Administrative reforms in South Eastern European states
Comparative study in view of enlarging the European Administrative Space
1. Context of the administrative reforms
1.1 South-Eastern European states and European integration
The accession to the EU and enlargement of the European integration process have determined profound reforms in the European countries area, reforms gravitating around the objective nucleus represented by observing the fundamental principles of democracy, separation of powers and respect for the rule of law.
Reform is considered as a fundamental part of a national effort to improve efficiency as diverse as Greece (Michalopoulos, 2003), increasing the competence and effectiveness of public administration, increasing the expertise, professionalism, knowledge and transparency (Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia).
The year 1990 represented the start of founding the decentralised system, marked by legislative, institutional, political, economic reforms. The states analysed have represented the arena of the reforms in the administrative and judicial systems, some states have been interested to continue their preoccupations in view to implement the Community legislation into their domestic legislation, as well as to review and adapt to the specific European developments and requirements, while other states have been interested in the progress process in view of accession (Croatia) or in adopting a collection of laws, strategies and action plans for becoming EU and NATO members.
The public administrations in the South-Eastern Europe area are subjected to a reform process according to the requirements of the integration process in the EU structures (Andrei, Matei,
- Prof.Dr. Lucica Matei, Faculty of Public Administration, National School of Political Studies and Public Administration, Bucharest, Romania
- Prof.Dr. Ani Matei, Faculty of Public Administration, National School of Political Studies and Public Administration, Bucharest, Romania
Rosca, 2008). The process is defined as an ensemble of reform measures at the level of civil service, local government and achievement of decentralization.
Moreover, on the South Eastern European states, as well as on other countries, the economic and financial crisis exerts pressures influencing the mechanisms of the relationship between the two political and administrative levels, in all cases with implications related to financial constraints and effects on public service.
The reforms of state administration started some time before countries’ accession to the EU (Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia).
The accession criteria of Copenhagen (1993), Madrid (1995) and Luxembourg impose to the candidate states conditionalities on guaranteeing democracy, rule of law, human rights, protection of minorities, economic conditionalities - functional market economy, political conditionalities - adherence to the objectives of the political, economic, monetary Union of the EU, resulted from the membership obligations.
The above mentioned criteria are completed with supplementary clarifications of the European Council of Madrid, supporting the national reforms of the candidate states related to their capacity to reform the administrative and legal structures in order to implement the Community rules and procedures.
Membership means that each administrative field and economic sector of the candidate countries should respect acquis communautaire (Annex 1).
The national administrations are assessed according to criteria of „legal and administrative capacity to implement acquis communautaire”, fact creating serious difficulties due to diversity of the administrative systems, levels of institutionalisation, values and resources required by changes.
The framework of the EU enlargement policy to Western Balkan states consists in the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) in view to get closer the Western Balkan states to the EU, aiming three objectives:
(1) stabilization and transition to market economy;
(2) promoting the regional cooperation;
(3) perspective of accession to the European Union.
Additionally new instruments such as the European Partnerships were introduced by the Thessaloniki Agenda (High Level Summit in Thessaloniki, June 2003), or multi-country support projects, Pre-Accession Assistance instruments (Annex 2) sustaining the reform process in Western Balkan countries (Figure 1).
The pre-accession strategy prepares the candidate countries for EU membership. It comprises framework programmes and mechanisms.
Multi-country support sustains joint projects in regional cooperation, infrastructure, justice and home affairs, single market and trade, market economy, supporting the civil society, education, youth and research. Multi-country support objectives: regional cooperation between candidate and potential candidate countries; focus on common interests and needs, the general objective is to increase cohesion and regional economic standards; the actions support:
1) common interventions for the economic and social development;
2) reform of academic institutions and assistance of exchanges of students and professors by Tempus and Erasmus programmes;
3) strengthening the administrative capacity and supporting the national bodies for enforcing acquis communautaire;
4) administrative and judicial reform, combating corruption and organised crime;
5) setting up the general strategy in view to reduce the risks of disasters in Western Balkans and Turkey.
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Figure 1. Components of pre-accession strategy
1.2. European Administrative Space
Based on the fundamental elements defining the concept of good governance in the democratic states and the principles of public administration, defined and re-defined by national jurisprudence and jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice, the field literature develops the concept of „European Administrative Space” (EAS) as specific component of the „European Legal Space” (ELS), territorially being „the geographic region where the administrative law is uniformly enforced” (OECD, 1999).
„The metaphor incorporating inter alia the principles of administrative law as a set of criteria that are going to be taken into consideration in the public administrations reform in candidate states so that they attain the administrative capacity levels required by the EU membership” determines Cardona (1999) to assert that the public administrations are managed according to common European principles, rules and regulations uniformly enforced in a relevant territory.
Precisely, it is a set of common principles of administrative law characterising EAS: trust and predictability, openness and transparency, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness.
a) Trust and predictability, principle reformulated as “administration by law”, which ensures legal certainty or legal security of public administration actions and public decisions.
b) The principles of openness and transparency, considered instruments for law enforcement, equality before the law and accountability (OECD, 1999) are imposing based on the reality that public administration represents “sound box” of society, ensuring the interface with the citizen as user of its services" (Matei, A., 2004).
c) The principle of accountability indicates the extent to comply with law, the enhancement of efficiency, trust and predictability in public administration. Characterized by a set of formal procedures providing concreteness to the accountability deed, to that principle the supervision procedures are associated, ensuring the appropriate framework in view to enforce the administrative principle of „administration by law" and to protect the public and private interest.
d) The enforcement of the principles of efficiency and effectiveness in the public sector in general and in public administration in particular is relatively recent. According to some authors, efficiency represents a managerial value, which consists in maintaining an optimum balance between the resources allocated and the outcomes; effectiveness becomes also a related value aimed at ensuring that the public administration work succeeds to attain the objectives and to solve the public matters, allocated by law and governing programmes, or as asserted by Ziller (1999) ”it is possible to agree with a common definition of administrative law comprising a set of principles and rules applicable to organization and public administration management and to relations between administration and citizen”.
Those conceptual developments lead toward the idea of creating a European Administrative Space, incorporating a European model (Olsen, 2003), where the common and convergent objective between the EU and South-Eastern European countries is „to have a strong, well - performing, competent, motivated and proud public service. It is important that the public service is perceived and recognised as such by citizens, customers (individual users and companies), politicians and civil society” (Bouckaert, 2001).
3. The public administration - reformer in South-Eastern European states
3.1 General framework
The state administrative structure represents the result of an intensive development process, identifying “progressive agglomerations of territories, populations and languages” (Xavier, 1991); the confirmation for enforcing the principle on separation of powers is provided by the three powers: legislative, executive and judicial power, also confirmed by the practical situation of the South-Eastern European states and their Constitutions.
For the EU Member States, candidates or potential candidates, the administrative reform is actual but shaped according to the status of the respective country.
The South-Eastern European states have most of the governance fields subjected to acquis communautaire, and the candidate states (Croatia and Macedonia, which has not yet started the negotiations for accession) or the potential candidate states should undertake, adapt to the legal specificity and implement the European legislation.
Every candidate country draws up a national programme in view of adopting acquis communautaire.
Referring to public administration, we could not discuss about a specific acquis but we may confirm the existence of clear principles of national public administration, with different legislative traditions and different government systems. The Law on public administration autonomy represents acquis communautaire, whose compatibility degree with specific regulations corresponding at European level is checked by the European Commission, within the accession process of the candidate countries (OECD, 1998).
The common administrative principles, pillar for modernization of public administration and civil service in the European states (Cardona, 2009) and implicitly found as fundamental values of the reforms of public administration and civil service in South Eastern European countries, discussed previously on a large extent, are as follows:
1) rule of law;
2) openness and transparency;
4) efficiency and effectiveness.
The impact of EU legislation (after 1997) on the institutional reforms in Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia has been visible positive in view of improving the administrative, political, economic, institutional frameworks (Dimitrova 2002, Vachudova 2005).
Since 1990, all states analysed were concerned to adopt the Constitution, to systemise, unify and update the whole legislation, comprising all the fields of the economic-social life (Annex 3). At the EU Member States level, the harmonization process according to acquis communautaire has continued, taking into consideration both the recommendations of the European Commission and the domestic market operators’ requirements, for instance in the tax field in view of improving the domestic tax laws, capital market, internal public audit (Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia).
Since 2003, Bulgaria following the adoption of key legislation and reforms in various spheres of the administration has undertaken general European trends and good practices, given that at the European level there is no single strategy for strengthening the capacity of the state administration nor is there a unified model for its most effective functioning.
As a remark, comparing the evolution of the legislative initiatives of the Government of Romania in 2007 and 2008, it is worth to mention the balanced evolution of the drafts for normative deeds, registering in 2008 a decrease of the number of those proposals from 216 to 191. Matei emphasises in a report (2009) the decrease of the number of legislative drafts in justice, internal affairs, public administration, defence, education, agriculture, environment and sustainable development while other fields (economy and finance, transportation, labour, culture, communications) registered an increase in the number of legislative initiatives by 75%.
The administrative reforms may be complex, including changes as a result of pre-accession, accession processes, Europeanization and recently the effects of the world economic and financial crisis. We speak about a transformation of the national public administrations in line with the developments of the administrations of the „European Administrative Space”.
3.2 Comparative analyses
3.2.1 Democratic processes
The systemic transformation at the level of the states analysed, reflects the size of the inter- relations between executive and legislative, taking into consideration the background of „renewing” the political elites (Agh, 1998; Mendelski, 2008) and developing democracy (Table 1).
Table 1. Evolution of the “ Democracy Score ”
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Source of data: “ Nations in Transit 2009 ” , Freedom House
NOTE: The ratings reflect the consensus of Freedom House, its academic advisers, and the author(s) of this report. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s). The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 7 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year.
The public administration has strong political, social, economic, cultural pillars, as action of the executive power (Vedel and Delvolvé, 1988), as intervention of the public power in public action, in guiding the public affairs, achieving and implementing the public policy.
A "model" of administrative reforms in the South-Eastern European countries can not exist, but we may speak about „models”, „asymmetric models”, as entitled by Marcou and Wollman (2008) and institutional „experiments” on public administration in those states, which have passed into a reforming process since the 1990s.
A statistic analysis (Annex 4) of the outcomes mentioned in Table 1 provides an eloquent image on the correlated evolution of “the democratic score” in the states analysed. Introducing a new variable which calculates the average of the scores obtained for the sample chosen, we shall find out that, related to it, the Pearson statistic correlations describe several categories:
A) states powerful correlated in relation to the general trend of the sample (Bulgaria (0.854); Croatia (0.795); Montenegro (0.878); Ukraine (0.986)).
B) states that are average and low correlated in relation to the general trend of the sample (Romania (0.508); Slovenia ( 0.280); Macedonia (0.014); Belarus (-0.880); Moldova (-0.811)). The explanations for such a situation are profound and have a direct connection with the overall political evolution in the respective states. Analysing from area perspective, we remark that for the Western Balkan states, the calculations are positive, being comprised between 0.280-0.878 in relation to the general average of the sample. However, also inside the group of the Western Balkan states, the most eloquent examples are provided by Macedonia, which has negative correlations with all the other states. For the states that belonged to the former Soviet Union, the evolutions are contradictory. Related to the general trend of the sample, Belarus and Moldova have high negative correlations and Ukraine has a high positive correlation (0.986). That situation imposes the conclusion concerning non-correlation between the first two states, Belarus and Moldova, and Ukraine.
As recent European Union Member States, Romania and Bulgaria have similar evolutions, Bulgaria having more powerful correlation related to the average.
3.2.2 Public administration
The main priority of the reform of the administration is its optimization at central and local levels through modernisation and organisational development. The creation of new administrations, the restructuring of existing ones, closing down of ineffective structures and units, their optimisation as well as their organisational development are not aimed at achieving a larger but a better organized, more effective and politically neutral administration.
A common feature of public administration in the studied states consists in highlighting the common principles (Marcou, 2007) of organization and operation, namely: principle of local selfgovernment (in Constitution and law), the character of local powers, the functions and (regulation, supervision etc.) powers of the local authorities (stipulated by law) or procedures for protecting local self-government.
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- Institution / Hochschule
- University of Bucharest – Faculty of Public Administration, National School of Political Studies and Public Administration
- 2010 (September)
- Administrative South Eastern European Comparative European Administrative Space