The civil service shapes the face of any government. It is the professional body of government employees that have a special role in serving the public interest by advising on the development of policies and putting them into practice. Within this group, there is an even smaller core that forms the link between the civil service and the democratically elected cabinet of ministers: this is the senior civil service (SCS). Its role is special: not only does it execute government policies and advise ministers on how to convert the government’s political programme into concrete actions, it must also safeguard the core mission of the state, which is independent of the government in office. The professionalism of senior civil servants in managing government affairs is therefore crucial to a government’s success or failure. Ministers are politically mandated to devise policies and run the ministry, while senior civil servants simultaneously serve the government in office and the public interest in general. A clear definition of responsibilities is needed to provide optimal conditions for all to perform their respective functions. This means there are responsibilities that only politically mandated officials can assume, such as making value judgements about policy needs, and others that can be best fulfilled by professional civil servants, for instance deciding the most effective way to provide a service or make the government function more efficiently.

This paper examines civil service professionalisation in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia. The paper was developed by SIGMA team, and we are proud that Milena Lazarević, WeBER Project Manager and European Policy Centre – CEP Programme Director and Vladimir Mihajlović, Researcher from CEP and expert for public administration provided feedback during various phases of this paper’s development.

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