Interministerial Coordination


To what extent do line ministries involve the government office/prime minister’s office in the preparation of policy proposals?

There are inter-related capacities for coordination between GO/PMO and line ministries.
Before implementation, each government project is submitted to the ministers’ council, which meets weekly. The council is composed of a secretariat that scrutinizes each proposal before it is debated and prepares the ministers’ council agenda, along with 14 line ministers and the prime minister, who debate each proposal. Decisions are made on the basis of political consensus, not of majority vote.

Either directly or through the council’s secretariat, the prime minister can block any item presented and either return it for redrafting or turn it down completely. This may be because a project does not fit the government agreement or conflicts with one of the coalition parties’ agenda, but can be for any other reason as well. All government members must by contrast defend accepted projects on a collegial basis.

The COVID-19 crisis has somewhat changed this way of working, or at least for matters related to management of the crisis. In particular, even though it was agreed that the policy measures and the overall strategy are in the hands of the federal authorities, policies must be agreed and coordinated with federated entities (regions and communities). The latter also have their own ministers of health, as health policy prerogatives are shared between the federal, regional and community levels. To avoid the lack of coordination that can be particularly detrimental during a health crisis, decisions are therefore made collectively, first within the National Security Council (NSC), and then within the “concertation committee” (comité de concertation/overlegcomité); this model came into use once the sense of unique urgency had passed, and reflects the legal basis of the latter as opposed to the former (although it lacks constitutional recognition).

Both bodies existed before the crisis. The first one, the NSC, was initially created within the federal government to manage and coordinate Belgium’s security and intelligence policy. The concertation committee (comité de concertation, or CoDeCo), for its part, has existed since 1980 as a body bringing together federal, regional and community ministers. Its original role was to anticipate or resolve conflicts of interest and some of the conflicts of competence that may arise between the different authorities of the Belgian federal state. The two bodies, each in turn, became increasingly important with the health crisis, and are now central to all decision-making related to it, as the collegial process allows, at the very least, for a basis of agreement regarding the decisions taken made. This collegiality is nonetheless undermined at times by the fact that the concertation committee has to address measures impacting regions or communities whose ministers are not present at the meeting. This can lead to contradictory communications (see also “Policy Communication”) and an impression of amateurism in the management of the crisis.
In the U.S. system, this item relates to how the executive departments and agencies involve the president and the White House staff in their work. Under long-established practice, however, the president and the White House staff are in fact dominant within the executive branch and can therefore prioritize issues they see as important to the president’s agenda. In the Trump administration, agency policy development was heavily shaped by Trump’s desire to cut regulations and to reverse actions taken by the Obama administration. There was little policy development shaped by long-term agency missions or priorities. As soon as he entered the White House, President Biden took steps to rebuild federal departments and agencies by hiring a large number of senior officials to compensate for the “talent exodus” (Zhao and Lippman, 2021) witnessed during the Trump years.
Zhao, Alex and Lippman, Daniel. 2021. “Biden races to hire senior staff at drained agencies,” Politico, August 10.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC) is always involved at an early stage in assisting with the development and drafting of any significant government policy and the resulting legislation. The PMC and the other relevant department must agree on a policy before it can be tabled in cabinet or considered by the relevant minister or ministers.
Line departments and central agencies have interrelated and complementary capacities for the coordination of policy proposals, with ultimate authority lying with central agencies. Thus, line ministries in Canada have a responsibility to involve the Privy Council Office which supports the prime minister and his cabinet in the preparation of policy proposals. Financing of policy initiatives and program design are also vetted by Finance Canada and the Treasury Board respectively.
The Government or Cabinet Office and line ministries have a strong tendency to coordinate activity, and in practice the president or Government Office and the Ministry of Finance are nearly always involved in the preparation of policy proposals. No serving minister would ignore the president’s opinion in the preparation and elaboration of a policy proposal.
The norms of “minister rule” and the portfolio principle (where ministers are in charge of certain areas) give the line ministries a fair amount of autonomy. The line ministries also have the most technical expertise. However, coherent government policy requires interdepartmental coordination, and since most Danish governments are coalition governments, this is particularly important. The prime minister has a special position given his/her constitutional prerogatives as the person who appoints and dismisses ministers and, under the present government, the prime minister’s role in coordinating affairs has been strengthened.

Major issues and strategic considerations are dealt with in the government coordination committee (regeringens koordineringsudvalg) that involves the prime minister and other key ministers. The standing committees are also important coordination devices. In addition, there are ad hoc coordination meetings between the leaders of the parties constituting the governing coalition. For minority and coalition governments, informal contact with other parties are an important in policy formation process.

The current Social Democratic government, which has been in power since June 2019, is a minority single-party government. It depends on three parties – the Social Liberals, the Socialist People’s Party and the Unity List – for parliamentary support. However, it can also seek broader agreements during the legislative process.

The Ministry of Finance plays an important role whenever financial resources are involved. No minister can go to the finance committee of the parliament (Folketinget) without prior agreement from the Ministry of Finance. The position of the Ministry of Finance has been strengthened by the Budget Law that has established a clear top-down approach for the budget process.

Apart from coordinating the preparation of next year’s finances, the Ministry of Finance is also involved in formulating general economic policy and offering economic and administrative assessments of the consequences of proposed laws.
Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen et al., Politik og forvaltning, 4. udg., 2017.

“Regeringen indgår aftale om ny budgetlov,” (Accessed 10 October 2015)
The guiding rule in Finland is that each ministry is, within its mandate, responsible for the preparation of issues that fall within the scope of government and also for the proper functioning of the administration. Given this framework, rather than line ministries involving the Prime Minister’s Office in policy preparation, the expectation is that the Prime Minister’s Office involves ministries in its own policy preparations. In practice, of course, the patterns of interaction are not fixed. For one thing, policy programs and other intersectoral subject matters in the cabinet program are a concern for the Prime Minister’s Office as well as for the ministries, and efforts must be coordinated. The government’s analysis, assessment and research activities that support policymaking across the ministries are coordinated by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). In addition, because decision-making is collective and consensual in nature, ministry attempts to place items on the cabinet’s agenda without involving the Prime Minister’s Office will fail. Finland has a recent tradition of fairly broad-based coalition governments, although the Sipilä government was an exception, as its majority in parliament had shrunk to 52.5% by the end of its term. The Rinne government enjoyed the support of 58% of parliamentarians when it came into office. The tradition of broad-based coalition necessarily amalgamates ideological antagonisms, and thereby mitigates against fragmentation along ministerial and sectoral lines.
Jaakko Nousiainen, “Politiikan huipulla. Ministerit ja ministeriöt Suomen parlamentaarisessa järjestelmässä,” Porvoo: Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö, 1992, p. 163.
In contrast to Germany, for instance, sectoral ministers have limited independent scope for maneuver. Line ministers have to inform the prime minister of all their projects. Strong discipline is imposed even at the level of public communication level, and this rule is reinforced by the attitude of the media, which tend to judge any slight policy difference as the expression of political tension or party divergence. Not only the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) oversees the policy process but also his cabinet assistants, in each area, supervise, liaise and coordinate with their counterparts in line ministries about the content, timing and political sequences of a project. The secretary-general of the PMO (as well as his counterpart at the Élysée) operates in the shadow, but he is one of the most powerful actors within that machinery. He can step in if the coordination or control process at that level has failed to stem the expression of differences within the government. Traditionally the secretary-general is a member of the Conseil d’État and – in spite of the fact that he could be fired at any time for any reason – there is a tradition of continuity and stability beyond the fluctuation and vagaries of political life. It has to be added that given the presidential character of the Fifth Republic, the same type of control is exerted by the President’s Office in coordination with the PMO. In practice, the two general secretaries are the most powerful civil servants whose opinions might often prevail on ministry choices.
The Taoiseach’s Office is involved in legislative and expenditure proposals. The process is highly interactive with much feedback between the line ministries, the Taoiseach’s Office and the Office of the Attorney General. The Department of Finance has considerable input into all proposals with revenue or expenditure implications. Any significant policy items have to be discussed in advance with the Department of the Taoiseach. The Cabinet Handbook lays out detailed procedural rules for the discussion of policy proposals and the drafting of legislation. It is publicly available on the website of the Department of the Taoiseach (Gov, 2006).

As in many countries, the Department of Finance is a lot more than a regular line ministry. For most of the history of the state, it has been the first among equal government ministries. The procedures state:

“As a matter of principle, the sanction of the minister for finance is required for all expenditure. In any proposal for new legislation, it should be made clear that the sanction of the Minister for Finance is required to incur any expenditure under the legislation. Neither the voting of money by Dáil Éireann, nor the inclusion of an allocation in an Estimate constitutes sanction.” (Department of Finance 2008: Public Financial Procedures).
Department of Finance (2008)

Government of Ireland (2006)
New Zealand
If line ministries prepare a policy proposal, they are obliged to consult other ministries that are affected, as well as the coordinating units, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), the Treasury and the State Services Commission. There are clear guidelines that govern the coordination of policy formulation in the core executive.
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.
South Korea
Executive power is concentrated in the president’s hands. Thus, line ministries have to involve the Blue House in all major policy proposals. South Korea’s constitution grants substantial powers to the executive in general, and the president in particular. Most observers agree that the South Korean presidential system is a paradigmatic example of an “imperial presidency,” at least during times when the party of the president holds a majority in the unicameral South Korean parliament, as was the case after April 2020. The president has the authority to, and often does rearrange, merge and abolish ministries according to his or her agenda. For example, President Moon created a Ministry of SMEs and Startups; renamed the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning as the Ministry of Science and ICT; and merged the National Security Agency and the Ministry of Public Administration and Security into a single Ministry of the Interior and Safety. He also (re-)established the National Fire Agency and the Korea Coast Guard abolished by his predecessor. However, while Moon has promised to decentralize power, there have as yet been few signs of any weakening of the role of the Blue House.

That said, South Korean staff within bureaucracies are highly trained and competent, which helps ensure a degree of continuity. However, strategic planning is weakened by frequent changes in leadership positions. Ministers and state secretaries are often replaced by the president, and staff rotations occur frequently inside ministries. Thus, ministerial staff have little opportunity to acquire expert knowledge and contribute meaningfully to long-term strategic planning.

Conflicts between ministries are frequent but do not substantially affect overall policymaking for high priority policy areas, due to the coordinating role of the president’s office. The fragmentation of government activities in policy areas that are not prioritized by the president is a frequent subject of criticism, and ministries often fail to coordinate activities in these fields.
The Cabinet Office is at the center of policymaking. Since the May 2015 general election, all line ministries are required to prepare single departmental plans (SDP), building on a process already launched during the previous coalition government. As explained by John Manzoni, the chief executive of the civil service appointed in October 2014, these SDPs are intended to bring together inputs and outputs, clarify tradeoffs, and to identify where departments and the cross-departmental functions need to work together to deliver the required outcomes.

Line ministries’ policymaking is subject to intense scrutiny by the Cabinet Office, while the cost implications of line ministries’ policy proposals are controlled by the Treasury.

The creation of implementation taskforces, working alongside cabinet committees, is intended to strengthen the central oversight of policy proposals.

Nevertheless, coordination mechanisms were not able to resolve the political tensions around Brexit. Since the United Kingdom left the European Union, things have returned to the previous state, with a strong role for the Cabinet Office, which has been led since the autumn of 2020 by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, “a trusted member” of the prime minister’s “inner circle.”
The GO/PMO is regularly briefed on new developments affecting the preparation of policy proposals.
Since the onset of the crisis in 2010, the Prime Minister’s Office has gradually acquired more power and resources to supervise line ministries, the policies of which were streamlined in the previous decade to fit the fiscal consolidation effort of Greece. After the change in government in July 2019, ties between line ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office (the Presidency of Government) were further strengthened, as the latter was reorganized and staffed with highly skilled policy experts. In addition, legislation adopted in the same month provided for the installation of a new directorate of coordination in each ministry, responsible for liaising with the Presidency of the Government and other ministries. In brief, in the period under review, the inter-related capacities of the center of government and line ministries vastly improved.
Kevin Featherstone and Dimitris Papadimitriou (2013), “The Emperor Has No Clothes! Power and Resources within the Greek Core Executive,” Governance, Vol. 26, Issue 3, pp. 523-545.

The law establishing the new “Directorates of Coordination” in each Ministry is Law 4622/2019.
Under the Orbán governments, line ministries have mostly acted as executive agencies that follow priorities set by the core political executive. This is a complete turnaround as compared to most earlier governments in post-communist Hungary, when ministers were more representatives of ministries in the government than representatives of the government in the ministries. Today, orders come from above and ministerial activities are subject to detailed oversight by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The PMO makes sure that policies are as close in line as possible with the prime minister’s policy preferences and the ideological rhetoric. However, the pivotal role of the PMO has also meant that it has sometimes become a bottleneck in the process of policymaking. In this structure, the core executive may intervene in the preparation of policy proposals by the ministries at any time.
Due to a strong tradition of ministerial independence, ministries have considerable flexibility in drafting their own policy proposals without consulting the Prime Minister’s Office. Yet, where a minister and prime minister belong to the same party, there is usually some Prime Minister’s Office involvement. However, where the minister and prime minister belong to separate coalition parties the Prime Minister’s Office has little or no involvement in policy development. After the publication of the Special Investigation Committee report in 2010, a committee was formed to evaluate and suggest necessary steps toward the improvement of public administration. To improve working conditions within the executive branch, the committee proposed introducing legislation to clarify the prime minister’s role and responsibilities. In March 2016, new regulations on governmental procedures were approved (Reglur um starfshætti ríkisstjórnar), requiring ministers to present all bills they intend to present in parliament first to the cabinet as a whole.
Reglur um starfshætti ríkisstjórnar. Nr. 292/2016 18. mars 2016.

Skýrsla starfshóps forsætisráðuneytisins (2010): Viðbrögð stjórnsýslunnar við skýrslu rannsóknarnefndar Alþingis. Reykjavík, Forsætisráðuneytið.
Since its establishment in 2011, the PKC has become involved in line ministry preparation of policy proposals. PKC representatives may be invited to participate in working groups, but the involvement of the PKC is at the ministry’s discretion. Informal lines of communication ensure that the PKC is regularly briefed on upcoming policy proposals.

The State Chancellery evaluates draft proposals prepared by the ministries and ensures the legal execution of legal acts. Moreover, the State Chancellery may issue an opinion on a project after it has been submitted for approval on the TAP portal (a public portal for draft legislation), addressing issues such as administrative burdens, public participation or necessary posts, or assessing the quality of the initial impact assessment.

With the introduction of the TAP portal in 2021, ministries also tend share of draft legislation with the State Chancellery through the portal before handing it over officially.

In Latvia, ministers enjoy relatively substantial autonomy, which weakens the power of the prime minister. As a result, ministers belonging to a different party than the prime minister may attempt to block the prime minister’s office from interfering in sensitive policy issues.
The Prime Minister’s Office is not legally allowed to be involved in the preparation of bills or proposals by line ministries. Sensitive political proposals are often included in the coalition program. There are no institutionalized mechanisms of coordination between line ministries and there is no unit dealing with policy assessment and evaluation. Informally, however, no sensitive proposal is presented to the Council of Ministers without being approved beforehand by the prime minister. An informal body of ministerial civil servants meets ahead of the Council of Ministers, to prepare the agenda and make adjustments if needed.

In Luxembourg, the prime minister is also usually the minister of state, who “shall supervise the general course of affairs and shall ensure the uphold of the unity of principles which is to be applied in the various parts of the state.” This figure serves as coordinator of the government’s actions and bears significant responsibility for its cohesion.
“Ministry of State.” The Luxembourg Government (2021). Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Arrêté grand-ducal du 5 décembre 2018 portant énumération des Ministères.” Accessed 14 January 2022.
Responsibility for the preparation of policies lies with line ministries. As a matter of routine, line ministries will involve the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Justice, when addressing potentially controversial matters and for the purpose of coordinating with other policies. This interaction often involves ongoing two-way communication during the planning process. Initiatives lacking support by the Office of the Prime Minister would not win cabinet approval.
Both the Government Office (GO) and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) are regularly briefed on new developments affecting the preparation of policy proposals by line ministries. Although these offices are formally autonomous, the legal and political hierarchy within the government facilitates and even encourages this pattern of consultation with the prime minister’s entourage. Consultation with the GO tends to focus on drafting or technical issues, while the PMO is more interested in political and strategic considerations. The process is firmly institutionalized and takes place weekly, since representatives of all ministries gather at the cabinet meeting preparatory committee. Advisers from the PMO also participate in this committee and in the important specialized ministerial committee on economic affairs (see “Cabinet Committees”) that also assists the Council of Ministers.

Nevertheless, the lack of experience in managing coalition governments and partisan differences had an impact on the effectiveness and coherence of policy formulation, and led to coordination problems among line ministries. In July 2021, the chief executive reshuffled some key members of the cabinet (his chief of staff and the minister of the presidency) in order to strengthen coordination within the cabinet.
In order to prepare the implementation of the RRP, the government approved, in addition to the new Public Administration Act, a decree-law that establishes a reinforced governance structure. A new interministerial commission presided over by the prime minister is in charge of leading the RRP and approving projects.
Orden HFP/1030/2021, de 29 de septiembre, por la que se configura el sistema de gestión del Plan de Recuperación, Transformación y Resiliencia (BOE 30 de septiembre)
Line ministers involve the PMO in the preparation of policy proposals which require legislative and/or budgetary changes, especially when there are disagreements between the relevant line ministry, and the Ministry of Finance and/or the Ministry of Justice, which are involved in any budgetary and legislative change.
Barnea, Shlomit and Ofer Kenig, “Political nominations in the executive branch,” IDI website June 2011 (Hebrew)

Reducing the Regulatory Burden Discussing the decision of the Ministerial Committee on Social and Economic Affairs no, 39, September 2014 (Hebrew):

“Government bill amendment 868 from 12.8.2012,” PMO official website: (Hebrew)

Weisman, Lilach, “Expansion of the prime minister’s authorities was approved; We must stop the madness,” Globes website 12.8.2012: (Hebrew)
The Prime Minister’s Office is in principle regularly kept informed of the development of policy proposals generated by line ministries. With regard to the policy proposals of particular political relevance for the government, the consultation process starts from the early stages of drafting and is more significant, involving not only formal but also substantive issues. In the fields less directly connected with the main mission of the government, exchanges are more formal and occur only when proposals have been fully drafted. Under the Conte government, control over line ministries was weaker than in previous governments, given the political weakness of the prime minister and the lack of ideological cohesion of the coalition. Ministers responded more readily to their party leader than to the head of government. The new government guided by Draghi has substantially increased the degree of coordination between line ministries and the PMO.
In Japan, the role of line ministries vis-à-vis the government office is complicated by the influence of a third set of actors: entities within the governing parties. During the decades of the LDP’s rule, the party’s own policymaking organ, the Policy Affairs Research Council, developed considerable influence, ultimately gaining the power to vet and approve policy proposals in all areas of government policy.

Under the current LDP-led coalition government, former Prime Minister Abe was able to ensure that he and his close confidants determine the direction of major policy proposals. The Cabinet Office seems to drive reform programs, with the ministries either following this course or trying to drag their feet. Given his short term as the prime minister, Yoshihide Suga (2020-2021) proved unable to engage in a push for reform.

While ministries have sometimes sought to regain their former control over their portfolios, nearly eight years under one prime minister (Abe, 2012-2020) have entrenched centralized policymaking practices.
Leo Lewis and Kana Inagaki, Japan Inc.: Heavy meddling, The Financial Times, 15 March 2016,

Jesper Koll, Abe’s lesson in stability and pragmatism, The Japan Times, 13 September 2019,
The government adopts multiannual political priorities, coordinates their implementation and regularly monitors progress. As a result, it focuses on policy proposals and strategic projects related to these annual priorities. The majority of policy proposals are initiated by ministries and other state institutions, but the Office of the Government is kept informed with regard to their status and content. The fact that all policy areas are legally assigned to particular ministers, coupled with the fact that since 2000 governments have been formed by party coalitions rather than a single party, has meant that line ministries enjoy considerable autonomy within their policy areas. The Office of the Government is sometimes called upon to mediate policy disagreements between line ministries. The Šimonytė government, which took office in 2020, has aimed to increase coordination capacities, with the prime minister often personally devoting her attention to the legislative proposals of line ministries. In 2021, the government compiled a list of top-priority initiatives for which ex ante impact assessments were to be conducted by line ministries, with advice provided by STRATA experts. STRATA also conducted a number of training sessions for line ministries, with the goal of increasing their skills in conducting ex ante impact assessments.

A recent survey of the Lithuanian regulatory system described the ex post regulatory assessment process as “nascent,” and in the process of institutionalization. Currently, the Ministry of Justice is responsible for coordinating the ex post evaluation framework. The survey noted that “while the Ministry of Justice has a high level of legal expertise, it is not appropriately equipped in terms of analytical capacities for providing a leading function for ex post regulatory assessments.” It was therefore suggested that the coordination function be transferred to the Office of the Government, “while mandating STRATA to provide methodological and analytical support for ex post evaluation.” The Ministry of Justice should continue to be responsible for “ex ante legal conformity,” the report said, while the Office of Government “would focus exclusively on the overall quality of higher impact legislation.” The OECD also recommended that analytical skills be cultivated within line ministries by establishing a separate track within the civil service for policy analysts and evaluators.
STRATA/OECD, Evidence at the Centre of Government in Lithuania : Strengthening Decision-Making and Policy Evaluation for Long-term Development,
OECD, Mobilising Evidence at the Centre of Government in Lithuania. Strengthening decision-making and policy evaluation for long-term development, Paris: OECD, 2021.
Given Mexico’s presidential system, cabinet ministers are respectful of and even deferential to the presidential office. Moreover, cabinet ministers dismissed by the president after disagreements rarely find a way back into high-level politics, which tends to promote loyalty to the president and presidential staff. Accordingly, senior figures in the presidential office are very powerful, because they determine access to the president and can influence ministerial careers. At present, President López Obrador dominates Mexican politics in a personalistic, populist manner. Nevertheless, the partially weakened position of the ruling coalition in Congress could weaken the cohesion of government in the second half of the president’s term.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is regularly briefed on new developments affecting the preparation of policy proposals.

The influence of the Ministry of Finance, as noted in previous editions of the SGI, was diminished somewhat by the pressures of the pandemic. However, the ministry remains very influential within the government given the overall goal of ensuring budgetary sustainability. The criticism leveled by the minister for infrastructure and housing in September 2020, seemingly aimed at roadblocks imposed by the Ministry of Finance in plans for the national railway company, illustrate this.
Henriques, J. P. (2021), “Guerra dentro do governo. Pedro Nuno Santos desafia João Leão,” DN, available at:

The leadership of the GO and the PMO are primarily involved when policies are initiated, when final decisions are to be made, and if a disagreement emerges among the governing parties or ministers. However, the line nature of the GO – and the chain of command between the political and administrative levels – means that the top leadership, apart from initiating and deciding on policy, does not routinely monitor its development. There are instead regular briefings and informal consultations. This informal coordination procedure nevertheless ensures that the PMO, in line with the Finance Ministry, plays a crucial role in policy developments. Also, there are established but informal rules regulating procedures when there is disagreement among the non-political advisers on how to design policy. Essentially, the political level of the department should only be consulted when its ruling is critical to policy formulation; otherwise, policy design rests with nonpartisan staff members.

When the government is made up of more than one party, as has been the case for most of Sweden’s recent history, there are mechanisms in place when disagreement arises. Either the political leadership proactively intervenes in the policy-planning process to resolve disagreements or such disagreements are “lifted” to the political level for a ruling.

It should also be noted that line ministries frequently ask for advice from the executive agencies during the early stages of the policy process (Jacobsson, Pierre, and Sundström, 2015; Niemann, 2012; Page, 2012; Premfors and Sundström, 2007).
Jacobsson, Bengt, Jon Pierre and Göran Sundström. 2015. “Governing the Embedded State.” Oxford University Press.

Niemann, Cajsa. 2013. “Villkorat Förtroende. Normer och Rollförväntningar i Relationen Mellan Politiker och Tjänstemän i Regeringskansliet.” Department of Political Science, University of Stockholm.

Page, Edward C. 2012. “Policy Without Politicians: Bureaucratic Influence in Comparative Perspective.” Oxford University Press.

Premfors, Rune and Göran Sundström. 2007. “Regeringskansliet.” Liber.
Switzerland’s government consists of only seven ministries, each of which has a broad area of competency and is responsible for a large variety of issues. There are no line ministries. However, there are federal offices and institutions connected to the various ministries. These work closely with the minister responsible for their group. Since ministers must achieve a large majority on the Federal Council in order to win support for a proposal, there is strong coordination between offices. Indeed, political coordination among the high ranks of the administration can be rather intense, although the limited capacity and time of the Federal Council members, as well as their diverging interests, create practical bottlenecks.
There is a tension, however, between the consensus principle in the Federal Council that demands a common solution supported by all seven ministers, and the departmental principle that enables ministers to pursue their party line within their departments which, in turn, allows them to satisfy party members as they secure support for consensus-derived government solutions. Increasing polarization in parliament strengthens the departmental principle and renders consensus-driven solutions within the Federal Council more difficult to achieve. Nonetheless, the Federal Council so far managed to balance the two principles (Sager and Vatter 2019).
Sager, F. & Vatter A. (2019). „Regierungshandeln im Spannungsfeld von Partei- und Exekutivpolitik am Beispiel des Bundesrats“, in Blackbox Exekutive. Eds. A. Ritz, T. Haldemann & F. Sager. 195-211. Zürich. NZZ Libro.
Since about 2010, departmental reform in the Netherlands sought to transform the notion of line ministries itself, as the limited number of cores or building blocks in the organization of the bureaucracy. The key idea was that task allocation and coordination were no longer to be dependent on (ever-changing) policy directions, leading to repeated disappointments when abolishing certain departments, initiating a new department, or the amalgamation of several departments every time new government were installed after elections. Instead, the idea was to define organizational units around their core managerial functions (personnel, information, organization, finances, communication, facilitation and building); these would in turn flexibly support ever-changing policy formulation and implementation tasks with less organizational inertia and resistance, and lower transfer costs.

This so-called liquid governance would position ministers as managers of organizational complexes, supporting relatively easy-to-change core policy programs. Paradoxically, this resulted in ever more organizational reshuffling within a government that was increasingly seen as apolitical and managerial in nature. For example, the core Economic Affairs department was expanded so as to attend also to agricultural policies when the separate Department of Agriculture was abolished; later, the Department of Agriculture was resurrected, but climate change policy was added to a department now named Economic Affairs and Climate Change. Under the Rutte IV government there will be, next to the “old” Economic Affairs, a new Department of Climate and Energy. Policing, formerly part of Homeland Affairs, was transferred to a Justice department, now rebaptized as Justice and Safety. The Rutte IV government has made many such political adaptations and reshuffles, with 20 full ministers and nine deputy ministers attending to the major political crises of the moment. These include mining (mainly to attend to earthquake damages in the former gas-exploiting areas of the province of Groningen; fiscal affairs (Fiscaliteit) and allowances and customs (Toeslagen en Douane, which is under the Finance Department), poverty policy, participation and pensions, which is distinct from social affairs and employment, and nature and nitrogen. The make-up of the Rutte IV government represents a shift from the idea that government should have as few ministers as possible. There is a lesson to be learned from the fact that a large number of (deputy) ministers in the Rutte III government left their jobs, citing family, burnout or a new job as the motivation.

Generally, departmental legislative or white-paper initiatives are rooted in the government policy agreement, EU policy coordination and subsequent Council of Ministers decisions to allocate drafting to one or two particular ministries. In the case of complex problems, draft legislation may involve considerable jockeying for position among the various line ministries. The prime minister is always involved in the kick-off of major new policy initiatives and sometimes in the wording of the assignment/terms of reference itself. After that, however, it may take between six months and four years before the issue reaches the decision-making stage in ministerial and Council of Ministers committees, and again comes under the formal review of the prime minister. Meanwhile, the prime minister is obliged to rely on informal coordination with his fellow ministers. It is difficult to draw conclusions regarding the effectiveness of informal coordination, information-sharing procedures and other such practices. High-level civil servants close to the prime minister have complained about the increasing use of spin doctors and political assistants in such processes. But the prime minister has a good reputation with regard to formal leadership and conflict management.
Your citations
R.B. Andeweg and G.A. Irwin ( 2014), Governance and politics of the Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
NSOB, Van der Steen and van Twist, 2010. Veranderende vernieuwing: op weg naar vloeibaar bestuur. Een beschouwing over 60 jaar vernieuwing van de rijksdienst.

NSOB, Termeer et al., 2021. Het terugkerend verlangen naar regie. Over de vraag hoe belangen van landbouw, natuur en vitaal platteland stevig te behartigen zijn in vele spelen met vele andere legitieme belangen.

RTL Nieuws, 17 November 2021. Clash ministeries Hoekstra en Wiebes over plan Europees noodfonds

Trouw, Van Egmond en Wijffels, 11 September 2021. Industrieterrein Nederland heeft een ministerie van ecologische zaken nodig

De Zeeuw en Verdaas, n.d., Na Wild West en Science Fiction op zoek naar de juiste film. Naar een nieuw struringsconcept voot de inrichting van Nederland

NRC-H, Dupuy and Aharouay, December 17, 2021. Rutte na eerste formatieoverleg: een grotere ploeg, verdeling posten per partij is rond; and Nog twee nieuwe posten: ministers voor Natuur en Stikstof en Armoedebeleid, Participatie en Pensioenen
Currently, there are 16 line ministries and nine policy councils, which develop a long-term strategic vision and report on the progress of governmental activities. The Ministry of Development, which has been the primary consultative body for preparing policies according to the government’s program, was abolished. In addition, four offices were established: finance, investment, digital transformation, and human resources. In addition, six departments are attached to the presidency: Chief of Staff, Religious Affairs, National Security Council, Defense Industry, State Supervision Council, Communication and Strategy, and Budget Unit. These departments were established to promote efficiency and coordination in the executive.
Strateji ve Bütçe Başkanlığı. 2021 Yılı Cumhurbaşkanlığı Yıllık Programı.
As all ministers are equal, the autonomy of line ministries is substantial. The chancellor cannot determine the outlines of government policy and does not have to be involved in the drafting of legislation. Normally, however, proposals are coordinated by the Chancellor’s Office. Formally, the Federal Ministry of Finance can offer its opinion as to whether a proposal fits into the government’s overall budget policy and thus enjoys a kind of cross-cutting power.

The ÖVP-FPÖ government (2017–2019) tried to establish a policy of “message control.” This is a strategic instrument designed to reduce the visibility of individual ministers (although not necessarily their power, as was evidenced by the actions of the FPÖ minister of the interior), and to increase the directing power of the chancellor and deputy chancellor (at least as long as both are in control of their respective parties).

The “Ibiza scandal” – which followed the release of a secretly filmed meeting in which the former FPÖ leader, who was also vice-chancellor, attempted to sell government positions and a media outlet to a (fake) Russian oligarch – demonstrated the limits of message control. Nevertheless, the ÖVP-Green government has retained the message control regime. Over the course of Chancellor Kurz’s second term (2020–2021), it became more and more clear, however, that the whole system was effectively designed to provide the perfect stage for the chancellor, as the ÖVP’s unchallenged “vote puller.” That said, it remains unclear if or to what extent the increasing centralization of government communication can be considered a reliable indicator of a centralization of decision-making power.
Line ministries tend to prepare policy proposals independently and introduce them to the prime minister and the Council of Ministers when they are completed. The prime minister and the Administration of the Council of Ministers are consulted when proposals cross ministerial lines, or are incompatible with other proposed or existing legislation. Even in such cases, the involvement of the administration tends to focus mainly on technical and drafting issues and formal legal considerations. There are no official procedures for consulting the prime minister during the preparation of policy proposals. Since the Petkov government had split ministerial portfolios along political party lines, conflicting visions and policy designs soon became visible, especially between the ministries of economy, agriculture, regional development and social policy.
The legislative plan of the government divides tasks among the ministries and other central bodies of the state administration and sets deadlines for the submission of bills to the cabinet. The line ministry has to involve and take into account comments from a range of institutions, including the Government Office and the Government Legislative Council. This consultation process primarily focuses on technical issues and the harmonization of legal norms.
The preparation of bills is mainly the prerogative of the line ministries (Ressortprinzip). Over the course of regular policy processes, the Chancellery is generally well informed, but is not strongly involved in ministerial initiatives. Most disputes between ministries and the Chancellery are discussed and resolved in the (often) weekly meetings between the state secretaries and the Chancellery’s staff.
Under the PiS government, the Chancellery of the Prime Minister has kept its enhanced formal involvement in preparing policy proposals by the line ministries. Inside the Chancellery, the Legislative Process Coordination Department is the most crucial coordination point. It edits the final versions of bills, while the Government Work Programming Department considers the timeline of the government’s program and monitors drafts from the ministries. Since the 2015 change in government, however, the actual gatekeeping role of the Chancellery has declined. First, a large amount of coordination has been done informally by Jarosław Kaczyński. Second, under the PiS government, many bills are formally submitted by individual members of parliament rather than by ministries. This procedure allows for a swifter legislative process with fewer consultation requirements so that the PiS leadership can more effectively control lawmaking.
Consultation is rather formal and focuses on technical and drafting issues.
Two different forms exist to communicate line ministries’ proposals to the GO. Firstly, all policy initiatives are discussed in the coalition council. Secondly, the cabinet informally examines all substantial issues at its weekly meetings. No binding decisions are made in the meetings, the main function being to exchange information and to prepare for formal government sessions. Under current government (in office since January 2021) advance communication between line ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office has weakened, and line ministries sometimes act independently.
Since 2013, a sustained effort at coordination has been made in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and in line ministries. During the period under review, the government established an office within the PMO to coordinate the policies contained in the ruling party’s electoral manifesto. In a new review strategy, ministries monitor the outputs of policies previously discussed with the cabinet. The OPM then monitors policies until they are implemented and supports the ministries in their implementation. Coordination meetings are also organized by the OPM bringing together the various ministries. Decisions taken by ministries have more than once been rescinded by the PMO, a practice less common in the past. The PMO may also seek to review its policies with the help of the Management Efficiency Unit and occasionally employs consultants. In several areas, it is forced to seek legal advice from the Attorney General’s Office. Cabinet meetings have allowed experts to give direct advice to ministers, a departure from the past. From time to time, cabinet meetings are held in different regions for the purpose of consultations. However, coordinated consultation has become more focused through weekly meetings of permanent secretaries under the direction of the head of the public service. Specialist ad hoc committees and interministerial cabinet committees are set up to facilitate coordination between the PMO and ministries. During the pandemic, coordination between the PMO and the ministries increased.
Policy proposals are usually drafted within ministries. The Secretariat General of the Government provides administrative and legal support for policymaking but has a limited role in the quality control of policy design. The Prime Minister’s Chancellery usually becomes involved only after the compulsory public-consultation procedures are finalized, and its mandate is to ensure that policy proposals align with broader government strategy. While the prime minister occasionally publicly involves himself in debating certain legislative proposals and may contradict line ministers, the final decision on the content of the policy proposal tends to be made by the line ministry.
Ministries normally enjoy huge leeway in transforming government priorities into legislation, and there is no stable and transparent arbitration scheme that would give the Prime Minister’s Office a formal role in settling interministerial differences. Since the Service for Public Policies and Support to the Prime Minister does not have the capacity to evaluate line ministry policies in the way that central-government policy offices do in most democracies, consultation between line ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office is rather formal, and focuses only on technical and drafting issues.
Giljević, Z. (2015): Utjecaj okoline organizacije na upravu koordinaciju: Ministarstvo uprave kao studija slučaja (The Influence of Organizational Environment on Administrative Coordination: Croatian Ministry of Public Administration as a Case Study), in: Hrvatska i komparativna javna uprava 15(4): 875-908.
In Slovakia, the government manifesto defines certain priorities that are elaborated in legislative plans. These additionally divide tasks and responsibilities among the line ministries and other central bodies, and set deadlines for the submission of bills to the cabinet. In their policy-development process, the line ministries legally must include a range of institutions and interest groups that are defined as stakeholders in their respective fields. Ministries are also obliged to consult with the Government Office and its legislative council as they develop bills. However, final responsibility for drafting bills has traditionally rested with the line ministries, and consultation with the Government Office is mainly technical. This has not changed under the Matovič and Heger governments.
The only permanent service directly linked with the presidential palace is the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers. All other services are established ad hoc by the president in office. The tasks of the secretariat are limited to providing administrative support and checking the format of proposals. The Attorney General’s Office checks the legality of draft legislation. Ministries draft laws with reference to established policies or general frameworks decided by the cabinet. Draft laws are presented to the Council of Ministers and are only discussed during the deliberation process.

The law on fiscal responsibility assigns to the finance minister (ultimately to the Council of Ministers) control over policy proposals connected to general budgetary plans and policies. It is hard to see how under the constitution a central coordinating body with effective and comprehensive oversight powers can exist.
The Government Office is not directly and systematically involved in line ministries’ preparation of policy proposals. Once the coalition agreement and government program have defined certain projects, full responsibility for drafting bills rests with the line ministries, interministerial commissions or project teams. The Government Office is seldom briefed about the state of affairs. If it is, consultation is rather formal and focuses mostly on legal and technical issues.
Consultation occurs only after proposals are fully drafted as laws.
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