The European Union as political resource: NGOs as change agents?
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A number of Europeanization scholars maintain that accession to the European Union (EU) provides non-state actors with new opportunities to strengthen their position in the opportunity structure, even in areas where there is no clear EU policy or law-exerting pressure from above. However, to date there has been little research focusing on whether non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Central and Eastern Europe have been able to use the EU in this way. In order to address this gap, this article considers whether, how and to what effect Polish women's rights organizations have deployed four types of EU political resource: arenas, policy instruments, funding programmes and points of reference. The research question is analyzed through two different case studies: one on equality in the workplace, where there is a strong EU competence, and one on sexual and reproductive health and rights, where there is no EU competence. The case studies find that the use of EU resources did empower these organisations domestically, but to a lesser extent than expected, particularly where there was no EU pressure from above. In areas where the EU offers the greatest opportunities it also imposes constraints.
KeywordsEuropeanization civil society gender equality Central and Eastern Europe EU enlargement women's rights organizations
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