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German Research Institute for Public Administration

The European Administrative Space

European Integration has profound impacts on the governance and administration of the member states. EU law drives an on-going convergence of national legal systems and increasingly intense cooperation among national administrations themselves and between them and the organs, institutions and authorities of the European Union. The latter, in particular, has led to an understanding in political, administrative, and legal sciences that the European Union can be described as a “European Administrative Space”. Within this European Administrative Space the cooperating entities and authorities of the member states and the European Union act as an “integrated administration”.

Following from this observation an important question, one requiring innovative research, concerns the existing political and administrative leeway that the member states possess regarding European integration. Political and administrative leeway and its transformations in a multi-level system are crucial determinants of for governance, democratic legitimation of state action, and, not least, for the practical outcomes of the process of Europeanisation of government and politics.

Recently, the financial crisis and especially the “refugee crisis” have clarified and highlighted the still enormous differences in the laws and administrative systems of the member states of the European Union. The member state’s governments have, for instance, different political priorities (even concerning the implementation of EU law) as well as different understandings of democratic rules, including the roles of the legislator, the judges, the administration, and of the rule of law. They have different administrative cultures, in particular as regards the structure, tasks, routines and organisation of administrations, the professional training of civil servants and accountability. From a legal point of view this “diversity” of the member state’s administrative systems is even understood as a basis of European integration. Following Article 4 paragraph 2 TEU (Treaty on the European Union): “the Union shall respect the equality of Member states before the Treaties as well as their national identities, inherent in their fundamental structures, political and constitutional, inclusive of regional and local self-government. It shall respect their essential state functions, including ensuring the territorial integrity of the State, maintaining law and order and safeguarding national security. In particular, national security remains the sole responsibility of each Member state”. The divergence of member state’s administrative systems is again reflected and accepted by Article 197 TFEU (Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union). Even while this provision proclaims that effective implementation of Union law by member states is essential for the proper functioning of the Union and shall be regarded as a matter of common interest, the power of the EU to support the “efforts of the Member States to improve the capacity of their administrative capacity to implement Union law” is very limited.

With a focus on change, rather than continuity, existing research on EU convergence conveys a picture of a member states’ policy and administration which is largely determined by European law and European policymaking. This focus may give the impression that European integration in administrative matters has already gone very far and that member state’s administrative and governmental systems have become quite similar due to this European harmonisation. This impression is reflected in the striking and oft repeated “80% myth”, the claim that “80 percent of the laws enacted in the Member States go back to EU legislation” (1988 statement of the Commission President Jacques Delors).

    Our research within this area is being carried out through different interconnected projects analyzing specific issues. Within these projects, the research examines the European Administrative Space from three perspectives:
  • The emergence of a supranational executive order
  • The transformation of the national administrative systems
  • The internationalization of the European Administrative Space

It is crucial that the research questions analyzed within the individual research projects are interlocked in a way that allows them to enlighten “strategic” parts of the underlying general research field, which is the policy-making options available to member state’s governments and administrations within the EU legislative framework and through the EU institutions. In this way, the results of the initial individual projects will provide ideas that can contribute to the development of an overall picture of the flexibility of the EU legal framework and the maneuver room – the space for action – that national governments and administrations possess within this framework.

Current projects

  • Europeanization and internationalization of national public administrations from a comparative perspective
  • Theory of the forms of action of the EU administration
  • Policy implementation in international contexts in mixed fora
  • Opposition in the EU implementation process: Determinants of national actions for annulment against the European Commission


Programme Director

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Stelkens

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Stelkens




Prof. Dr. Cristina Fraenkel-Haeberle



Contribution to the Blog 'European Commonwealth'