Politics of participation and democratic legitimation in European Union

The project scrutinizes the forms and political meanings of civic participation in the European Union policies and programmes. The debate on so called democratic deficit of the EU has been going on for decades and – because of the recent Euro zone crisis and the strengthening of EU-critical views – is today evermore heated.  Also the elite-drivenness of the European integration has become more visible as the national parliaments have lost leeway in the economic hardships.

This research project concentrates on one of the solutions suggested to the democracy deficit, namely citizen participation in the policy programmes and partnerships. Various EU documents repeat the objective of bringing the citizens closer to the Union with the means of dialogue and participatory practices. The main research question here is how citizen participation is made possible and what its implications to democracy in the Union are.

We analyse the participation which takes place on the borderlines of administration. We ask: Could participation provide the citizens with tangible means to impact the forms and substances of politics? What kind of identities and agencies participatory practices propose to citizens and what kind of citizenship they produce? To what extent these subjectivities are democratic and political? How citizens use the possibilities for participation? As what kind of community EU is constructed and how it is legitimised?

Research line A: Spaces and cultures of participation in EU programmes

Researcher: PhD, MA Katja Mäkinen

In this research line, the focus is on citizens’ participation in EU-programmes, and particularly on their experiences regarding space and power. The experiences of the participants open up a new perspective to EU-integration and the democracy and legitimacy of it. During the integration process, it has been suggested that citizens should become the core of the integration. Studying the participants' experiences may reveal how the participants themselves see their relations towards the EU. In this study, the relations between administration and civic participation are analysed, and the implications of participatory practices for democracy are evaluated.

Research line B: Use of participation and European Union

Researcher: PhD Marko Nousiainen

Research line B scrutinizes the political reason behind participation through a reading of various policy texts. It approaches the theme of participation in the Union with a genealogical perspective:  how participation became so important a policy instrument, how it became a coherent strategy of governing, to what kind of problematizations it is seen as a solution, and what kind of differing concepts of participation are possible. The research line increases our understanding on the different meanings and possibilities of participation, especially what kind of political subject positions participation might be seen to offer for citizens.


Research cooperation


Muddy Waters


FiDiPro project Transformations of Concepts and Institutions in the European Polity

Kiinnittymisen politiikat ja kuulumisen kulttuurit 

Space and Political Agency Research Group (SPARG)

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