First NISPAcee-EGPA Trans-European Dialogue (TED1)
"Towards the Neo-Weberian State? Europe and Beyond”
January 30 – February 1, 2008
For the first time, the two key professional associations of Public Administration in Europe, the European Group on Public Administration (EGPA) and NISPAcee, held a common conference to start a Trans-European Dialogue (TED), following the very successful Trans-Atlantic Dialogue that EGPA has organized with ASPA, the American Society of Public Administration.
The format of the Trans-European Dialogue, however, is somewhat different: It is that of a high-level, focused conference on a timely topic in Public Administration that will profit from bringing together senior experts from the different regions, thereby facilitating interchange and discussion across Europe and even including Central Asia and the Caucasus.
For the inauguration of TED, EGPA and NISPAcee chose as their topic what is perhaps the most important and interesting issue in Public Administration theory right now, the one concerning the overall current paradigm – and possible paradigm shift – in Europe and beyond. In recent years, a vigorous academic debate has commenced concerning how to characterize what is happening after the decline of the New Public Management (NPM) as the central model to explain changes and goal of public management reform. Is the best new model that of the Neo-Weberian State (NWS), as proposed by Christopher Pollitt and Geert Bouckaert? Very roughly stated, this is the idea that the contemporary (perhaps even the optimal) design of PA in Europe is a quite strong, active state that unites basic Weberian features with some key lessons learned from NPM.
TED1 was organized and chaired by Pollitt and Bouckaert themselves as well as by Wolfgang Drechsler of Tallinn University of Technology (TUT), member of the NISPAcee Steering Committee, who had suggested the topic of the conference. Some 40 well-known senior experts, mostly scholars but also senior civil servants, assembled in the Great Council room of TUT for a very intensive two-day meeting that featured lively, controversial and very fruitful discussions. TED1 was heavily discussion-based, including a session with structured debate based on previous theses by the participants and an open one in the end; in between, formal papers by Jörg Bogumil (Bochum), Tiina Randma-Liiv (TUT), György Jenei (Budapest) and Larry Lynn, Jr. (Chicago) were delivered and discussed.
Not everyone present agreed that the NWS was the optimal model, but as a consensus, the NWS emerged as a highly interesting research topic and point of departure for further work, and it became abundantly clear that the classical Weberian state is far from over in Europe and much stronger than was believed some five or ten years ago. It is very clear that countries and regions develop differently. It was also underlined frequently how much rhetoric and reform programs differ from PA reality, although, as was also remarked, this is not always a bad thing, depending on the reform ideas. That the NPM is really not a contemporary model for public administration at all anymore, let alone a reform goal, was general consensus. For the NISPAcee region, it is important to realize – especially as the local papers and expert opinions strongly underlined the failures of NPM reforms in Central and Eastern Europe – that NPM as an overall paradigm is not valid for our time and for our region. Yet, political pressure to implement PA reforms that are clearly not appropriate is often there: As Larry Lynn pointed out, for instance, if anything can be said to be proven in the social sciences, it is that performance pay does not work, yet few reform tools are so popular politically as this one.
A book publication covering TED1, co-edited by the chairs, will be forthcoming; it will feature the papers as well as the discussions and additional essays by participants.
The event also included receptions in Tallinn City Hall by invitation of the Lord Mayor and in the Stenbock House, the seat of the Government on Cathedral Hill, hosted by the State Secretary of Estonia. It was followed by separate and joint meetings of the NISPAcee and EGPA Steering Committees (see separate report).
Feedback by the participants after the conference has been excellent, and TED1 was generally pronounced a great success. Both sponsoring organizations unanimously agreed to continue the TED in very similar form. In 2009, TED2 will take place in Helsinki.
First Joint NISPAcee-EGPA Steering Committee Meeting
– Memorandum of Understanding
February 2, 2008 Tallinn, Estonia
The Steering Committees of the both organizations NISPAcee and EGPA met for the first time on the occasion of the first event organized jointly - the first TED, in order to discuss opportunities for their close cooperation for the future. Representatives of both organizations informed each other about their recent developments and strategies, looking through fruitful discussion for joint interests and possible actions within public administration in the Europe and beyond. The meeting was concluded by an adoption of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Presidents Mzia Mikeladze, NISPAcee and Geert Bouckaert, EGPA and NISPAcee Executive Director Ludmila Gajdosova and EGPA European Affairs Manager Fabienne Maron. The final statement of the memorandum expresses the spirit of the future relationship of the organizations involved:
"According to their respective missions and in the spirit of jointly promoting, improving, and guaranteeing high-level Public Administration scholarship and practice in Europe and beyond, EGPA and NISPAcee intend to improve and increase their historically friendly and close cooperation, especially on the academic and project level. In order to do so, they will continue to organize jointly and annually a Trans-European Dialogue (TED) that was started in Tallinn in 2008, which will also serve as a venue of interaction between the two Steering Committees and management. To further develop this cooperation, EGPA and NISPAcee agree to form a joint committee to develop a joint work plan. Each professional group shall appoint members to this joint committee. Each delegation of the committee shall report to their governing body with the committee’s recommendations so that they will be discussed, approved and implemented”.
Further information at the EGPA web site:
The NISPAcee Journal of Public Administration and Policy
Special Issue: A Distinctive European Model ? The Neo-Weberian State
Volume I, Number 2, Winter 2008/2009
Christopher Pollitt, Geert Bouckaert, Tiina Randma-Liiv, Wolfgang Drechsler