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Analysing and Assessing Accountability: A Conceptual Framework

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It has been argued that the EU suffers from serious accountability deficits. But how can we establish the existence of accountability deficits? This article tries to get to grips with the appealing but elusive concept of accountability by asking three types of questions. First a conceptual one: what exactly is meant by accountability? In this article the concept of accountability is used in a rather narrow sense: a relationship between an actor and a forum, in which the actor has an obligation to explain and to justify his or her conduct, the forum can pose questions and pass judgement, and the actor may face consequences. The second question is analytical: what types of accountability are involved? A series of dimensions of accountability are discerned that can be used to describe the various accountability relations and arrangements that can be found in the different domains of European governance. The third question is evaluative: how should we assess these accountability arrangements? The article provides three evaluative perspectives: a democratic, a constitutional and a learning perspective. Each of these perspectives may produce different types of accountability deficits.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Professor of Public Administration, Utrecht School of Governance, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

Publication date: July 1, 2007

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