be underestimated. At the same time, as a

consequence of the Turkey/EU agreement on refugees stipulated in 2015,
activists criticize both supranational and domestic institutions. This brings
to the surface the questioning of those positive values embodied by the EU
and, as in the Italian and British cases, the perception of a crisis in European
values and solidarity.
In the UK, the Europeanization process had gone hand in hand with
the processes of institutionalization of active citizenship promoted by
different governments in the last 30 years. In this context, British organi-
zations have been fully cooperative and compliant with EU principles,
recognizing the importance of participating in supranational umbrella
organizations and integrating their activities in wide scale processes of
civic participation. Even if critical of the excessive technicalities existing in
accessing EU funding, I can argue that they have been proactive actors
across the years and key to stimulate wide reflections on the improvement
of processes of engagement and participation at the EU level. The scenar-
ios opened by the financial and migration crises, bring about similarities in
respect to the Italian and Turkish contexts. However, British organiza-
tions produce a clearer discourse directed at blaming the inefficiencies of
the former Coalition and Conservative governments in producing ade-
quate policy responses. This happens in a context where the recent
promotion of active citizenship as a practice as part of the Big Society
agenda is highly contested, because it is seen as undermining the auton-
omy of civil society organizations as well as the capacities of smaller
organizations to survive. The foreseeable lack of EU funding that might
be consequent to the Brexit, as a result of triggering art. 50 on 29 March
2017, is likely to undermine capacities and capabilities of such organiza-
tions to guarantee adequate interventions and answers to growing social
problems that dramatically affect disadvantaged groups.

Future Research
The interconnection between EU and national discourses on active
citizenship needs in my view to be explored further, by taking into
consideration at least two dimensions that need to be looked at. In
Future Research 221

first instance, future research should provide a wider and more encom-
passing account for different macrocontextual, demographic, social, and
psychological factors (Barrett and Zani 2015) that activate or hinder
practices and demands of active citizenship in Italy, Turkey, and the UK.
This is an aspect that my research has not taken into full account because
this would require a complete different strategy and a quantitative
research design. It is necessary, in my view to have a closer look at the
contextual relevance of each one of these factors, in order to map more
precisely correspondences and divergences between different contexts in
affecting different components of active citizenship, such as civic and
political engagement and civic and political participation.
In second instance, very importantly, the analysis of horizontal
Europeanization should drive future research. Reciprocal, mutual obser-
vations, overlapping discourses are in fact currently taking place between
the three countries at hand. It is not a case, for example, that in occasion
of the elaboration of the Turkey/EU agreement first, and across the
campaign precedent to the referendum that took place in the UK in June
2016, these countries have been observing each other quite significantly.
The leave campaign, for example, has used the risk of ‘invasion of
Turkish migrants’ as a modality to foster the Brexit. At the same time,
Erdoğan referred to the British experience in order to argue that also
Turkey might at some point decide upon whether to continue the
accession process by holding a referendum (Bermant and
Lindenstrauss 2016). Or to draw another example, in the aftermath of
the failed Turkish military coup of July 2016, both British and Italian
media have been looking at this event by remarking the eventual
destabilizing effects that the Turkish accession might have for the EU.
This has revitalized, especially in populist discourses, Eurocentric points
of view that bring about a confrontation between different cultural
values justified in order to claim that Turkey should not access the
EU. Besides, the event has been interpreted as definitely sanctioning
the ‘divorce between Turkey and the Western World’ (Giro 2016;
Santoro 2016).
These, I believe, are meaningful examples that show how processes of
horizontal Europeanization are currently taking place between these
three countries, besides others. These processes have an impact on
222 10 Conclusion

activists’ perceptions of the European public space, on the perceived

values embodied by the EU and its social construction and ultimately
affect their engagement in the process of Europeanization. Future
research questions should therefore be oriented at understanding how
these new dynamics affect domestic and transnational processes of

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A Austerity, 27, 103, 123, 129, 149,

ACEVO, 195, 198 150, 152, 156, 181, 193,
Active Citizenship 203–204, 215
active citizenship as a demand, 33,
55, 63, 72, 76, 98, 135, 138,
155, 166–168, 218 B
active citizenship as a practice, 6, Barrett, M., 57, 64–65, 68–70, 221
55, 60, 62, 72–76, 82, 85, 91, Barroso, M., 128, 199
94, 121, 125, 135, 170, 198, Berger, B., 64, 67–69
212, 217, 218, 220 Big Society, 185, 193–194, 195,
Active Citizenship Foundation, 197–197, 218, 220
142, 146 Blair, T., 188, 192, 218
See also Fondaca Brexit, 4, 34, 186, 201, 206–208,
Acts of citizenship, 175 218, 220, 221
Adonnino Report, 18
Agenda setting, 115–117, 169
AKP, 161, 167, 172, 218 C
Anderson, B., 15 Cameron, D., 205, 209, 218
ARCI, 43, 150–152, 155 CGIL, 152
Article, 11, 25–26 CHP, 172

© The Author(s) 2017 255

C. Bee, Active Citizenship in Europe, Palgrave Studies in European
Political Sociology, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-45317-4
256 Index

CILAP, 150, 153–154 Organized civil society, 1, 4–5,

CIR, 154 22, 24, 44, 45, 52, 61, 72, 76,
Citizen-centered approach, 11, 23, 90, 98, 107, 138, 145,
24, 52, 82, 218 155–156, 214
Citizens’ Europe, 17, 19 Coalition government, 8, 218
Citizenship, 1, 3, 5–12, 13–30, 33, Conservative government, 8, 187,
37–40, 44–54, 57, 59–64, 70, 189, 205, 212, 218, 220
72–73, 81–82, 84–85, 89, Constitutional Treaty, 2, 4, 23, 82,
91–98, 107, 118, 119, 84–85
121–122, 124, 125, 126, 129, Constructivism, 14, 15
133–135, 137–149, 155–156, See also Social construction of
159–163, 165–170, 173–175, Europe; Social constructivism
177, 185–196, 198–200, COSPE, 144, 153
211, 221 CRER, 206
Citizenship Programme, 25
Cittadinanzattiva, 141, 142, 146
Civic engagement, 11–12, 24–26, D
45, 50, 58, 64, 66–68, 83, D’Alema, M., 136
139, 141, 163–165, 167, Decentralization, 8, 41, 134, 162,
190–191, 199 213, 217
Civic participation, 1, 25, 45, 50, 64, Decision making, 7, 41, 45, 86, 90,
65, 66, 69–72, 83, 93, 95–96, 115, 117, 119–122,
139–142, 166–167, 174, 178, 125, 129, 145, 162, 168–169,
188, 193, 204, 220 172, 194–195
Civicus, 138, 140 Deliberation, 42, 60, 62, 63, 92, 94,
Civil dialogue, 6–7, 12, 52, 90, 105, 167, 190
111–112, 116, 118–120, 129, Democracy
149, 151, 163, 177, 199, 214 deliberative democracy, 87,
See also EU-Turkey Civil 139, 143
Dialogue; Structured dialogue direct democracy, 3, 142
Civil Exchange, 197–198 participatory democracy, 6–7,
Civil society 23–24, 45–46, 60, 86, 88, 90,
Civil Society Organisations, 5, 7, 94, 124, 137, 138, 143, 149,
25, 29, 44, 46, 54, 72, 82, 152, 174, 190, 194, 195, 211
89–90, 104, 115–116, 129, representative democracy, 3–4,
149, 159, 163–164, 168, 177, 24, 60, 70, 135, 139, 143, 217
179, 186, 193, 196, 212–214, Democratic deficit, 6, 11, 20, 24, 26,
219–220 85, 86, 95
Index 257

Democratization, 3, 60, 62, 63, 94, 162–165, 174–177, 179–182,

95, 160, 161, 163, 170, 173, 185, 199–203, 207–208,
175, 176, 181, 183, 218–219 211–218, 218, 219
Devolution, 8, 134, 136, 217 EU civil society policy, 9, 162, 164,
Differentiated citizenship, 196 176, 177, 212, 218–219
Disadvantaged group (s), 5, 10, 91, Euro, 29, 30
99, 105, 107, 119, 126–127, Euro-crisis
133, 147, 159, 200, 207–208, democratic crisis, 11, 14, 23–24,
212, 214, 220 52, 73, 81, 82, 84, 89, 91, 92,
Discourse 94, 107, 108, 114, 119, 213
public discourse, 48, 49, 61 financial crisis, 26–30, 31, 102,
policy discourse (s), 4, 6, 11, 38, 103, 123, 127, 129–130,
82, 97, 98, 119, 151 149–150, 152–153, 178, 181,
Discourse Analysis, 10, 47 194, 201–202, 214–215
Disengagement, 68, 113 migration crisis, 9, 12, 31, 32, 52,
72–73, 100, 104, 124, 129,
131, 151, 155, 160, 178, 180,
E 182, 204, 205, 207, 209, 215
EAPN, 123, 150 permanent state of euro-crisis, 4–5,
EESC, 29 10, 11, 13, 31, 50, 211
Empowerment, 12, 23–24, 81, 83, Europe 2020, 29, 92, 102–103, 123,
89–90, 94, 96, 97, 99–101, 150, 203–204
111–112, 114, 125–127, 145, Europeanism, 4, 9, 136, 182
164, 165, 173–174, 177, 190, European Agenda for the Integration of
193, 195–196, 213, 214 Third-Country Nationals, 97,
ENAR, 123–124, 150 101, 124
EPN, 124 European Agenda on Migration, 32,
Equality, 5, 11, 22, 27, 59, 94–97, 100, 101, 123, 130, 215
101, 103, 121, 122, 126–129, European citizenship, 17, 19–22,
147, 163, 170, 171, 175–176, 25–27, 38, 46, 54, 93, 133,
191, 199–200, 208, 214 145–149, 155–156
ERYICA, 125 European Commission, 3, 6, 9–12, 13,
ESF, 200, 203 23–26, 30, 32, 38, 39, 40, 41,
EU, 3, 4, 6, 9–12, 13–34, 37–47, 45, 47, 48, 50, 52–54, 73–76,
52–54, 57, 60–61, 72, 73, 81–91, 95, 98, 99, 103–104,
81–85, 87, 91–104, 107–131, 108–115, 119–120, 126, 130,
134, 136, 138, 140, 144, 146, 153, 203, 211, 213–214
146–151, 153–155, 160, European demos, 21, 42
258 Index

European dimension, 19 gender policy, 95, 96, 100, 102

European identity, 15–19, 148 Globalproject, 156
European integration, 9, 12, 14–16, Governance, 6, 8, 10, 16, 22, 26, 29,
21–23, 25, 27–31, 37, 39–44, 37, 40–43, 45–47, 49, 52, 59,
49, 114, 124, 147–151, 156, 61, 62, 70, 85, 90, 94–96, 100,
164, 182 108, 110, 115, 121, 123, 127,
Europeanization 129, 136, 151, 161–162, 164,
top-down Europeanization, 83, 213, 217–218
90, 163, 217 multilevel governance, 10, 16,
bottom-up Europeanization, 10, 37, 40
37, 39, 43, 116
European public sphere, 22, 28,
42–44, 46 H
European Social dimension, 5, 27, Habermas, J., 14, 21, 42, 191
127, 134, 150, 204, 215 HDP, 172
European Voluntary Service, 99 Human rights, 3, 59, 112, 121,
Europe for Citizens, 25 124, 131, 141, 154, 170–172,
Euroskepticism, 28 176, 178–180, 201, 206,
EU-Turkey Civil Dialogue, 163 215, 219
EWL, 52, 61, 121, 121–123,
128–129, 171, 199, 212, 214
EYF, 52, 61, 99, 110, 120–121, 126, I
129, 199, 212 Identity
cultural identity, 22, 44
identity building, 13, 16, 17, 19,
23, 28, 83, 211
Farage, N., 34
identity construction, 23,
Five Stars Movement, 8
39, 42
FONDACA, 142, 146
political identity, 21
Fontainebleau Council, 17
IHH, 178
Fortress Europe, 31, 33, 155
Independent Action, 196, 197
Frontex, 33, 153
International Women's Day, 100
Italy, 1, 4, 7, 8, 12, 14, 28, 31, 33,
G 39, 46, 53, 59, 61, 99, 133,
Gender 134, 136–140, 142, 144, 145,
gender equality, 22, 94, 100, 103, 147–150, 152, 153, 154, 160,
121, 128, 147, 163, 170, 168, 178, 189, 204, 211, 212,
175–176, 199–200 217–219, 221
Index 259

J 148, 165, 192, 195, 199, 201,

JEF, 126, 130 202, 207, 208, 212, 214
minority groups, 29, 97, 102,
126, 192
K Mobilization, 1–3, 5, 33, 34, 43, 63,
KADER, 171 67, 72, 73, 98, 151, 155–157,
166, 182, 218, 219, 222
Mor Çati, 171
L Morgherini, F., 153
LEF, 147 Moro, G., 135, 139, 217
input legitimacy, 6, 40,
44, 45, 62, 89, 110, 126, N
145, 212 NAGA, 152–153
output legitimacy, 6 NCVO, 207
networked territorial space, 38, 48
M network society, 40, 47
Maastricht Treaty, 19 network state, 40, 41
Major, J., 187 transnational network(s),
Marmara Earthquake, 166, 167 112, 204
Marshall, T.H., 186 New Labour, 8, 185, 188, 190–192,
MHP, 172 194, 196, 218
Mid-term progress report on the New Public Management, 6–8, 61,
roadmap for equality between 135, 136, 138, 161, 162, 187,
women and men, 96 188, 196, 198, 208, 217
Migrants, 1, 11, 23, 30, 31, 33, 34, New Right, 8, 185, 187, 189, 190,
38, 50, 52, 53, 63, 81, 91, 92, 194, 218
97–99, 101–105, 107, 108, Non governmental organisations,
119, 121, 123, 124, 130, 148, 2, 178
153–156, 178, 179, 192, 195, NGOs, 2, 178
201, 202, 205, 207, 208, 212, Northern League, 33
214, 221
Migration Rights, 207
Military coup, 2, 221 O
Minorities, 11, 23, 29, 30, 38, 50, Occupygezi, 166, 170
52, 53, 81, 91, 92, 97–99, 105, Gezi Park protests, 167
107, 108, 119, 121, 123, 128, OXFAM, 203, 204
260 Index

P Public institution(s), 5, 10, 48, 60–62,

Parity democracy, 122, 214 72, 76, 135, 137, 140, 141, 165,
Participatory behavior (s), 4, 5, 11, 181, 190, 195, 218
14, 49, 57, 62, 65, 69, 70, 86, Public policy, 5, 6, 14, 23, 24, 26,
89, 91, 93, 98, 113, 141, 143, 38, 40, 46, 47, 54, 58, 60, 61,
144, 159, 167, 170, 174, 175, 70, 72, 83, 85, 88, 98, 110,
182, 212, 217, 219 115, 118, 120, 123, 126, 133,
Period of reflection, 85 135, 137, 140, 145, 162, 164,
Plan D for Democracy Dialogue and 170, 172, 177, 212, 213,
Debate, 24, 82, 199, 213 217–219
Plan D, 25, 85, 87, 88, Public Sphere, 9, 12, 14, 15, 21–24,
112, 114 26–28, 41–44, 46, 59, 95,
Policy-making, 5–7, 12, 23, 24, 38, 113, 123, 131, 137, 171, 177,
43, 47, 52, 58, 60, 61, 82, 90, 190, 212
91, 92, 95, 97, 105, 109, 113, Putnam, R., 66, 68
116, 121, 123, 141, 164, 169,
177, 179, 188, 190, 209, 213,
214, 217 R
Policy Migration Group, 199 Refugee Action, 205
Political engagement, 3–5, 11, 26, Refugee Rights Turkey, 178, 179
50, 53, 55, 57, 60, 61, 64, 66, Roadmap for Gender Equality 2006-
68, 69, 73, 84, 86, 88, 91, 98, 2010, 94, 128
111, 113, 114, 165, 167, 174,
176, 215, 217, 221
Political participation S
Conventional, 3, 64, 73, 143 Shore, C., 18, 19, 29, 30
Non-conventional, 1, 2, 69, Smith, A., 15
73, 219 Social construction of Europe, 9
Unconventional, 60, 64 Social constructivism, 14–15
Populism, 8 Social inclusion, 5, 11, 98, 102, 124,
Poverty Alliance, 202, 208 126, 199
Pressure group(s), 22, 44 Social interaction, 9, 14, 21, 39, 42,
Prodi, R., 136 49, 99
Public administration Socialization, 9, 14, 18, 21, 22,
Anglo-Saxon model, 137, 186 44, 99
Napoleonic model, 134 Social movement(s), 1, 22, 44, 98,
Public communication, 24, 29, 83, 155, 156, 167
85, 86, 87, 213 Social Platform, 52, 61, 128, 199
Index 261

Social problem(s), 30, 54, 61, 82, 92, 192, 196, 198, 199–200,
100, 102, 105, 128, 138, 150, 203–205, 207, 211, 212, 217,
152, 170, 185, 188, 191, 193, 218, 220, 221
201, 202, 206–209, 214, UKIP, 9, 34
218, 220 UKREN, 203, 204, 206
Social protection, 5, 102, 204, 208, Umbrella organization(s), 6, 7, 10,
212, 215 11, 12, 52, 53, 61, 73, 108,
Social representation (s), 16, 28, 34, 50 112, 119, 126, 147, 151, 172,
Social right(s), 2, 5, 186, 206, 208 177, 211, 214, 220
Solidar, 52, 124, 126, 130, 150, 212 Unity in diversity, 18
Solidarity, 5, 27, 28, 31–33, 59, 63,
64, 66, 70, 102, 104, 130, 145,
157, 170, 181, 182, 186, 190, V
205, 206, 212, 215, 217, 220 Verba, S., 70
State-society relations, 8, 134 Volunteering Matters, 204
Strategic engagement for Gender
Equality 2016-2019, 94, 95
Strategy for equality between women and W
men 2010-2015, 94, 95, 103 White Paper on Communication
Structured dialogue, 7, 81, 89, 90, 93, Policy, 24
96, 115–120, 151, 174, 204, 211 White paper on governance, 6, 61
European reform of
governance, 6, 85
T White Paper on Youth, 92
Tangentopoli, 8 Women, 2, 11, 23, 30, 38, 50, 52,
Thatcher, M., 8, 187, 189, 190, 218 53, 81, 91, 92, 94–96, 99–103,
Third sector, 168, 185, 190, 193, 196 107, 108, 119, 121–123, 128,
TOG, 173 147, 148, 165, 170, 171, 195,
Transnationalisation, 3, 10, 48, 202, 208, 212, 214
208, 213
Turkey, 1–4, 7–9, 12, 14, 33, 34, 39,
46, 53, 59, 61, 134, 159–182, Y
189, 204, 211, 212, 217–221 YEU, 120
TÜSEV, 168, 169, 174, 175 Youth, 11, 30, 52, 61, 92–94, 96, 99,
102, 120, 129, 147, 163, 165,
U 170, 172, 174, 175, 195,
UK, 1, 3, 4, 7–9, 12, 14, 34, 46, 53, 199, 212
59, 61, 160, 168, 178, 187, Youth in Action, 93, 163