Democratic Legitimacy in the Implementation of the Water Framework Directive in the Netherlands: Towards Participatory and Deliberative Norms?

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Abstract

The European Union (EU) increasingly shapes environmental policy in its member states. By including public participation requirements in environmental directives, the European Commission aims to open up the policy-making process and move from an administrative to a more participatory approach. Participation is considered to contribute to democratic governance, but has been associated with democratic problems as well, as the bases of democratic legitimacy do not automatically change when a participatory approach is implemented. This article uses a discourse-theoretical approach to analyze how participation in the implementation of the Water Framework Directive in the Netherlands took shape and what the implications were for the construction of democratic legitimacy. Our findings show how market and agricultural groups succeeded in dominating the debate by articulating a hegemonic discourse that marginalized environmental demands. Environmental groups did not succeed in turning the debate around, as the participatory and deliberative norms that they ascribed to were not taken up. The case study demonstrates that although the administrative policy-making process was opened up, political dynamics limited the scope for participation. The article concludes by reflecting on the potential of EU governance to promote democratic legitimacy and fulfil participatory and deliberative norms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-316
JournalJournal of Environmental Policy and Planning
Volume13
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Keywords

  • water quality
  • water framework directive
  • democracy
  • governance
  • participation
  • eu regulations
  • netherlands
  • political processes
  • natural-resource management
  • global governance
  • european-union
  • state

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