Interministerial Coordination


How effectively do informal coordination mechanisms complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination?

Informal coordination mechanisms generally support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
Intersectoral coordination has generally been perceived as an important issue in Finnish politics, but rather few institutional mechanisms have in fact been introduced. One of these is the Iltakoulu (evening session), an informal meeting between the ministers with the objective of discussing and preparing key matters to be handled in the government’s plenary session the following day. In addition, there are other informal government meetings and items can also be referred to informal ministerial working groups. To a considerable extent, then, coordination proceeds effectively through informal mechanisms. Recent large-scale policy programs have enhanced intersectoral policymaking; additionally, Finland’s membership in the European Union has of course necessitated increased interministerial coordination. Recent research in Finland has only focused tangentially on informal mechanisms, but various case studies suggest that the system of coordination by advisory councils has performed well.
Eero Murto, Power Relationship Between Ministers and Civil Servants, pp. 189-208 in Lauri Karvonen, Heikki Paloheimo and Tapio Raunio, eds. The Changing Balance of Political Power in Finland, Stockholm: Santérus Förlag, 2016.
The strong formal role of Prime Minister Orbán and his Prime Minister’s Office is complemented by informal coordination mechanisms. As the power concentration has further increased in the fourth Orbán government, so has the role of informal decision-making. Orbán regularly brings together officials from his larger circle in order to give instructions. In a way, formal mechanisms only serve to legalize and implement improvised and hastily made decisions by the prime minister.
After the change in government in 2019, coordination mechanisms were formalized much more than in the past. The center of the government (i.e., the Presidency of Government and the directorates of coordination, established in each government ministry in 2019) left little space for informal coordination among ministries. Nevertheless, particularly in periods of crisis (e.g., the pandemic of 2020–2021 and the wildfires of 2021), informal coordination has been undertaken by the deputy prime minister, one additional minister and one junior minister without portfolio, who were appointed to serve directly under the prime minister and tasked with steering the government mechanism.
Informal relations and related agreements, which are very common in Japan, can facilitate coordination but may also lead to collusion. In terms of institutionalized informal coordination mechanisms in the realm of policymaking, informal meetings and debates between the ministries and the ruling party’s policy-research departments have traditionally been very important.

The LDP-led government in power since 2012 has skillfully navigated between the coalition partners, line ministries and their bureaucrats, and the public. The chief cabinet secretary is a key actor in this regard. Cabinet meetings are essentially formalities, with sensitive issues informally discussed and decided beforehand. Ministries collect and make public few, if any, records of meetings between politicians and bureaucrats as they are supposed to do under the 2008 Basic Act of Reform of the National Civil Servant System.

The general trend toward greater transparency may even have strengthened the role of informality in order to avoid awkward situations. In a number of instances, it has become apparent that senior agencies have deleted files relating to discussions extremely early. In 2019, the chief cabinet secretary admitted that no records of meetings between the prime minister and senior officials are kept at the prime minister’s office.
Cabinet minutes show formality, no substance, The Japan Times, 5 October 2015,

Enhancing government accountability (Ediorial), The Japan Times, 13 August 2017,

Tadashi Kobayashi and Taiji Mukohata, Japan trade ministry told employees to obscure meeting records, The Mainichi, 30 August 2018,

Hiroyuki Oba, Suga admits Japan PM office kept no records of meetings between Abe, gov’t agency execs, The Mainichi, 4 June 2019,
There are many opportunities for informal coordination given Luxembourg’s small size, close-knit society and interconnected government administration. Public administration staffers responsible for early policy research and formulation are typically well familiar with representatives of social organizations and members of civil society research institutions. In such a small state, there are many opportunities for informal contact between public servants and experts from research institutions, business and civil society. Senior civil servants are simultaneously responsible for multiple projects, have an enormous workload, and represent the government within a number of different bodies, boards and committees.
Bossaert, Danielle (2008): Die Modernisierung der öffentlichen Verwaltung und des öffentlichen Dienstes im Großherzogtum Luxemburg in: Wolfgang H. Lorig (ed.): Moderne Verwaltung in der Bürgergesellschaft, Nomos Verlag, Baden-Baden, pp. 298 – 312.
New Zealand
In addition to formal coordination, there are a number of informal channels between coalition partners, government and legislative support parties (parliamentary rather than extra-parliamentary), and ministers and their parliamentary advisers. Although media commentary tends to not draw a distinction between formal coalitions (e.g., Labour/NZ First, 2017-2020) and non-coalition support parties (e.g., Green Party, 2017-2020), the Cabinet Manual seeks to at least formally clarify which procedures should be used as a guideline in case of informal coordination. It is important to mention, however, that the coordination process is largely limited to party leadership and excludes the extra-parliamentary wing of the party (i.e., party members, activists and officials).
Cabinet Office Circular CO (17) 10, Labour-New Zealand First Coalition, with Confidence and Supply from the Green Party: Consultation and Operating Arrangements. December 17, 2017.
Given the small size of the federal administration and the country’s tradition of informal coordination, there is a continuing presence of strong and effective informal coordination. According to Mavrot and Sager, informal coordination not only takes place among administrative units in the seven departments, but also between the respective administrations at the different federal levels.
Mavrot, Céline, and Fritz Sager (2018). Vertical epistemic communities in multilevel governance. Policy & Politics, Volume 46, Number 3, pp. 391-407.
In most cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
Information coordination procedures exist at the level of the party, where informal consultations on policies take place on a regular basis to make sure that the party leadership supports the government’s direction. This occurs regardless of which party is in office. The federal system and the division of responsibilities between the federal government and the state and territory governments means that informal coordination is always an important component of any policy that may involve the states. These procedures are ad hoc, and take place at two levels, among ministers from different jurisdictions, and at the level of senior public servants.
Canada’s federal system has no formal provisions that deal specifically with federal-provincial coordination. Pressing federal-provincial issues and other matters that require intergovernmental discussions are usually addressed in the First Ministers’ Conference, which includes the prime minister, provincial premiers and territorial leaders, along with their officials. These meetings are called by the prime minister and have typically been held annually, but there is no formal schedule. The lack of any requirement for the conference to be held regularly has been a cause for concern, as it is critical for first ministers and the prime minister to engage in face-to-face discussions or negotiations, given the many policy areas that demand federal-provincial coordination.

During the pandemic, however, the mechanisms for federal-provincial-territorial (F/P/T) coordination were activated on a relatively sustained basis as the country grappled with the crisis, including economic shocks, procurement shortages, vaccine rollout and acute shortages within the healthcare system. As a result the period since March of 2020 has been one of the most active periods of F/P/T consultations, at times with First Ministers’ calls occurring on a weekly basis.
Informal coordination plays an important role in settling issues so that the cabinet can focus on strategic-policy debates. Existing informal mechanisms might be characterized as “formal informality,” as informal coordination mechanisms are de facto as institutionalized as formal ones in daily political practice.
Given that Danish governments are typically either minority or coalition governments, informal contact and coordination is important. The country’s consensus-driven political tradition means that this also applies to contacts with interest groups, particularly employer and employee organizations that play an important role in shaping labor market and collective bargaining issues. Tripartite agreements are a frequent phenomenon in this context. Informal mechanisms can help boost the efficiency of formal meetings while important decisions must, of course, be confirmed in more formal settings. At the political level, informal mechanisms are probably more important than formal ones.
Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen, Peter Munk Christiansen og Marius Ibsen, Politik og forvaltning, 4. udgave, Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2017.
A crucial factor and essentially an invisible coordination mechanism is the “old-boy network” built by former students from the elitist “grandes écoles” (École nationale d’administration (ENA), École Polytechnique, Mines, ParisTech, etc.), or by members of the same “grands corps” (prestigious bureaucracies such as Inspection générale des Finances, the diplomatic services, the Council of State and so on). Most ministries (except perhaps the least powerful or those considered as marginal) include one or several persons from this high civil servant super-elite who know each other or are bound by informal bonds of solidarity. These high civil servants (especially “énarques” from ENA) also work in the PMO or the president’s office, further strengthening this informal connection. The system is both efficient and not transparent, from a procedural point of view. It is striking, for instance, how much former President Hollande relied on people who were trained with him at ENA, and to whom he offered key positions in the political administration – ranging from ministerial positions or the chair of the central bank to many other high offices. President Macron has maintained these informal links.
All governments in Ireland since 1989 have been coalition governments. The 2016 general election produced a Fine Gael-led minority government with nine independent deputies. This government was dependent on the abstentionism of the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil, in votes relating to confidence and supply. The government in office since 2020 is a novel coalition of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael – who between them have led every government since the foundation of the state, but never in coalition before 2020 – along with the Greens.

The impression conveyed by accounts of cabinet meetings is that the agenda is usually too heavy to allow for long debates on fundamental issues, which tend to be settled in various ways prior to any meeting. On the whole, these informal coordination mechanisms appear to work effectively (see also “Ministerial Bureaucracy” on the importance of ministers’ special advisers).

During the 2011 to 2016 coalition government, the need for tight coordination was greater given that this government had to deal with the economic and financial crisis. The Economic Management Council (EMC) was introduced as a kind of “war cabinet.” It was composed of four key cabinet members: the taoiseach and tánaiste (the two coalition party leaders), and the two key economic portfolios, the minister for finance and the minister for public expenditure (one from each party). The EMC also included these four ministers’ top officials and advisers, about 13 in total. The EMC was an inner cabinet that took key decisions – a level of formal tight coordination not previously seen in Ireland. Partly because the crisis had mainly passed, the EMC was discontinued after the 2016 election.

In May 2020, a cross-party special committee was established to consider and take evidence on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The committee was chaired by an independent deputy and published its final report in October 2020 (Oir, 2020). Observers raised concerns regarding public comments made by the chair of the committee, who raised doubts about the efficacy of lockdowns and restrictions, and on another occasion described concerns about rising infection rates in Ireland as “hysterical” (Horgan-Jones, 2020).
Horgan-Jones, J. (2020) Chair of Covid-19 committee criticised over ‘hysteria’ comment, The Irish Times, August 17, available at:

Oir (2020), ‘Final report of the special committee on Covid-19’, Houses of the Oireachtas, October 06,
The Draghi government has added to its more formal coordination mechanisms, such as the “cabina di regia” that was established by law decree n. 77 of 31 May 2021, regular informal meetings with the leaders of the parties supporting the governmental majority. These informal meetings have effectively reduced conflicts within a very large coalition.
Law-Decree n. 77: (accessed 12 January 2022)
Informal mechanisms of coordination have played an essential role under the PiS government. PiS Chairman Jarosław Kaczyński makes many important decisions himself, and government ministers’ standing strongly depends upon their relationship with him. Kaczyński initially served as the gray eminence behind the scenes, but officially entered the government in October 2020 as deputy prime minister. Prime Minister Morawiecki’s informal power has grown, but still highly depends on his personal relationship with Kaczyński.
Slovenia’s tradition of coalition governments has meant that informal coordination procedures have played a significant role in policy coordination. In the period under review, the leaders of the four coalition parties (later three parties, after DeSUS left the coalition) met frequently, making major decisions at coalition meetings that were often also attended by the ministers and from time to time also by the leaders of parliamentary majority groups and coalition members of parliament. There were also regular meetings between the coalition and their external expert groups, most notably the Expert Group on Containment and Epidemic Management of COVID-19. In press conferences and public statements after these meetings, some information about the decisions made was provided to the public, which was especially the case when the meeting also involved external experts. The dominant role of the party leaders within their parties meant that a considerable amount of policy coordination took place in party bodies and between the general secretaries of the coalition parties.
South Korea
Interministerial coordination is both formal and informal in Korea. Informal coordination is typically, if not always, more effective. There is also a clear hierarchy structuring the ministries. Staffers at the Ministry of Strategy and Finance see themselves as the elite among civil servants. However, the leading role of the Ministry of Strategy and Finance is defined by the president’s mandate.
In addition, informal coordination processes tend to be plagued by nepotism and regional or peer-group loyalties, particularly among high-school and university alumni. Personal networks and loyalties are sometimes considered to be more important than institutions. Informal networks between the president and powerful politicians can work very effectively to further specific policies. However, these practices can also lead to corruption and an inefficient allocation of resources. The Moon government has been criticized for working within relatively small key networks. Moreover, in a number of cases of failed implementation, it has emerged that informal networks and coordination have overridden formal policy.
Seungjoo Lee and Sang-young Rhyu, “The Political Dynamics of Informal Networks in South Korea: The Case of Parachute Appointment” (2008), the Pacific Review, 21(1): 45-66.
The relative weakness of formal coordination among ministry civil servants in Spain is to some extent compensated for by helpful informal procedures. When interministerial problems cannot be solved informal contacts, or meetings between officials of the various ministries involved are organized. Many policy proposals can in fact be coordinated in this fashion. As senior civil servants are clustered into different specialized bureaucratic corps, informal mechanisms rely often on the fact that officials involved in the coordination may belong to the same corps or share a network of old colleagues. Nevertheless, the existence of specialized corps tends to aggravate administrative fragmentation, since every corps tends to control a department according to its specialization. In this sense, the administration seems to follow a “silo” structure, in which each ministry, department, agency, organism or public entity follows its own operating logic. Within the cabinet, these informal mechanisms are less necessary, since the stable experience of single-party governments with strong prime ministers has up to this point required less coordination than would coalition cabinets. During the period under review, meetings of the heads of ministers’ private offices were introduced.

The cabinet reshuffle of July 2021 (see “Line Ministries”) helped to improve these informal mechanisms of coordination.
Círculo de Empresarios (2018), La calidad de las instituciones en España.
Informal mechanisms of coordination among civil servants and higher-ranking politicians alike are common and important in the Swedish system (Petridou and Sparf, 2017). Having said that, they may not always be effective. And yet, informal contacts between departments and agencies are believed to be integral to the efficiency of the politico-administrative system. Informal coordination procedures effectively filter many, but not all, policy proposals (de Fine Licht and Pierre, 2017).

de Fine Licht, Jenny, and Jon Pierre. 2017. “Myndighetschefernas Syn på Regeringens Styrning.” Stockholm: Statskontoret.

Petridou, Evangelia & Jörgen Sparf. 2017. “For Safety’s Sake: the Strategies of Institutional Entrepreneurs and Bureaucratic Reforms in Swedish Crisis Management, 2001–2009.” Policy and Society, 36(4), 556-574.
Informal coordination was a hallmark of the Labour governments under Tony Blair (1997 – 2007). However, informal coordination was reduced during the Labour government of Gordon Brown (2007 – 2010) and largely abolished under the coalition government (2010 – 2015), because of the need to avoid tensions within the coalition.

Having returned to one-party government in May 2015, it was expected that informal forms of coordination would become more common again. Yet, the divisions within the governing Conservative Party, namely among senior ministers and party factions, over the United Kingdom’s future relations with the European Union complicated informal coordination to a point of more or less open sabotage, which finally led to the collapse of the May government. The rift within the Conservative Party even widened under May’s successor Boris Johnson, before being largely settled after the general election victory in December 2019.

Cabinet committee discussions are regularly preceded or accompanied by bilateral meetings of relevant ministers supported by senior officials across government. These discussions are often chaired by the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a senior member of the Cabinet with no departmental role, or by other senior ministers. The proximity of ministries, the executive and Parliament in SW1 (the post code for the part of the London Borough of Westminster where so many institutions of governance are located) facilitates a range of informal interactions. Moreover, there are informal networks of special advisers to ministers, which can help broker deals between ministers.

Although there are formal mechanisms for coordinating issues affecting the governments of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom, the position of the central government as the voice for the United Kingdom as a whole as well as for England (and sometimes also Wales) can cause tensions, especially in view of the relative size (population and economy) of England compared with the other three nations. Differing rules and timing for COVID-19 restrictions on travel, though not diverging all that much, illustrate the potential complexities.
Collaborative Civil Service: service-the-estate-strategy-in-action/
The U.S. government is highly prone to informal coordination, relying on personal networks, constituency relationships and other means. As with formal processes, the effectiveness of such coordination is adversely affected by underdeveloped working relationships resulting from the short-term service of political appointees. The overall or average performance of informal coordination mechanisms has not been systematically evaluated.

The Trump administration’s lack of experienced personnel in key agency positions lead to an increased role for informal coordination. The executive branch under Trump was seen calamitous failures of coordination. Such failures, however, largely reflected general problems of understaffing and lack of competent leadership in the departments and agencies during the Trump presidency. The Biden administration is currently addressing these challenges by hiring more staff and appointing component leaders across departments and agencies. The Biden administration is also adopting a managing style reminiscent of the Obama administration’s, which was more orderly than the Trump administration’s chaotic approach.
Various coordination mechanisms – such as weekly informal meetings within each cabinet faction and the cabinet as a whole, regular informal meetings between the chancellor and vice-chancellor, as well as meetings of the coalition committee – have been long-standing elements of informal executive governance in Austria. They did not, however, guarantee smooth decision-making based on consensus, but rather allowed the cabinet to make realistic assessments about which collective decisions were politically feasible. Informal coordination mechanisms were used to negotiate a compromise when a proposal from one party’s minister was unacceptable to the other coalition party.

In the ÖVP-FPÖ government (2017–2019) regular informal meetings between the chancellor and vice-chancellor became a particularly important element of informal coordination. For all the differences between the FPÖ and the Greens, and their chief protagonists, this practice has been continued by the ÖVP-Green government (since 2020). Several key projects of this government, such as the major eco-social tax reform, were negotiated between Chancellor Kurz and Vice-Chancellor Kogler.
Belgian governments are typically broad coalition governments, and informal coordination mechanisms are necessary to their operations.

The central unit of coordination – the inner cabinet or “Kern” – is comprised of deputy prime ministers (one from each coalition party), and the prime minister. The Kern meets regularly to negotiate any strategic decision not foreseen in the governmental agreement which arises due to changing circumstances or specific difficulties within the coalition. Further down the line, party leaders and party whips ensure policy coordination with other ministers, secretaries of states and members of parliament. This kind of coordination relies heavily on strong linkages between each deputy prime minister and his or her respective party leader, and on the ability of both to impose the compromises reached within the Kern to their respective ministers/secretaries of state and parliamentary groups. This is most frequently the case, as strong party discipline normally prevails.

However, the functional logic of the Kern was shattered under the previous government when the N-VA, the (nationalist) right-wing conservative member of the former coalition, decided to withdraw from the government following the decision of the former prime minister to participate in a conference held in Morocco and vote to endorse the U.N. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The N-VA opposed that compact.

Even though tensions are not as high in the current government, dissension is increasingly visible. This was evidenced by the recent internal debates around nuclear energy and the inability of the Kern to reach a clear agreement. As noted under “Implementation,” shortly after the announcement of an agreement on the nuclear energy issue, the opposing parties in the negotiations (the Greens advocating a strict nuclear phase-out and the French-speaking Liberals in support of maintaining the facilities) each announced the victory of their respective positions. The truth seems to be that the decision was postponed, since several issues crucial to the decision remain unresolved (for instance, the gas power plant which is supposed to replace the closed nuclear power plants is still awaiting a permit, which has been blocked by a N-VA minister of the Flemish government).

In general, the political parties are increasingly often promoting their own positions rather than government projects or the government agreement, and some increasingly rely on public threats rather than in-Kern dialogue. The recent crisis concerning the regulation of undocumented migrants, following a hunger strike by some of them, is a one example of this. The secretary of state for asylum and migration, a member of the CD&V (the Flemish Christian Democrats), refused to negotiate on a potential change of regularization criteria or a massive regularization as took place in 2000 under the Verhofstadt cabinet. With some hunger strikers reaching critical health situations, the party presidents of the Greens and the francophone Socialists threatened to leave the government if any of the strikers died. The strike ended following half-hearted promises from the secretary of state. However, as of the time of writing, the crisis appeared likely to resurface, as the secretary of state had returned to his strong positions, and most of the applications submitted by undocumented migrants had been rejected. Another example could be the recent contradictory messages issued by different coalition parties concerning the “agreement” on a nuclear phase-out plan as discussed under “Coherent Communication.”
On the nuclear “agreement” :

On the undocumented migrants crisis:
Informal coordination has played an important role in ensuring efficient policymaking. In addition to contacts between high-ranking civil servants in ministries, the coalition committee and governing bodies of political parties have been key players in this regard. Getting support from coalition partners is generally the first step in successfully passing legislation.
There are a number of informal mechanisms by which government policy is coordinated. The most important of these is the coalition committee, which comprises the most important actors (the chancellor, the vice chancellor, the chairpersons of the parliamentary groups and the party chairpersons) within the coalition parties, and is sometimes supplemented by higher bureaucrats and/or party politicians. It is the most important decision-making body with comprehensive impact in the governing process.

The new government has confirmed the role of the coalition committee (Koalitionsvertrag 2021, p. 174) by stipulating that the committee will meet at least once a month to discuss current issues and coordinate further work plans. The committee can be convened at any time at the request of one coalition partner. Given the mutual trust demonstrated by each party involved with the coalition talks and the smooth and rapid nature of the process, it is safe to assume that the coalition committee will effectively contribute to improving interministerial coordination.
Koalitionsvertrag (2021): Mehr Fortschritt wagen, Bündnis für Freiheit, Gerechtigkeit und Nachhaltigkeit, Koalitionsvertrag zwischen SPD, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen und FDP.
There is evidence that informal cooperation between ministers outside of formal cabinet meetings is increasing. These cooperative ministerial clusters were referred to in the Special Investigation Committee’s 2010 report as “super-ministerial groups.” The SIC report pointed out that examples of such cooperation immediately after the 2008 economic collapse demonstrated a need for clear rules on reporting what is discussed and decided in such informal meetings.

The SIC report also identified a tendency to move big decisions and important cooperative discussions into informal meetings between the chairmen of the ruling coalition parties. In March 2016, revised regulations on the procedures for cabinets were introduced but this only addresses formal cabinet meetings and not informal ministerial meetings. Therefore, we can conclude that the SIC report’s call for clearer regulation has been addressed in part. However, informal meetings continue without proper reporting.
The SIC report from 2010. Chapter 7. (Aðdragandi og orsakir falls Íslensku bankanna 2008 og tengdir atburðir (7). Reykjavík. Rannsóknarnefnd Alþingis).

Reglur um starfshætti ríkisstjórnar. Nr. 292/2016. 18. mars 2016. (Rules on procedures in cabinets).
A collaboration council that represents the political parties forming the governing coalition meets for weekly informal consultations. Despite its regular meetings with formal agendas, the council is not a part of the official decision-making process. Given that cabinet meetings are open to the press and public, collaboration council meetings provide an opportunity for off-the-record discussions and coordination. The council plays a de facto gatekeeping function for controversial issues, deciding when there is enough consensus to move issues to the cabinet. The council can play both a complementary role, creating an enabling environment for consensus-building, and a destructive role, undermining the legitimacy of the official decision-making process.

The secrecy surrounding the collaboration council (previously known as the coalition council) has made it a controversial institution in the past. “Who Owns the State?” – a populist party that won the second-largest share of the vote in the 2018 parliamentary election – promised to eliminate the coalition council. While the government coalition formed in January 2018 no longer refers to it as a “coalition council,” the collaboration council continues to operate as it has, but under a different name.

In addition to the collaboration council, the coalition has various coalition working groups that work on more specific issues.
Formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination still dominate the decision-making process, despite the emergence of new informal coordination mechanisms and practices at the central level of government. Political councils have at times been created to solve political disagreements within the ruling coalition, though this practice was not continued under the Šimonytė government that took office in 2020. In addition, the leadership of political parties represented in the government is often involved in the coordination of political issues. Informal meetings are sometimes called to coordinate various issues at the administrative or political level. Since the Skvernelis government decided at the end of 2018 to make all government meetings public (official government sessions had already been public before this decision), cabinet ministers have more frequently engaged in informal policy discussions.

Furthermore, the 2012 to 2016 government planned to develop a senior civil service stratum, which could actively engage in policy coordination at the managerial level. However, these politically sensitive provisions were later withdrawn from subsequent drafts of the Civil Service Law. New civil service legislation adopted in 2018 did not establish a higher civil service. In addition, by making ministerial chancellors into political appointees, Lithuanian authorities have further politicized the ministry administrations.
The government tendency toward informal coordination mechanisms has increased since Malta joined the European Union in 2004. Many directives from Brussels cut across departments and ministries, and ministries have to talk to and work more closely together. Preparations for the EU presidency in January 2017 and the actions taken during the presidency itself raised this informal coordination to unprecedented levels. Government longevity has also helped to strengthen this informal consultation process. As senior managers remain in their place, they build networks which they can employ informally. This also applies at ministerial levels. Informal consultation also takes place within party structures, since these are seen as a link to the grassroots level.
Cabinet ministers meet frequently and keep in close touch with one other on issues of policy. Efforts have been made to encourage cross-ministerial relationships on the level of lower officials as well. There is extensive informal coordination between cabinet and parliamentary committees and party organizations.
Informal coordination mechanisms are central to government functioning and coordination. The horizontal informal links between ministries help compensate for the absence or rigidity of formal horizontal linkages.
Very little is actually known about informal coordination at the (sub-)Council of Ministers level regarding policymaking and decision-making. The best-known informal procedure used to be the “Torentjesoverleg,” in which the prime minister and a core members of the Council of Ministers consulted with the leaders of the political parties supporting the coalition in the Prime Minister’s Office (“Het Torentje,” meaning the small tower) or elsewhere, usually at the beginning of the week. Although sometimes considered objectionable – as it appears to contradict the ideal of dualism between the executive and the legislative – coalition governments cannot survive without this kind of high-level political coordination between the government and the States General. Given shaky parliamentary support such informal coordination is no longer limited to political parties providing support to the governing coalition.

Under present conditions, in which ministers and civil servants are subject to increasing parliamentary and media scrutiny, and in which gaps in trust and loyalty between the political leadership and the bureaucracy staff are growing, informal coordination and the personal chemistry among civil servants are what keeps things running. Regarding interministerial coordination, informal contacts between the senior staff (raadadviseurs) in the prime minister’s Council of Ministers and senior officers working for ministerial leadership are absolutely crucial. Nonetheless, such bureaucratic coordination is undermined by insufficient or absent informal political coordination. Until recently, contacts between civil servant and members of parliament were prohibited (oekaze Kok); under Rutte III this rule was somewhat relaxed.
R.B. Andeweg and G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and politics of the Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 154-163, 198-203, 220-228.

S. Jilke et al., Public Sector Reform in the Netherlands: Views and Experiences from Senior Executives, COCOPS Research Report, 2013

M. van Weezel and T. Broer, Max en Thijs over de premier: het geheim van politiek trapezewerker en ‘nat zeepje’ Mark Rutte (Vrij Nederland,, accessed 8 November 2019)
Informal coordination mechanisms have featured prominently in Czech political culture. Like its predecessors, the former Babiš and current Fiala governments have depended on a coalition agreement, which includes agreements on policies and coordination mechanisms. Fundamental issues are addressed at the level of the chairmen of the coalition parties or the coalition council. The coalition council consists of the chairpersons of the coalition parties and a maximum of three other representatives of the respective coalition parties. Coordination mechanisms at the level of parliamentary and senatorial clubs are also important. Moreover, the coalition partners also maintain expert commissions consisting of members and party supporters. In the case of the Babiš government, President Zeman sometimes stepped in as an informal coordinator when the government needed support from the Communist Party. The COVID-19 pandemic severely strained these coordination mechanisms.
A number of informal mechanisms for coordinating policy exist, and given the lack of “formal” coordination capabilities within the Mexican administration, informal coordination often functions as a substitute. This is normal in a presidential system where only a few cabinet secretaries have independent political bases. Ministers retain their positions, for the most part, at the will of the president. It is important to note, however, that some cabinet secretaries are more equal than others. Since his election, President López Obrador has dominated Mexican politics, and has exercised decision-making in a personalistic and populistic manner. Policy coordination thus rests in the hands of the presidency.
In some cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
Given the tendency of the Bulgarian political system to produce coalition governments, informal coordination mechanisms have played a vital role in interministerial coordination. The rules of coordination between government coalition parties or parties supporting the government are traditionally not communicated to the public. In 2019, informal coordination within the governing coalition was complicated by the fact that the junior partner, a coalition of three nationalistic parties, had de facto fallen apart, with its three leaders engaging in severe and public attacks on one another. This forced Prime Minister Borissov to rely on purely ad hoc tactics in every specific decision-making context.

Prime Minister Petkov has a similar style but his informal coordination is likely to be based on groups of experts with a European background, while the overall informality will be somewhat reduced by coalition partners’ party bureaucracies and policy advisors
Informal coordination both between the coalition partners and between different party factions in the HDZ has played an important role in interministerial coordination under the Plenković government. The strong reliance on decisions in coalition meetings or party bodies has helped maintain the tradition of keeping strategic decisions and policy coordination largely within the political parties’ ambit, preventing the development of more formal and transparent mechanisms of policy coordination or a strengthening of the public administration’s role.
Israel’s government system is greatly influenced by informal coordination mechanisms, such as coalition obligations and internal party politics. However, due to its highly fragmented party system, it is hard to determine whether they support or undermine formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination. While coordination between like-minded parties may be made easier by the situation, fragmentation may result in stagnation over disputed policies.
“Annual report 61 for the year 2010: Treatment of prolonged interministerial disagreements,” The State Comptroller office website (Hebrew)

Blander, Dana and Ben Nur, Gal, “Governmental coalitions: A steering mechanism in the political system,” in The political system in Israel 2013:ספרים-ומאמרים/הוצאה-לאור/הספרים/הספרייה-לדמוקרטיה/המערכת-הפוליטית-בישראל (Hebrew).

“Coalition management,” the Knesset website: (Hebrew)

Rivlin, Reuven, “The intellectual independency of the Knesset member: the limit of the coalition obligation,” The Israel Democracy Institute (December 2010) (Hebrew).
Like the Pellegrini government, the center-right government has sought to complement the formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination through regular meetings of the leaders of the four coalition partners. However, the relationship between the latter has been tense, so that the government has been subject to a number of coordination crises. The most severe led to a government reshuffle in April 2021 when Prime Minister Igor Matovič and Minister of Finance Eduard Heger changed their positions (Mesežnikov 2021). Matovič has not been able to adapt from the role of loud opposition to a country’s prime minister. His successor Heger has taken a more conciliatory approach, but has been confronted with strong attempts at backseat-driving by Matovič (Dlhopolec 2022).
Dlhopolec, P. (2022): The two faces of Slovakia’s prime minister: one for home, one for the world, in: BalkanInsight, May 30 (

Mesežnikov, G. (2021): The political crisis in Slovaka is over, but for how long? Heinrich Böll Stiftung Prague, April 7 (
Informal bodies, which are usually made up of senior party members and their networks, are typically used to sketch the framework of an issue in consultation with experts, while civil servants develop proposals, and finally, the upper administrative echelons finalize the policy. The higher levels of the ruling party in particular, in cooperation with ministers who have considerable experience in their fields, continue to form a tight network and contribute significantly to policy preparation.

During the pandemic, there were some irregular meetings between some key ministers, including the minister of health, the minister of interior and the minister of transportation. The High Advisory Board, which is composed of strong AKP figures including Köksal Toptan and Cemil Çiçek, was established in 2019. The members of the board are elected by the president from among the former presidents or vice presidents of the Turkish Grand National Assembly.
M. Turan, “Türkiye’nin Yeni Yönetim Düzeni: Cumhurbaşkanlığı Hükümet Sistemi,” Social Sciences Research Journal, 7(3), 2018: 42-91.
Informal meetings take place, but are not a regular practice. The practice is affected by the state of relations at the time between the government and parties. In 2020 and 2021, meetings involved COVID-19 issues, and the Recovery and Resilience Plan, among other issues.
Early party interest in the February 2023 presidential elections may lead to less formal contacts in 2022.
1. Political party leaders meet president Anastasiades to discuss measures, Cyprus Mail, 19 March 2020,
In addition to the formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination, there has been an informal coordination of the government’s work by PSD chef Liviu Dragnea, the “éminence grise” of the PSD governments. Barred from becoming prime minister himself by a criminal conviction, Dragnea has been keen on preventing prime ministers to act in too independent a manner. In January 2018, he toppled Prime Minister Mihai Tudose, barely seven months after his predecessor Sorin Grindeanu had suffered the same fate. Thus, the informal coordination within the governing party has tended to undermine rather than complement the formal coordination mechanisms within government. This remains true for 2020 and 2021, which saw two coalition governments collapse in addition to parliamentary elections, which has continued to undermine the government’s ability to advance national priorities. Infighting in major political parties (e.g., concerning former Prime Minister Orban’s bid to unseat the current acting Prime Minister Citu as head of the PNL in fall 2021) has contributed to an environment in which powerful political actors, former or current, are able to exert disproportionate influence over intergovernmental coordination.
Informal coordination mechanisms tend to undermine rather than complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
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