Influencing and inspiring customised sustainable civil service reform across the post-communist world
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Nottingham
Unit of AssessmentPolitics and International Studies
Summary Impact TypePolitical
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Political Science, Sociology
Summary of the impact
Dr Jan-Hinrik Meyer-Sahling's research has developed new conceptual
frameworks for the
analysis of civil service reform in the post-communist world. His work has
policy-makers to understand the conditions under which interventions by
organisations are successful, and has influenced the strategy and
operations of the European
Commission and SIGMA-OECD.
The research has been widely disseminated and used in international
Central and Eastern European and Western Balkan states and China, and to
date has had the
most wide-reaching and significant effect in Lithuania, where his policy
accepted and endorsed in the amendment of civil service regulations by the
Government and Parliament.
Professional and de-politicised civil service systems are widely seen as
a precondition for the
consolidation of democracy, economic development and successful
integration into the European
Union. One of the major objectives of post-communist transformation has
been to overcome the
legacy of over-politicisation by establishing professional and
de-politicised civil service systems.
Meyer-Sahling's innovative research on the establishment of meritocratic
civil service systems in
Central and Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans examined the
effectiveness of EU
interventions before and after accession. The research provides analytical
tools for the
identification of strengths and weaknesses of the institutional frameworks
underpinning civil service
management, and lays out conditions for success at both the level of
recipient states and the EU
At least two key innovations have resulted from Meyer-Sahling's research:
1. New conceptual frameworks have been developed for analysis of civil
service reform. For
the first time, these place the outcomes of reform in the context both of
and of integration into the European Administrative Space, taking into
characteristics of communist-type administration as well as the
established patterns of
public administration in Western democracies (publications #1, #3).
2. Domestic and international determinants of civil service reform and
been identified (#1, #2, #4, #5), specifically, the impact of:
i. Formal institutional design
ii. Reform design, sequences and leadership
iii. Political competition and patterns of government alternation
iv. The European Union, SIGMA and other international actors
v. The communist and pre-communist legacy of the past
The findings have helped policy-makers to distinguish between those
factors that may be directly
influenced, as opposed to contextual determinants that need to be taken
into account but cannot
be controlled. As a result, the research points to the need to `customise'
domestic reform initiatives
and international interventions by adapting institutional designs, reform
strategies and sequences.
(#1, #2, #4). It also helps to clarify the conditions under which civil
service reform achievements
become sustainable for the long-term, in particular, in the context of
European integration (#5).
The underpinning research was conducted by Meyer-Sahling and published in
peer-reviewed journal articles.
References to the research
1. `The Institutionalization of Political Discretion in East-Central
European Civil Services: The
Case of Hungary'. Public Administration (2006) 84 (3), 693-716
2. `The Rise of the Partisan State? Parties, Patronage and the
Ministerial Bureaucracy in
Hungary'. Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics
(2006) 22 (3), 274-294 [peer-reviewed journal].
3. `The Changing Colours of the Post-Communist State: The Politicisation
of the Senior Civil
Service in Hungary'. European Journal of Political Research (2008)
47(1), 1-33 [peer-reviewed
4. `Varieties of Legacies: A Critical Review of Legacy Explanations of
Reform in East Central Europe'. International Review of Administrative
Science (2009) 75 (3),
563-581 [peer-reviewed journal]. Winner of the IRAS Prize for the best
article published in
5. `The Durability of EU Civil Service Policy in Central and Eastern
Europe', Governance (2011)
24 (2), 231-260 [peer-reviewed journal].
All are available on request.
Details of the impact
Meyer-Sahling has worked in close collaboration both with international
organisations — in
particular, the SIGMA (Support for Improvement in Governance and
Management) programme of
the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) — and
governments in Central and Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans.
As a result, his work has been widely disseminated both through the
publication of two SIGMA
papers and their circulation, and through presentations and reports to
The research has gone on to change approaches to international civil
service reform, and inspire
further similar studies in other areas of public administration reform.
Meyer-Sahling was invited to present his research at the SIGMA
headquarters in Paris. SIGMA
provides advice for accession states on behalf of the European Commission.
It further conducts
annual assessments of public administration reform that are incorporated
into the European
Commission's annual monitoring reports on the progress of accession states
membership. As a result of the presentation, SIGMA requested European
Commission funding for
a study of the sustainability of civil service reforms in the new member
states of Central and
Eastern Europe. Meyer-Sahling was appointed project leader with full
responsibility over the
design, coordination and implementation of the project. The project
covered eight countries and
had a budget of 178,000 Euros.
The research collaboration led to the publication of SIGMA Paper Nr.
44 in May 2009.[source 2]
The findings were widely disseminated, directly and indirectly, and well
beyond SIGMA and DG
Enlargement and DG Administration (now DG Human Resources) of the European
Meyer-Sahling presented the research first at the 2nd SIGMA
Networking Seminar in Paris in
November 2008 to senior officials from SIGMA, the European Commission,
Eastern European and Western Balkan states. After publication, the
report was presented at
additional events organised by DG Employment and Social Affairs of the
European Commission in
November 2009, SIGMA in March 2010, the European Institute of Public
Maastricht in May 2010, and in November 2010 at the opening ceremony of
the Regional School of
Public Administration (ReSPA) in Danilovgrad/Montenegro.
The report was translated into several languages such as
Romanian, Macedonian and
It has been widely cited in non-academic literature, for instance, by the
UNDP, the World Bank,
the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Agency for Public Management of the
The work's impact on SIGMA and European Commission
1) Changed approaches to public administration reform by
demonstrating and legitimizing the
importance of conducting systematic, evidence-based evaluations
that were externally driven
by the EU. Bob Bonwitt, Director of the SIGMA programme from 1992-2012,
writes that the
report `helped us to rethink the evidence base of what we were doing and
forced us to address
ideas that had been taken for granted. [...] the study produced such
interesting results that
similar studies were carried out in other areas of public administration
2) Inspired further studies, three of which Meyer-Sahling was
directly involved in. They include
a report on the political, economic, social and international determinants
of civil service reform,
a SIGMA Policy Brief on `Can Civil Service Reforms Last?', and a major
study on the
professionalization of the civil service in the Western Balkans, which
included all seven
Western Balkan states and had a budget of 175,000 Euros. The project led
to the publication
of SIGMA Paper Nr 48 in September 2012. The preliminary findings
were presented at a
SIGMA staff meeting in November 2011, at a dedicated workshop to senior
officials of the
Government of Montenegro and at the 2013 ReSPA Annual Conference. The
attended by ministers of public administration and senior policy-makers
from the Western
Balkans, the European Commission and other international organisations.
Francisco Cardona, SIGMA's principal official for civil service reform
since the late 1990s, `the
study on the Western Balkans is progressively acquiring importance as a
in training sessions, conferences and meetings on public administration
reform in the
3) Plays a critical role in the development of ReSPA as a
regional centre for public
administration reform and development, in particular, the upgrading of its
Network in Human
Resource Management. The Commission official responsible for the SIGMA and
ReSPA file at
DG Enlargement, writes `the kind of actions that [Meyer-Sahling] has
carried out [...] is very
much in line with what we [i.e. DG Enlargement] are currently looking for
in terms of providing
evidence-based assessments, concrete and clear actions and assure a
of improvements under a realistic and customised approach'. Specifically
with regard to the
development of ReSPA as a regional centre for public administration
reform, she goes on that
[Meyer-Sahling] will `play a critical role in upgrading the ReSPA Network
in Human Resource
4) Contributed to a change of strategy towards a holistic,
context-sensitive approach to public
administration reform in accession states. Bonwitt explains that `the
findings caused a shift of
our priorities [...] we changed the priorities of some of the system
components and worked
more on the political economy of civil service reform'. Moreover, `we
presented the result to the
EC [i.e. European Commission], which then commissioned the Balkan study
and accepted that
their approach to reform in the Balkans needed to be reconsidered'.
5) Influenced operations of SIGMA and the European Commission.
Bonwitt and Cardona
write that `[t]he studies caused some changes in our [i.e. SIGMA's]
and `SIGMA used the findings for annual assessments of individual
European Commission refers to the study on the professionalization of the
Western Balkans in
the specification and justification of project fiches that advertise EU
funded aid and assistance
projects in the area of good governance.
Influence in the national arena of Lithuania
Following the presentation of SIGMA Paper Nr 44, the Government of
Lithuania requested a
separate study on the Modernisation of the Lithuanian Civil Service.
The study, prepared
together with Prof Vitalis Nakrosis from Vilnius University, was presented
in February 2010 in the
Lithuanian Parliament in a session organised by the Committee for the
State Administration and
Local Government. After the conference, Parliament passed a
Resolution, which has
become an important reference point for civil service reform in
Lithuania. The studies,
presentations and an academic article that was published after the
conference generated public
debate over the course of civil service reform in the Lithuanian media.
Most importantly, the Government of Lithuania followed the studies'
the development of a new reform strategy and the amendment of civil
According to the Deputy Head of the Civil Service, `the study by
Meyer-Sahling and Nakrosis was
extremely useful for the staff of the Civil Service Department. We used
the report for the analysis of
the civil service systems and for making proposals for the improvement of
its legal regulation. [...]
For instance, we have implemented the recommendations concerning the
tenure of heads of
institutions, which came into force in 2011 and the centralised selection
of civil servants, which will
come into force on 1 July 2013. [T]he recommendation linking civil service
competency management is being implemented in the context of a project
funded by the European
The findings and recommendations have been incorporated in the final
report of the Sunset
Commission of the Lithuanian Government. Most recently, the Government
used the studies in a
press release in order to justify the appointment of the new Head of the
Lithuanian Civil Service in
Wider dissemination in the post-communist world and China
The Government of Lithuania used the findings in international
co-collaborations across the entire
post-communist world and China. The Deputy Head of the Lithuanian Civil
Service writes that
`[a]fter the publication of the 2009 SIGMA Report, responsible officials
from the Balkan and Eastern
Neighbourhood Countries (...) expressed their wish to familiarise
themselves with the Lithuanian
experience. The Civil Service Department was visited by Delegations from
Moldova, China, Albania, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kirgizstan, Tajikistan and
Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We always based our presentations on the conclusions of report prepared
by Prof Meyer-Sahling'.
Sources to corroborate the impact
 Testimonials are available on file from the following: Bob Bonwitt,
SIGMA; Francisco Cardona,
SIGMA; Jurgita Siugzdiniene, Prime Minister's Office, Lithuania; Laima
Tuleikiene, Civil Service
Department, Lithuania; European Commission Official, DG Enlargement.
 Meyer-Sahling, J.-H., The Sustainability of Civil Service Reform
in Central and Eastern Europe
Five Years after Accession (SIGMA Paper Nr 44) (Paris: OECD
 Meyer-Sahling, J.-H., Civil Service Politicisation in the Western
Balkans (SIGMA Paper Nr 48).
(Paris: OECD Publications, 2012).
 Meyer-Sahling, J.-H. and Vitalis Nakrosis, The Lithuanian Civil
Service and Its Modernisation
Guidelines (Vilnius: Civil Service Department of the Government of
 3rd SIGMA Networking Seminar, March 2010. Programme available at
List of participants available
on file. Details of other presentations available on file.
 Challenges for Public Sector Human Resources Management in the
Downturn (Bratislava: Regional Centre for Public Administration
Reform of UNDP, 2010). Available
Other references that cite the report are available
 Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania, February 2009. Programme and
[in Lithuanian]; English translation is available on file.
 ReSPA Annual Conference, April 2013. Programme available at http://www.respaweb.eu.
of participants available on file.
 Assorted news coverage in Lithuania after presentation in parliament.
A series of three
contributions, which refer to each other and discuss the reports are
available on file.
 Resolution passed by Parliament of Lithuania. A translated version
of the document is
available on file.