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How could Expert Involvement Compensate for an Incomplete Capability of Legitimization through Democratic Representation? Debating the Grounds for Political Legitimacy in the EU

Journal article
Authors Lena Caspers
Urban Strandberg
Published in European Review
Volume 27
Issue 2
Pages 275-299
ISSN 1062-7987
Publication year 2019
Published at Centre for European Research (CERGU)
Department of Political Science
Pages 275-299
Language en
Keywords epistemic communities, framework, Area Studies
Subject categories Political Science


This article contributes to the scholarly as well as societal decades-long debate on the state of democracy in the EU. The objective is to problematize, discuss, and come up with constructive ideas on the role of expert groups in the processes of legitimization of decision-making within the EU. The analysis is guided by a general research question: how could expert involvement compensate for an incomplete capability of legitimization through democratic representation? The empirical analysis of expert influence in decision-making is guided by a new modelling of the so-called Epistemic Community approach. The case chosen to illustrate the model is the authorization process of the emergency contraceptive ellaOne, within the institutional setting of the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) at the European Medicines Agency. The empirical material consists of interviews with eight members of the CHMP. To guide the empirical analysis the paper introduces a two-dimensional model of the epistemic community approach, which distinguishes between the institutional preconditions and the ideational motivations of expert groups. The results indicate that the experts within the CHMP had an influence on the policy-making process thanks to favourable institutional preconditions as well as ideational motivations of the experts themselves. Our conclusion is that there is a need for 'institutional engineering' as regards the involvement of experts in decision-making, to sustain the legitimacy of expert involvement, and level out the institutional conditions for experts' influence on policy-making within the EU.

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