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De-capturing the Public Sector and the Administrative Apparatus: The Unfinished Business of Implementing EU’s Urgent Reform Priorities of 2015

You can download the study at the link below.

Extract from the study:

  1. The Definition of State Capture in the Context of Hybrid Regimes in Eastern Europe

It is essential to note that the notion of “state capture” as used in in this study is based on its contextual determination referring to the authoritarian policy making and governance in Eastern Europe mainly, in particular in the countries part of the EU (Hungary) or in an accession process (North Macedonia, Serbia under Aleksandar Vučić). We have elaborated the use of this notion in previous studies, analyses of the era of Nikola Gruevski in North Macedonia and the political crisis that brought forth European Commission’s Urgent Reform Priorities (2015) set for the country targeting the problem of “state capture” specifically and the early parliamentary elections held in December 2016. In said studies,[1] basing our analyses to a great extent on the elaborations of the notions of “illiberal democracy” and hybrid regimes in Eastern Europe published mainly in several issues of the Journal of Democracy[2] but not only, we have defined the specific type of “state capture” as blurring of state and party, thus grounded in populism, amounting structurally to an excessive power of the executive branch. The latter consists in the type of governance which identifies state institutions, administration in particular, power with the ruling party and its program, becoming its (party’s) instrument of execution rather than of the legislative branch which is reduced to an empty form manipulated through heavy-handed party control to legitimize the predetermined intentions and actions of the executive branch.[3]

As noted in the EU progress report, even in a relatively stable situation, such as the end of 2015 and most of 2016, the Macedonian Parliament displayed weak legislative and oversight functions. This assessment can be explained through the presentation of its work which the ISSHS proffered in the previous CW: the Parliament is subordinated to and works in concert with the narrow ruling elite, while the parliamentary majority acts as a mere “voting machine” of the legislative acts proposed by the executive branch. A significant amount of political will and concrete measures are needed to substantially improve its performance as a forum for constructive political dialogue and representation, according to the EU Progress Report.[4]

Similar studies have been undertaken, operating with the notion of “state capture” as defined here (including in the EU progress report of 2016)[5]  as well as elsewhere such as by the Open Society Institute in Hungary in order to assess the policy climate which led or corroborated the Foundation’s decision to leave Budapest which was completed in 2018.

In 2016 the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities – Skopje (ISSHS) popularized the notion and the approach of analysis through its NED supported campaign of explaining “state capture” as defined in the opening paragraph – thus exceeding the issue of corruption and unravelling the method of this particular EU-technocratic authoritarianism. ISSHS also presented the notion and its case in point in North Macedonia in front of the policy makers in Brussels, representatives of the Commission as well as European MP’s, at a roundtable in December 2015 at the European Policy Center, which was then reflected in the EU progress report on the country that followed later next year.

Thus, authoritarianism was demonstrated as embedded in EU aligned policies of the institutions of the state, thus the administration and the public sector more generally. In this study we want to return to this question and examine the discrepancy between the rhetoric of the ruling center-left party and the policies in place in the public sector and in the administration. The intention is to look at the values the existing style of administration seems to relies on, thus a philosophy of governance, in order to ask a simple question: dominant political rhetoric aside, has North Macedonia really moved beyond authoritarian governance judging by the treatment of the Citizen? We consider this question as part of the issue of the country’s compliance with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, referring to the Article 41 of the Charter more specifically (but not only), which is a question to be discussed below. We argue that for a substantive adherence to the EU accession chapter 23, Human rights and rule of law, the right to good administration and a public sector that puts the citizen at its center is of key importance. Good administration is not value-free, and there is a difference between the European values of good governance, including the administrative sector and the authoritarian one regardless of whether in the guise of EU technocracy or otherwise.  In October 2019, France vetoed North Macedonia’s and Albania’s opening negotiations of accession based on precisely its insistence that the formal and nominal adherence to the European principles of governance was not enough, and that a substantive sectoral transformation was required. Due to this observation, the EU adjusted the accession methodology.

[1] Katerina Kolozova, The Uses and Abuses of Neoliberalism and Technocracy in the Post-totalitarian Regimes in Eastern Europe: The Case of Macedonia (Skopje: Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities, 2016), available at the Central and Eastern Europe Online Library URL https://www.ceeol.com/search/book-detail?id=606574, accessed on 10 September 2021. Compare also: Katerina Kolozova “The Uses and Abuses of Neoliberalism and Technocracy in the Post-totalitarian Regimes in Eastern Europe: The Case of Macedonia” in Victor Fridman, Goran Janev and George Vlahov (eds.), Macedonia & Its Questions: Origins, Margins, Ruptures & Continuity (Berlin: Peter Lang GmbH Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften Berlin 2020 [DOI 10.3276/b17262]), p.184 – 201.

[2]  Michael F. Plattner, “Illiberal Democracy and the Struggle on the Right,” Journal of Democracy Vol. 30, no. 1 (2019), 5-19; Jacques Rupnik, “The Specter Haunting Europe: Surging Illiberalism in the East,” Journal of Democracy Vol. 27, no. 4 (2016): 77–87.

[3] Gordan Georgiev and Katerina Kolozova, A House Ready to Crumble? Putting Back the Building Blocks of Macedonia’s Parliamentary Democracy (Skopje: Institute of Social Sciences and humanities [Институтот за општествени и хуманистички науки – Скопје], 2018), available at Central and Eastern European Online Library URL https://www.ceeol.com/search/gray-literature-detail?id=624563, accessed on 10 September 2021.

[4] Annual Context Watch of North Macedonia 2017, produced by ISSHS upon the commission of the Swiss Embassy in North Macedonia, p. 4-6.

[5]  European Commission, “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 2016 Progress Report” (Brussels: 9 November 2016), available at https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/system/files/2018-12/20161109_report_the_former_yugoslav_republic_of_macedonia.pdf, accessed on 08 August 2017.