Euro-Mediterranean Relations: Democratization and the Role of Civil Society
Civil Society in the Mediterranean Mirror 28/29, Quaderns de la Mediterrània, IEMed – European Institute of the Mediterranean
Many documents, programs and strategies of the European Union highlight the importance of civil society as an element of democracy promotion. In this short article I deal with the question of what civil society actually is and whether the idea of civil society as a motor of democratization is still a valid presumption. Civil society is an often mentioned but essentially contested concept. As the term is characterized by a plurality of different meanings that depend on the historical, cultural and legal context, there is no single, generally accepted concept that defines civil society. It remains rather unclear whether civil society includes any form of non-governmental organiza-tion (NGO), such as business people’s associations, syndicates or trade unions. Is the media part of civil society or does the concept refer exclusively to NGOs that address specific societal issues? Does the concept only refer to institutionalized and licensed organizations and associations or are social movements, thematic platforms, informal networks and other un-institutionalized forma-tions also part of civil society? After all, they do often fulfill the same functions as civil society organizations (CSOs). And how about religious organizations, are they also part of civil society?