Politico-Administrative Relations in CEE

The theme of Politico-Administrative Relations (PAR) and its focus on observing the roles and interplay between ministers and senior bureaucrats endures, both as a scholarly enquiry and as a practitioner concern.


The Working Group on Politico-Administrative Relations (PAR) in CEE held three sessions at the Tbilisi conference gathering. Since Bernadette could not participate physically, Marek Rybář was a hosting (substituting) co-chair during the NISPAcee conference.

Those PAR themes covered focused on patronage practices concerning country representation from Bulgaria, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Moldova, Romania, and Slovakia and regional groupings of Patronage in the Western Balkans and Central and Eastern Europe. Our papers investigated specific topics in politico-administrative relations – patronage practice, which will become part of the upcoming Handbook of Patronage and Politicization under the editorialship of Guy Peters, Francisco Panizza, Colin Knox and Katarina Staronova. Additional papers not fitting into the patronage topic, which, however, looked into the broader perspective of politico-administrative relations: policy advisory systems in Slovakia, gender within the political appointments in Romania and specific positions (senior civil servants) introduced recently in local administration in Romania. The entrenchment and extent of politicisation are underlying the PAR challenges arising in most of the cases covered.

Two significant issues arose in the deliberations:

First, a reminder that conceptual frameworks and theoretical approaches developed to investigate PAR in Western liberal democracies may have limited utility in guiding explanations of PAR in Central and Eastern European settings experiencing democratic backsliding, recurrent crises, hyper-politicisation, and lack of trust and transparency. Thus, one of the primary goals of this WG is to engage with Western literature but conceptualise and observe differences from the mapping of the core and how it evolved through time in order to identify possible variants and subtypes. There is a range of circumstances and experiences in the countries reviewed in the working group whereby standard typologies and interpretations of politicisation phenomena clearly do not demonstrate a ‘goodness of fit’.  We intend to use V-democracy results as the independent variable and experiment with structures: systemic change, crisis/EU, patronage, NPM or expertise delivery. Research protocol (in collaboration with the COST COrex project) will assist in a systematic review.

Second, the dilemma of a lack of publicly available electronic data sources, the potential limitations of freedom of information requests and some evidence of misreporting on the civil and public service. The authors referred to the ‘research of the missing data’ as these gaps makes it very difficult to map and survey PAR themes and illustrate a lack of transparency. Therefore, the identification of alternative methodologies and reliance on the judgement of the researcher is essential.

A call for papers for the 33rd NISPAcee conference in Bratislava will be issued in the coming months. Since most participants also meet within the COST CoREX scheme (where Katarina Staronova is the leader of WG1 of the institutional background of the executive triangle) we intend to create synergies across these two projects. We look forward to collaborating with our working group members and welcome new participants. Early career researchers and PhD students working on PAR themes are also encouraged to submit abstracts on PAR topics for the next working group sessions.

Katarina Staroňová and Bernadette Connaughton, PAR Working Group Coordinators


Bernadette Connaughton

Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Limerick, Ireland 

Dr Bernadette Connaughton is a Lecturer in Public Administration and served as Head, Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Limerick, from 2012-2015. Her teaching and research interests include comparative politico-administrative relations, ministerial advisers, environmental policy, and Europeanisation. From 2002-2008 she co-chaired the NISPAcee working group on Politico-Administrative Relations with Georg Sootla and B.Guy Peters. Her recent publications include a chapter in Ministers, Minders and Mandarins: An International Study of Relationships at the Executive Summit of Parliamentary Democracies (eds R. Shaw and C. Eichbaum) and a book The Implementation of Environmental Policy in Ireland: Lessons from translating EU directives into action (MUP in press).

Katarina Staroňová

Institute of Public Policy, Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia, 

Katarina Staronova graduated from Wagner School of Public Service, New York University USA and Central European University Budapest, Hungary. She hold PhD. from political science at Comenius University Bratislava Slovakia. In 2003 she worked as a research fellow at Woodrow Wilson Research Center, Washington D.C., USA.

She is an associate professor at the Institute of Public Policy, Comenius University Bratislava, Slovakia, having co-founded it in 2005 and which offers first MPA program in Slovakia. At the same time she teaches at the Leadership program of RANEPA, Moscow since 2018 and is a guest lecturer at several Universities in CEE countries. Her research/scientific activities specialize on politico-administrative relations, public administration modernization, civil service reform, the process of public policy creation (including the transposition process), etc. She was part of a working group at the Government Office Slovakia, preparing Strategy for human resource management in the public sector 2015-2020, and in creating the new Civil Service Law, which came into effect on 1 June 2017. She is an author of numerous academic articles and studies on issues in civil service, e.g. baseline report on Individual Performance Appraisal in Central Government Organizations in Western Balkans.

She also works as a consultant in the issues of public administration reform, civil service management and policy capacity of civil servants for the World Bank, UNDP, and OECD, where she has participated in analytical missions in countries such as Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Moldova, Kosovo, Georgia, Romania and others.

    Invitation to the 33rd NISPAcee Annual Conference 2025