This article inquires into politics of civil society involvement in EU policy-making on the ground. Drawing on frame analysis, it reconstructs how civil society actors across four CEE member states frame the partnership principle, the EU flagship civil society initiative introduced to improve democratic legitimacy and efficiency of the EU policies. Two points are made. First, the article illustrates that civil society actors increasingly frame partnership as a professionalized practice of expertise- and evidence-based policy-making and in that move away from such aspects of the EU participatory agenda as voicing the citizens’ interests or social constituency-building. Second, the article illustrates the productive role of highly political process of contestation that unfolds across tiers of governance and results in entrenchment of certain understandings of partnership an exclusion of others.
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