Modernising the Greek Prime Minister's office
Submitting InstitutionLondon School of Economics & Political Science
Unit of AssessmentArea Studies
Summary Impact TypePolitical
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Political Science
Law and Legal Studies: Law
Summary of the impact
The Eurozone crisis has exposed the limited capacity of the Greek
government to implement structural reforms. As a result of Kevin
Featherstone's record of academic research on reform capacity, his
newspaper articles and private discussions with politicians, Prime
Minister George Papandreou appointed him to an informal group, and then as
member and rapporteur of a formal Committee whose remit was to propose
reforms of governance. In a subsequent live televised cabinet meeting
Papandreou, citing Featherstone by name, announced his intention to reform
the central offices of government in line with the recommendations of the
The resulting Presidential Decree has survived two successive
governments. An OECD Report, citing Featherstone, made the same argument,
and the reforms were reaffirmed by Greece's major creditors (the
International Monetary Fund [IMF], the European Union [EU] and the
European Central Bank [ECB]) for the second `bailout'.
Key Researchers: Professor Kevin Featherstone has been at LSE
since 2002. Dimitris Papadimitriou was a senior research fellow in the
LSE's Hellenic Observatory in 2002-3 and in 2010.
Research Insights and Outputs:
Featherstone's research has investigated the problems of `reform
capacity' in Greece, specifically the inability of governments to enact
reforms that they themselves have declared to be their objectives.
In early research , Featherstone contrasted the `modernisation'
initiatives with the cultural and structural constraints those initiatives
faced. A particular constraint identified by the research was the internal
weakness of the state administration — a large, ill-coordinated structure
beset by a suffocating legalism which, Featherstone argued, was itself a
Subsequent research with Papadimitriou deepened the focus on reform
capacity through case studies of failed reforms, an important example
being privatization . The conclusion of this work  sets out a
`paradox of governance': despite its formal strength — and, in particular,
the Prime Minister's extensive constitutional powers — government in
Greece was inherently weak in the development, instigation, and
implementation of policy.
Featherstone and Papadimitriou went on to examine the extent to which the
internal structure and processes of government in Greece constrained
reform capacity. The research, which covered all governments since 1974,
evaluated successive attempts at organizational reform. Fieldwork for the
research in 2008-10, supported by the LSE's Hellenic Observatory, involved
over 35 personal interviews, including all surviving prime ministers, and
former ministers, senior advisers and officials. A central finding was
that, contrary to the mainstream assumptions in the Greek constitutional
literature, the Greek Prime Minister was an `emperor without clothes'.
Featherstone (with Papadimitriou) presented the research [4, subsequently
published as 5] at a conference on Greek reforms at Yale University in May
2009, expanding on the `paradox' noted in  and charting the course of
the weaknesses in Greek core executive since 1974.
The key findings of the body of research as a whole are:
- The limited resources (personnel, skills) available to the Greek Prime
- The limited operational power, in practice, of the Greek government at
- Ineffective administrative structures, including a lack of continuity
of (politically-independent) specialist personnel. As a result,
inadequate policy monitoring, evaluation, and learning undermined the
achievement of government objectives.
Featherstone therefore called explicitly for,
`a stronger government "centre" ...that will exert proper control over
all ministries and evaluate the results of their policies. Such a "centre"
would identify any problems in the government's operation and propose
solutions. The ministries would be made more transparent by an effective
monitoring system....[Also] there is a prime need for high-quality policy
advice...' [5; also in [A] (translated from the Greek)].
References to the research
1. Featherstone, K. (2005), `Introduction: "Modernization" and the
Structural Constraints of Greek Politics', West European Politics:
Special Issue on The Challenge of Modernisation: Politics and Policy in
Greece; 28, 2. LSE Research Online ID: 23152
2. Featherstone, K. and D. Papadimitriou, (2007) `Manipulating Rules,
Contesting Solutions: Europeanization and the Politics of Restructuring
Olympic Airways', Government and Opposition, 42, 1: 46-72. DOI:
3. Featherstone, K. and D. Papadimitriou, (2008) The Limits of
Europeanization: Reform Capacity and Policy Conflict in Greece;
London, Palgrave [translated into Greek and published by Okto, 2010].
Available from LSE on request
4. Papadimitriou, D. and K. Featherstone, (2009) `The Naked Emperor:
Prime Ministerial leadership and core executive management in post-1974
Greece', Conference, `The Challenge of Reform in Greece, 1974-2009:
Assessment and Prospects', Yale University, USA, 8-9 May. LSE
Research Online ID: 51512
5. Featherstone, K. and D. Papadimitriou, (2013) `The Emperor has no
Clothes! Power and Resources within the Greek Core Executive', Governance,
26, 3: 523-545. DOI: 10.1111/j.14
Evidence of quality: items 1, 2, 3 and 5 were peer reviewed; item
2 was submitted to RAE2008.
Details of the impact
The research described in section 2 had impact by influencing the terms
of debate both in Greece and (through the `bail out' conditions) more
widely, and through direct influence on reforms of the Prime Minister's
Office and its links with the rest of government.
INFLUENCE ON THE TERMS OF DEBATE. Both the English and Greek
editions of  were reviewed in the mainstream Greek press (e.g. TO BHMA,
Kathimerini). Featherstone disseminated the book's central arguments —
weak processes of central control and coordination, inadequate monitoring
and evaluation as contributory factors in the failure of reform — in
newspaper articles [A], interviews [B] and presentations [C]. In addition,
the fieldwork interviews with surviving Prime Ministers and senior
officials described in section 2 themselves established a profile for the
research (and its central argument) among the political elite.
Because of these activities, when taking up office in October 2009, Prime
Minister (PM) George Papandreou, Finance Minister Papakonstantinou, and
their senior advisers, were already familiar with the research and
newspaper articles; and their advisers also read and commented on [4, 5].
Upon becoming Prime Minister, Papandreou invited Featherstone to join a
small informal group of his immediate advisers to review the organisation
of his office and its relations with the rest of government. In 2010, he
appointed Featherstone to join a new 5-member Committee charged with
bringing forward proposals for reform [D].
Expressly, the letter of invitation took up one of the key themes of
Featherstone's research, that reform should strengthen the processes of
control and coordination from the centre. The Committee reported in
mid-2010, outlining key principles and recommending structures.
Featherstone was the rapporteur for the Committee, responsible for
synthesising and editing the final report, which was later presented to
Parliament [D, E].
From Featherstone's discussions with the PM, and the subsequent work of
the Committee, it was evident that his core research findings had
influenced the PM and his colleagues, notably:
- The sharp contrast between public views about the formal powers of
government and the reality of the constraints on processes of control
and coordination from the centre — constraints that have been evident
since 1974 despite attempts at reform.
- The contrast between the resources allocated to the Prime Minister and
the centre of government in Greece and the substantially larger
resources available to governments of other European states of a similar
- Featherstone's arguments about the need to strengthen control,
monitoring and coordination within government — including policy
evaluation and impact assessment.
IMPACT ON POLICY. By influencing the terms of the debate, the
research had a direct impact on government policy, and subsequently on
conditions imposed on Greece as part of the `bail out'.
Greek government policy: Featherstone's research was used as
evidence to inform Papandreou's organizational reforms as Prime Minister
[F], and news coverage [G] shows the public recognition of Featherstone's
influential role. In an address to his Cabinet in September 2010,
televised live, the PM quoted Featherstone's articles in support of the
reforms he was about to bring forward. Featherstone was the only member of
the Committee to be mentioned by name [F]. The Greek media also
highlighted Featherstone's influence [G]
The government announced organisational reforms consistent with the
Committee's report from November 2010 onwards. In January 2011, Parliament
voted on the creation of a General Secretariat to the Prime Minister with
new powers and responsibilities for coordination and control, follow-up
monitoring of the internal processes of the government, and policy
evaluation and impact assessment [F,H].
Policy as part of the `bail out': though the deepening economic
crisis meant that the Papandreou Government was unable to implement the
recommendations in full, or to complete the reforms to the PM's Office
[F], the reforms advanced by Featherstone and the Committee, were regarded
as crucial to the ability of a Greek government to meet the conditions of
its debt `bail-out' loans. The centrality of the reforms is evident in
- The OECD report on Greece in 2011 [I] criticised the lack of central
direction and coordination of the reform agenda and cited Featherstone
and Papadimitriou ;
- The Greek-IMF `Letter of Intent' [J] and subsequent follow-up reports
required organizational reform at the centre of government;
- The invitation to Featherstone by the Head of the EU Commission
Taskforce for a private one-on-one briefing [K].
The impact of the research was sustained, as shown by the adoption of a
new law in January 2013 providing for the creation of a `General
Secretariat for the Coordination of the Government', with a Secretary
General to be appointed for a five-year term and a permanent staff [L].
This was consistent with Featherstone's emphasis on the need for
continuity of personnel and of structures, sustained by
politically-independent senior officials.
Greece's international partners have also recognised this agenda (Troika,
Taskforce, OECD) [I, J, K], emulating Featherstone's call in his 5 April
2009 Kathimerini article [A]. As a result, addressing these issues was a
condition for Greece to continue to receive its debt `bail-out' loan.
Sources to corroborate the impact
All Sources listed below can also be seen at: https://apps.lse.ac.uk/impact/case-study/view/69
A. Kathimerini, Athens: 22.2.09
newspaper articles by Featherstone on the same agenda are in `Kathimerini'
B. Featherstone interview in `Economiki Epitheorisi' (Athens) entitled
`Who holds the power? The PM, the Cabinet, and the reality', April 2010
issue. Source file:
C. Kevin Featherstone, `The Emperor Has No Clothes! Greek Prime Ministers
and the Problem of Reform Capacity', Public Lecture at the Residence of
the British Ambassador, H.E. David Landsman, 11 November 2010. Attended by
inter alia current and former ministers, advisers, journalists. A speech
by Alexis Papahelas, editor of Kathimerini, at this lecture affirmed
Featherstone's pre-eminent influence on the reform of the PM's
D. See letter by Former State Minister to the Greek Prime Minister. This
source is confidential.
E. `Report of the Advisory Committee for the Modernisation of the
Operation of the Government'. Submitted to the Prime Minister, Georgios
Papandreou, Athens, 2010. Rapporteur: Kevin Featherstone. Submitted to
Greek Parliament, 2011. Source files:
F. Letter from Prime Minister. This source is confidential.
G. Kathimerini newspaper (30.1.11; page 12). [This cites Featherstone as
making power-point presentations to Prime Minister Papandreou on the
H. Presidential Decree, 2, 11 January 2011 http://www.eetaa.gr/nomothesia/fek/fek/f_147.pdf
I. OECD report on Greece in 2011, p. 25. — The preparation of an OECD
report [`Greece: Review of the Central Administration'; OECD, Paris, 2011]
involved private inputs from Featherstone and it cited the work of
Featherstone and Papadimitriou on the subject.
J. See IMF, `Greece: Letter of Intent, Memorandum of Economic and
Financial Policies, and Technical. Memorandum of Understanding'; March
and the `Troika's subsequent monitoring reports on Greece, for example.
K. The EU Commission Taskforce for Greece also took up this agenda.
Letter from EU Taskforce for Greece. This source is confidential.
L. Law 4109, (passed by Parliament 23.1.2013) provided for the creation
of a General Secretariat for the Coordination of the Government,
answerable directly to the Prime Minister. The new service is staffed by
63 permanent civil servants, headed by a Secretary General appointed on a
5-year term (see in particular Article 18, for the position of Sec Gen).
Source files: https://apps.lse.ac.uk/impact/download/file/986