Politics of Bureaucracy:
Roles of Top Public Officials
in Turbulent Times

Trans-European Dialogue Conference Conference program

Call for participation

Institute of Public Policy, Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences Conference program

Bratislava, Slovakia

February 12–13, 2020 Conference program


European Group for Public Administration


European Group for Public Administration

Network of Institutes and Schools of Public Administration in Central and Eastern Europe


Network of Institutes and Schools of Public Administration in Central and Eastern Europe

Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences at Comenius University


Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences

Comenius University


Institute of Public Policy

Comenius University
Bratislava City Council
Bratislava City District
Comenius University Library

About TED

The Trans-European Dialogue (TED) is a scholarly conference organized jointly by the two key professional associations of Public Administration in Europe.

Those associations are the European Group for Public Administration (EGPA) and the Network of Institutes and Schools of Public Administration in Central and Eastern Europe (NISPAcee).

It is a high-level, focused conference on a timely topic in Public Administration (PA) that will profit from bringing together senior experts from different regions, thereby facilitating interchange and discussion across Europe and even including Central Asia and the Caucasus, which also belongs to NISPAcee’ s area.

Participants of TED events include high-level and senior researchers and practitioners.

Welcome To Our Event

Traditionally, the relationships of politics and public administration has been at the heart of public administration scholarship. Nevertheless, contemporary turbulent times – migration, the rise of populism and democratic backsliding, or Brexit and the integration fatigue just to name a few factors – put the dichotomy of this relationship into question, with empirical research suggesting that politicization is on the increase. At the same time, complex conditions and external and internal pressures call for elected and recruited leaders that would be able to navigate our political systems through times of change while ensuring the reliability of state institutions; nevertheless, the roles, tasks and values of top public officials have not traditionally been associated with change. Participants of TED2020 will therefore address top public officials and the nature of their work: their careers, expertise and experience; their competencies, values, roles and practices including the interface between politics and public administration; as well as their impact on delivery, public value, and the institutional architecture of the state especially in the context of policy and management crises.

Keynote Speakers

How to apply

At TED2020, all of the participants shall play an active role. Participants, up to a maximum of 50 researchers and high-level practitioners, will be selected based upon their topical relevance and level of recognition in the field. The space of 1.5 days will be structured into thematic sessions, each of which starting with a keynote input and followed by a round of discussion with participants’ contributions – debate and broad discussion based on participants former research and practical experience. Thus, TED welcomes contributions from academics and practitioners. We kindly invite participants to develop and submit one or both of the following as the condition for registration:

1. One or two brief(s) (100–300 words long) propositions related to a conference theme, along with an explanation of how the propositions reflect their research interests and activities.

2. A proposal (abstract) of a full paper (500–750 words long) to be briefly presented during TED2020 in one of the thematic sessions, underlining key arguments for the discussions of one specific topic chosen by the participant. A proposal/abstract indicates the intent of the participant for a brief presentation and further development into a full paper after the conference (to be considered for NISPAcee Journal of Public Administration and Policy).

Registration is closed!


Professor of Policy and Administration at the Department of Political Science and Research Professor at ARENA Centre for European Studies, both at the University of Oslo (Norway). He is also Fellow at the Hertie School of Governance (Berlin, Germany). He is a political scientist specializing in executive politics and comparative public administration. His research interests include the selection and de-selection of senior public officials, the politics of public sector reform, organizational decision-making, and the interplay of political control and bureaucratic autonomy. His research has been published in leading journals of the field, such as the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Governance, Public Administration, and Public Management Review.

Topic 1. CAREER PATHS: Who are top public officials and where do they come from?

Keynote: Tobias Bach (University of Oslo, Norway)

Issues to be discussed:

  • What is the degree of staff mobility within the public sector and between the public, private and NGO sectors?
  • To what extent do top public officials possess political exposure and/or managerial experience?
  • How closely are top public officials’ careers connected to politicians’ careers?
Professor of Political Science at the University of Nottingham, School of Politics and International Relations. He holds a PhD from the London School of Economics and was a Max Weber Fellow and a Fernand Braudel Senior Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence. Prof Meyer-Sahling has been the author of OECD-SIGMA Reports on civil service professionalisation in Central and Eastern Europe and in the Western Balkans. He currently co-leads a project on ‘Civil Service Reform and Anti-Corruption in Developing Countries’ funded by the Global Integrity – DFID Anti-Corruption Evidence Programme.


Keynote: Jan-Hinrik Meyer-Sahling (University of Nottingham, United Kingdom)

Issues to be discussed:

  • When is politicization compatible with meritocratic principles?
  • What relative role do various drivers of professionalization such as HR standards, leadership, organizational culture or competencies/trainings play?
  • Do the assumed benefits of professionalization translate into organizational outcomes?
head of Centre for Social and Economic Strategies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University, Prague. For almost ten years he had been head of the Department of Public and Social Policy at the same faculty. His research interests include policy work, policy analysis, politico-administrative relations, policy design and educational policy. He has been involved in numerous projects. Recently he has been principal investigator of the project “Policy Workers in the Czech Public Administration: Practices, Professional Values and Identity” and “Using social science research in analytical activities for strategic decision-making in public administration”.  Currently, he is a principal investigator of the project “Individual and Contextual Predictors of Policy Instrument Attitudes”.a

Topic 3. TASKS AND PRACTICES: What do we empirically know about what top public officials actually do?

Keynote: Arnošt Veselý (Charles University, Prague, Czech)

Issues to be discussed:

  • How do roles, tasks and practices of top public officials and public managers change in time?
  • How can individual and organizational capability be measured and what is their relation?
  • Can specific managerial styles in relation to accountability mechanisms of public institutions be identified?
Associate Professor at the Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia. Before joining the Nurkse Department in 2007 she worked for the Estonian Government Office. Külli Sarapuu has been engaged as an expert and lecturer in various projects focusing on the functioning of the Estonian public sector. Her research focuses on public sector organization, civil service systems, senior civil service, public sector coordination and the governance of small states. She has taken a special interest in the post-communist transformation of administrative structure in Central and Eastern Europe and has published broadly on the respective changes in Estonia. Külli Sarapuu’s current research projects include Coordination Instruments at the Center of Government: Opportunities and Limitations of Temporary Task Forces (personal grant by the Estonian Research Council) and Navigating the Storm: Small States in the EU (EU Jean Monnet Network). She is a member of NISPAcee steering committee and co-chair of the European Group for Public Administration (EGPA) permanent study group “Governance of Public Sector Organizations”.

Topic 4. ACCOUNTABILITY AND LEGITIMACY: How is the politics-administration dichotomy changing overtime?

Keynote: Külli Sarapuu (Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia)

Issues to be discussed:

  • What changes do we see in the relationship between politicians and top public servants?
  • What roles do top public officials play in emerging collaborative structures and decision-making bodies?
  • How do the transforming institutional landscape and challenging policy environment influence accountability and legitimacy of top public servants?
Professor of Public Management at the Department of Economics and Management at the University of Kassel, Germany. Before coming to Kassel, she was an Interim Professor in Public Administration at the University of Bamberg, Germany. She received her doctorate at the Department of Economics and Social Sciences  at the University of Potsdam with a thesis on the implementation of better regulation reforms in Germany and Sweden. Her research concentrates on career patterns in public administration, on civil servants‘ role perceptions and on political-administrative relations in comparative perspective.

Topic 5. POLICY ADVICE: Where does policy advice come from?

Keynote: Sylvia Veit (University of Kassel, Germany)

Issues to be discussed:

  • When is policy advice credible and how is ‘expertise’ constructed in postfactual times?
  • How does the mutually legitimating relationship between policy advice and political power change over time?
  • How is expertise managed in order to deliver timely inputs for decision making?
coordinates the Competence Centre for Administrative Sciences at the University of Applied Science FH Campus Wien, Vienna, where he is also a Lecturer in the Bachelor and Master programmes of Public Management. He also closely cooperates with the Institute for Public Policy at the Comenius University in Bratislava. His educational background lies in sociology of social practice, environmental politics and international relations. His research interests include public administration and policy practice (with focus on documentation, knowledge and organizational culture), advisory systems, ethnography of public administration and policy, and sustainable consumption.

Topic 6. PUBLIC VALUE: Useful concepts and early empirical experience

Keynote: Michal Sedlačko (University of Applied Science FH Campus Wien, Austria)

Issues to be discussed:

  • How to articulate and measure public value, public interest and wellbeing in current turbulent times?
  • How can public value be operationalized into organizational structure and processes?
  • What is the role of top public officials in delivering and communicating public value?

Organizing Committee

Useful information

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Institute of Public Policy,
Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences,
Comenius University in Bratislava

Mlynské luhy 4, 821 05 Bratislava, Slovakia

Phone: +421 2 20669859