To what extent does the government respond to international and supranational developments by adapting domestic government structures?

The government has appropriately and effectively adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
Following Sweden’s EU membership, which came into force in the mid-1990s, there has been a sustained effort to adapt government, policy and regulation to European Union standards. The bulk of this adaptation relates to changes in domestic regulatory frameworks and policies, a development that does not impact the structure of government.

Estimates suggest that some 75% of the regulations that pertain to Sweden are today EU rules, not domestic rules. This pattern is probably typical for all EU member states.

Most of the adaptation has taken place not at the policy level, but on the administrative level, for instance by integrating domestic regulatory agencies with EU agencies.
Jacobsson B. and G. Sundström (2006), Från hemvävd till invävd: Europeiseringen av svensk förvaltning och politik (Malmö: Liber).

Zannakis, M. (2010), Climate Policy as a Window of Opportunity: Sweden and Global Climate Change (Gothenburg: Department of Political Science).
Being a small and open economy, Denmark has a long tradition of participating in international cooperation. The most intrusive form of international/supranational cooperation is Denmark’s membership of the European Union. Since joining in 1973, an elaborate system of coordination within government administration has developed. It involves all affected ministries and agencies, and often also interest organizations. In parallel, the European Affairs Committee in the parliament (Folketinget) has become an efficient democratic control of Danish-EU policy. Denmark speaks with one voice in Brussels.
Finn Laursen, “Denmark: in pursuit of influence and legitimacy,” in Wolfgang Wessels, Andreas Maurer and Jürgen Mittag (eds.), Fifteen into one? The European Union and its member states. Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2003, pp. 92-114.

Rasmus Brun Pedersen et al., “Dansk europapolitik og det danske EU-koordinationssystem.” in Jørgen Grønnegård and Jørgen Elklit (eds.), Det demokratiske system. 4. ed., Reitzels, 2016, pp. 248-284.
The most important supranational organization affecting domestic policies is the European Union. After consultations with the parliament and advocacy groups, the government has typically adopted a framing-policy document (e.g., Estonian EU Policy 2015 – 2019). Generally, the formation and implementation of national EU policy is the responsibility of the government. An interministerial Coordination Council for EU Affairs is tasked with facilitating coordination of these national efforts. The Coordination Council plans and monitors the initiation and implementation of all EU-related policy activities. Each ministry bears the responsibility for developing draft legislation and enforcing government priorities in its domain.

The Secretariat for EU affairs within the GO provides administrative and legal support in preparing EU-related activities. It advises the prime minister on EU matters (including preparations for European Council meetings), manages EU affairs across all government bodies, and offers guidelines for permanent representations. To prepare for the 2017 Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU, a special task force (i.e., GO Presidency Team) was formed with 31 positions. For the presidency, 335 temporary positions were established with relevant staff training. These arrangements were successfully accomplished even though the EU Presidency started six months earlier than initially planned.

The parliament’s European Union Affairs Committee issues political positions on draft EU legislation, provides political opinions and oversees the activities of the government as it implements EU policies.

Cooperation with international organizations (e.g., WTO, OECD and NATO) is the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Most important adaptations have resulted from Finland’s EU membership. Finland was among the first EU member states to adopt the euro and government structures have in several instances been adapted to EU norms. The Parliamentary Grand Committee is tasked with preparing and adopting EU legislation. Furthermore, oversight of the EU secretariat, responsible for the coordination of EU affairs, has been transferred from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister’s Office. A coordination system exists to ensure that Finland maintains positions in line with its overall EU policy. This system involves relevant ministries, a cabinet committee on EU affairs and various EU subcommittees. These subcommittees are sector-specific governmental organs and constitute the foundation for the promotion of EU affairs within the state’s structures. Finland is a member of the MOTAN donor network, which evaluates the work of international organizations and their organizational effectiveness. Also, the National Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2022 was adopted in 2014, introducing measures to mitigate the adverse consequences of climate change. The implementation of the plan is coordinated by a national monitoring group.
The key influence in this area is Ireland’s membership in the European Union and, in the financial area, of the euro zone. Over the 42 years since Ireland became a member of the European Economic Community, the country has adapted institutions at all levels of government to allow effective functioning in Europe. Having successfully implemented the 2010 bailout agreement with the Troika, Ireland is now committed to adhering to the EU rules of economic governance contained in the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance and the fiscal procedures contained in the European Semester. The unexpectedly strong economic performance since 2013 has greatly facilitated compliance with these obligations.
For a discussion of the framework of Ireland’s economic governance see return for
Latvia has adapted domestic government structures to fulfill the requirements of EU membership, revising policy-planning and decision-making processes. During the 2013 – 2015 period, Latvia adapted its domestic structures to comply with the demands of the 2015 EU presidency. Beginning in 2014, Latvia began adapting to the requirements associated with OECD membership. In 2016, Latvia joined the OECD.

In order to ensure efficient decision-making and meet the obligations of IMF and EU loan agreements, Latvia created a reform-management group for coordination on major policy reforms. In 2012, this included changes to the biofuels support system, reforms in the civil service’s human-resources management, tax-policy changes and reforms in the management of state enterprises. The group proved to be a useful forum for the consolidation of support across sectors for major policy changes and structural reforms. The inclusion of non-governmental actors in the group serves to facilitate support for upcoming policy changes. Although the reform management group was considered successful, at the time of writing it had not met since 2013.
Lithuania’s policymakers have over time significantly adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments. A network of semi-independent regulatory agencies was developed during the pre-accession period. After the completion of EU accession negotiations, Lithuania’s system of coordinating EU affairs was gradually moved from the core government to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and decentralized to line ministries in the case of specific sectoral matters.
Lithuania has managed to maintain a rather good record of transposition and implementation of EU law, as illustrated by the low transposition deficit and relatively small number of infringement cases initiated against the country. The absorption of EU investments continues to take place relatively quickly. Indeed, 15.02% of EU payments were already disbursed by 29 September 2017, compared to the EU-28 average of 10.24%. Consequently, Lithuania ranked fifth among EU member states in terms of the payment rate of EU cohesion policy. Although the management of EU funds and control systems is functioning well and in compliance with EU requirements, it is challenging for the Lithuanian authorities to ensure the result-orientation of EU funds while maintaining a high rate of absorption during the programming period 2014 – 2020. The adoption of EU policy has largely taken place on a formal basis, rather than indicating substantial policy learning. The central bank’s capacities were strengthened as a result of preparations for the introduction of the euro in 2015, while the adoption of economic-governance rules for the euro zone resulted in an expansion in the role and capacities of the National Audit Office.
In many cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
Organizational change is constantly taking place within the federal government and some of this change reflects international developments. However, unlike countries in the European Union, Canada is not a member of a supranational organization that may directly require periodic adjustments in the organizational structure and reporting relationships of the government and its public services. One notable exception has been the many changes over time in agencies relating to international matters, which include the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). In the March 2013 federal budget, CIDA was merged with DFAIT to create what is now known as Global Affairs Canada. The rationale provided for this reorganization was that an enhanced alignment of foreign, development, trade and commercial policies and programs will allow the government to achieve greater policy coherence on top-priority issues, and will result in greater overall impact. Development advocates have expressed concern that the reorganization would lead to a less focused and effective foreign-assistance program.
The French government has a good track record in adapting national institutions to European and international challenges. This can be attributed to the bureaucratic elite’s awareness of international issues. This contrasts vividly with the government parties’ weakened ability to adapt national policies to the challenges stemming from the globalization of the economy, as there is often fierce resistance from trade unions, most political parties and public opinion at large. The defeat of the traditional party government system in 2017 has radically transformed the political landscape. New parliamentarians, most selected from outside the traditional political party framework, fully support Macron’s new vision. Macro’s declared European and global approach is a radical departure from the past orientations of both the right and the left. Though it remains to be seen if this shift will be accepted by the public, social actors and state bureaucracy.
In the medium term, the most significant impact that international, and particularly supranational (EU-related) developments have had upon the structure and working of the government concerns the role of the minister of finance and of the treasury. Because of budgetary requirements deriving from European integration and participation in the euro zone, the minister of finance has acquired increasing weight in the governmental decision-making process, exercising an effective gatekeeping role with respect to the proposals of line ministries. Another example of this development is the strict internal stability pact, designed to meet the European Union’s stability and growth pact obligations across all administrative levels.

The prime minister and finance minister have gained a central role in the implementation of the government program, guiding the most important decisions. Other ministers have had a secondary role.

Starting with the Monti government, the structure of the government was streamlined, with a smaller number of ministers and undersecretaries than in the past. However, the Gentiloni government has slightly increased the number of ministers and undersecretaries. There are currently 13 ministers with portfolio, five ministers without portfolio, seven deputy-ministers and 36 undersecretaries.
New Zealand
New Zealand has ample experience in drastically restructuring its public sector and reforming policymaking to adapt to new challenges. Major reforms were accomplished from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. However, this was done under a majoritarian regime, based on a first-past-the-post electoral system. Part of the reform package involved the change to a proportional electoral system, a move that was initiated by the voting public rather than the governing elite. Today, given the existence of a multiparty system and minority government, radical reform is much more difficult to achieve. In retrospect, institutional reforms delivered somewhat less than was anticipated and have at times been disruptive. The government at the time of writing was concerned with driving efficiency and performance improvements into the system, and was seeking to accomplish this with relatively limited emphasis on a major restructuring of government agencies.
Government structures have remained fairly stable over time. Norway is not a member of the European Union, but is a member of the European Economic Area. EU policies are therefore routinely transposed and implemented in Norway. EU regulations and legislation affect Norwegian ministries and public administration in much the same way as EU member states are affected.

There are ongoing efforts to improve the institutional framework and further strengthen e-governance, although not primarily in response to international developments.

It is common for new governments to reallocate tasks across ministries. Examples of adaptation include the country’s early establishment of an Environment Ministry, the strengthening of the political leadership devoted to development cooperation, and the recent establishment of a Directorate of Integration and Diversity separate from the body dealing with immigration issues. In general, interdepartmental coordination has increased as a result of international activity, particularly so in relation to the handling of European affairs.
South Korea
International and supranational developments that affect South Korea directly can trigger rapid and far-reaching change. For example, South Korea has reacted to the global financial and economic crisis with decisive action and massive government intervention. Global standards play a crucial role in the South Korean government. Reports and criticism issued by international organizations such as the OECD or the IMF, or by partners such as the United States or the European Union, are taken very seriously. The government has also declared its intention to increase its provision of official development assistance (ODA) in order to meet global standards in the near future. More generally, South Korea has been strongly influenced by international and supranational developments and pressures. For example, it was the first Asian donor to join the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), an initiative for enhancing aid transparency.

However, the country’s degree of adaptability largely depends upon compatibility with domestic political goals. Indeed, action in many areas can be regarded as so-called mock compliance. For example, the government is relatively less responsive to global standards in areas such as environment, labor rights or the reduction of non-tariff barriers. Yet while some have worried that the Moon administration will be more inward-looking than predecessors, it is more likely that South Korea’s strong economic dependence on global markets will ensure it remains open to adapting to most global pressures.
KOICA. “The Republic of Korea Joins IATI.” December 29, 2015.
The Spanish government has largely adapted its domestic structures to agreements made at international and supranational level, although this adaptation has not always been implemented effectively. The most important impact has been produced by EU membership. The Spanish government’s coordination with and adaptation to the European Union is mainly the task of the Secretariat of State for the European Union (within the Foreign Ministry). For obvious reasons, considering the economic significance of the EU agenda, the Prime Minister’s Economic Office (dealing with the structural reforms), the Ministry for Economy, and the Ministry for Finance also have important responsibilities in terms of coordinating cooperation between ministries on EU matters. More generally, all line ministries have to some extent Europeanized their organizations, although most ministries lack units dealing specifically with the European Union, and interministerial coordination is weak. Since the beginning of the eighties, cooperation between the central government and subnational governments has been progressively assumed by sectoral conferences (Conferencias Sectoriales). Sectoral conferences are multilateral cooperation bodies between the central government and subnational governments for specific policy sectors (e.g., health and environment). Each sectoral conference established a specific framework for cooperation among the administrative levels, though with a very weak organizational structure. If sectoral conferences will be convened and which topics will be discussed depends on decisions taken by the central government. Since the senate does not function as forum for the participation of the subnational governments and the sectoral conferences are mainly informal, the Automatous Communities do not participate in matters that directly affect them nor have a veto right in central institutions.
Real Decreto 768/2017, de 28 de julio, por el que se desarrolla la estructura orgánica básica del Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores y de Cooperación y se modifica el Real Decreto 424/2016, de 11 de noviembre, por el que se establece la estructura orgánica básica de los departamentos ministeriales. diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2017-90 11
While not a member of the European Union, Iceland has since 1994 been a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), and has integrated and adapted EU structures into domestic law to a considerable extent. Under the EEA agreement, Iceland is obliged to adopt around 80% of EU law. Iceland is also responsive to comments made by the Council of Europe, countries belonging to the Schengen Agreement, and U.N. institutions. As one of the five full members, Iceland is bound by every unanimous decision of the Nordic Council of Ministers. However, the council deals only with issues connected to Nordic cooperation. The structure and organization of Iceland’s government accords well with international practice, and seems to be under constant review. The 2009-2013 government attempted to streamline and rationalize the ministry structure in order to weaken the long-standing links between special-interest organizations and the ministries. Through a process of mergers, the number of ministries was reduced from 12 to 8. The Gunnlaugsson cabinet (2013-2016) partially reversed some of these mergers and increased the number of ministers to 10. Further, the Benediktsson cabinet (2017-2017) increased the number of ministers by one by splitting the Ministry of Interior in two in January 2017.
Following OECD and academic recommendations, the Israeli government advances various administrative reforms regarding regulatory burdens, decision-making and long-term planning. Periodic progress reports show gradual improvement in the dissemination of information as well as in decision-making. The government continues to adapt its domestic structures to international and supranational developments in an ongoing and constructive process. The Ministry of Economy and Industry produces an annual report that reviews progress with regard to implementation of the OECD’s recommendations. For example, in 2015 the report presented the progress made in the ability to regulate the imposition of labor laws. Moreover, in 2015, Israel signed the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters of the OECD and ratified it in 2016. Many other agreements, such as the enforcement of the anti-bribery convention, have been signed, with policies adapted in Israel in accordance with OECD standards.
“Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters”, Ministry of Finance,

OECD, “OECD Economic Surveys Israel,” January 2016,

“OECD economic surveys: Israel,” OECD publication (December 2013).

OECD, “OECD Studies on SMEs and Entrepreneurship SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Israel 2016,”

“Progress report on the implementation of the OECD recommendations: Labor market and social policies,” Ministry of industry, trade and labor official report (June 2012)

Slosbarg, Itay. ‘Israel is joining on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters of the OECD’ – Funder website, 7.9.2016 (Hebrew):

“There are currently more than 200 ongoing investigations of corruption and bribery around the world,” Globes, 18.7.2017,

“Working plans book for 2014,” official state publication (March 2014) (Hebrew).
Ministry of economy report – Review on the progression on OECD’s recommendation implementation – 2015 (Hebrew):
Luxembourg has made progress in implementing European legislation. In terms of the transposition of EU directives, Luxembourg’s performance is moderate, yet it has improved in recent years. Given the size of the country, there is limited scope for improving the government administration’s human resources. A single civil servant is typically responsible for a number of tasks that would be assigned to an entire team in other EU member states. For example, European Social Fund (ESF) activities fall under the responsibility of only four civil servants who have other responsibilities in addition to European programs. Despite a lack of personnel, work expected by European and supranational institutions is completed. The government presented its national plan (Plan national pour une croissance intelligente, durable et inclusive) in April 2013, and updated it in 2017, adapting budgetary mechanisms.

Luxembourg often responds to international requests by launching an ad hoc group. The country has also done well in conforming national law to EU directives, sometimes transposing laws verbatim. However, this does not guarantee that the law will be followed verbatim; differences between de jure and de facto interpretations have emerged.
18th Update of the Stability and Growth Programme of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg for the 2017 – 2021 Period. Le gouvernement du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, 2017. Accessed 14 Dec. 2017.

Council recommendation on the National Reform Programme 2017 of Luxembourg and delivering a Council opinion on the Stability Programme of Luxembourg. Official Journal of the European Union, 2017. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

“Europe 2020 in Luxembourg.” European Commission, Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

National plan for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth – Luxembourg 2020. Le gouvernement du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, 2017. Accessed 14 Dec 2017.

“Programme national de réforme du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg dans le cadre du semestre européen 2017.” Le gouvernement du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, 2017, Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

Politiques macroéconomiques et evolution de finances publiques 2011 – 2015. Ministère des Finances, 2012. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

Reporting table on national Europe 2020 targets and key commitments for the next 12 months. European Commission, 2014. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

“Secrétariat général.” European Commission, Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.
The capacity of government structures to adapt to change improved during the period of EU accession and since membership. Malta’s preparations for assuming the EU presidency required further adaption to changing scenarios, especially at the ministerial and bureaucratic levels as well as ambassadorial and consulate levels. It also required the expansion and international training of personnel. Consequently, there is greater awareness of the need to respond to international developments. Better coordination among the bureaucracy has also contributed to improvements.

Parliament has demonstrated a greater willingness to engage with international forums. This has increased the government’s capacity to address international issues such as climate change, international financial institutions, security policy and humanitarian crises. The recent decision to provide the parliament with greater autonomy and resources is expected to enhance improvements made over these past four years. Furthermore, a debate has finally begun on whether parliament should become a full-time institution. Indeed, the most sophisticated and complex committee in parliament (with the most subcommittees) is the committee dedicated to foreign policy and European affairs.
The European Union is vital to Portugal in all respects. Since joining the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1986, Portugal has become an integral part of Europe, with all the implications arising from integration into a huge variety of legal, organizational, security and reporting frameworks. While the government of Portugal has not yet applied all of the EU laws and regulations, it is steadily adopting EU policies. Obviously, since Portugal is part of the European Union, and dependent upon it for funds and trade, the country has had to adapt its structures accordingly.
The organization of ministries in the United Kingdom is a prerogative of the prime minister, and traditionally the precise division of tasks between ministries apart from the classic portfolios of foreign policy, defense, the Treasury, and the Home Office has been subject to considerable change. There is some evidence for international and supranational developments playing an important role in these decisions on UK government structures, a clear example being the creation of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) with an explicit remit to engage in international action to mitigate climate change, although it has since been subsumed within new ministries following the change in prime minister in 2016. New cabinet committees have been set up, such as a committee on Syrian refugees in 2015. There have also been developments leading to new cross-departmental structures. The establishment of the National Security Council was a response to security-related issues, while the creation of a cross-governmental joint energy unit was motivated by the Ukraine crisis.

The United Kingdom has in some areas been an early, and sometimes enthusiastic, proponent of norms and practices that have been championed by international bodies, including those overseeing financial stability and transparency in government. The Open Data Charter and the Open Government Partnership (in which the United Kingdom plays an active role) were agreed under the United Kingdom’s G8 presidency. The United Kingdom is an acknowledged leader in open government and ranked 1 out of 115 countries in the 2016 Open Data Barometer.

Perhaps reflecting the prevailing UK attitude to “Brussels” before the decision to leave the European Union, there has been some resistance to policy recommendations from the European Commission, including the country specific recommendations associated with EU semester process, unless they accord with government priorities like tax avoidance and establishing trade links. There is less resistance to recommendations from, for example, the IMF, even when the recommendations of the IMF and European Union are similar.

In addition to the obvious reactions to Brexit, such as establishing a new ministry and cabinet committee, efforts are being made to develop trade policy capability, in order to respond to the expanding UK role in trade internationally. For example, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has worked with the Department for International Trade (DIT) and others to develop a cross-Whitehall Trade Policy and Negotiations Faculty in the FCO’s Diplomatic Academy. Nevertheless, after losing its influence on EU regulation, the United Kingdom will have to find new ways to influence international policymaking in their national interest.
The Austrian government has adapted domestic structures to international developments, but with reservations. While the EU political agenda is generally accepted, the government has proved reluctant to implement specific policies, for example by defending the principle of bank secrecy. Contributing to this hesitancy is the fact that the government is often internally divided, for reasons both constitutional and political: First, the cabinet consists of autonomous ministers who cannot be forced to accept a general agenda. The position of the chancellor as first among equals means there is no clearly defined leadership by a head of government. Second, governments since 1983 have been coalitions. Coalition parties tend to work on a specific party agenda, and have limited interest in the agenda of the government as such.

In many cases, one governing party tends to favor implementation of international and especially supranational (EU) policies more than the other. Alternately, some parties seek to mobilize populist sentiments against the international or supranational level, identifying their own party as the defender of Austrian interests against foreign encroachment. It is especially the Freedom Party (FPÖ) – allied on the EU-level with parties like the French Front National – which plays the patriotic card against what the party identifies as “Brussels”. As the FPÖ is now a member of the government, the reluctance to adapt to European standards will increase, even as the FPÖ (in contrast to the Front National) does not favor an Austrian exit from the European Union.

Austria’s hesitancy in participating in an all-European policy regarding the Russian-Ukrainian conflict reflects a lack of adaptability. Austrian political actors tend to use the country’s neutrality status as a pretext for staying aloof. And Austria’s permanent neutrality, enshrined in the constitution, creates problems for Austria’s willingness to cooperate in a tighter common European defense policy.
Belgium is one of the founding states of the European Union and is an active member of many international agreements. In some instances, Belgium has even played a leading role in international agreements (such as banning the production of land mines).

However, this apparent enthusiasm for international and supranational coordination comes with significant caveats, as Belgium is today regularly criticized for not fully complying with rules agreed upon at the European Union, United Nations or NATO. For instance, critics have taken aim at Belgium’s failures to respect the Geneva Convention, its failure to ratify the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and its slower-than-average progress in abiding by EU environmental norms. This can again be partially explained by the persistent political tension between the country’s Dutch- and French-speaking camps, its complex and still-evolving institutional structure, and the fact that, due to decentralization, all governmental entities maintain (and tend to further develop) their own international relations in the area of their (sometimes overlapping) competences.
EU and NATO membership imposes a clear necessity on the Bulgarian government to be able to respond to and adopt changes based on international and supranational developments. Beyond changes in recent years related to this, the primary governmental structures and their methods of operation have remained largely unchanged. One area in which organizational changes related to supranational developments seem to be leading to an improvement is the implementation of EU-funded programs, especially in some spheres such as transportation and environmental protection infrastructure.

There is already a discernible attempt to begin a process to adapt government structures in Bulgaria to upcoming changes in the EU funding framework. Another source of impetus for improvement of domestic government structures is expected to come from the pending Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2018, when Bulgaria will have to be an agenda setter and facilitate strategic discussions concerning the whole European Union.
Croatia’s accession to the European Union and NATO has been accompanied by substantial changes in domestic-government structures, ranging from the reintroduction of RIA to the passage of the Societal Consultation Codex and the strengthening of capacities for policy coordination. The reshuffling of competencies following accession, for example with the shift in responsibility for EU coordination to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the integration of the former Central Office for Development Strategy and Coordination of EU Funds (CODEF) into the Ministry of Regional Development and EU, has not always gone smoothly. The ability of the Croatian administration to absorb the newly available EU funds has remained limited. The Milanović government’s long-awaited Strategy for Public Administration was passed only in June 2015 and addressed these concerns only partially. Dubravka Jurlina Alibegović, Minister of Public Administration under the Orešković administration, presented her own plan for a reform of public administration at the beginning of 2016. Announced as the nucleus of a comprehensive law to be adopted at the end of the year, it included comprehensive measures to improve the computerization of the Croatian administration, professionalize its human resources management and rationalize the organization of the various tiers of government. Due to strong resistance from within the administration and the collapse of the Orešković government, the plan was never implemented. The two Plenković governments have done little to adapt domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
As in other EU countries, EU regulations have a significant impact on German legislation. The country’s legal system is heavily influenced by EU law, but the federal government does not have a central policy unit specifically coordinating and managing EU affairs. Each federal ministry is responsible for all matters within its sectoral purview related to the adoption, implementation and coordination of proposals by the European Commission. Federal structures present specific problems in terms of policy learning and adaptability to international and supranational developments. In general, Germany did not seriously attempt to adopt government structures to the changing national, inter- and transnational context.
No other country surveyed by the SGI has been subject to such intense or extensive scrutiny as Greece has under the Troika and the EU Task Force, which since 2015 has been replaced by the European Union’s Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS). Loan conditionality has obliged the country to respond to an external agenda.

During the period under review, the Greek government passed legislation on public administration, as the government wants to steer Greece out of the seven-year long economic adjustment program that is monitored by the country’s lenders. For example, in the spring and summer of 2017, the government pressed for changes in the organization of ministries and in autumn 2017 was able to subject Greek civil servants to a first performance-based review. The government has increased the speed with which the domestic adaptation to external pressures for reform occurred, in the view of the fact that 2017 was the prior-to-last year in which the Third Economic Adjustment Program was supposed to be implemented. In August 2018, Greece is scheduled to exit this program and from then on it is uncertain whether the country will continue adapting domestic government structures to external demands and supranational developments.
Japan’s reform processes are usually driven by domestic developments and interests, but international models or perceived best practices do play a role at times. Actors interested in reform have frequently appealed to international standards and trends to support their position. However, it is often doubtful whether substantial reform is truly enacted or whether Japan follows international standards in only a formal sense, with underlying informal institutional mechanisms changing much more slowly.
The Mexican governing elite have traditionally been very interested in adopting international standards and had a high degree of contact with international organizations and policy institutes. The major motivation for this is that multilateralism provides a strategic avenue for counterbalancing the country’s dependence on its northern neighbor. Moreover, many members of the policy elite have studied and/or worked abroad, mostly in English-speaking countries. Mexico’ presidential system, with its directing authority at the center of the administration, also allows the country to make swift changes. However, while adaptability of the Mexican government is comparatively high in formal terms, implementation of new approaches and policies is much weaker, particularly when it involves subnational entities, heavily unionized sectors or counters economic interests in society. In this regard, one of the most challenging tasks for the Mexican government is currently to transfer the ambitious U.N. Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) agenda into domestic policies, adapting them to national priorities. In addition, while Mexico has signaled commitment to human rights in international arenas, within the country the protection of human rights and respect for the rule of law remain low.
As Romania looks to taking on its Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2019, EU affairs have attracted growing attention in the country. However, the political turbulences in 2017 have stymied all efforts to better adapt domestic government structures to international and supranational developments. The absorption of EU funds, an important metric which had substantially increased under the government, has declined in 2017 and was lower than targeted, and remains below that of other Central and East European countries.
N.N. (2018): In Romania absorption rate of EU funds reaches 6.5% at end-2017, in: Central European Financial Observer, January 18, 2018 (
Upon EU accession, Slovenia developed a complex system for coordinating European affairs, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs serving as the central coordinator. The Cerar government left this system largely unchanged. In order to increase the absorption of EU funds, it created a new ministry without portfolio with responsibility for development, strategic projects and cohesion and changed procedures. As a result, the absorption rate has substantially increased.
Switzerland directly implements international treaties which today account for about half of the federal legislation. Whenever Switzerland agrees to cooperate with other countries or international organizations, it attempts to meet all the requirements of the agreement, including implementation of the necessary administrative reforms.

With regard to the European Union, however, the adaptation is idiosyncratic. On the one hand, the government cannot develop institutional mechanisms with Brussels, as most Swiss do not want to join the European Union and have expressed in several referenda their skepticism toward the European Union. On the other hand, adaptations to EU law reach beyond these treaties and comprise also large parts of (domestic) economic law. The strategy of bilateral treaties has been placed in jeopardy following the passage of the popular initiative capping mass immigration. The parliament solved the problem by paying lip-service to the constitutional amendment while drafting an implementation law that does not correspond to the wording and the spirit of the popular decision (“implementation light”). Moreover, there are serious concerns as to whether the “strategy of bilaterals” is sufficient or sustainable. Conflicts between the European Union and Switzerland have escalated since 2012, with the European Union demanding that institutional solutions be developed to address the bilateral system’s weaknesses. Specifically, the European Union has called for self-executing rules enabling bilateral treaties to be updated as well as independent institutions for the settlement of conflicts arising from the bilateral treaties. Switzerland has opposed these proposals. There is strong domestic opposition against any such institutional framework agreement, while the European Union is not willing to continue the previous case-by-case updating of bilateral agreements nor the limited adjudication of conflicts by a joint committee of the European Union and Switzerland. In addition, the uncertainty regarding the implementation of a constitutional rule capping immigration – which violates treaties between the European Union and Switzerland – prevented a swift development of new institutional rules. After the “implementation light,” by fall 2017 the relationship between the European Union and Switzerland seems to have strengthened or at least become more cordial. With regard to the new institutional framework, the newly elected foreign minister pleased right-wing politicians with the announcement that the government would press the “reset” button, while leaving open what that may mean. In any case, this new institutional agreement will meet strong opposition and the leader of the right-populist party has already declared that this would be the battle of his life.
Government reform has been on and off the agenda for at least 40 years. In this time there has been no substantial reform of the original government structure, which dates back to the 1848 constitution, “Thorbecke’s house.” Although several departments have been switched back and forth between different ministries, the system of ministries itself has not been substantially reformed. The Council of State, which is the highest court of appeal in administrative law, is still part of the executive, not the judiciary. The Netherlands is one of the last countries in Europe in which mayors are appointed by the national government. In spring 2013, the Rutte II government largely withdrew its drastic plans to further reduce the number of local and municipal governments from just over 400 to between 100 and 150 with 100,000 or more inhabitants per district, as well as its intentions to merge a number of provinces.

Since 1997, the Homogenous Group International Cooperation (Homogene Groep International Samenwerking, HGIS) has coordinated the budgets and policies of government departments involved in foreign, trade and development policy. In response to EU-level developments, Dutch financial and economic policymaking procedures were adapted to EU-level budget norms and assessments. The oversight role of the Dutch parliament has been strengthened. Information about EU policies and decisions reach the Dutch parliament through a large number of special channels. Although the number of civil servants with legal, economic and administrative expertise at the EU level has undoubtedly increased due to their participation in EU consultative procedures, no new structural adjustments in departmental policy and legislative preparation have been implemented. At present, a political mood of “Dutch interests first” translates into a political attitude of unwillingness (beyond what has already been achieved) to adapt domestic political and policy infrastructure to international, particularly EU, trends and developments.
Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken, Nederlands Parlement en de EU (, consulted 9 November 2016)

Standpunt VNG (homepage, consulted 27October 2014)

Gemeentelijke en provinciale herindelingen in Nederland (, consulted 27 October 2014)

Verdrag van Lissabon vergroot rol van nationale parlementen in Europa, Parlement & Politiek, Europa (, consulted 23 September 2015)

“Wat is HGIS?,” 2016, (consulted 12 October 2017)

“Macron gaat Rutte net iets te snel,”, 26 September 2017

“Rutte zowel kritisch als positief over toekomstvisie Europa,” Algemeen Dagblad, 13 September 2017
The United States has developed institutional structures that are able to respond to its international obligations. Climate-change negotiations, for example, have been firmly institutionalized in the Office of Global Affairs in the State Department. Similarly, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security was a domestic structural response to the challenges of international terrorism. Whether the policies of these units and agencies have been successful or have facilitated multilateral cooperation has depended on the policy choices of each administration and the disposition of Congress.

The Obama administration continued to develop new institutional structures to adapt to policy challenges. The United States has been less prone to adapt domestic-policymaking structures to the requirements of the international-trade regime, in some cases resisting compliance with fully adjudicated obligations under the WTO and the North American Free Trade Agreement. Given the domestic political orientation of most members, Congress has placed low priority on compliance with international-trade agreements and regimes.

The Trump administration has been inclined, if anything, to dispense with international agreements and alliances. It has not sought to align institutions with international structures.
In some cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational.
Most government structures are essentially driven by domestic imperatives and are largely insensitive to international and supranational developments. The key government structures of Australia have not changed since the federation of the colonies. Indeed, only a few international events have been persuaded Australian governments in recent times to adapt domestic structures. The major exception is in relation to the treaties and conventions to which Australia is a signatory, particularly in the areas of human rights, anti-discrimination and transnational crime, where Australia has been a regional leader. Australian society has been reluctant to support a change in political structures and has resisted doing so when asked in referendums, for example with regard to proposed constitutional changes.

Australian society has demonstrated a willingness to ignore international pressure, such as international criticism of its migration policy or high levels of carbon emissions.

On 18 July 2017 the prime minister announced that the government would establish a Home Affairs portfolio that will bring together Australia’s immigration, border protection, law enforcement and domestic security agencies within a single portfolio. This appears to have been primarily driven by a desire to better address international and domestic terrorism threats. However, most commentators do not view this as a positive development for strategic planning or implementation of policy.
The modernization of Chile’s state is still under way in some areas, but national institutions have already become quite solid over the last decade. In general terms, the reform of domestic governing structures tends to be driven by national fiscal-policy concerns, which implies that any innovations that might imply financial changes (such as a budget augmentation for a certain ministry or for a department within a ministry) are very difficult or even impossible to realize. Changes concerning topics that might be of future interest and do not directly affect current political challenges – for example, the expansion of a department’s staff or the creation of a new unit dedicated to topics of possible future interest – are driven more by fiscal or political reasons and political cycles rather than international or supranational developments. Law No. 20,600 of 2012 established environmental tribunals (Tribunales Ambientales) in three regions of the country (north, central and south), two of these had already been established, as well as a Supervisory Board for the Environment (Superintendencia del Medio Ambiente, SMA). This can be seen as a domestic adaptation responding to international and supranational developments. Chile’s membership in the OECD might create incentives for more substantial adaptation in the near future.
Environmental Tribunals:
The rigidity of the 1960 constitution along with a chronic lack of innovation from within government have necessitated comprehensive reforms. Work on improving the country’s administrative structures has been slow; some reform proposals before the parliament have been outright rejected or neutralized through amendments. EU accession led to the creation of new institutions, but did not reform the overall structures of the state. With Cyprus constituting a single region under the EU’s “cohesion policy,” European policies aimed at strengthening the role of regions have had only very limited impact. The government’s focus has been primarily on strategic planning for budgetary and fiscal purposes, with only limited consideration of administrative structures and culture.
1. Reforms Commissioner to battle on with Civil Service Reforms, Cyprus Mail, 22 March 2017,
Czech Rep.
Since the mid-1990s, government activities have adapted to, and are strongly influenced by, the EU’s legislative framework. The main structures of government and methods of functioning have improved over time. The disjuncture between domestic structures and EU provisions and requirements was demonstrated by recurrent issues accompanying the use of EU structural funds on the national and regional level, but this has significantly improved over the last several years. The control over the use of funds also improved, but the sustainability of EU-funded infrastructures and measures will remain a crucial issue, especially after 2020, when the current funding period concludes.
In the past, government structures in Poland have been gradually adapted to international and supranational developments, most notably NATO and EU membership. Poland’s good reputation and its growing influence in the European Union showed that adaptation had been successful, as the relatively high and increasing rate of absorption of EU funds underlines. The PiS government has been more inward-looking and has paid much less attention to the compatibility of domestic government structures with international and EU requirements in particular. In 2017, Poland closed the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for Introducing the Euro and the Office of Polish Integration with the Eurozone in the National Bank of Poland, even though Poland is formally required to introduce the euro once the convergence criteria are fulfilled.
In the past, Slovakia’s ability to adapt domestic government structures to international and supranational developments, most notably at the EU level, has been weak. Despite several attempts at reform, the rate of absorption of EU funds has remained low, as the absorption of EU funds has been hindered by dysfunctional planning procedures, poor project design and selection, and the failure to comply with the requirements of environmental impact assessments. Recommendations by EU or international organizations like the OECD, Council of Europe or U.N. divisions have been considered selectively.
The Orbán governments have paid little attention to the adaptation of domestic government structures to international and supranational developments. In public, Orbán has stressed Hungarian independence, and has argued that his government is waging a freedom fight for national sovereignty against the European Union. Major institutional reforms have even reduced the fit of domestic government structures with international and supranational developments. The radical reduction in the number of ministries, for instance, has created huge problems with regard to EU affairs, as the ministries’ organization no longer matches that of other EU countries or the structure of the European Union’s Council of Ministers. There is often a mismatch in rank, as Hungarian ministers have to cover more Councils than their counterparts in other countries with more minister forming the government. Nonetheless, the administration ensures more or less that the acquis communautaire is implemented. The absorption rates in EU structural funds application are relatively good. Due to the high systemic corruption in the EU transfers by the Fidesz oligarchs, however, some transfers were suspended in the last years.
In contrast to former tendencies of adopting international standards and practices, centralizing power and control have become the major drivers for restructuring governance during the review period. By a state of emergency decree, the general chief of staff and head of the National Intelligent Service (MİT) were affiliated with the presidency, all armed forces were reorganized under the Ministry of National Defense and the Gendarmerie, and the Turkish Police was aligned under the Ministry of Interior – in line with EU standards to place military and defense forces under civilian control. A reorganization of financial institutions including the Capital Market Board is underway. Despite heavy pressure, the central bank remains largely independent. The justice system has again been reorganized following the recent constitutional amendments. The chairman of the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK), namely the Minister of Justice, appoints four members of the council and seven members are in-effect elected by the AKP, given the party’s parliamentary majority.

Turkey is a signatory of several international conventions that include binding provisions, and the Turkish government has attempted to comply with these international responsibilities. However, the government has fallen short on many requirements, either legally or institutionally. On issues such as child labor, gender issues, general working conditions

Even taking into consideration Turkey’s “trauma” after the failed coup and the necessary declaration of a state of emergency, the wide-ranging and radical use of state of emergency powers has diminished Turkey’s ability to meet established standards of policymaking and the rule of law.
Venice Commission, Turkey Opinion on the Provisions of the Emergency Decree Law N° 674 of 1 September 2016 Which Concern The Exercise of Local Democracy in Turkey, 6-7 October 2017, “ (accessed 1 November 2017)
Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, “The functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey” 8 MArch 2017, (accessed 1 November 2017)
Bakanlar Kurulu yeniden yapılandırılıyor, Hürriyet, 8 June 2011, (accessed 5 November 2014)
Seriye Sezen, International versus Domestic Explanations of Administrative Reforms, Andrew Massey (eds.) Public Sector Reform, Vol. II, Sage Publications, 2013.
Saray Kendine Hazine Kuruyor, Taraf, 29 January 2015, (accessed 27 October 2015)
Yaşar Aydin, Erdoğan steht vor der Wegscheide, (accessed 21 December 2016)
The government has not adapted domestic government structures no matter how useful adaptation might be.
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