During the period of transition to democracy in Southeast European countries, the public administration had to be redefined according to the principle of the rule of law, decentralization had to be encouraged as well as the development of a professional and politically neutral civil service. The research belongs to a recent stream of the literature that addresses the question: how the administrative traditions and mainly the historical legacies influence the design of administrative reforms and the successful implementation of reforms? This paper seeks at identifying a more differentiated perspective on the influence of historical legacies on administrative reforms starting from the assumption that the administrative experience of various historical periods interacts and contributes to transferring the past legacy into the contemporary context of administrative reforms.
By trajectory of public administration reform is intended the route from a given state of affairs in the matter of public administration systems, which represents a starting point, to an end point. Therefore, the notion trajectories can be engaged to describe the route enclosed in the reform of the public administration system of a country. The administrative tradition is understood as „a historically based set of values, structures and relationships with other institutions that defines the nature of appropriate public administration within society“.
Nevertheless, the classification and description of different administrative traditions may be not complete, the tradition changes and evolves over time such as different traditions coexist or overlap each other in the same administrative place developing distinctive tradition effects. Thus, it can be assumed that some countries can belong to hybrid administrative traditions.
The analysis of administrative tradition can represent an important tool for explaining the comparison and for the purpose of case selection. The possibility to highlight significant similarities and differences based on a classification of administrative traditions is a starting point for comparative analysis of phenomena such as administrative reform. Countries belonging to different administrative traditions seem to set up different reform agendas whereas countries belonging for example to the Napoleonic tradition have not given priority to the management improvement, focusing on legal aspects regarding the centralization – decentralization issue. Studies on administrative evolution tend to assume that similarities between administrative traditions and present administrative reform outcomes indicate the presence of a legacy effect. These arguments are based on the understanding that legacies may inhibit, delay and slow down reform and change of administrative institutions and practices.
The questions to be addressed are: how to understand the legacy of the past and what variables can define it?
The approach employed in order to understand the legacy of the past is the historical institutionalism which starts from the assumption that the initial choices made when creating a structure or a program generates a pattern or a path of development and the choices made subsequently follow to some extent down that path. The main idea of this approach is that institutions shape the range of possibilities and have a continuous influence over the choices that will be made at all the levels of the policy cycle. The initial choices may have been made in certain circumstances in the past and „to some extent they may have been unwitting, but path dependencies seem to be built into these systems“.
The historical institutionalism claims that administrative systems change sometimes in an important manner by going far away from their roots. How to explain such change? One option is to observe the „steps“ taken in the ongoing pattern of public administration, most of the observers tending to describe incremental changes in the public administration systems. However, some recent research has questioned the deterministic nature of path-dependency. Besides, there are authors who have stressed that institutions are made of different components that mix different logics and orders; not all the components of an administrative system have the same robustness, certain institutional components may be less robust than others and therefore more „mutable“ and easier to reform.
According to Peters and Painter, each tradition is defined by several factors such as: the relationship between state and society, the relationships with political institutions, the influence of management and law in defining the tasks of the public administration, the role of accountability. In the Napoleonic tradition with its Southern European variant to which belong Italy, Portugal, Spain and Greece, the law represents the main instrument for the state to intervene in the society „rather than serving as a means of conflict resolution between different societal actors“. The issues that arise when analyzing the Napoleonic tradition inquire whether and to what extent the administrative tradition has influenced the public administration reform and how the common features of the administrative model have changed due to the administrative reforms.
The expression „Napoleonic state“ is employed in order to refer to the features of the public administration of the countries included in this tradition family, without limiting them to the Napoleonic heritage. The literature discusses also the opportunity to employ the term „Latin“ countries, considering the Latin culture of the countries belonging to the Napoleonic model as included in the list of factors that influence the administrative reforms, favoring the same reception of the Napoleonic tradition. The term obviously does not apply to Greece, although the five states belonging to the model seem to form a relatively homogeneous cluster. However, despite the fact that the recent literature had included Romania in the „family“ of Soviet countries, the notion „Latin“ definitely applies to Romania in terms of variables of cultural analysis which could lead to explanations of dynamics of administrative reform by encompassing societal factors.
Nevertheless, the discussion could be conducted in historical terms considering if and to what extent the Napoleonic model entered the public sector in these two countries, namely whether the French model spread in these two countries. If there is no doubt in the literature that Greece is part of the Napoleonic „family of nations“ in the sense of administrative tradition, Romania seems not to reflect a clearly identifiable underlying tradition . Despite this situation, Romania shares many of the features that characterize the Napoleonic states’ administrative systems: administration is closely bound to the law; there is a precise and complex classification of constitutional law, regulations, administrative notes that define the content of administrative action; the features of the state contain a unitary and rather centralized organization of the state, although decentralization principle is stated in the Romanian Constitution.
As for Greece, institutional centralisation is deeply rooted in the Greek political tradition, Greek culture and the structure of the Greek political system. It dates back to the establishment of the Modern Greek state in the 1830s. Despite attempts to promote decentralisation, Greece still „rank as the most centralised state within the European Community“. A wide range of historical, cultural, economic and political factors account for this phenomenon. First, the piecemeal and disjointed process of Greece’s national integration, which periodically added geographical areas to the independent Greek state (the last addition – Dodecanesse – was made in 1948) hindered big efforts at shaping a uniformly decentralised system of regional administration and local government. It is important to note that the original Greek state, established in 1833 contained only 36% of the present Greek territory. In the context of flourishing the irredentist ideas, the objective of bringing within the confines of Greece territories historically thought to be part of it dominated the Greek politics until 1922, at least. This situation necessitated first and foremost the strengthening of the central political and administrative institutions. Moreover, the slow process of unification, with the periodic addition of new areas, bred a sense of deep insecurity amongst the public in general, which could hardly form the basis for a decentralised political system. Even the timid efforts of decentralisations started to be perceived as threatening Greece’s territorial integrity and cohesion.
Nevertheless, why to compare Greece, an old member state of the European Union with Romania, a new member in terms of administrative reforms? The discussion could be conducted in historical terms considering if and to what extent the Napoleonic model entered the public sector in these two countries, namely whether the French model spread in these two countries. If there is no doubt in the literature that Greece is part of this „family of nations“ in the sense of administrative tradition, the question that arises in this context is if the contemporary administrative system in Romania reflects a clearly identifiable underlying tradition.
Not surprisingly, the stream of research which analyzed the development of administrative reforms in the post-communist countries associated the slow speed of reforms with the legacy of communism. In Romania, as in many other former communist countries from Central-Eastern Europe, the civil service reform has been delayed as the civil service laws were passed in the late 1990s or/and were not properly implemented, remained incomplete or contradictory. The literature employs the term post-communist administration in order to underline the centrality of post-communist past in characterizing the public administration. The countries from Central-Eastern Europe are usually compared with other post-communist countries, but rarely the new EU member states from the former communist block are compared with older EU members. This cases selection mostly present in the literature represents a methodological choice stemming from the assumption that the communist past sets these countries apart from their Western and South European neighbors.
The approach helps identifying various mechanisms useful in order to ‘transport’ the legacy of the past into the contemporary administrative reform context. For administrative policy-makers this approach implies that they cannot take for granted that the effect of the communist legacy is identical across countries and they cannot even assume that the communist administration will be long-lasting after transition. Instead, it is recommended that the specifics of local administrative traditions and the kind of mechanisms that produce legacy effects in the context of contemporary reform efforts be examined more closely.
The term „Napoleonic state“ refers to the features of the public administration of the countries included in this administrative family (i.e.: France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece), without limiting them to the Napoleonic heritage. The general features of this administrative tradition are the following ones: 1) unitary and centralized organization of the state (except Spain), 2) law is „an instrument of the state for intervening in society rather than serving as a means of conflict resolution between different societal actors“.
For the Southern European variant of the Napoleonic tradition some specific features can be identified: a) high degree of legal formalism – „management by decree“, b) sectorial and local clientelism, c) high incidence of politicization of civil service, d) lower-level public jobs used as political rewards.
According to some scholars, Greece belongs to the family of „Napoleonic states“. Since the transition to democracy (1974), the political system in Greece has been focused on the alternation in government of New Democracy and PASOK (the electoral system has allowed one party majorities in the Parliament). Citizen-administration relationship transformed as legal provisions passed in 1986, 1999, 2006 endowed citizens with procedural instruments to contest and hold the public administration accountable. The administrative changes and the attempts to the „customerization“ of the public service transformed citizens from „administered“ into „normal“ citizens, with rights and duties in the relationship with the administration. The civil service was reformed, but, under the label of „democratization“, massive political appointments took place and there was a poor introduction of human resources management techniques.
The most important changes of the Greek public sector are located in the area of organization and consist of: 1) the establishment of independent authorities (1997 – Hellenic Data Protection Authority, 2003 – Hellenic Authority for Information and Communication Security and Privacy), 2) the decentralization to regional and local governments, 3) creation of one stop-shops, 4) in center – periphery relations, the main interventions regard the direct election of prefects.
If „Napoleonic tradition“ is understood as „Latin tradition“, then the notion definitely applies to Romania in terms of variables of cultural analysis which could lead to explanations of dynamics of administrative reform by encompassing societal factors.
Thus, Romania shares features that characterize the Napoleonic states, as follows: 1) administration is closely bound to the law, 2) there is a precise and complex classification of the legal system, 3) unitary and rather centralized organization of the state; however, the decentralization principle is stated in the Constitution of Romania.
The Post-communist administrative tradition, to which Romania is assigned by part of the literature, is characterized by a unitary bureaucratic state, combined with one-party rule and an overarching political control over the state – before 1989, Romania used to have a highly centralized and politically driven administrative system.
The legacy of post-communist administrative tradition in former communist countries from Central-Eastern Europe is ambiguous, but it is commonly associated with delays and defects in the process of administrative reform. In Central-Eastern Europe, after 1989, a „forth and back“ process of administrative reform has taken place. In Romania, a multi-party political system with periods of political instability characterized the political evolution in 1990s which determined a slow rhythm of reform in general and of administrative reform, in particular. However, it has to be underlined the role of the EU conditionality in speeding up the reform in Romania. When it comes to the relationship with citizens, in 2004, a Strategy of reform was adopted, namely a process of transformation of the central and local administration to address the needs of beneficiaries and of the accession to the EU. Relating to the status of civil servants reform, there was an attempt to depoliticize the institution of the prefect. The changes in the organization of the public administration consist of: 1) laws enacted to put into practice the principles of decentralization, local autonomy and the deconcentration of public services; 2) in 2006, a new law on decentralization was adopted and the transfer of competences shall be made simultaneously with the transfer of financial resources and instruments.
Tabel 1 illustrates Greece and Romania in comparative perspective, considering three dimensions: citizen-administration relationship, civil service, organization.
Adoption of procedural instruments to hold the public administration accountable
Administration shall address the needs of the citizens
„Democratization“ and political appointments
Special status for civil servants; attempts to depoliticize the prefect
Start of decentralization process, creation of independent authorities and one-stop shops
Start of decentralization process, local autonomy, deconcentration
Table 1 Greece and Romania in comparative perspective
In conclusion, the similarities between administrative traditions and present administrative reform outcomes indicate the presence of a legacy effect. Legacies may inhibit, delay and slow down reform and change of administrative institutions and practices. However, counterproductive institutional stasis, rooted in administrative traditions represents a major challenge for reforms in both Greece and Romania.
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