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The European Statute of Association: why an obscure but contested symbol in a sea of indifference and scepticism?

Kendall, Jeremy and Fraisse, Laurent (2005) The European Statute of Association: why an obscure but contested symbol in a sea of indifference and scepticism? TSEP working paper (11). Centre for Civil Society (London School of Economics and Political Science), London, UK.

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The proposal for a European Statute of association is a pioneering example of an attempt to find space for the third sector in European Union policy. It was first put forward some twenty years ago, but has failed to generate significant interest outside a small circle of promoters and objectors. The instrument has remained stalled in policy design procedures, and in 2005, it is far from clear that it will become part of the body of European law in the foreseeable future. This paper seeks to develop an explanation for this state of affairs. Theoretically, it emphasises the enduring importance of the policy’s origins as an initiative developed, framed and designed by French policy actors categorically fused with the European level. The initiative is associated with a particular political and ideological approach, which has succeeded in sustaining momentum in its country of origin, but simultaneously created hostility amongst powerful actors in a small number of other countries. At the same time, it has left the majority of potentially interested countries in a state of puzzlement or indifference. Against this backdrop, the analysis stresses a small number of key features of the process which tend to constrain its resolution. First, the policy’s promoters rely on its successful functioning as a symbol to mobilise support, but its economic character - including its bundling with other économie sociale Statutes - means that objectors and sceptics respectively reject and fail to empathise with it. This problem is bound up with its origins in a particular national tradition. Second, this difficulty is aggravated by its complex and necessarily legal-technical character, which impose limits on the extent to which its value and meaning can be straightforwardly communicated outside a charmed circle of experts. There is also considerable ambiguity concerning the extent to which it potentially directly or indirectly interacts with established domestic legal and regulatory frameworks, making the issue deeply political as well as technocratic in character. Third, being processed by the community method - at least under the current system of 6 monthly rotating Presidencies of the Council - policy design has suffered from stop-go problems, with a marked lack of continuity in terms of actor and institutional attention. Crucially, these difficulties have been perpetuated by the structural weaknesses of pro-Statute policy entrepreneurship evident both within the Commission and the relevant third sector bodies themselves in Paris and Brussels, and in the underdeveloped nature of links between this level and national level structures. Empirically, the argument is based upon research conducted at two levels. First, interview and documentary evidence gathered in Brussels in 1998/99, and research conducted in Brussels and Paris between 2002 and 2005 under the auspices of the Third Sector European Policy network. Second, evidence collated at the national level, also as part of TSEP, in the first half of 2003 - when the Statute was unexpectedly prioritised for processing during the Greek Presidency.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2005 The authors
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D901 Europe (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2010 16:00
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 11:37

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