Problems of Democratic Accountability in Network and Multilevel Governance


  • Research for this article has benefited from generous funding by the Swiss Federal Government (Secrétariat d'Etat à la recherche). Previous versions of this article were presented at various events organised by the ‘Connex’ network: the conference ‘Linking European, National and Subnational Levels of Governance: Drawing Lessons from Structural Funds, Regional and Environmental Policy’, Panteion University, Athens, 5–7 May 2005; the workshop ‘Delegation and Multilevel Governance’, Sciences Po., Paris, 11 May 2005; the workshop ‘Accountability and Legitimacy in Multilevel Governance’, MZES, Mannheim, 2–3 November 2005 and the follow-up workshop ‘Accountability in Multilevel Governance’, University of Lausanne, 23–24 June 2006; the session ‘EU Multilevel Governance and Democracy’, Twentieth IPSA World Congress, Fukuoka, 9–13 July 2006. I am grateful to the discussants (Rainer Schmalz-Bruns, Pasquale Pasquino, Christian Joerges, Renaud Dehousse and John-Erik Fossum) as well as to other participants for their insightful comments. I hope that most of them have been taken into account in this published version.


Abstract:  Most studies converge on the growth of processes of ‘multilevel governance’ (MLG) in policy making, related to the often combined trends towards supranationalism and regionalism. Such processes are usually analysed under the angle of their efficiency, while their impact on the quality of democracy is neglected. This article first defines the concepts of multilevel governance and accountability, and then identifies the various dimensions of the latter. It further argues that MLG generates novel forms of accountability, but undermines its democratic dimension mainly for the following reasons: the weak visibility of MLG networks, their selective composition and the prevalence of peer over public forms of accountability.