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Public Administration International (PAI) Newsletter

I. Working group on Politico-Administrative Relations
WG Programme Coordinators:

Bernadette Connaughton, University of Limerick, Ireland;
Georg Sootla, Tallinn University of Educational Sciences, Estonia;
B. Guy Peters, University of Pittsburg, USA;

Theme 2007:‘Administering the Summit’ in Central and East European Countries
The term "Administration of the Summit” was coined to describe the analysis of the administration of the core executive in several EU/OECD countries almost a decade ago (Peters, Rhodes and Wright, 2000). Although the diminution of central political authority was acknowledged as a result of the NPM reforms of the previous twenty years, the study focused more particularly on ‘the centralization of political authority towards and within the executive’ (Peters et al, 200: 21) for political and/or strategic management. It examined the reasons for this paradoxical reinforcement of the political core in a comparative perspective, of which the emergence of presidential or prime ministerial government has been an important trend. It may also be argued that the increasing complexity of government necessitates strengthening the core executive in order for political leaders to undertake their role efficiently. Temmes (2006: 3) notes with reference to the Nordic countries that ‘the Prime Minister cannot succeed in her or his leading role without a well organised strategic apex which guarantees the political and programme coordination of the government’s work.’
The permanent working group on politico-administrative relations welcomesproposals for papers that analyse the coordination of the ‘summit’ i.e. the leadership of executive power in Central and East European states. The objective is to investigate the organization of the nexus of government and the complex structures and processes in which political and managerial roles become interconnected in the pursuit of effective coordination. For instance, the assistance to Prime Minister or President in developing the agenda for formal Cabinet meetings may presume assistance in intensive negotiations between conflicting sides, in influencing actors’ views to achieve consensus, consulting leadership of coalition partners. These are clearly political tasks but at the same time also presume considerable organisational/technical activities, like calling, holding and distributing protocols etc. Likewise in managing the policy agenda, such structures also attend to purely administrative tasks, starting from technical organization of Cabinet meetings and following briefings, organisation of information exchange between participants on the one hand, and undertaking analytical work to ensure the professional and technical accuracy of proposals subject to discussion at meetings on the other.
A study of the politico-administrative dynamic at the core executive is important for CEE countries for two reasons. Firstly, new member states have met considerable problems in developing specific devices for channeling national policy priorities in the multi-level structures of the EU policymaking process. This has implied that the role of government bureaucracy has increased sufficiently since effective politico-administrative coordination has acquired a higher priority. Secondly, in nations with more fragile structures of democracy the tendency of bureaucratic capture of political roles and posts and/or in substitution may be observed.
We anticipate that an analysis of such roles will facilitate our understanding of how policy is mediated and determined ‘at the top’ and the ways in which the actors influence the rest of government. What are the channels – formal and informal – that link such staff to the rest of the administration? Is the relationship with the rest of the administration integrated or in isolation? Papers should focus on politico-administrative patterns and organisation within the Office of Prime Minister or Office of President. Other structures to take into account which play a role in servicing the core executive, are, for example European offices and cabinets. It is significant that each country’s specific historical experience, politico-administrative culture, attitudes and styles will determine the specific context within which these mechanisms operate. The locus of coordination and responsibilities is likely to differ across a spectrum of countries.
The proposed research therefore aims to focus on the elites, structures and processes that interface at the ‘summit’, simultaneously playing both political and administrative roles.

  • Elites - Who they are and what they do?
    Who are the elites? What are their career paths, recruitment, retention, who coordinates the coordinators?
    Senior civil servants and political/special advisers – their role in agenda setting, policy advice and coordination/steering (management of horizontal tasks, cross-sectoral issues e.g. public administration reform, political coordination e.g. coalition management)
  • Structures ‘serving the institution of the leader’. Those structures formally created to assist key political actors (PMO, PO) that have developed at various stages of recent history which actually mediate, complement and balance those different and frequently conflicting ends of the government machine (Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2000).
  • Processes – devices of coordination for the political and the policy making cycle (tasks of developing, analysing and filtering of policy proposals and settling professional details, coalition management, programme for government, tasks of policy implementation coordination, protocol)
Participants are requested to focus on these themes and the questions in the attached document. These research questions were used in the original study ‘Administering the Summit: Administration of the Core Executive in Developed Countries’.
Goetz, K. H. Wollmann (2001) ‘Governmentalizing Central Executives in Post-Communist Europe: a four country comparison’, Journal of European Public Policy, 8:6, pp. 864 – 887.
Peters, B.G., R.A.W. Rhodes & V. Wright, (2000) Administering the summit: administration of the Core executive in developed countries, London: Houndsmill, Macmillan.
Temmes, M. The horizontal tasks of government from a Nordic perspective, Paper presented to the working group on politico-administrative relations, 14th Annual NISPAcee conference, Ljubljana, 11-13 May 2006.
We suggest that authors follow the following questions in order to structure their research.

Research Questions from Administering the Summit 1):
1) What is the level of aspiration of political executives for central control and coordination?
Are they willing to allow a great deal of freedom for individual ministers/ministries, or do they want a more coherent approach to governing?
2) What are the characteristics of the Office of the President and/or Prime Minister?
a) Size
b) Internal Structure
c) Nature of the staff (political, career, mix?)
d) Instruments for Influencing the Rest of Government
e) What Government Functions?:
1) Budgeting
2) Personnel
3) European Affairs
4) Defense
5) Others
f) What functions for the Executive?
1) Policy Advice
2) Political Management
3) Managing the State Apparatus and Good Governance
4) Connections with the Public
3) What pressures are shaping the Office of the President or Prime Minister?
a) General Presidentialization of Politics
b) Electoral Pressures
c) Europeanization
d) Media
e) Terrorism. Security
f) Demands for Domestic Policy Coordination and Improvement
4) What is the Relationship with Political Forces
a) Political Parties
b) Interest Groups
c) Others
5) What is the Relationship with Parliament?
a) Initiation of Legislation
b) Bargaining
c) Coalition Management
d) Other
6) Impact of Managerialism and NPM?

1) B. Guy Peters, R. A. W. Rhodes and Vincent Wright, Administering the Summit: Administering the Core Executive in Developed Countries (Houndsmill, Macmillan, 2000).

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