Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Can EU Civil Society Elites Burst the Brussels Bubble? Civil Society Leaders’ Career Trajectories

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Abstract:  The Brussels-based civil society organizations (CSOs) have been conceived by the EU to act as a bridge between the bureaucratic elites and the citizens of Europe. The institutionalized presence of the major EU-based CSOs has, however, called their legitimacy into question, as exemplified by notions such as ‘revolving doors’ implying homogeneous social, educational, and professional backgrounds shared by both EU officials and CSO leaders. This article therefore asks the following questions: To what extent do the leaders of EU-based CSOs merely reproduce the types of capital that mirror those of the political elites in the so-called ‘Brussels bubble’? To what extent do the CSO leaders bring in other sets of capital and forms of recognition that are independent of the Brussels game? How can we explain differences in the salience of EU capital found across policy areas, types of leadership positions, and types of organizations? Empirically, this article qualitatively analyzes the career trajectories of 17 leaders of EU-based peak CSOs that are active in social and environmental policy areas. Despite the highly integrated and institutionalized characteristics shared by all organizations, we find diversity in the composition of the leaders in terms of the extent to which their career trajectories are embedded in the EU arena.

Keywords:  capital; career trajectory; civil society organizations; EU institutions; EU Policies; political elites



© Jayeon Lindellee, Roberto Scaramuzzino. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.