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Talking the talk of the European Union. A public choice approach to the selection of bureaucrats in Romania


  • Iancu, Diana Camelia
  • Ungureanu, Daniel Mihai


This article deals with the selection of bureaucrats in the Romanian public administration. Our inquiry is framed within the Public Choice Theory and has two main parts. The first one (A), the theoretical one, the authors present: A1) the weberian approach on bureaucracy; A2) a review of the public choice theory on bureaucracy; and formulate: A3) a theory of institutional change and public bureaucrats selection. The part ends by A4) describing the research methodology. In the second part (B), the applied one, the authors perform B1) an in-depth examination of the civil service legislation of 1990-2009. Finally, B2) they make a policy proposal for the reform of the civil service in Romania. The authors' contribution to extending knowledge in the field of civil service research consists in their refinement of Reid and Kurth theory of organizational change (1988), (1989) and in the application of this refined theory to the Romanian case. The new theory predicted that Romanian politicians faced inefficiency in maintaining a highly politicized civil service while accessing the European Union and, for that reason one should observe a de-politicization of the public bureaucrats' selection system up to January 2007, followed by a re-politicization after January 2007. Our documentary research confirmed the prediction. Methodology: We analyze the legislation applicable in the case of civil service selection between 1990 and 2009, and focus on 1993-2009 (for reasons which depend upon Romania's official relation with the European Union). In order to analyze these documents, we use a dimensional perspective, i.e. we list a series of attributes, which a politicized system of selecting civil servants should exhibit. These attributes are to be grouped into four classes: recruitment, assessment, promotion and mobility. On the basis of these attributes we aim at showing to what extent bureaucrats' selection procedures in Romania describe a politicized public administration. In analyzing documents we depart from the following proposition, deriving from our theory: when institutions offer politicians the opportunity to politicize public administration, then they will politicize it. For the case of the selection of bureaucrats, the European Union expected Romania to provide evidence of equal access to civil service, merit-based competitions, politically neutral service, decentralized personnel management and sustainable development of a professionalized civil service. In other words, having a de-politicized and professional civil service were (at least) the two conditions needed to Romanian politicians to tick the box of civil service reform. Our theory implies that these formal demands were at least partly translated into institutional changes. The theory suggests also that after the accession to the European Union (January 2007), a new re-politicization of the selection process of civil service began. Selective References: Gajduschek, G. 2007. Politicisation, Professionalisation, or both? Hungary's Civil Service System. Communist and Post-Communist Studies 40, pp.343-362; Reid Jr., J.D.; Kurth, M.M. 1988. Public Employees in Political Firms: Part A. The Patronage Era. Public Choice 59, pp.253-262; Reid Jr., J.D.; Kurth, M.M. 1989. Public Employees in Political Firms: Part B. Civil Service and Militancy. Public Choice 60, pp.41-54.

Suggested Citation

  • Iancu, Diana Camelia & Ungureanu, Daniel Mihai, 2010. "Talking the talk of the European Union. A public choice approach to the selection of bureaucrats in Romania," Apas Papers 46, Academic Public Administration Studies Archive - APAS.
  • Handle: RePEc:nsu:apasro:46

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    Bureaucracy; reform; politization;


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