‘Interest representation’ in democratic political systems is channelled through traditional pathways of representative (parliamentary) democracy as well as supplementary systems aimed at participatory democracy. The European Union (EU) is particularly dependent upon a secondary ‘participatory’ channel because of core weaknesses in the ‘representative’ channel (most EU citizens do not vote in European Parliament elections or share a sense of common identity) which would otherwise link civil society with political institutions. The absence of popular engagement also means that interest organizations not only dominate input to the EU’s participatory channel but also perform surrogate democratic mechanisms, such as acting as agents of accountability. Heavy reliance upon, and institutionalization of, interest organizations in any political system brings to the fore a whole range of issues; centre stage is the extent to which interest organizations can really connect wider civil society with political institutions and vice versa, as well as the types of stakeholders who win and lose from these relationships, and the dimensions and drivers of such outcomes.
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