About the Project

Survey Methodology

Project origins
This research project was initiated by the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s ‘Europe’s Future’ programm. The project follows on from an earlier study by the Bertelsmann Stiftung, the results of which were published in 2010 under the title ‘Diplomacy, Development and Defense: A Paradigm for Policy Coherence’ (Weiss, Spanger and van Meurs, which supplied a comparative analysis of the whole-of-government approaches (WGA) of that time in the EU, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. Ten years on, we deemed it time to take a second look at how the policy-coherence agenda has advanced in the intervening period.

The research plan was developed in cooperation with the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS). The research for the studies was jointly conducted in 2019 and completed on 1 December 2019. Thus, it predated Brexit and took place before the new set of EU leaders took office. What’s more, it naturally only reflects the state of affairs at that time.
Research premises
Methodologically, the research assumes that the organisation of political coherence through a WGA is a necessary though insufficient condition for success in crisis and conflict management.

The project is also based on the assumption that any country that claims to have adopted a WGA must necessarily have undergone changes in its method of cooperation – both within and between its institutions on the national level as well as with the EU or other international organisations – and that these changes can be observed and described. The same also applies to the EU and its implementation of an integrated approach, which is described in what follows as a ‘whole-of-governance’ rather than a ‘whole-of-government’ approach’.
Survey questions
The research is based on a semi-structured Survey Questionnaire that inquired into the institutional or procedural changes (limited to the headquarters level).

The questionnaire centred on three inter-related sets of questions:

  1. What WGA policies have been designed?
  2. Who are the actors involved in these WGA policies?
  3. How has the WGA been institutionalised?
Expert Network
The group of individuals conducting this research included experts from all EU member states. Some of them were current or former diplomats, military officers or government officials involved in development cooperation, but all of them have worked for or with their respective government and therefore have first-hand knowledge of the organisation and procedures of governmental practice. The research was also supported by numerous interviews with representatives of the relevant bureaucracies.
EU + Country Reports
The reports condense the results of the questionnaire. In order to make the EU and Country Reports more easily comparable, a uniform structure was applied and the titles of the individual chapters in the respective country reports were standardised.

The following questions guided the research under the headings:

  1. Introduction: Briefly reflect about when and why a WGA has/hasn’t been introduced in your country. In what ways does a WGA in your country reflect the country’s specificities (e.g. in relation to its institutional and constitutional setup)?

  2. WGA Policies Developed: Discuss both explicitly formulated WGA policies and more implicit references to a WGA in your country. You may, for example, describe and assess the scope and quality of official or semi-official policies or discuss the country’s obligations under international and EU agreements.

  3. WGA Main Actors: Who are the main actors that cooperate in a WGA-like fashion in your country? At what levels do you see cooperation and coordination, whether in a formal or informal manner, taking place in your country’s dealings with external crises and conflicts?

  4. WGA Operationalisation: What administrative structures and processes are in place to back up the policies described in the previous section? How does your country operationalise a WGA and with what success? What are the key operational ‘enablers’ and ‘disablers’ of a WGA in your country?

  5. Conclusions: Overall, in what ways and with what success has your country implemented a WGA? What would you consider the success factors underpinning a WGA in your country?
complex inter-
The careful reader will note a few anomalies: first, that subjects covered in specific sections of one report can occasionally be found in different ‘silos’ of others; and, second, that information is sometimes repeated in different ‘silos’ within individual reports (which only underlines how difficult it is to overcome fragmentation). Nevertheless, we have determined that using this structure is the most prudent path to follow when collecting data providing for a comparison of the state of affairs in the EU and its 28 member states.

In the process, we took into account that the various histories, geographies, institutions and experiences of individual EU member states have sometimes led them to be less amenable to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ system of categorisation – and, therefore, schematisation. We therefore decided – both for describing complex causal and institutional interconnections and providing the reader with an easy-to-grasp, all-in-one-place explanation – that it is sometimes preferable to opt for repetition over crispness.
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