- Bernadette Connaughton, Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Limerick, Ireland
- Katarina Staronova, Institute of Public Policy, Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia
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. In Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), politico-administrative relations present a variety of arrangements across country settings that are shaped by many factors including public administration tradition, political culture, institutional conditions, and levels of trust. The civil service reforms implemented by CEE governments and their preparation for EU entry have yielded piecemeal results and lack in continuity (Nakrosis and Gudzinskas, 2012; Meyer-Sahling, 2009). In addition, how the internal political-administrative environment operates is influenced by external factors.
In the past two decades the bilateral relationship between politicians and bureaucrats has also broadened to include the role of the ministerial adviser.
The trilateral relationship may be presented as the minister at one point of a triangle, senior civil servants at the second and ministerial advisers at the third point (Connaughton, 2010). The empirical insights from CEE countries on advisers in particular, and a comparative analysis of ministers, civil servants and advisers more broadly is, however, both under-represented and underdeveloped in the literature (see Sedlačko, Staroňová 2016 as an illustration of the contributions to date).
Conceptually, politico-administrative relations are underpinned by Weber’s interpretations of bureaucracy and the so-called Wilsonian politics-administration dichotomy which advocates a strict separation between political and administrative activities. Although largely viewed as a ‘myth’, the PA dichotomy is recognised as a basis for understanding the interplay between ministers and politicians and has developed into a ‘can’t live with-can’t live without’ concept in public administration. It can be used theoretically or analytically to uphold an abstract distinction between politics and administration in order to explore our understandings of institutions or officials of government (Overeem, 2009).
From this we may link interpretations and concerns about the phenomena of politicisation, which impacts on relationships between ministers (with other top level political appointees) and senior bureaucrats, and on policy implementation. It potentially weaves the bilateral relationship into a web of dependencies and interdependencies that may influence the integrity of civil servants and militates against the development of a stable professional bureaucracy. At the same time, some research suggests that professional politicisation may not inevitably decrease the capacity of bureaucracy (Peters, 2013). To the contrary, the political appointees may be professionals at the same time. The advent of advisers brings another dimension to understanding politicisation impacts. More generally, it is recognised that politicisation takes several forms in politico-administrative relations. It is regarded as the substitution of political criteria for merit based criteria in appointments (Peters and Pierre, 2004), functional politicisation (Hustedt and Salomonsen, 2014) and administrative politicisation (Eichbaum and Shaw, 2008), which takes into account the advent of advisers. In addition, politicisation has been used interchangeably with patronage to capture the patterns and effects of partisan appointments on the capacity and legitimacy of government. There is no shortage of literature published on politico-administrative relations and civil service reform in CEE (Staronova and Gajduschek, 2014; Meyer Sahling and Veen, 2012; Dimitrova, 2002) which indicates the diversity of the countries and the many factors influencing PAR relationships. The introduction of advisers/partisan appointments may introduce different interpretations of politicisation patterns and public administration capacity, therefore deserving more attention.
NISPAcee 2021 – call for papers on politico-administrative relations
Between 1998 and 2008 NISPAcee promoted a permanent working group on politico-administrative relations. The initial rationale for the working group was to initiate the development of national case studies in CEE as this was regarded as a means to understanding the impediments of creating effective working relationships between ministers and civil servants, and building capacities in the policy making process. In particular, the necessity of an effective interface between politics and administration was regarded as imperative to the administrative development process in Central and Eastern Europe and preparation for EU membership. While public administration literature on CEE has flourished on, it is opportune to revisit these topics within the forum of NISPAcee to take cognisance of the trilateral relationship between ministers, civil servants and advisers and developments in how the policy making process is conducted. In addition, PAR reform appears only partially achieved in CEE and this is also influenced by developments in the domestic political environment and by external drivers.
This panel aims to bring together scholars from different countries and professional backgrounds to consider theoretical perspectives and discuss empirical findings on politico-administrative relations in CEE and the impact of the trilateral relationship between ministers, civil servants and advisers on the policy making process.
Submissions may include, but are not limited to papers on the:
• Assessments of politico-administrative relations in CEE and comparative papers;
• Role of ministerial advisers (partisan appointees, special advisers, policy adviser) in CEE and institutional arrangements;
• Effects of politicisation on senior appointments and civil service development; policy making, implementation and overall public administration performance (including EU policy delivery);
• Exploring different forms of politicisation and patronage;
• Novel ways of measuring the scope and extent of politicization in civil service systems.
Abstracts should align with the PAR working group themes, identify a clear research question and indicate the proposed contribution of the research. The content of the abstract should also provide information about the theoretical framework presented and methodology used in the research.