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 wide-ranging 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 structuresThe 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:05.11.2019
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 absorbs EU investments relatively quickly. As much as 40% of EU payments were disbursed by 3 October 2019, compared to the EU-28 average of 35%. 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 area resulted in an expansion in the role and capacities of the National Audit Office. Accession to the OECD in 2018 was expected to strengthen the quality of regulation and the efficacy of state-owned enterprises, but the autumn 2019 decision by a newly appointed minister of transport and communications to dismiss the board members of the state-owned Lithuanian Post indicated that there is some risk that these reforms will be reversed.
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 collapse of the fragile party-government system in 2017 has radically transformed the political landscape. New parliamentarians, mostly 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 either the right or 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. To date, few innovative initiatives have been successful, and in many cases their content has been watered down.
New Zealand
New Zealand follows the Westminster model of democracy, which is characterized by a low number of institutional veto players and centralizes political decision-making power in the executive. New Zealand’s political system thus gives the government – at least in principle – the ability to respond to international challenges promptly and effectively. Probably best known is New Zealand’s response to global economic headwinds in the 1980s, when – triggered by oil shocks in the 1970s and Britain shifting its trade to Europe – successive governments carried out radical neoliberal reforms that turned the country into a poster child of free-market globalization.

With the implementation of a mixed-member electoral system in 1996, the institutional capacity to meet new international demands has somewhat declined – not least because single-party majority governments (which used to be the typical outcome under the old first-past-the-post system) have been replaced by multiparty coalition and minority governments. Still, the political system has again and again proven its ability to innovate and adapt in response to international challenges. Of particular note are reforms implemented in the wake of the 2008/09 global financial crisis, which prompted the government to tighten expenditures and reconsider how to deliver improved citizen-centered services at reduced cost. The 2014 “Better Local Government” reforms were designed to (1) clarify the core responsibilities of local councils, (2) set clear fiscal responsibility requirements, and (3) give councils more tools to better manage costs. The 2015 amendment to the Government ICT Strategy aims at rationalizing public service delivery by strengthening coordination across different government agencies and by establishing a digital platform for federated services.
Department of Internal Affairs (2015) ICT Strategy 2015. (
Department of Internal Affairs (2014) Better Local Government. (
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 European Union, and interministerial coordination is weak. Cooperation between central government and the autonomous communities on EU affairs has been managed by the so-called Conferences on Matters Related to the European Union.

The creation of a High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda with interministerial responsibilities was the most important development (despite operating under the restricted powers of Spain’s caretaker government since 2019) with regard to adapting domestic structures to meet the objectives decided at the international level such as the U.N. 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 improvement is the implementation of EU-funded programs and mechanisms; this is particularly evident in spheres such as transportation and environmental-protection infrastructure, while less so with regard to agricultural subsidies and judicial reform. In 2017, the government adapted to its upcoming presidency of the Council of the European Union by creating a Ministry of the Bulgarian Presidency. Its operation was deemed successful, and at the end of 2018 the ministry was disbanded, indicating that the capacity to adapt to changing circumstances remained. A next challenge will be the adaptation of government structures 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):

OECD, Israel – Anti-Bribery Convention. Follow-Up to the Phase 3 Report & Recommendations, November 2017,
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.

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 20 Oct. 2019.

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 20 Oct. 2019.
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. Malta is presently updating certain structures with the aim of improving its regulatory and enforcement capabilities, particularly in the areas of finance and environmental protection.
Departments are required to submit a strategic plan that is linked to their policy objectives, and which makes a contribution to wider national and corporate programs. On this basis, they are then required to submit a business plan specifying the necessary human and budgetary resources (typically in a two-year rolling plan format). These plans are approved and translated into the organizational leadership-performance plan. These are revised and updated every six months to ensure that they remain relevant and suitable to current conditions.
In this way, organizations and their mandates are allowed to evolve gradually so as to remain “fit for purpose.” In addition, the government of Malta uses a number of structured review processes, including spending reviews (led by the Ministry for Finance), and strategic/operational/capacity reviews carried out either by the in-house consultancy firm (the Management Efficiency Unit, or MEU) or external consultants. Similarly, there is a structured internal audit program led by the Internal Audit and Investigations Department (IAID). These latter interventions aim to stimulate significant organization change as needed, and generally focus on specific issue areas.
Parliament has also 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, with an explicit remit to engage in international action to mitigate climate change, although was subsequently subsumed within new ministries following the change in prime minister in 2016. New cabinet committees have been set up (and subsequently terminated), 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 reconfiguring ministries and cabinet committees, 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.
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.

The euroskeptic tendency of the former government may change with the formation of a new coalition. If the most euroskeptic Austrian party is not a partner in the new coalition, the pro-EU tendencies of the other parties may change the overall Austrian attitude in the direction of deeper pro-European policies.
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 externally imposed agenda.

Greece exited the Third Economic Adjustment Program (2015 – 2018) in August 2018. During the period under review, the government attempted to implement legislation that had been previously passed in accordance with the requirements of successive economic adjustment programs (the so-called Memoranda). Implementation had been delayed, as some of the measures contradicted the electoral program of the two coalition partners (Syriza and ANEL) that had held 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. A second round of the same review started in the spring of 2019. The new center-right government, which assumed power in July 2019, has started a series of structural reforms. These include major administrative changes, along with changes to investment, labor-relations, migration and education policy intended to help Greece converge with the EU mainstream in these areas. It also announced cuts in the very high tax levels imposed by the previous government. However, the quality of implementation of these reforms remains to be seen.
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 a secondary role.

Under the first Conte government, this trend appeared to be reversing itself. The political influence of the prime minister and finance minister was reduced to accommodate the policy initiatives of the two coalition-party leaders, Di Maio and Salvini, who made little effort to respect Italy’s international and European obligations. However, the second Conte government has backed somewhat away from this mode of operation.
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. Progress, thus far, seems to be slow. 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. The current government, despite a tradition of paying attention to international initiatives, is rather inward looking because of increasing domestic challenges.
On 30 June, 2019, Romania completed its six-month term hosting the EU Council Presidency, with the last summit hosted in President Iohannis’ hometown of Sibiu. The presidency went better than expected, producing 90 pieces of legislation addressing banking, workforce, future migrant crisis situations, the gas market, and low-emission vehicles. The informal meeting at Sibiu saw the adoption of the Sibiu Declaration, which details a commitment to one Europe “united through thick and thin.” Furthermore, the event was an opportunity for EU leaders to emphasize the rule of law, a topic that the EU has often warned Romania about. The better-than-expected functioning of Romania’s presidency shows that Romania was able to adapt its government structures and processes so as to successfully meet its obligations as EU Council president. At the same time, little progress was made in terms of improving the absorption of EU funds.
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. The Šarec government has kept the ministry, but replaced its minister twice due to the ministry’s poor performance.
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 referendums 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 and then executed 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, the Swiss political system has been unable to adapt to these external challenges. Instead, the executive and most political parties procrastinated and muddled their way through. Decisions on these issues can be made by early summer 2020 at the earliest and only after the popular referendum on the free movement of EU citizens into Switzerland has been held. At the time of writing, there are two major oppositions against the draft of an institutional agreement: The left, and in particular the trade unions, fear becoming victims of the liberalizing negative integration which is spurred by the rulings of the European Court of Justice. The right-wing populist party takes an oppositional approach as a matter of principle. It seems unlikely that a popular vote will produce a stable for the institutional agreement as long as the train union movement is not on board with the issue.
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 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 humanitarian migration policy or high levels of carbon emissions.

The establishment of the Department of Home Affairs in December 2017, which was intended to bring together all of the government’s national-security, border-control and law-enforcement agencies, marked one recent example when the government felt the need to adapt its structures to international developments. The new agency took over responsibility for national security, the law-enforcement and emergency-management functions previously held by the Attorney-General’s Department, the transport-security functions previously held by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, the counterterrorism and cybersecurity functions of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the multicultural-affairs functions of the Department of Social Services, and the entirety of the responsibilities held by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
The modernization of the Chilean state is still underway 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 implying 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 than by international or supranational developments. However, Law No. 20,600 of 2012 established environmental tribunals (Tribunales Ambientales) in three regions of the country (north, central and south), and the creation of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation and the reconfiguration of some supervisory boards 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. 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. In 2019, some cosmetic changes were made to the governance structure. State administration offices in 21 Croatian counties were revoked and some of their competencies transferred to counties. Unfortunately, this reform will not significantly decrease the out-sized public administration apparatus. The reform only entails the reshuffling of competencies and personnel, and will not alter structures or processes.
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.
Numerous studies aiming to reform the administration have been conducted in the last decade. Their general goal was to offer prescriptions for overcoming the difficulties caused by the rigid structures of the 1960 constitution as well as fight the dominating lack of innovative spirit. Notwithstanding, there has thus far been little progress, despite the EU and IMF repeatedly urging reforms.

Some changes were brought about by EU accession: the creation of new institutions and adoption of new practices. However, as a single region under the EU’s “cohesion policy,” Cyprus has not been significantly affected by relevant EU policies.

The 2013 Memorandum of Understanding with creditors aimed at more radical reforms, including tackling governmental structures and entrenched mentalities. Growing strategic-planning capacity and promoting administrative reforms will require additional critical targets for success, such as changing administrative practices and culture, and promoting meritocracy.

In fall 2019, the government appeared willing to renew reform efforts. Meetings with the leadership of the parties aimed to promote some reform proposals previously rejected by the parliament. The renewed effort for reforms may be negatively affected by the absence of a centralized coordinating body following the dissolution in 2018 of the Unit for Administrative Reform.
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. Today all federal ministries have specific EU units; thus, some adaptation is taking place, but these adaptations tend to be separately implemented within individual ministries rather than through government-wide reform.
Federal structures present specific problems in terms of policy learning and adaptability to international and supranational developments. In general, Germany has not made serious attempts to adapt government structures to the changing national, international and transnational environment.
Government structures in Poland have been adapted to international and supranational developments, most notably because of 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 not only been much more reluctant to adapt domestic government structures to international requirements (and EU requirements in particular), but even argues that adaptation is unnecessary.
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.” 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. Given the Dutch citizens’ relatively high level of trust in national institutions, it could be argued there was no need for reforms.

The most recent episode in this saga of institutional stability (or inertia) was a report by the Remkes Commission, which advocated state reforms rebalancing the demands of democracy and the rule of law. Among its 83 recommendations, the report advocated for the direct election of politicians tasked with forming new cabinets, the introduction of a binding corrective referendum process, the establishment of a Constitutional Court tasked with assessing the constitutionality of parliamentary laws, and procedures that would give voters greater influence over who is elected to parliament. The commission also called for a new political culture that would accept less detailed government coalition agreements, and would be more willing to consider the possibility of minority governments.

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

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

Staatscommissie parlementair stelsel (die. Remkes), December 2018. Lage drempels, hoge dijken.Democratie en rechtsstaat in balans, Amsterdam: Boom

Eurofound, 2018. Societal change in change in institutions, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg (esp. Table 3)
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 in the third Orbán government, for instance, has created huge problems with regard to EU affairs, as the ministries’ organization no longer matched that of other EU member states or the structure of the European Union’s Council of Ministers. However, these problems have been moderated by the expansion of ministries and staffing. Moreover, as Hungary has become more active at the European level, with Orbán seen by many as the “leader” of a nationalistic, traditional, authoritarian group in the European Union, the government has started to adapt its domestic government structures.
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 European Union or international organizations like the OECD, Council of Europe or U.N. divisions have been considered selectively. Due to various scandals in the education sector and the misuse of EU funds, Slovakia’s access to financial support from the European Union has tightened. Overall, Slovakia continues to perform poorly in drawing EU funds. As the European Commission states the lack of capacities, and strategic planning and administrative inefficiencies hamper the use of EU funds. Distribution of funds to final beneficiaries remains low. As a result, Slovakia lost €120 million in funding for R&I and regional development in the period under review.
N.N. (2019): Slovakia is the worst at drawing EU funds, in: Slovak Spectator, February 29 (
Instead of following international recommendations and complying with global currency market conditions during the latest economic and lira crisis in 2018, the government refused to consult with the IMF to counter the currency crisis effectively. It acted on its own and in collision with previously independent regulatory boards, which a commentator assessed as being “afraid to take necessary steps without instructions from above,” that is, the presidency. Given examples are the Treasury and Finance Ministry which had barred banks from calling in loans to companies under duress due to exchange rates, thereby bypassing the country’s banking watchdog, the BDDK, altogether. The banks panicked, leading to further drops in the value of the lira. Three hours later the ministry announced it was merely a suggestion rather than a policy change. Another example is the Capital Markets Board (SPK), a regulatory and supervisory authority in charge of the securities markets in Turkey whose announcement that insider trading would not be punished was overturned by decree. According to the commentator, “the confusion and disorganization in economic management, the lack of coordination between agencies, the miscalculated regulations have exposed the political influence over independent regulatory institutions, and elevated worries of a possible institutional collapse.”
On another topic, the state authorities are in ongoing operational consultation with UN and EU bodies to handle the refugee crisis. Institutional and procedural reforms, regulations and project set ups are continuously undertaken in accordance with international norms. However, Turkey’s military intervention in Syria and northern Iraq are largely considered to undermine regional security and the country’s own efforts to restabilize the region and promote the resettlement of refugees. Moreover, Turkey has not responded to EU demands to revise anti-terror legislation or visa policies as part of the EU refugee agreement, nor does it meet various Copenhagen standards in certain policy fields that are required for EU accession. Finally, despite its regular consultation with European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Turkey still ranks second after Russia in failing to execute ECHR rulings.

Turkey still has not ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and has not established a National Coordination Council that would be necessary to integrate environmental policies into its domestic agenda and reach policy coherence. It has set extremely limited carbon reduction targets, pledging only a 21% decrease in projected levels by 2030 (as compared with 1990 levels), which is significantly lower than the 40% sufficiency threshold discussed at the COP21 conference in Paris.
Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, Supervision of the execution of judgments and decisions of the European Court of Human Rights 2019, 13th Annual Report of the Committee of Ministers, Strasbourg.
European Commission, Turkey 2019 Report, Brussels, 29.5.2019, report.pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

TC Cumhurbaşkanlığı, 2019 Yılı Cumhurbaşkanlığı Yıllık Programı, lik_Programi.pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

Zülfikar Doğan, Z. (2018) Political control of oversight bodies erodes trust in Turkey’s economy, 21 August 2018,
The government has not adapted domestic government structures, no matter how beneficial adaptation might be.
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