ASTK18016U Core Subject: Important Challenges in European Governance: Lobbying and Interest Groups

Volume 2019/2020

Core subject in the core-subject line in European Politics. Only accessible to students who are admitted to European Politics.


NB! All exams (both ordinary and re-exams) will take place at the end of the autumn semesters only, as the course is not offered in the spring


The goals and values of the European Union and, more broadly, those common to countries on the European continent, are constantly put under stress by many external and internal developments. Charges of a ‘democratic deficit’ are frequently raised, both regarding decision-making at the European Union level, but also regarding national political processes. Despite the legislative procedures in place to formalize political competences, the location of power in decision-making is frequently debated. Which levels of decision-making and which actors are and should be involved in tackling the prime questions and challenges facing Europe?


This course will engage with such (legitimacy) challenges, and the actors involved in them. It will place special attention on the relationships between state and non-state actors and assess these from different perspectives, including efficiency and feasibility considerations, as well as  normative implications. In the course, we will examine theories and empirical research on how organized interests organize in the first place, are governed internally, enter and interact with each other in populations or interest communities, and seek to influence policy.


Learning Outcome


At the end of the course students will have learned to:

  • Identify and describe challenges regarding interest representation at in Europe and at EU-level
  • Give an account of the role of non-state actors in modern policy making from a comparative perspective,  considering different interest systems such as neo-corporatist and pluralist systems
  • Understand the main perspectives on the interest production process in terms of mobilisation, strategy choice, access to political gatekeepers and, potentially, influence on policy outcomes




Students will have trained the following skills:

  • The ability to apply theoretical perspectives on the relationships between policy-makers and organised interests
  • The ability to select and design suitable methods to assess the role and success of  organised interests, such as qualitative or quantitative (text) analysis, interviews, surveys methods etc.
  • The ability to develop and support an argument on whether and how organised interests undermine or facilitate democratic politics in Europe




Students should have fostered the following competences:

  • Independent reflection on representation in Europe based on the academic literature
  • Critical analysis of the scope, nature and/or effect of the involvement of organised interests in decision-making, including the formulation of theoretical expectations and observable implications.
  • Evaluation  of  the benefits, challenges and implications of the activities of organised interests on modern decision-making

Textbooks  & Articles


Three textbooks are assigned for the course and are listed below. However, much of our reading will be the professional journal literature on organized interests. Several articles per week will be assigned.



Useful background reading


  • Baumgartner, F. R., Berry, J. M., Hojnacki, M., Leech, B. L., & Kimball, D. C. (2009). Lobbying and policy change: Who wins, who loses, and why. University of Chicago Press.
The course will be conducted largely through discussion with the strong assumption that students will prepare readings in advance. Several required readings are assigned each week. Class participation involves a) presenting and discussing several research articles during classes and b) participating in class discussions and small group exercises. A selection of research articles will be presented first by a student. Such a presentation should last 5-10 minutes and address the key issues raised in the article, i.e. summarise, synthesize, and point to debates/contentions. Afterwards, all students are expected to participate actively in the class discussions of the article. After the first class, the instructor will assign articles to the students.• The central issues (controversial items)
• The preferences of different actors with regard to these issues: EU Commission, European Parliament, (coalitions) of member states, interests groups, additional actors
• The sources of these preferences (domestic traditions, economic structure, interest group pressure, party ideology…)
• The way decisions are taken in the case (Which actors are involved? Which types of procedures are used?)
• The main developments regarding the case and an explanation for these developments
• Additional relevant questions
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination
Synopsis and oral examination
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner