Sabine Saurugger

This article presents conceptual tools to analyse interest representation in the European Union. On the European level, no formal system of representation can be found, but rather a patchwork of representation modes. These modes are influenced by forms of political exchange specific for each country and each political domain, which interact with opportunity structures at the European level. Analysing interest representation in a system of governance, either national, European or international requires taking into account the relations which link interest groups with political and bureaucratic actors at the national level, acknowledging the changes in these relations and to insert all that in a system of governance where actors must find solutions to problems in the management of public policies and not to forget political power games and hierarchies amongst actors. The first part of the article analyses briefly the development of interest group studies in comparative politics as well as in international relations and presents the attempts to systematize these studies undertaken since the 1990. In the second part, I analyse more specifically the network approach, which allows to overcome the cleavage between pluralism and neocorporatism in the study of the relationships between interest groups and state actors. In presenting a critical analysis of the general ideas of the network approach, I propose specific conceptual instruments helping to structure research on interest groups in the European Union.