Blueprints, Red Tape, and Shades of Gray. The Chromatics of Romania’s accession to the European Union in economic and administrative perspective

Seminar Paper, 2009

27 Pages, Grade: 1,3











This study develops a perspective of ambivalent dynamics of institution building in EU applicant countries. The dissemination of institutional design differs in effect by the sectors which are focused. For the case of Romania it is stated that, in the economic dimension, a neoliberal blueprint was diffused while in the politico-administrative dimension, the EU lacked both, a clear best-practice and strong instruments of enforcement. Treating the weakness of statehood as the dependent variable, in both sectors however, tendencies to the reinforcement of patrimonialist structures can be observed. Those forms of patrimonialism breed problems of corruption and a limited possibility to absorb EU funding. In each case there are cross-sectoral effects observable.

1. Introduction

The study of domestic institutional adjustments in the light of EU accession has been discussed in a broad scientific context of the debate on "Europeanization" (Featherstone & Radaelli, 2003). For the particular case of administrative reform it is true that parallel to the application of Central and Eastern European countries for EU membership in the 1990s, the need to constitute clear benchmarks of administrative capacity within the Union emerged. In legal terms, the acquis communautaire, an inventory of rights and duties that the established member states share and to which they commit themselves, added, among economic, political and geographical preconditions to the Copenhagen Criteria — offering a blueprint for all acceding states to align with. Such a comprehensive model of adjustment however was absent regarding the administrative apparatus, due to national resilience to preserve the own culture of the public sector. This distinction between, on the one hand highly comprehensive and enforceable blueprints, which are above all at hand in the economic sphere and on the other hand the absence of competences and clear definitional principles concerning the organization of public administration in Europe, lies at the very core of the interest of this study. The different modes of economic and administrative integration, can be expected to generate decisive implications for domestic institution-building. Several studies have already used this distinction for the analysis of a "European Administrative Space" (Hofmann, 2008; Olsen, 2003; Siedentopf & Speer, 2003) which mostly covers phenomena of convergence within the member states' public sectors. The body of literature upon which this research draws is somewhat different in its orientation (Goetz, 2000; Grabbe, 2001; Lippert, Umbach, & Wessels, 2001; Wollmann & Goetz, 2001; Hughes, Sasse, & Gordon, 2004). Although also trying to isolate causal linkages between the content and the channels of influence of EU development programs and domestic policy implications, this analysis has to focus on the special nature of its object of investigation — the weakness of statehood. Dealing with transition countries means dealing with states, which underwent the radical market reforms of Shock Therapy since the collapse of the USSR and established democratic structures, last but not least in the prospect of membership to the EU. Out of a Weberian perspective it can be argued that such a radical and precipitous shift to market liberalism "does more harm than good, because it weakens the state" and runs a certain danger to undermine democratic values of accountability and transparency:

"In many important ways corruption is a by-product of Shock Therapy itself" (King, 2007a, p. 9). Transition states in Central and Eastern Europe thus provide fruitful objects of investigation because administrative capacity, which is imperative as a precondition of the adoption of the acquis communautaire, cannot be assumed but has to be built up.

How can we assess the diverging impact of clear blueprints in the economy and of incoherent programs for the development of the public sphere on statehood in transition countries? Do these unequal competences and strategies in the two sectors generate administrative red tape, do they rather cultivate the grey swamp of corruption, or has politico-administrative stability to be considered as the outcome of the EU developmental endeavors? What roles do the "legacies of the past" (Toma, 2006, p. 4) play? The weakness of statehood thus serves as the dependent variable within this analysis. In the next sections, after developing the main argument, it will be stated that Romania provides a highly insightful country case by means of which these question can be answered. Being the first country to enter into bilateral negotiations with the European Union (1974), it did not succeeded to join before 2007 — after chronically "lagging behind in meeting the EU accession criteria" (G. Noutcheva & Bechev, 2008) and only being granted admission under the further requirements to roll-back corruption and to enhance institutional stability.

2. Initial Steps of the Analysis

2.1 Developing the argument

It is thus the aim of this study to trace crucial diffusion processes from the supranational to the national level connected to transition processes in general and the impact of Europeanization on institutional reforms within Romania's economy and civil service during its accession period in particular. Within this analysis, two questions will be answered: what was being diffused and how the was process of diffusion conducted. On the basis of this focus it will be possible to assess both, the channels the European Union disposes of to have an impact on national reforms in applicant countries and the advantages and disadvantages that are inherent to the dissemination of best practices. In this regard, the argument pushed forward in the course of this study is twofold: While in the economic sphere, the European Union possesses strong competences to impose a clearly formulated acquis communautaire on the accession states, concerning its influence on national public administration reforms it lacks both, a clear and coherent model to disseminate and concrete mechanisms to sanction non-conformance (Demmke, 2002, p. 11). For the case of the economy, best practice models were in place conforming with market liberalist measures such as "rapid and extensive price and trade liberalization, stringent monetary and fiscal stabilization, and the implementation of a mass privatization program" (King, 2007a, p. 1). This analysis aims at showing that the forced adoption of these neoliberal blueprints, in the Romanian case, made the country's economy formally comply with the requirements of the single European markets but on the basis of informal institutions created considerable negative externalities. The situation for public management reform in Romania presents itself virtually vice-versa. It will be argued, that it is the lack of a coherent and enforceable acquis in this dimension which causes decisive problems of implementation. It will be the central finding of this analysis that the different channels and contents of policy diffusion, providing clear blueprints and strong enforcement modes in the economic sphere and suffering from a lack in both in the public administration sphere, both lead to forms of "(neo-) patrimonialism" (Eisenstadt, 1973) or could not decisively resolve it. The problems deriving from these economic and political forms of patrimonialism are highly interconnected in nature. While the analysis concludes for the case of public sector with the identification of remarkable degrees of corruption which, at least to some extent, can be traced back to measures of economic liberalization and privatization, the private sector is considered to suffer severely from the continuing disability of absorbing international funds which is, to a large extent, due to Romania's low bureaucratic capacity (Georgescu & Zaman, 2009, p. 136). This argumentation takes up a more critical stance than other analyses embarking with the statement that EU conditionality1 has actually "tilted the political balance in favor of a consensus on pro-EU reforms" (G. Noutcheva & Bechev, 2008, p. 114). It is assumed that a normative purpose of such a study — if any — should be the demonstration of what is left to be done, or what could have been done better, hence focusing rather on divergence than on convergence ; to be sure without neglecting the merits of the EU's enlargement policy.

2.2 Case selection

For an analysis of the specific impact of Europeanization on national policy making in transition countries pre-EU accession, civil service reforms in general and the Romanian experience in particular present themselves as hard and eminently interesting cases. The civil service sector is classically most heavily marked by domestic traditions (Demmke, 2002, p. 11) reflecting the culture of the public administration system and thus incorporating strong forces of inertia to externally imposed reforms. This is true for transition countries in Central and Eastern Europe as well as for established EU-member states (Schröter, 2005). Most decisively, as it is argued here, are modes of interactions between public officials influenced by a certain culture of the public sector. Romania, in this respect, is a particularly interesting case. The country's last pre-89 regime, governed by Nicolae Ceausescu was, even in Communist respects, characterized to be extremely oppressive and personalized. The transition towards democracy was initiated by the revolution of 1989, which was, unlike the rebounds in former Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary a bloody one "creating deep divisions within the Romanian society" (cp. Ionita & Freyberg-Inan, 2008, p. 8). These particularities of the Romanian case formulate the core problem which administrative capacity building by the EU had to resolve: re-shifting the hierarchical power lines between the predominant political elites and a highly politicized civil service.

In the economic dimension, Romania provides a good object of study because it had better initial conditions than most of the other Central and Eastern European countries in 1989, experiencing hard times economically speaking in the decades to come:

"The period was marked by a succession of crises, and at the end of the decade, Romania remained one of the poorest countries of Eastern Europe, a country with weak growth and high inflation. On strictly macroeconomic terms, Romania entered its transition in much better health than Poland."(De Menil, 2003, p. 283).

Moreover it is to mention that Romania applied, like almost all Central and Eastern European countries after 1989, a measure that was called "Shock Therapy". Underlying a Smithian philosophy, the related policy advices considered a transition towards market economy most successfully conducted if the involvement of the state, which is typical for Communist command economies, is radically abolished. Subsequently the freed marked forces would replace the developmental duty of the state. One of the most remarkable features of the Romanian country case is in this respect a decisive over-performance in terms of implementation: Romania conducted a far reaching program of mass privatization being in many respects a "more complete neoliberal reformer" (cp. King, 2007a, p. 30) than most of its former sister states. A severe economic underperformance from which the country suffers till today followed. The causal links between Shock Therapy and these severe economic problems will have to be discussed as well as the related political developments and the role of the European Union advocating neoliberal policy options.

In a nutshell, the Romanian case has to be considered as a highly interesting one because of the discrepancy of expectations regarding its initial conditions on the one hand and the problems affecting the public and private sector today on the other hand. While eco­nomically Romania was one of the only countries of the Central Eastern European region which was running a current account surplus and budget surplus by 1989 and ended-up in severe economic troubles when entering the EU accession process, politically, it could be expected that the highly interactive and network-related measures of institution-building and Europeanization embraced by the European Union (Ionita & Freyberg Inan, 2008, p. 8) would be capable to alter the power relations and provide an emancipation of the Romanian civil servants facing the supremacy of the political elites. How these expectations have to be qualified - in some respect revised - and how the comprehensiveness and enforceability of the disseminated EU model provide for explanatory linkages will be dealt with in the subsequent analysis. Beforehand, a coverage of approaches of Europeanization, as well as some insights into institutional economics and concept of the emergence of an European Administrative space will unfold a theoretical matrix for the analysis of causal connections between the impact of EU measures to enhance the administrative capacity and (single) market compatibility of aspirants for membership and the national responses linked to it.

3. In Search for a Theoretical Framework

3.1 Europeanization: How EU pressures have domestic policy-outcomes

Theories of Europeanization (Ladrech, 2002; Featherstone & Radaelli, 2003) have been developed to understand the legal and political effects of the integration process on national policy making and institution-building. Out of this analytical starting point they are not explicitly aimed at convergent development but on a rather clinical analysis on the national impact of European integration (Demmke, 2002) which thus suits our aims. The broader theoretical context to which these theories can be attributed reflects this general orientation: Sociological Institutionalism provides a variety of "isomorphisms" (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983)that unfold differing binding effects on domestic institutions: Coercive


1 The logic of EU conditionality corresponds to a "bargaining strategy of reinforcement by reward" (Schimmelfennig & Sedelmeier, 2004, p. 662).

Excerpt out of 27 pages


Blueprints, Red Tape, and Shades of Gray. The Chromatics of Romania’s accession to the European Union in economic and administrative perspective
Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen  (Department of Public Management & Governance)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
689 KB
accession policy, European Union, enlargement, Romania, European Regulatory Space
Quote paper
Boris Kleemann (Author), 2009, Blueprints, Red Tape, and Shades of Gray. The Chromatics of Romania’s accession to the European Union in economic and administrative perspective, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Blueprints, Red Tape, and Shades of Gray.  The Chromatics of Romania’s accession to the European Union in economic and administrative perspective

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free