P21 Divergent Policy Reform paths in Central and Eastern Europe

Corresponding Chair

Diana-Camelia Iancu
(Dean, Faculty of Public Administration; Senior manager CIVICA, The European University of Social Sciences; National University of Political Studies and Public Administration. Contact email: diana.iancu@snspa.ro 

Review Group Chair

Attila Bartha
Associate Professor, Corvinus University of Budapest; Center for Social Sciences, Budapest. Contact email: attila.bartha@uni-corvinus.hu 


We are living in a turbulent world and societal problems are novel, complex and wicked. Policymakers globally are confronted with multiple problems such as global warming, climate changes, energy production, the sustainability and quality of our natural resources, food and water security. The wicked problem of national interest and protection is evident when dealing with the migration of people in search of economic opportunities. World peace is threatened by active and passive conflicts impacting the socio-economic fibre of society– The persistent triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality remain and policymakers alone do not have the answer. In different agora, be it multinational, or deeply local, European or otherwise, the very foundation of democracy is under threat (Nichols, 2021; Agh, 2015).

Social scientists have long disputed the efficacy of the state to address the current and future challenges: they’ve measured economic outputs, evaluated performances and effectiveness, analysed the organizational readiness to reform and found the state wanting. Scholars (Peters and Fontaine, 2022; Karv, 2021; Börzel and Schimmelfennig 2017; Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2017) use different variables such as multi-faceted social, economic and political contexts, a path dependent leadership, overall institutional fragility, the communist legacy to assess the states capacity to govern. Less established and more fragile democracies of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) tend to be more vulnerable in these turbulent times, although governments in the CEE region have followed conspicuously divergent policy reform paths.

This Call looks into past performances to better understand the future (Cianetti and Hanley, 2021; Ongaro, 2019; Dandashly and Verdun, 2018; Bermeo, 2016; Knill et al. 2012). We invite contributors interested in explaining the why-s behind the laggards in policy reforms targeting better governance in the CEE region to submit their contributions (research or policy papers) and focus on:

  1. Public management Reform and Governance
    1. The resilience of anti-democratic leadership in the CEE region.
    2. What explains the backsliding in public management reforms and the overall poorer democratic quality of governance in certain new Members of the European Union?
    3. What impact populist attitudes have had on effectiveness and fairness of bureaucratic procedures and the integrity of bureaucratic actors?
  2. The persistent challenges for public service management in urban and rural areas, central and local governments across the CEE region.
    1. How do local governments balance their mandates against the expectations of their communities?
    2. To what extent do local and regional governments update their reform strategies and instruments for ensuring co-design and co-production of their services?
    3. And what consequences has the recent pandemic had on the partnership of governments with their citizens?
  3. Trust in government.
    1. In an open society under fragile democracy context, how can governments reclaim their citizens’ trust?
    2. What strategies are necessary to give back the voice to the communities and / or build a civic-wise attitude towards policymaking?


All contributors invited to join our sessions in Budapest will have the opportunity to discuss their papers with the chairs, appointed discussants and general audience.



Ágh, A. (2015). De-Europeanization and de-democratization trends in ECE: From Potemkin democracy to the elected autocracy in Hungary. Journal of Comparative Politics 8(2), pp. 4-26

Bermeo, N. (2016). On democratic backsliding. Journal of Democracy 27(1), pp.5-19.

Börzel, T.; Schimmelfennig, F. (2017) Coming together or drifting apart? The EU’s political integration capacity in Eastern Europe, Journal of European Public Policy 24(2), pp. 278-296.

Cianetti, L.; Hanley, S. (2021) The end of Backsliding Paradigm, Journal of Democracy 32(1), pp. 66-80.

Dandashly, A.; Verdun, A. (2018) Euro adoption in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland: Laggards by default and laggards by choice, Comparative European Politics 16, pp. 385-412.

Karv, T. (2021) Does the democratic performance really matter for regime support? Evidence from the post-communist Member States of the European Union, East European Politics, 38(1), pp. 61-82.

Knill, C.; Heichel, S.; Arndt, D. (2012) Really a front-runner, really a Straggler? Of environmental leaders and laggards in the European Union and beyond — A quantitative policy perspective, Energy Policy 48, pp. 36-45.

Nichols, T. (2021) Our Own Worst Enemy, The Assault from Within on Modern Democracy, New York: Oxford University Press.

Ongaro E. (ed.) (2019) Public Administration in Europe. Governance and Public Management. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Peters, G.; Fontaine G. eds. (2022) Research Handbook of Policy Design, Cheltenham and Northampton, Edward Edgar Publishing.

Pollitt, C.; Bouckaert, G. (2017) Public Management Reform: A Comparative Analysis – Into the Age of Austerity, 4th edition, New York: Oxford University Press.