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About: Working Group on Politico-Administrative Relations
 
 
Fourth phase: 2005-2007
Theme 2007: 
Administering the Summit' in Central and Eastern European Countries

This was the tenth session of the working group on politico-administrative relations which was established in 1998. The work of the group in this past year has focussed on a project entitled 'Administering the Summit', taken from the title of the 1999 publication edited by B.Guy Peters, R. Rhodes and V.Wright. This study investigated the mechanisms that serve the leadership of executive power in a selection of OECD states. The objective of the working group sessions was to explore the roles and functions of actors (elites), structures and processes that serve the 'summit' in CEE states following the first phases of transition. Several country studiesaddressed the interplay of politico-administrative roles at the core executive. In particular the role and specific structures of the Prime Minister's Office (Hungary)and the administration of the President (Russia). One of the sessions focussed on evaluating the role of elitessuch as political secretaries and special advisers as actors providing advice and political coordination to the summit.

Themes 2006:
· "Politico-administrative roles of Prime Ministerial/Central Coordinating Offices"
· "Interplay between political and administrative roles at Presidential Office and between POand Prime Ministerial Offices"
· "Political and administrative roles of ministerial cabinets and advisors"
 
In Ljubljana the working group extended its focus on the interaction of politicians and bureaucrats to include issues of coordination and policy advice. A great deal of executive work involves attempting to make government policies more coherent and to govern in a coordinated and effective manner. In all, thirteen papers were presented on themes - including the role and functions of the Office of Prime Minister and Office of President in several CEE countries and the role of special advisers in selected East and Western states. In the forthcoming year the working group will work on the presentation of a revised protocol reflecting principally interest in the roles of elites, functions and coordination processes in the "administration of the summit" of government. The coordinators would welcome the participation of new members interested in these issues.
 
 
Third phase : 2002 - 2005

Themes 2005:
· "Relations between politicians and civil servants in transition Societies: Impact of specific historical-cultural and contextual factors”

· "Impact of Europeanization on the evolution of (or new configurations of) politico-administrative relations in new member states”

 

The WG on politico-administrative relations met at the NISPAcee annual conference, in Moscow, Russia, May 2005. In total 14 papers were presented in sessions that focused on actors, values and institutions within the context of reforming politico-administrative relations. A principal outcome of the group's discussions was the perception that there is a shift in considering the transition process in CEE away from the "what" outlined within public management reform strategies to the "how" factors i.e. patterns of interaction between politicians and civil servants, movement away from traditional bureaucratic forms of administration to, for example, network governance.

 
  • Ten years ago there was substantive focus on "push" factors to transition whereas the significance of tradition in institution building and public sector reform has become more evident. This was illustrated in papers presented on public administration reform in the Baltic states and the former Yugoslavia. Secondly, the impact of transition on the reassertion of traditional democratic values such as accountability was discussed. It was envisaged that there was further scope to investigate politico-administrative reform within the approaches of new-institutionalism. 

  • Outcomes from the presentations indicated that despite the problems of politicization there is a shift in minister-civil servant relations. In earlier stages of transition reforms civil servants were perceived as obstructive whereas several country presentations indicated that there appears to be more evidence of a willingness of civil servants to contribution to policy making and reform initiatives. The Belgian cabinet system was illustrated as an example of attempts to find solutions for the provision of effective policy advice and manage politicization. It was asserted that it would be useful to investigate the utility of the cabinets system for CEE and understand more clearly policy advice role vs. managerial roles.
  • In relation to structural and political reforms participants indicated the necessity to concentrate on researching how reform actually occurs as opposed to the rhetoric associated with it. Presentations focused on the significance of the politician's role and the function of a leading agency as a device to facilitate coordination. Commentary also indicated that EU accession requirements were interpreted as increasing problems and impeding as opposed to facilitating reform.
  • In addition and in building upon the approaches taken in the previous sessions of this working group, attention was allocated to alternative perspectives of policy making beyond the traditional minister-civil service roles to include analysis of the roles of other actors and the significance of network governance. One of the presentations focused on developments in Estonian labour policy. 
 
Theme 2004: "Various decision and discourse arenas at different levels and stages of the policy process”
 
The WG on politico-administrative relations continued to move into researching the broader political view of Public Administration and papers were aligned to the research protocol 'Bureaucrats and Politicians - Expanding the Analysis' which is posted on the NISPAcee website. Prof. Guy Peters launched the working group discussions with a presentation outlining the core dimensions to investigating state-society relations in public policy and challenged the participants to address these themes.  Papers covered a variety of policy areas from Forestry, Education, Environment to Telecommunications, in a broad number of countries (both East and West) and demonstrated significant variations in patterns of policy and administration. However, despite the breadth of national settings similar types of policy problems also arose e.g. questions regarding the appropriate role of regional government and existing opportunities for civic participation. In some cases, forums (where they did exist) were not exploited and cases whereby the opportunity to participate is hierarchically controlled as opposed to 'bottom up' participation.  Discussions regarding the focus of the group next year resulted in a decision to continue with the current focus of analyzing networks and decision making forums but the politicization of the civil service was an issue that tended to reappear in discussions.  So a second direction of the group will be to return to its original roots and invite papers to investigate the relationship between bureaucrats and politicians in CEE countries.  An additional layer will also be added to the protocol which will emphasize the examination of local administrative traditions in the national case studies.
 
 
Theme 2003:  "Expanding the Analysis: The Study of Involvement of Civil Society Actors in the Policy Process through the Development of New Decision and Discourse Arenas. ”
 
The permanent Working Group on Politico-Administrative Relations was created at the 1998 NISPAcee conference in Prague.  For its future development and the forthcoming 11th Annual NISPAcee conference in Bucharest, 2003, the group aimed to broaden the conceptual dimension of its research focus.
 

After five years of successful studies of politico-administrative relations, the emphasize of the research of the WG was changed. In summer 2002 the new research protocol "Bureaucrats and Politics: Expanding the Analysis” was prepared. The working group focused on the study of involvement of civil society actors into the policy process and the emergence of new decision - and discourse arenas. Traditional approaches to government was supplemented with the theoretical perspective of modern governance.
 
19 papers were prepared for Bucharest conference and presented in short power-point show that was continued by interesting discussions. The first result of conference was strengthening and widening of our research network. Papers were prepared in four main directions: (a) theoretical and methodological issues, (b) decision making arenas in specific policy sectors, (c) new roles of civil service in the core/periphery of policy networks, (d) decision arenas and channels of impact in intergovernmental dimension. Majority of papers were prepared as case studies. Nevertheless, considerable part of papers were based explicitly on various theoretical schools or perspectives of the policy and institutional analysis. This was one of the most important advancement of the research profile of WG.
WG focused firstly, on the analysis of limitations of traditional politico-administrative dichotomy and other dichotomies in the study of the policy process, like policymaking-implementation dichotomy. Comprehensive survey in 11 CEE countries revealed, that similar general patterns of state-society relations could produce different outcomes in the economic and political development in different countries and vice versa. Conclusion was made that  normative models would be useful analytical tools, but they did not reflect actual practices. Hence the presumption of WG new strategy adopted in 2002 was confirmed in the course the conference. 

 
 
 
Second phase: 2001-2002

 
 
The working group  developed a new research on politico-administrative relations under coalition government in the CEE countries. The members of the working group found this topic very essential for the better understanding of the political conditions and limits of the professionalization of administrative systems in the region. At the 9th NISPAcee Annual Conference in Riga, Latvia May 10-12, 2001 the Working Group I discussed a working paper on "Public Administration under Coalition Government: Some Lessons of the Hungarian Case” given by Professor Laszlo Vass and Associate Professor Peter Sandor, Budapest University of Economic Sciences and Public Administration. On the basis of that paper, Dr. Laszlo Vass  prepared a concept for a more comprehensive research in the CEE countries having coalition governments and Prof. Vass  also got the coordinating role in the project.
 
The Proposed Research
The coalition form of the government is very common in CEE countries, and most of the countries have already experienced that not only the change of the government results break in the administrative development, but the changes within the coalition may also involve serious consequences on the administration (confusions or discontinuity in personnel, break in the policy-process, instability, loss in efficiency and professionalism etc.) The coalition as such is a plus driving force for the politicization of the administrative institutions, and it also may be a slowing-down factor in a government decision-making process. On the other hand, there were very few comparable data and information about the coalition governments in the CEE countries. The Working group  decided to survey this topic, and call the country experts to present the basic data, information and making first analysis and evaluation about they country experiences of coalition government and its impact on the public administration.
 
The first drafts of the country cases were presented at the 10th NISPAcee Annual Conference in Krakow, Poland, April 25-27, 2002. Based on the country cases, a publication has been developed which could be used as a textbook in comparative politico-administrative relations, - also the second volumes of Working Group series on politico-administrative relations.
 
 
First phase:  1999-2001

 
1. Field of research
A multi-disciplinary analysis of the main causes of the stalemate in the development of politico-administrative relations in Central and Eastern Europe, drawing on insights from history, law, political science and sociology, using comparative analytical methods.
 
2. Background
The permanent Working Group on Politico-Administrative relations was created at the 1998 NISPAcee Annual Conference in Prague. In the workshop on Administrative Reform the lack of a well working politico-administrative interface was singled out as one of the main impediments to the administrative development process in Central and Eastern Europe. Therefore it was decided to try to develop comparative case studies on politico-administrative relations in Central and Eastern Europe and, on the basis of these studies, to formulate possibly ways of breaking the stalemate in politico-administrative relations. A framework for the development of comparative country studies was developed by the two co-chairs of the working group, Dr. Tony Verheijen, Leiden University and Ms Aleksandra Rabrenovic, Belgrade University. On the basis of this comparative framework, a first series of country studies were developed, on Bulgaria, Estonia, Romania, Russia and Yugoslavia. Furthermore a pilot study on politico-administrative relations at local government level, using the same framework, was done for the Ukraine.  These country studies were presented and discussed during the NISPAcee annual conference in Sofia, in March 1999.
 
An intermediate meeting in Bratislava, November, 1999 (See Activities)  was extremely useful to focus the minds of the group in between the two annual conferences and also to further develop the cohesion in the group. The number and areas of thematic studies was agreed upon, as well as the approach to the theoretical and methodological section of the textbook.
In 1999 selected members of research group participated in the preparation of the book "Civil Service Systems in Central and Eastern Europe” published in Edward Elgar. That is considered as the first output of the working group.
 
The following year an additional set of country studies was developed as well as a set of thematic horizontal studies on organizing policy advice, alternative ways of re-structuring politico-administrative relations and on the role of professionalization in improving politico-administrative relations. The results of the working group research were published in a book:   Politico-Administrative Relations: Who Rules? in 2001, both in English and Russian. In current research literature it is often cited theoretical and empirical source of CEE studies. (See Outputs)
 
The WG on Politico-Administrative relations  continued in its activities with the support of LGI for  the project. In this phase the WG  focused on promoting the use of the Textbook through the organization of a teachers training seminars in English and Russian language (See Activities ).
 
The Budapest sessions of the working group, held at the NISPAcee Annual Conference in April 2000, focused on four main issues (See Activities). 
 
A successful discussion on the future of the theoretical work to be conducted by the Working Group was held at the Riga conference 2001 (See Activities). 
The selected presentations from the Conferences were published in the Conference Proceedings (See Outputs)
The Working Group had been supported by a grant from The Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative Open Society Institute, Budapest, Hungary http://lgi.osi.hu
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