Synchronised national publics as functional equivalent of an integrated European public. The case of biotechnology

Franz Seifert


In the second half of the nineties, a number of EU Member States went through intense public controversies over agro-food biotechnology. These controversies occurred almost synchronously, brought about parallel issue-framings and actor-constellations, led national governments to adopt biotechnology aversive policies, and prompted a considerable tightening of the EU’s agro-food biotechnology regulation. This article analyses these events against the background of the current discussion on the lack of a European public. It tries to demonstrate that, as far as the democratic functions information and control are concerned, synchronized national controversies brought about effects equivalent to those theoretically expected from an integrated European public. The analysis also explores the reasons for the synchronous and, in important respects, analogous mobilizations of national publics, and highlights the major policy mechanisms accounting for the observed supranational responsiveness to mobilized national publics. The article concludes with a reflection as to whether other policy fields might provoke similar cases of supranational responsiveness to mobilisations of national publics.


democracy, European public space, multi-level governance, Nation-state, political opportunity structure, European Commission, European Council, EFA, EP, public opinion, BSE crisis, Comitology, NGOs, WTO, political science

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