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The role of EU funding in EU member states: building administrative capacity to advance administrative reforms

Vitalis Nakrošis (PPMI, Vilnius, Lithuania) (Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania)
Sorin Dan (University of Vaasa, Vaasa, Finland)
Rasa Goštautaitė (PPMI, Vilnius, Lithuania)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 4 October 2022

Issue publication date: 19 January 2023




Despite the growing volume of European Union (EU) investments into reforms and public administration, how EU support contributes to administrative reform and capacity building at domestic level is still unclear. The article explains the EU's influence, domestic politicisation and previous administrative capacity on organisational change whilst implementing European Social Fund-financed projects during the programming period 2014–2020.


By going beyond the EU-centred approach and based on different strands of the new institutionalism, the authors offer three explanations on the influence of EU support. The authors performed the qualitative content analysis of 29 case studies and matched the implementation of the projects with the authors' explanations.


The authors' research results indicate that progress in the implementation of the projects was determined by domestic factors rather than EU conditionalities. The influence of domestic politicisation was found to be mixed, but higher levels of initial administrative capacity proved to be most important to achieving organisational change.

Research limitations/implications

The authors' judgement of the project implementation and their success was based on the information provided in the case studies at the time of implementation.

Practical implications

The authors' research points to the essential need for the initial and gradual development of administrative capacity to achieve good reform results.


Based on the different logics of the new institutionalism, we developed specific mechanisms for organisational change. The authors' research results deepen the understanding of how politicisation positively or negatively shapes reform implementation, as well as how pre-existing administrative capacity and further development of pre-existing administrative capacity dynamically occurs through a process of socialisation and learning.



The authors would like to thank the experts of the project “Progress Assessment of ESF Support to Public Administration” (PAPA) who contributed to data gathering, analysis and writing of the case studies used in the preparation of this article. The authors also thank the three anonymous reviewers of this article.


Nakrošis, V., Dan, S. and Goštautaitė, R. (2023), "The role of EU funding in EU member states: building administrative capacity to advance administrative reforms", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 1-19.



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