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Europeanization and Consumer Interests: A Framework for Analysis (with Evidence from the Italian Case)

Paolo Graziano

The literature on European interest groups has flourished over the past years (Eising, 2007; Beyers, Eising, Maloney, 2008). Much attention has been given to more traditional economic interest groups (Greenwood, 2007), whereas social movements have been less analyzed – although recently studies have been growing (Imig and Tarrow, 2001). Surprisingly enough, consumers' interests have been neglected in studies covering interest groups in Europe, notwithstanding their European tradition (for example, the European Consumers Organisation was founded in 1962) and their increasing relevance both at the European level and at the national level (for example, the recent launch of an European consumer policy strategy 2007-2013). The paper is devoted to the analysis of the emergence of consumers' interests in Europe and, by adopting an Europeanization approach, it focuses on the dynamics of multilevel interaction with respect to consumers' interest representation. First, the paper analyses the peculiarity of diffuse interests (Pollack, 1997) with respect to the other more consolidated ones (for example, labour interests), developing a specific framework for analysis; secondly, it describes the political logic behind the development of consumers' interests in the EU; third, it briefly illustrates the evolution of consumers' interest groups at the EU level; fourth, it looks at the Italian case in order to understand the role that Europeanization mechanisms have played in the recent development of consumers' interest representation at the national level. The paper ends with some concluding remarks regarding the the difficult consolidation of consumer interests in Europe, with a particular focus on Italy.

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