Polona Kovac, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Anamarija Musa, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia
The panel on the rule of law in public administration was launched for the first time at the 2019 NISPAcee conference in Prague in order to highlight the related issues, particularly in CEE public governance. Moreover, the panel has offered - primarily but not exclusively - legal scholars a platform to share their research on the topic. Based on both the quantity and quality of the response, with over 30 applications and finally 22 papers presented during the 2019 conference, we can conclude that there is a recurring need to continue research and networking in this area.
The aim of the panel was to discuss the specific elements and sub-principles of the rule of law, their economic, political and societal setting and effects related to public administration and governance, at both the regulatory level, as well as the level of individual administrative decision-making.
The Panel was organised into four sessions during two conference days, with a total of 22 papers presented, originating (country of the first author) from Hungary (5), Romania (4), Slovenia (3), Norway (3), Czech Republic (2), Russia (2), Lithuania (1), Croatia (1) and Kazakhstan (1):
Session 1: The Rule of Law and CEE Public Governance.
Session 2: Procedural Fairness and Judicial Review.
Session 3: The Rule of Law in Specific Sectors.
Session 4: From Policy Design to Policy Practice in the European Integration Context (ERASMUS+ Jean Monnet Project PRACTIC).
The striking diversity of scientific areas from which papers originate – from law and public administration, to economics, political science and sociology – indicates that the rule of law in both its procedural and substantive aspects is a matter of concern and scientific inquiry of various fields. The methodological basis of the papers included both qualitative and quantitative methods, as well as the legal methods (e.g. teleological reasoning, comparative method). We had the opportunity to hear the results of the research of a total of 33 authors and to discuss various rule-of-law related themes on: the conceptualisation and the understanding of the rule of law as a principle; the recent challenges to the rule of law, democracy and good governance, which emerge from the tectonic changes in the political environment (populism, responses to global issues, concentration of power, e.g. in Hungary, Poland and Romania); the corruption problems, which are tackled more or less (un)successfully by national parliaments and anti-corruption strategies; the importance of administrative procedural safeguards and the effectiveness of the administrative appeals and administrative judiciary, as well as the protection at EU level or harmonisation within the EU; the legality and effectiveness of the specific legal and administrative sectors, such as fiscal affairs, public procurement, bankruptcy, child protection; the understanding of the substantive legal institutes by national and European administrations and courts; the role of institutions in protecting and enforcing the rule of law, mostly from the point of the institutional set-up of regulatory agencies and the information commissioners, as well as effectiveness of the various administrative bodies.
The panel indicated that the rule of law in its multi-dimensionality and complexity as a focus of research should be conducted from various aspects and streams of research. Although focusing on the legal concept, different scientific approaches may shed a light on the different causal and explanatory variables, indicating societal, economic, legal and institutional, substantive and procedural aspects of the rule of law. Consequently, there are many opportunities for the presenters of papers to publish their work beyond the conference proceedings, i.e. in scientific journals. The streams identified in this year’s panel can also serve as a basis for the anticipated medium-term NISPAcee Working Group.