Main Conference Theme
Ivan Kopric, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia, firstname.lastname@example.org
Polona Kovac, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia, email@example.com
The main session at the NISPAcee Annual Conference in Zagreb addressed the concept of the European Administrative Space (EAS) as a "soft law”, or rather governance mode framework aiming to enhance harmonised standards in public administrations Europe-wide. The purpose of the main session was to exchange experiences and anticipation across individual countries and administrative traditions. This platform consequently brought together both scholars and practitioners in public administration. EAS is, in Eastern and Southern Europe, promoted mainly by the EU, which appears to be a positive external initiative for reforms in our region rather than a limitation of national autonomy. The EAS was, after all, created and is driven by various European players, facilitated by civil servants’ learning, and fuelled by the expectations of European citizens. Namely, there is an evident progress in the practices of individual countries to conduct simultaneously democratic and efficient administrative services and procedures. However, much still needs to be improved due to the present implementation gap in the area, for instance regarding the principles of transparency and accountability. Although we agreed on the importance of the right to good administration, it is, unfortunately, sometimes understood at a declarative level only. The focus of the discussion was also placed on the challenges related to the increased requirements for administrators who, on the other hand, have to face rationalisation oriented reforms in the public sector, e.g. austerity measures within the civil service or regarding multi-layered local governance. Moreover, the debates within the main session also indicated further opportunities to develop more contemporary tools in administrative relations, such as alternative dispute resolution. Finally, the participants of the main session agreed that further and systemic support to the EAS, at theoretical, policy making, administrative and judicial levels, is currently the most promising way to build up governance capacities.