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The Invisible Transformation of C-Decision: Towards a Normative Assessment

Christine Reh

This paper investigates a recent trend in EU decision-making, namely the shift of legislation from public and politicised into informal and sealed-off decision-arenas. Indeed, between 2004 and 2006 alone, 63% of successful co-decision dossiers were pre-agreed in "trialogues" and subsequently concluded as "fast-track legislation" at first reading. Similar delegation and seclusion are widespread responses to the growing complexity of national, supranational and global decision-making, and the recurrence to fast-track legislation has certainly enhanced the efficiency of the EU's legislative output. At the same time, practitioners have repeatedly criticised the democratic trade-offs for the legislative process-a puzzling development, considering that co-decision was originally introduced as a means to bolster procedural democracy in Europe. In order to assess the normative consequences of fast-track legislation more systematically, this paper derives a set of standards from modern democratic theory: 1) participation, 2) representation, 3) accountability and 4) transparency. These criteria are developed so as to guide our analysis of how co-decision as a political practice has affected a) citizens' potential to influence legislation at the European level (participation and accountability), b) the possibility of following the legislative process (accountability and transparency), and c) the balance of power between political and bureaucratic actors (representation).

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