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 EU 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. However, Sweden is today among the forerunners in the EU with respect to its adoption of EU directives and decisions. Most of the adaptation has taken place not at the policy level, but on the administrative level (e.g., 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. The secretariat 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. 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.

Even though these structures are well-developed, due to the small size of the country, Estonia cannot avoid being a rule-taker in areas of more marginal national relevance.

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. 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 National Climate Change Act, which lays down provisions on the planning system for climate change policy and monitoring of the implementation of climate objectives, has been in force since June 2015. A medium-term climate change policy plan under the act was adopted by the parliament in March 2018.
Ministry of the Environment, “National climate change policy”,
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 46 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.
Cabinet of Ministers, Minutes of the Reform-management group (in Latvian), Available at:, Last assessed: 02.01.2019
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, in the case of specific sectoral matters, decentralized to line ministries.

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. Lithuania used to absorb EU investments relatively quickly. Indeed, 15.02% of EU payments had already been disbursed by 29 September 2017, compared to the EU-28 average of 10.24%. However, over the last two years, the rate of unused EU funds increased to 21.9% in the first semester of 2017 and further to 22.4% in the first semester of 2018. This is officially attributed to the need to coordinate EU investments with ongoing reforms, but the country’s administration system lacks sufficient administrative capacities. 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 from 2014 to 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. Accession into the OECD in 2018 is expected to strengthen the quality of regulation and the efficacy of state-owned enterprises.
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 might necessitate adjustments in organizational structures and reporting relationships. One area that has seen changes over time is international affairs, which includes the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).
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. Macron’s declared European and global approach is a radical departure from the past orientations of both the right and the left. However, this French U-turn coincides with a crisis in European and global multilateral institutions, which are being challenged by populist governments and movements around the world.
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 expected and have at times been disruptive. The government at the time of writing was concerned with hardwiring 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 and has signed numerous additional agreements with the European Union. EU policies are therefore routinely transposed into law 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. 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. Korea seems to be falling behind particularly with regard to the transition to greater environmental sustainability. On a positive note, Korea has notified the United Nations that it will ratify four key International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions on the freedom of association and the prohibition of forced labor, although this ratification was still pending as of the time of writing.
KOICA. “The Republic of Korea Joins IATI.” December 29, 2015.
“South Korea set to ratify four key ILO conventions”, Hankyoreh, Nov.21,2017
The 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 government’s coordination with and adaptation to the European Union is mainly the task of the Secretariat of State for the European Union and the Spanish Permanent Representation in Brussels (both units within the Foreign Ministry). The Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry for Economy, and the Ministry for Finance also have important responsibilities in terms of coordinating cooperation between ministries on EU matters and structural reforms connected to European economic governance. More generally, all line ministries have to some extent Europeanized their organizations, although most ministries lack units dealing specifically with the EU, and interministerial coordination is weak. Since the beginning of the 1980s, cooperation between the central government and the autonomous regions on EU affairs have been managed by the so-called Conference on Matters Related to the EU. Finally, the creation of a High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda, with interministerial responsibilities, was the most important development during 2018 with regard to adapting domestic structures to meet the objectives decided at the international level – in this case, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Real Decreto 595/2018
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. Another example of the ability of the government to adapt to supranational circumstances was the creation in 2017 of a Ministry of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The ministry was a structural response to Bulgaria holding the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union and has been evaluated as successful. The ministry will be disbanded at the end of 2018. There is already a discernible attempt to begin a process to adapt government structures in Bulgaria to upcoming changes in the EU funding framework.
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 eight. The Gunnlaugsson cabinet (2013 – 2016) partially reversed some of these mergers and increased the number of ministers to 10. Further, the Benediktsson cabinet (January 2017 – September 2017) increased the number of ministers by one by splitting the Ministry of Interior in two in January 2017. Currently, there are still 11 ministries.
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 24 Oct. 2018.

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 24 Oct. 2018.

“Europe 2020 in Luxembourg.” European Commission, Accessed 24 Oct. 2018.
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.
In terms of organizational adaptation, this is reflected in the creation of positions such as the secretary of state for European affairs in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the General-Directorate for European Affairs. In addition, almost all ministries have structures designed to interact with the EU level.
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.

In 2018, the government shifted its overall international outlook away from following general EU policies (as established by the principle of the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy) to a more diverse attitude – siding in some cases (e.g., concerning the U.N. migration agreement) with the four Visegrád EU member states rather than with the EU mainstream. This reflects the euroskeptic attitude of the FPÖ. During Austria’s rotating presidency of the European Council, this created a specific ambivalence between the Austrian government’s responsibility for the European Union at large and the government’s tendency to align with the dissident positions of the Visegrád group. This became visible in the government’s hesitant approach to re-establishing the travel freedom in the Schengen area.
2018, the government has shifted its overall international outlook from following the general EU-policies (as established by the principle of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy) to a more diverse attitude – siding in some cases (e.g., concerning the UN-migration agreement) more with the four Visegrád states than with the EU mainstream. This reflects the EU-skeptical attitude of the FPOe. During the months of Austria’s rotating presidency of the EU council, this created a specific ambivalence: The Austrian government’s responsibility for the EU at large and the tendency of following the dissidents of the Visegrád group. This became also visible in the government’s hesitant approach to re-establish the travel freedom of the Schengen agreement.
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, 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 slower-than-average progress in abiding by EU environmental norms.
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 government attempted to implement legislation which had been previously passed, in accordance with the requirements of successive Economic Adjustment Programs for Greece (the so-called Memoranda). Implementation had been delayed as some measures were against the electoral program of the two coalition partners (Syriza and ANEL) in power since January 2015. For example, it was only in late autumn 2017 that the Ministry of Administrative Reconstruction adopted new measures for a performance-based review of Greek civil servants; such a review had never before taken place and Syriza had persistently fought against it between 2010 and 2014. In August 2018, Greece exited the last Economic Adjustment Program (2015 – 2018). It is questionable if the government will continue adapting domestic governmental structures to external demands with the same pace.
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. Consequently, the prime minister and finance minister gained a more central role in the implementation of the government program, guiding the most important decisions, while other ministers assumed had a secondary role.
Under the new Conte government, there are strong signs that this trend might be reversed. The weight of the prime minister and finance minister have been significantly reduced to accommodate the policy initiatives of the two coalition party leaders, Di Maio and Salvini.
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 has always provided 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 and sometimes in those international organizations that promote international norms. Mexico’s 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. While formulating action plans and monitoring strategies at the national level faces little or no capacity barriers, the implementation and mainstreaming of policies at the local and regional level will be the major challenge. 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 turbulence in recent years has undermined several efforts to adapt domestic government structures to international and supranational developments. For instance, the absorption of EU funds has remained below the EU average, with the country receiving a warning from the European Commissioner for Regional Policy in October of 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 and Šarec governments left this system largely unchanged. In order to increase the absorption of EU funds, the Cerar government 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. The Šarec government has kept the ministry.
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 EU and have expressed in several referenda their skepticism toward the EU. 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 EU and Switzerland have escalated since 2008, with the EU demanding that institutional solutions be developed to address the bilateral system’s weaknesses. Specifically, the EU 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 EU is not willing to continue the previous case-by-case updating of bilateral agreements nor the unanimous adjudication of conflicts by a joint committee of the EU and Switzerland. Switzerland has tried to wait out the decision, but the EU has threatened sanctions if no solution is in place by the end of 2018. Given the long list of unresolved issues touching the interests of diverse groups such as trade unions and right-wing populist politicians at the time of writing, it does not appear likely that Switzerland will succeed in domestically adapting to EU demands in the near future.
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.

In line with his “America First” rhetorical appeals, President Trump has been inclined to dispense with international agreements and alliances – especially with respect to trade, environmental protection, economic assistance and security arrangements. He has not sought institutional reforms to reflect his nationalist priorities; rather, he has ignored internationally oriented institutional arrangements and made decisions on his own.
In some cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
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 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.
Environmental Tribunals:
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 put responsibility for governing EU policy affairs in the hands of the Ministry of Regional Development and EU. However, the ability of the Croatian administration to absorb the newly available EU funds has remained limited, and the Plenković government has done little to adapt domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
Puljiz, J., Maleković, S., Keser, I. (2018): Cohesion Policy in Croatia: What Have We Accomplished so Far? in: Z. Petak, K. Kotarski (eds.), Policy-Making at the European Periphery: The Case of Croatia. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 285-302.
The rigid structures of the 1960 constitution and a chronic lack of innovative spirit have held the country back. Numerous recent studies and projects for reform have thus far led to little progress; the government appears unwilling or hesitant, while some proposals have been rejected by the parliament or neutralized through amendments. While EU accession led to the creation of new institutions and new practices, these did not affect cumbersome structures and entrenched mentalities. As a single region under the EU’s “cohesion policy,” Cyprus has not been significantly affected by European policies aimed at strengthening the role of regions. Government efforts to promote strategic planning capacity or administrative reforms are missing targets (e.g., changing administrative structures and culture and promoting meritocracy). These efforts may be further affected by the dissolution of the centralized Unit for Administrative Reforms.
1. Studies for the reform of the public administration, ministries and departments
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. In general, control over the use of EU funds further improved under the Sobotka and Babiš governments. However, the sustainability of EU-funded infrastructures and measures will remain a crucial issue, especially after 2020, when the current funding period concludes. In some areas, such as R&D, the government has a medium-term strategy for financial sustainability, in other areas, such as environmental protection and regional development, such a strategy is not yet in place.
As in other EU member states, 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.
In the past, government structures in Poland were gradually adapted to international and supranational developments, most notably NATO and EU membership. Before the PiS government came to power, Poland enjoyed a good reputation within the European Union, and its growing influence showed that adaptation had been successful. The PiS government has been more inward-looking, and has been much more reluctant to adapt domestic government structures to international and EU requirements in particular.
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 and its performance ambiguous and confusing. 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.
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. A brief experiment with consultative referendums was nipped in the bud early in the Rutte III cabinet rule. 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. Prime Minister Rutte and other prominent politicians have begun to realize that Brexit, the threat from Polish and Hungarian non-compliance to EU values and constitutive rules, American indifference toward the Europe Union, and the strategies of Russia and Turkey toward European border issues require a more positive stance toward Brussels and the European Union.
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)

NOS, De haat-liefde verhouding van premier Rutte met de EU, 13 June 2018

Raad voor het Openbaar Bestuur, Signalement.Referenda en andere vormen van burgerparticipatie op nationaal niveau, July 2018.

Trouw, Dat het voorlopig gedaan is met referendums is niet meer dan terecht, 28 February 2018

“Rutte zowel kritisch als positief over toekomstvisie Europa,” Algemeen Dagblad, 13 September 2017
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. Due to the high systemic corruption in the allocation of EU transfers, however, some transfers have been suspended.
Since the June 2018 early elections, the Turkish governmental system is transitioning toward a presidential model. This transition is largely based one state of emergence decree, one Council of Ministers decree and two presidential decrees. The ongoing restructuring will take time. Consequently, it is too soon to evaluate the adaptive capacity of the government and consequences of the restructuring.

Turkey faced a currency crisis just before and after the elections, as the government had to comply with global currency market conditions. However, the government refused to consult with the IMF to counter the currency crisis effectively.

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. The European Commission 2017 Report highlighted several topics requiring urgent improvement. For example, a climate change adaptation strategy is yet to be adopted and enforced. Turkey has still not adapted legislation related to the COE Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women. Turkey needs to take further steps to adapt and enforce rules on animal welfare and animal by-products

The report also stated that Turkey needs to achieve further alignment with the EU acquis public administration reform, and demonstrate a strong commitment to a more open administration and the use of e-government in several public services, including public procurement, environment and climate change, statistics and transport. Turkey’s judicial system is at an early stage of preparation. There has been further serious backsliding in the past year, in particular with regard to the independence of the judiciary. The constitutional amendments governing the CJP (HSK) entered into force during the review period, which further undermined judicial independence from the executive. Shortcomings in the corruption-related provisions of the Criminal Code need to be harmonized with the standards of the COE Criminal Law Convention on Corruption.
European Commission Turkey Report 2018,…/sites/…/20180417-turkey-report.pdf, (accessed 27 October 2018)
Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, “The functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey” 8 March 2017, (accessed 1 November 2018)
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.
Yaşar Aydin, Erdoğan steht vor der Wegscheide,ğan-steht-vor-der-wegscheide (accessed 21 December 2016)
The government has not adapted domestic government structures, no matter how beneficial adaptation might be.
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