During the last decade, the EU has had an explicit strategy to include civil society organizations (CSOs) in European public policy. However, the extent to which domestic CSOs are oriented towards the EU in their policy interests and strategies is influenced by various factors. This article examines to what extent and in what ways CSOs acknowledge the impact of the EU on their substantive policy agenda and under what conditions they would prioritise EU-level contacts and/or lobbying in their strategies. We are particularly interested in finding out which institutional linkages – if any – determine the extent to which domestic CSOs direct their policy activity towards the EU level. The article is based on a survey of 880 Swedish CSO’s as well as qualitative interviews with 17 CSOs within the policy areas of anti-discrimination, immigration and asylum in Sweden, United Kingdom and the Netherlands. The results show that although CSOs recognise the importance of the EU-level and also try to influence EU policy, their priorities and orientation are primarily directed towards the domestic level. From our empirical findings, we argue that in order to understand the limited Europeanization of CSOs, national dependency on financial support and to some extent formal embedding in national welfare systems are key factors. The findings indicate some differences between the organizations’ approaches, which to some extent can be attributed to policy area and organizational character. Policy areas with strong EU legislation implemented at national levels such as anti-discrimination seemingly underpins stronger linkages to local and national governments and thus less EU orientation.
Civil society; Civil Society Organizations; EU; Europeanization; Institutions; Linkages
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