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Report: Big differences in adminstrative structures in different European countries

Government Communications Department
Publication date 20.9.2016 12.05
Press release 388/2016

A study published on Tuesday 20 September shows that there are big differences in the administrative structures of European countries. There are major differences in how comprehensive state administration is, the structure of state regional administration and how public wellbeing services are organised. When examined in detail, the structure of state administration manifested differences in the role played by the ministries in steering administration, in the number of state administrative units and in the financing of the activities.

The comparative study on European administrative structures, conducted by Åbo Akademi, examined the administrative structures in eight EU Member States. Besides the Nordic countries, the comparison included the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Portugal and Croatia. The purpose was to produce information on how administration under state government is organised in the countries studied relative to key administrative structures in the whole of public administration. The study sheds light on how the different administrative models relate to Finland and what lessons Finland's administrative reforms might learn from them. The study is related to the administrative and regional government reforms outlined in the Government Programme.  

European administrative systems are changing; so are those in Finland

Finland is closely linked to the administrative culture that prevails in the Nordic countries.  At the same time, though, Finland differs from the Nordic countries in some respects. In Finland, instituting changes in the structure of state adminstration is more complicated than in the rest of the Nordic countries. State agencies in Finland and Sweden are more autonomous relative to the ministry under whose mandate they operate than is the case in Denmark and Norway. As in Finland, the range of organisational structures of the agencies in the countries studied was wide. Agencies are set up at different times for different purposes.

The survey shows that the development approaches adopted in Finland reflect those instituted in Europe. The number of state administrative units has decreased in all the countries studied. A typical regional organisation at the regional level is a regional state administrative authority. In a number of countries, many such organisations have been converted into agencies with nationwide powers. There are plans to do so in Finland too. None of the countries studied had uniform regional state administration any longer.

This report is part of the implementation of the 2016 Government plan for analysis, assessment and research ( It was drawn up by Pekka Kettunen, Adjunct Professor, Siv Sandberg, Research Fellow and Cecilia Fredriksson, Researcher, Åbo Akademi, Department of Public Administration.

The report (in Finnish) is available online at:

Policy Brief (in Finnish)

Inquiries: Pekka Kettunen, Adjunct Professor, tel. +358 50 564 4166, Åbo Akademi and Siv Sandberg, Research Fellow, tel. +358 400 726 380, Åbo Akademi

Further information about the Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities at