Conditionality and domestic change: Twinning projects as a tool of administrative reform in Romania

One of the major challenges facing the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEECs) in obtaining membership of the European Union (EU) has been the need to implement effectively the acquis communautaire. The process of transposing the 80,000 pages of EU law into domestic legislation has all but been completed in the eight CEECs that joined the EU in 2004 (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Tatvia, Tithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia). The same is also largely true for the two 'laggards' in the enlargement process (Bulgaria and Romania) that joined the Union in 2007. Yet the effective implementation of the transposed legislation poses a major challenge to the administrative structures of states joining the EU. Gross inefficiency and a severe lack of expertise have been some of the most damaging legacies of the old socialist order for their civil services. During the process of transition the credibility and effectiveness of public administrations across the region have also been seriously undermined by endemic levels of corruption and excessive politicisation. For its part, the EU has watched the laborious process of administrative reform in the CEECs with profound concern for the potential implications of eastwards enlargement for the functioning of the single market and for the efforts of the existing Member States to deepen their co-operation in sensitive areas such as justice and home affairs (JHA). Legal approximation has been an important parameter of the EU's relations with the CEECs, as recognized by both the Europe agreements and the Copenhagen European Council in 1993. Since the publication of the Commission's White Paper on the integration of the CEECs into the single market in 1995 (Commission, 1995), the question of public administration reform gained new impetus; and by the time the Agenda 2000 proposals were presented in 1997, the strengthening of the administrative capacity of applicant countries had become a key priority for the EU. As part of this drive, in May 1998 the Commission launched the twinning exercise, a new policy instrument through which civil servants from the Member States would be seconded to the applicant states with the task of speeding up the process of their legal convergence with the EU and the development of institutions for upholding and implementing the acquis.

This paper examines the operation of the twinning exercise in Romania, focusing in particular on the process of administrative reform in two key ministries: the Ministry of Interior, responsible for the implementation of large parts of the JHA acquis; and the Ministry of Development and Prognosis, responsible for the implementation of the EU's acquis in the field of regional policy. In doing so, it builds upon and extends the recent literature on the role of EU enlargement as a driving force for executive reform in central and eastern Europe (Goetz, 2001a). Conceptually the study of the twinning exercise in Romania is therefore linked to the Europeanisation literature. Taking into consideration the strong conditionalities underpinning the EU's enlargement process (e.g. extensive compliance with the EU acquis prior to membership), this paper departs from the conception of Europeanisation as an 'inward looking' process, confined only to existing EU Member States. Instead it furthers the argument that such a process can also be exported outside the geographical boundaries of the EU, particularly towards those countries aspiring to join. The paper then shifts its attention to the impact of twinning, as a mechanism of Europeanisation and a local extension of the EU's conditionality principle on domestic reform. In doing so, it looks at issues relating to the design of the exercise and, more importantly, at domestic factors mediating its reform potential. The paper is divided into four sections. Section I reviews the literature on Europeanisation and assesses its relevance to the recent EU enlargement process. Section II looks at the main features of the twinning exercise, whilst Section III builds on empirical evidence to provide an in-depth analysis of the operation of twinning projects in Romania. In Section IV, the paper concludes with an assessment of the role of the twinning exercise as a stimulus for administrative reform in the candidate countries; its role as an instrument for policing the conditionality principles associated with the recent enlargement process; and the domestic factors mediating the EU's Europeanising influence over its prospective Member States.


I. Europeanisation, conditionality and reform in the CEECs

Over the last few years the growth of the Europeanization literature has been considerable (Featherstone and Radaelli, 2003; Cowles et al., 2001; Dyson, 2000; Radaelli, 2000; Borzei 1999; Heritier, 1998; Featherstone, 1998). Yet, with few recent exceptions (Agh, 1999; Goetz, 2001a; Grabbe, 2001a, 2003; Demetropoulou, 2001), much of the debate on Europeanisation has predominantly focused on the way in which existing Member States are being transformed by EU membership. The process of Europeanisation, in this respect, is seen as a constant two-way interaction between the 'national' and the 'European' (Cowles et. al, 2001), with Member States assuming the role of both contributors and products of European integration (Rometsch and Wessels, 1996). In other words, whilst EU Member States are the principal architects of the European polity, they are often unable to control the timing and shape in which the outcomes of this polity are transposed into the national setting (Cole, 2001; Meny, 1996). Within this context, Ladrech defines Europeanisation as the process in which 'EC political and economic dynamics become part of the organisational logic of national politics and policy making' (Ladrech, 1994, p. 69). Building on Ladrech, Radaelli has broadened the definition of Europeanisation to include:

Processes of (a) construction, (b) diffusion, and (c) institutionalisation of formal and informai rules, procedures, policy paradigms, styles, 'ways of doing things', and shared beliefs and norms which are first defined and Consolidated in the making of EU public policy and politics and then integrated in the logic of domestic discourse, identities, political structures and public policies. (Radaelli, 2003, p. 30)

It is on the basis of such a definition that this paper proceeds.

Given the substance of the EU's relationship with non-Member States and the breadth of Radaelli's definition, it is to be expected that the processes of Europeanisation can be and have been exported. Nowhere else can this be seen more clearly than in the case of the CEECs seeking membership of the EU, all of which have been subjected to the same adaptational pressures of Europeanisation (institutional, cognitive and strategic) as Knill and Lehmkuhl (1999) have described in the case of the existing EU

Member States. In recent years, for example, there has been a wealth of evidence manifesting how the ever-accelerating pace of the EU's enlargement process has transformed governance in the applicant countries by reshaping the outlook of their executives, legislatures and judiciaries and recasting the balance of power between them (Demetropoulou, 2001; Goetz, 2001b; Grabbe, 2001b; Lippert et al., 2001). Instituţional adaptation, however, has been only a part of the EU's impact on these 'candidate' countries. Changes in domestic opportunity structures and mechanisms of cognitive shifts can also be seen at work across the region. The CEECs' drive towards EU membership has never been a politically neutral exercise. The process of adjusting to the EU acquis opens up opportunities for some and threatens the entrenched interests of others, thus creating new groups of 'winners' and 'losers' at the domestic level (Grabbe and Hughes, 1999; Miliard, 1999). The cognitive effects of the EU on the CEECs have also been immense since the early stages of the transition process. The 'return to Europe' slogan came to shape the identity and longterm strategy of the CEECs in the aftermath of the 1989 revolutions. In this process, the EU offered not only a blueprint for the political elites on the content of the needed reforms, but also an important legitimising force for 'selling' these reforms to the CEECs' electorate. The EU's role in this process is, indeed, similar to the southern European experience (Featherstone et al., 2001). The EU-imposed conditionalities underpinning the current enlargement process have been the main driving force behind the Europeanisation of the CEECs. The conditionality principle has been a central feature of the EU's strategy towards the region ever since the establishment of bilateral relations with the countries in the late 1980s. In 1993 the EU's conditions for the deepening of its relations with the CEECs were codified in what became known as the 'Copenhagen criteria', notably the existence of stable democratic institutions, the functioning of a market economy and the ability to adopt the acquis communautaire. Compliance with these criteria has helped regulate the progress of the CEECs up the ladder of the EU's contractual relations and eventually determined the content of the Commission's 1997 avis on their eligibility for starting accession negotiations. Throughout this process, the huge power asymmetries between the EU and the central and east European applicants has allowed the former to remain firmly in control of both how these conditions were set, and the way in which they were (and continue to be) assessed. Conditionality remained strong even after the first wave of accession negotiations began in 1998.

With the content of the acquis remaining non-negotiable, and with the EU's expressed determination to allow minimal transitional periods for its full implementation, the scope for the accession applicants' ability to influence the terms of their accession to the EU has been extremely limited. Instead, the successful conclusion of the negotiations has remained conditional on their ability to comply with most of the acquis prior to their entry into the EU. The way in which the conditionalities associated with EU membership have affected the process of administrative reform in applicant countries is difficult to depict. Whilst the necessity for the modernisation of the applicants' administrations has been emphasised on numerous occasions, the EU has fallen short of prescribing a specific blueprint for reform in this field (Dimitrova, 2002; Olsen, 2003). As a result, despite the EU's insistence on the speedy and full implementation of the acquis by the new Member States, the choice of administrative tools through which this is to be achieved remained very much in the hands of the applicant countries themselves. In the absence of a single 'European' model of public administration - itself a reflection of the strength and resilience of national administrative traditions across existing Member States - the role of the twinning exercise, as an instrument of policing the EU's conditionality, is indeed a peculiar one. At one level, the dispatch of civil servants from the existing Member States to lead initiatives of administrative reform in the candidate countries can be seen as a relatively advanced form of policing conditionality 'on the ground' and of reducing information asymmetries between the EU and the candidate countries. Yet the contingencies associated with the twinning operations are significant. For a start, the exercise relies heavily on processes of policy learning where the ability of the despatched civil servants to develop good working relationships with local staff has a significant bearing on the full realisation of objectives. Moreover, the very design of the exercise strongly encourages the (national) diversity of advice provided to the candidate countries, suggesting instead a softer and more diffused form of monitoring conditionality. These, coupled with the absence of a clear EU prescription for administrative reform, present the accession applicants with much greater scope for developing their own, national-specific responses to the administrative challenges posed by EU membership. Against this background it would therefore be misleading to assume that the enlargement-driven Europeanisation process produces either predetermined or uniform outcomes across the accession applicants. Indeed the EU's

Europeanising effect on the CEECs cannot be fully unpacked without reference to the domestic factors that mediate its impact at the national level. This can be amply seen from the case study presented here of twinning operations in Romania.

II. The Twinning Exercise: Institutional Design and Rationale

The improvement in the applicant countries' administrative structures with a view to the imminent opening of accession negotiations with the EU was among the top priorities of the Commission's Agenda 2000 proposals. Under the heading 'institution building', the Commission first advanced the idea that 'programmes for the long-term secondment to applicant countries of experts from the administrations of the Member States must be drawn up for each applicant in the light of the needs identified, particularly in the opinions [avis]' (Commission, 1997a, p. 4). Funding for these initiatives was to be provided by the rebalanced Phare budget which since 1997 has pledged 30 per cent of its total funds to 'institution building' (Commission, 1997a). Following five months of preparatory work, the twinning exercise was officially launched by the Commission in May 1998 with the aim of assisting the accession applicants to establish a 'modern, efficient administration that is capable of applying the acquis communautaire to the same standards as the current Member States' (Commission, 1998b, Introduction)1. The wording of the 1998 twinning manual reflected the Commission's eagerness not to repeat some of the mistakes which have tarnished the reputation of other Phare-funded projects in the past: namely, the vagueness of objectives, difficulties in monitoring progress and evaluation, and the reliance on expensive short-term western consultancy with few concrete results (Mayhew, 1998; Bailey and de Propris, 2004). For these reasons the new initiative was not designed:

to provide advice or achieve sectoral improvements. It is [instead] a sweeping operation in a specific field that must yield guaranteed results. By the time twinning ends, the applicant country should have developed an efficient,


A slightly revised version of the twinning manual, altering some procedural aspects of the exercise,

was published by the Commission in February 2000 (Commission, 2000a).


working organisation enabling it to fulfil its Community obligations. (Commission, 1998b, paragraph 1.2)

To achieve this, twinning provides for the secondment of pre-accession advisers (PAAs) from the Members States' civil services to the applicant countries for a minimum of one year with the task of importing know-how on the implementation of the acquis to national and local administrations. The design, selection, implementation and monitoring of the twinning projects is based on a triangular partnership between the Commission (both its central services and its delegations), the EU Member States and the accession applicants with each partner having varying degrees of involvement in different stages of the process. The Commission plays a crucial role in the design of twinning projects. Central services in Brussels draw up 'the legal, financial and procedural framework' of the twinning exercises, whereas their specific priorities and targets are set in collaboration with the delegations in the applicant country (Commission, 2000a). The Commission's involvement in the process of selecting twining partners is more limited, focusing merely on a co-ordinating and advisory role. The selection of twinning partner (s) lies with the applicant countries themselves2, which are free to 'forge ties with the Member State(s) whose systems best suit its own culture, organisation and national interest' (Commission, 1998b). Nevertheless, the Commission has encouraged a 'varied approach' to the selection of twinning partners in order 'to prevent the blanket duplication of a Member State's [administrative] system in an applicant country' (Commission, 1998b). In this sense, the creation of an 'administrative market' (from where the applicant countries could 'shop for' the most suitable solutions to their particular problems) has been one of the top priorities of the exercise. The precise means through which the objectives of the twinning exercise are to be achieved are decided through a period of consultation between the beneficiary authorities of the applicant country and the selected twinning partner3. In this process, the Commission acts as a facilitator, providing technical advice to the partners before the final twinning covenant is signed.

2 3

Participation of consortia from more than one Member State in a twinning project is also possible. Each twinning exercise has two 'project leaders': one from the applicant country and one from the EU Member State with the successful twinning bid. The role of two project leaders (both of whom are senior civil servants) is to oversee and support the activities of the PAAs.


The Commission has dedicated a large part of the twinning manual to the detailed description of the monitoring mechanisms of the twinning projects. Earlier accusations over the failure to monitor Phare operations in the CEECs effectively, as well as the experience gained from the distribution of the structural funds among the EU Member States, have clearly influenced the design of the twinning exercise. In keeping with their raised profile since the restructuring of the Commission's external services in 1998 (Commission 1998a, 2000b), the Commission's delegations to the applicant countries have been allocated a key role in monitoring the implementation of the twinning exercises. The delegations' powers were indeed extensive and included the right to conduct on-the-spot visits, responsibility for holding monthly meetings with the PAAs and the relevant local officials in the beneficiary authorities and the drafting of quarterly progress reports, as well as the completion of a final assessment on the implementation of the twinning project (Commission, 2000a, point 6.3). The Commission's Steering Committee forms a second line of assessment. This is a body drawn from the relevant Commission departments and chaired by the Directorate-General for Enlargement. In addition to its role as allocator of funding for twinning projects, the Steering Committee also deals with the most controversial aspects of monitoring, holding powers to withdraw or suspend funding if the implementation of a project is considered unsatisfactory (Commission, 2000a, point 7. II)4. By the end of 2001, over 500 twinning projects with an overall budget of nearly €500 million had been launched across the ten applicant countries. During the same period, Romania had benefited from 66 projects (approximately 9 per cent of the total number launched), which have attracted funding of €63.1 million (corresponding to 13.3 per cent of the total twinning budget). Out of these 66 projects, 16 have been in the field of public finance and the internal market, 13 in the field of regional policy, 12 in the JHA field, 10 in the field of agriculture and the remaining 25 divided between other policy areas. In terms of the country origin of the selected twinning partners, France has been the most popular choice of the Romanian authorities, featuring either as leader or partner in 23 projects. France is followed by Germany (15 projects), Italy and the UK (11 projects each) and the Netherlands (9 projects). (Commission, 2002a).

In addition to these regular procedures, the twinning projects can also be scrutinised through ad hoc audits by the Commission, as well as by the annual report of the EU's Court of Auditors.


III. The Operation of the Twinning Exercise in Romania

The analysis provided in this section draws on the experiences of Commis¬sion officials, PAAs and Romanian officials who have been engaged in twin¬ning projects in the areas of regional policy and JHA5. In both policy areas, Romania's progress in complying with the EU acquis has been judged as problematic. In its 1997 avis on Romania's application for EU membership, the Commission concluded that the country's regional development policy remained 'basic and incomplete' and with no comprehensive framework 'incorporating policy, legislation and instruments' (Commission, 1997b, section 3). In the field of JHA, the Commission questioned Romania's administrative capacity to handle asylum and migration questions, while the country's border management systems were judged to be 'inefficient' (Commission 1997b, section 4.2). Indeed, the slow progress of reform in these two key policy areas posed serious challenges for Romania's EU membership aspirations, particularly as it cast doubts on the country's ability to manage funds channelled through the EU's structural operations and, perhaps more importantly, its ability to protect effectively what could be the EU's external borders with countries such as Moldova, Ukraine, Serbia and the sensitive area of the Black Sea coastline. Since the launch of twinning in 1998, the sectoral distribution of projects in Romania has mirrored the importance attached by the Romanian government to the strengthening of its administrative capacity in the fields of regional policy and JHA. The prioritisation of both policy areas was also the result of strong pressure by the Commission which, from the outset, adopted a 'hands on' approach in focusing the attention of the Romanian government on areas where convergence with the acquis was lagging behind, and in suggesting specific sectors of the administration that could benefit from twinning operations. As a result, the fields of regional policy and JHA attracted 25 out of the total of 66 twinning projects launched in Romania in the period 1998-2001. During the same period nine out of the ten JHA-related projects have been placed in institutions and authorities subordinated to the Ministry of Interior6. Two

The analysis draws on semi-structured interviews with 10 officials of the European Commission in Brussels and former officials of the European Commission Delegation in Bucharest. The interviews took place in Brussels between 23 -30 April 2008. 6 The twinning project entitled 'Fight against corruption' has operated under the authority of the Ministry of Justice.


more were at the planning stage in early 2002. By the same time, two projects had been completed: one in the area of border management and control (led by a German PAA); and one in the area of asylum (led by a Danish PAA). Out of the seven ongoing projects, three dealt with border management and control (two led by German PAAs and one by a Spanish PAA), two with asylum and migration (both led by Danish PAAs), and one with the fight against organised crime (led by a British PAA). By the end of 2001, the strengthening of Romania's administrative capacity in the area of regional policy had attracted ten twinning projects7. In 2001, a series of nine interrelated projects were launched under the authority of the newly created Ministry of Development and Prognosis (MDP) focusing on the implementation of Romania's national development plan (NDP). Eight PAAs (two each from France, Italy and Germany and one each from Greece and the UK) were dispatched to Romania's development regions, in order to assist the building of administrative capacity at a regional level, whilst a 'national' PAA (the same British PAA who led the 1998 project) was placed in the MDP to develop administrative capacity at the central level and co-ordinate the activities of the eight regional PAAs. The MDP and the Ministry of Interior that oversee the implementation of most twinning projects in the fields of regional development and JHA are institutions with a contrasting history and rather different outlooks. The MDP was one of the 'new' ministries created by the government of Adrian Nastase in January 2001, through the merger of three previously independent authorities: National Agency for Regional Development (NARD), the Economic Co-ordination Council (both previously under the Prime Minister's office) and the National Co-ordination Council. De-spite its youth and relative lack of political clout within the Romanian cabinet, the MDP's policy remit - to drive an agenda of political and administrative decentralisation - has potentially been a political minefield. The legal framework for Romania's regional development policy was agreed in July 1998 (Law 151/1998) by the government of Radu Vasile. Amongst others, Law 151/1998 divided Romania into eight development regions corresponding to the EU's NUTS II level. In each development region a Regional Development Board (RDB) was established as a strategic decisionmaking body for the programming and implementation of the Regional Development


Plan (RDP) in its respective region. At the national level, a National Board for Regional Development (NBRD) was created as the main decision-making body on regional development matters, overseeing the activities of the RDBs and responsible for the preparation of Romania's NDP. At the time the MDP was created in early 2001, Law 151/1998 remained largely an 'empty shell'. The process of putting flesh on to Romania's regional development policy brought the minister and the senior leadership of the MDP into a trajectory of conflict with members of the cabinet who either feared the political implications of such a decentralisation process or struggled to preserve the administrative competences of their own ministries. At the regional level too, the implementation of Law 151/98 came up against a culture of non co-operation between the judets (Romanian counties, corresponding to the EU's NUTS III level) and a lack of initiative that mirrored decades of regional subservience towards the central administration. Internally the MDP was not best equipped to pursue such an ambitious agenda. In terms of its staffing levels, the Ministry was severely under-resourced, with its 170 staff (half of whom dealt with regional development issues) struggling to keep up with the workload. Training practices within the Ministry were also poor, leaving only a handful of people who could claim some expert knowledge of the complexities surrounding the implementation of the EU's structural operations. Levels of expertise at the regional level were even poorer. Given its short life and a history of frequent internal re-structuring that had plagued its constituent parts, and particularly the NARD8, the Ministry lacked well-established working practices and clear career structures. In addition, many within the Ministry complained that the organisation suffered from excessive politicisation that resulted in frequent changes of personnel and blockages in the decision-making process. The Ministry of Interior, on the other hand, has had a longer and rather different history. Under communism, the Ministry was a key instrument of oppression for the Ceausescu regime, overseeing both the police and the secret services, including the infamous Securitate, and was feared by Romanian citizens. Since 1989, senior positions in the Ministry have been largely purged of elements of the old order and much effort has been put into improving the Ministry's public image. However, the internal structures of the Ministry have remained relatively stable, its competences

In May 2000, the NARD underwent an extensive restructuring process following its merger with the National Agency for Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises and the National Development Agency.


have changed little since the pre-1989 period9, and its standing in the Romanian Cabinet has never been seriously undermined. In terms of its staffing policies, the Ministry is unique, employing almost exclusively non-civilian personnel even for its central administrative functions. The policy of recruitment from the military (including Romania's large number of conscripts) and from police ranks has helped it achieve exceptionally good levels of staffing when compared with other corners of the Romanian public administration. The Ministry has, for example, sustained a large and very active Directorate of European Integration with 50 staff (10 of whom were the Ministry's only civilian personnel), and has been one of the few ministries able to despatch officials to the Romanian Mission to the EU and to Romanian embassies in major European capitals. The prevailing military culture within the Ministry has also provided a shield against the extreme politicisation experienced in other ministries. Whilst incidents of party-political appointments (and dismissals) have not disappeared completely, the Ministry has retained a more stable career structure than other ministries with many of its directors and even secretaries of state surviving governmental changes. In terms of policy reform, the Ministry of Interior has been a late starter. In the area of border control, for instance, the Commission's 1997, 1998 and 1999 regular reports identified Romania as one of the main transit points of illegal immigration into Europe and were very critical of the country's ability to guard effectively its borders with Ukraine and Moldova and its Black Sea coastline, particularly the port of Constanta. For years Romania had relied on a fragmented and hugely inefficient system of border control, which was staffed by inexperienced and badly trained conscripts. This system survived with very little change until the late 1990s. In the areas of asylum and immigration too, the Commission's regular reports made reference to an outdated and confusing legal framework (dating, in some cases, back to the late 1960s), which was largely incompatible with the EU's JHA acquis. Since 2000, however, the pace of reform in both areas has increased substantially owing primarily to accession negotiations with the EU and the pursuit of NATO membership for which modernisation of security and military forces was a precondition. Hence, as part of a five-year reform strategy (2000-05), the Ministry of Interior has moved decisively towards the creation of a single professional border police service with

In 1991, the management of the prison system was transferred from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Justice.


increased funds for new equipment and training. Moreover, new laws on migration and asylum were introduced in 2001, aligning Romania's legislation with the EU's acquis. Over time, co-ordination between key JHA-related actors (such as the border police and the National Refugee Office) has been significantly improved. For most PAAs running twinning projects in the two Ministries, the adjustment to the working practices of Romania's public administration involved a steep learning curve. Surprisingly, at no point prior to their despatch to the applicant countries did PAAs receive specific training on the local culture and practices of their host administration. Most of the PAAs' training was exhausted in a two-day visit to the Commission's central services in Brussels where the main operational and budgetary procedures of the exercise were explained to them. As a result of such incomplete training, most PAAs in Romaniafaced a long and often difficult period of adjustment to their new working environment. AII of them were faced with an administration suffering from a severe lack of resources, low levels of expertise and very poor cross-departmental co-ordination. Internally, the iron discipline and rigidly hierarchical structure of the administration stifled innovation and deterred junior staff from taking initiatives. Pay was also very poor. With the average salary of a civil servant well below €100 per month, the administration was constantly losing wellqualified staff to the private sector where both pay and working conditions were better. Against this background, the arrival of highly paid foreign officials was received with mixed emotions by local Romanian staff. For some, the very high salary received by the PAAs was a point of resentment, whilst others remained fearful that twinning projects would generate an increased workload and upset bureaucratic inertia. The language barrier was also a factor constraining the PAAs' communication with their Romanian colleagues. Yet, for a number of local officials, particularly those of a younger age and a more dynamic disposition, the technocratic profile and reform agenda of the PAAs had significant appeal. In both ministries many of the young and well-qualified staff have been frustrated by the slow progress of reform, with a number of them seeing their promotion chances stifled by 'dinosaur-like' senior officials operating on the basis of political patronage and personal friendships. Indeed many of the younger and more reformist elements in the two ministries soon formed close working partnerships with the PAAs, most of whom spoke highly of the commitment and work ethic shown by these individuals.

Yet the close working relationship between the PAAs and their immediate associates alone could not guarantee the implementation of all of the objectives of the twinning projects. Ultimately this relied heavily on the efficiency of the central bureaucracy of the relevant Ministry and the reform commitment of its political leadership. This is equally true for both projects implemented within the ministries' immediate structures and those taking place in institutions falling under their wider competences (e.g. National Refugee Office and regional development agencies). Under conditions of institutional fluidity and weak decision-making structures, the PAAs ability to establish trust and good personal relations with key individuals within a ministry's hierarchy has been a key determinant in the full implementation of each twinning project. Of crucial importance in this respect has been the working partnership between the PAAs and a number of directors and secretaries of state within each ministry, particularly those heading directorates relevant to the project's policy focus as well as those holding the European integration portfolio. Most PAAs, for instance, depended on the relevant directors, either in their capacity as project leaders on the Romanian side or as senior officials with the authority to allocate the administrative resources needed for the implementation of projects. At a more senior level, secretaries of state have played a crucial role in 'filtering' access to the Minister (with whom PAAs have generally had little or no direct contact) and providing political impetus for the implementation of politically and economically costly reforms initiated by the twinning projects. Most PAAs in the Ministry of Interior enjoyed a close working relationship with both the Head of the European Integration Directorate and the Secretary of State for European Integration10. Both officials seemed to have taken a keen interest in supporting the twinning projects in the Ministry and their efforts in this direction were highly regarded by most PAAs. The commitment and organisational skill of the two officials, along with the more general commitment of the Ministry's political leadership to reform in the field of JHA (as part of Romanian's aspirations for both EU and NATO membership) may go a long way towards explaining the relative success - at least in terms of project implementation - of most twinning projects in the Ministry of Interior.


Those PAAs who led twinning projects in the areas of asylum and immigration also reported a close working partnership with their project leader and the Director of the National Refugee Office.


The situation in the Ministry of Development and Prognosis (MDP) was rather more mixed. For the 1998 National Agency for Regional Development (NARD) project, the PAA had a good partnership with his Romanian project leader (and head of NARD's Training Directorate), but the PAAs proposals for the introduction of new training and human resources practices in the agency were never actually implemented. Among the factors that might have contributed to this failure was the eventual incorporation of the NARD into the MDP, and the scepticism shown by the political leadership of the latter to pursue the recommendations of a project that was associated with the previous government. For the 2001 twinning project in the central services of the MDP, the PAA enjoyed a close partnership with his project leader (the Director for Regional Programmes in the ministry). The successful implementation of the 2001 project, however, depended on a number of variables, not least on the level of co-operation between the 'regional' PAAs and their respective project leaders (i.e. Directors of the Regional Development Boards), as well as on the ability and willingness of the political leadership in the MDP to implement the required reforms. In addition to project-specific problems and the difficulties of adjusting to the local administrative culture, virtually all PAAs struggled to keep up with the administrative requirements imposed on them by the very design of the twinning exercise. Since the collapse of the Santer Commission in 1999, the monitoring procedures on the budget of the EU's foreign assistance programmes were significantly tightened up. The new rules made the preparatory stages of the twinning exercise laborious and lengthy. Both Romanian officials and PAAs, for example, complained that the intervening period between the selection of a twinning partner and the actual start of a project often exceeded 12 months. But even when a project was under way, the over-bureaucratisation of the exercise had a major impact on the workload of the PAAs, many of whom complained that a disproportionate amount of their time was devoted to administration rather than to the actual realisation of the project's objectives. The rigidity and complexity of the twinning manual (the rule book of the twinning exercises) made it difficult for the PAAs to arrange training sessions and short-term visits by experts to Romania, while even the most trivial change in the project's budget could become the subject of lengthy consultations between the PAAs and the Commission's central services. Added to their concerns over the bureaucratization of their projects, many PAAs felt that the design of the twinning exercise left them in a somewhat grey area:

stuck between their home administrations, their Romanian hosts and the Commission's services (both in Brussels and in the Delegation in Bucharest). Confronted with this unclear structure, many PAAs complained that their loyalties were divided, not knowing for whom they really worked and to whom they should turn for support. As a result, the pattern of support networks established by PAAs to facilitate the objectives of their projects remained diverse. In all cases the PAAs' contact with the Commission's central services in Brussels was limited. Instead, following their despatch to Romania, the Commission's Delegation in Bucharest became their main point of contact. At a personal level, many PAAs found their monthly meetings at the Delegation useful. Yet professionally, PAAs in both the MDP and the Ministry of Interior found the Delegation rather ineffective and slow to react to their requests. These problems might have been directly related to the fact that in both policy areas (JHA and regional policy) the delegation had been adversely affected by the departure of well-respected officials who had developed good working relations with both ministries. On a more general level, however, these difficulties reflected the upheaval caused by the significant expansion of the Delegations' responsibilities following the reform of the Commission's external services in 1998 which was, nevertheless, not accompanied by an adequate increase of resources (both human and financial) which would have allowed them to cope effectively with their expanded workload. The support PAAs received from their home administrations varied, and was heavily dependent on the commitment by the project leader from the Member State administration to the work carried out by the PAA. In certain cases, the criticism of home administrations was strong, but there were occasions where their limited support was, in part, compensated for by the efforts of the Embassy in Bucharest to provide support for projects. In other cases, however, PAAs reported a close working relationship with their colleagues back home. Overall, the views of the PAAs in the two ministries do not provide a clear template for a global assessment of the commitment of Member States' administrations to the twinning exercise along national or sectoral lines. Indeed the emerging picture is a rather patchy one, determined largely by bureaucratic considerations 'on the ground', i.e. the ability of individual departments in the Member States' public administrations to commit the necessary resources (financial, human, time) to support the PAAs' activities.


An overall assessment of the impact of twinning projects in the two ministries is indeed difficult, and depends to a large extent on the yardstick with which one chooses to measure their success. Broadly speaking, PAAs who led twinning projects in the Ministry of Interior experienced a smoother collaboration with their local colleagues (and greater progress of reform) in implementing their projects than those PAAs working in the MDP. A number of factors may have contributed to this: the relatively stable internal structures of the Ministry of Interior; the reform commitment of sorne key officials in its ranks; and the prioritisation by the Romanian government of JHA-related reforms as part of the country's quest for EU and NATO membership. Yet, the final assessment of a project's success in changing administrative structures and practices was also inevitably shaped by individual perceptions and expectations. Many PAAs, particularly those who were working in Central and Eastern Europe for the first time, arrived in Romania with high hopes of their ability to act as reform agents - an optimism that was also reflected in the ambitious targets set by their projects. Along the way, however, and faced by the painfully slow reform reflexes of the Romanian administration, many of them grew increasingly frustrated with their inability to initiate change 'on the ground' and began to challenge the purpose of the whole exercise. Other PAAs, however, particularly those who had previous experience of assistance programmes in the CEECs, took a more sober view of their role, recognising the limited capabilities of the Romanian administration to meet their full reform agenda. In general, the most influential twinning projects have been those led by PAAs who were able to reconcile themselves with the modest surroundings in which they had to work and try to utilise their expertise in ways that could be absorbed and maintained by Romania's evolving and unpredictable public administration. The limitations under which the twinning exercise has had to operate across Central and Eastern Europe have not escaped the Commission. Some of its officials privately recognise that even an achievement rate of 10-15 per cent of the projects' stated objectives should be considered a success11 The sustainability of the reform generated by twinning projects is indeed another crucial factor in assessing the exercise's overall success. The relative failure of the 1998 project in the NARD is a good example of how institutional fluidity and

The Commission has undertaken an informal, internal assessment of all twinning projects launched in 1998 (Commission, 2002b). Little can be gleaned from the assessment since, as Commission officials acknowledge, the exercise lacked either a coherent methodological approach or detailed analysis.


excessive politicisation in the Romanian administration could jeopardize the implementation and sustainability of the proposed reforms. The longer-term consequences of the twinning operations on Romania's 'administrative culture' are also difficult to assess. PAAs and Romanian officials alike have argued that, even though the practical reforms introduced as a result of twinning projects have not always been extensive, the exposure of local staff to the expertise and experience of PAAs was producing strong pressures for rationalisation of administrative proactices and would, in the long run, pose a serious challenge to the Romanian way of 'doing things'. This, however, is by no means a fore-gone conclusion. Evidence from ‘old’ EU Member States themselves has revealed remarkable resilience by national public administrations in resisting European pressures and keeping their 'national character' intact (Heritier, 1998). In the Romanian case, as indeed in the cases of most southern European members of the EU, the ability of the public administration to resist the rationalising effects of both actual and potential EU membership may be further amplified by the fact that its reform has been an area of heated party political contestation.

IV. Conclusion

The study of the twinning exercise provides a useful insight into the dynamics of administrative change in central and eastern Europe and the EU's role in shaping this process. As the drive towards EU accession has accelerated over the last few years, all applicant countries have struggled to cope with the demands placed on their public administrations by the enlargement process. Responding to the demands of the EU, and meeting the obligations contained in the 31 chapters of the accession negotiations, have stretched the resources of the applicants' administrations to their limits and have demanded from them previously unthinkable levels of efficiency and interdepartmental co-ordination. Added to these pressures, the EU's determination to ensure the applicants' full compliance with the acquis prior to their entry into the club has introduced a new sense of urgency and vigour into the process of administrative reform across the region. Against this background, this paper argues that a conception of Europeanisation as a process confined exclusively to the existing EU Member States is misleading. Instead, the relevance of Europeanisation as a framework of understanding domestic change stretches beyond the geographical borders of the EU,

providing a valuable resource in understanding the complex and unpredictable process of post-communist transition in central and eastern Europe. Yet, both the precise nature and outcome of the enlargement-driven Europeanisation of the accession applicants remain unclear. Evidence from the implementation of twinning projects in Romaniaillustrates a number of contingencies associated with initiatives of administrative reform. Some of these contingencies were naturally related to the very design of the exercise, which favoured the creation of an 'administrative market' whereby the applicant countries were encouraged to select twinning partners with diverse administrative histories and cultures. Others referred to the institutional fluidity and politicisation characterising the Romanian administration, as well as to the outiook and reform commitment of the ministries that hosted twinning projects. Individual agency has also been a crucial feature of this process. In an unpredictable and often overwhelming working environment, the PAAs' ability to foster good working relations with their immediate associates and with key officials within the ministerial hierarchy has been an important ingredient for ensuring project implementation. A great deal of ingenuity on the part of the PAAs was also required in negotiating the over-bureaucratized rules of the twinning exercise and in maintaining the fine balance of the three-party partnership between the partner administrations and the Commission on which the implementation of each twinning project depended. This paper has demonstrated how the interplay between these contingencies produced different reform dynamics in the two ministries studied. The Ministry of Interior exploited far more the reform potential of the twinning exercise than the Ministry of Development and Prognosis In this sense, Europeanisation seems to have had a diverse impact on different corners of the Romanian administration. The diverse and non-linear nature of Europeanisation has also been highlighted by a number of recent cross-national studies that revealed significant discrepancies in the extent and pattern of administrative reforms in the accession applicants (Goetz, 2001a). Some of these discrepancies can be explained by the relatively 'soft' EU conditionalities in the field of reform. Whilst much pressure has been put on the applicant countries to improve their administrative capacity in the light of accession, the EU has fallen well short of prescribing specific blueprints for reform in this field, despite the fact that the fluidity surrounding the post-communist administrations in Central and Eastern Europe offered fertile ground for the opposite. The EU's inability to act decisively in

this field reflects its own internal diversities, where the resilience of national administrative traditions has prevented the emergence of a single 'European' model of public administration (Rometsch and Wessels, 1996; Olsen, 2003). The absence of a clear 'EU preference', coupled with the fragmented and diverse manner in which the EU has chosen to 'police' administrative reform in Central and Eastern Europe, reinforces the significance of domestic factors mediating the Europeanisation of the accession applicants. The unpacking of domestic contexts has often been the missing link in Europeanisation studies, many of which have either assumed a linear direction or have underestimated the ability of domestic actors and institutions to resist European pressure or accommodate it without losing their 'core logic'. Yet, failure to account for the wealth of contextual factors underpinning the process of Europeanisation at the domestic level would greatly undermine our understanding of the distinctive patterns and outcomes of reforms across different policy sectors and accession applicants. Understanding how and why such reforms came to be, however, is both an essential part of the CEECs' recent history and a key ingredient of a successful EU enlargement.


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