Deliberative policy-making in the European Union: the case of the European integration forum

This paper explores the development and workings of the European Integration Forum from the perspective of deliberative theories in EU studies. Given the novelty of the Forum [established in 2009], there has been little systematic inquiry into its mechanisms, despite an outright goal to function as a ‘deliberative assembly’. The approach taken is analytical, i.e. non-normative, aiming to understand the Forum as a structurally deliberative political setting. The question is whether deliberative processes are already part of the Forum, and how they manifest. Owing to the civil society composition of meetings, three theoretical constructs on deliberation are combined in order to establish an analytical framework: deliberative supranationalism (DS), deliberative intergovernmentalism (DI) and reflexive deliberative polyarchy (RDP). Empirical evidence is provided in the form of an exploratory study conducted on the basis of documentary and archival analysis of meetings held so far. Explicit, theory-guided expectations are put forward as ‘conditions for deliberations’, which are then identified in the institutional features and decision-making processes of the Forum. The argument is that the European Integration Forum is a formal body for deliberation – technically incentivizing inclusive, knowledge-based and reflexive policy deliberation, but in practice difficult to be exploited by participants. This is owed to limitations in policy discourse (set by the EU agenda) and conference format (brief, infrequent and official meetings).