ACI Journal Articles


The Path Dependent Power of a Single Word: The Swedish Case of Bureaucratic Obstruction in the European Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive’s Implementation

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USMA Research Unit Affiliation

Army Cyber Institute

Publication Date



The translation of the word ‘document’ in the 2003/98/EC directive on the re-use of public sector information into Swedish had several alternative words but used the word ‘handling’. The administrative law precedence for the word ‘handling’ has embedded several assumptions of the actual document, and based on a precedence that started in the 1760s the interpretation became path dependent. The Swedish case of how bureaucratic inertia and path dependence can stall the implementation of EU directives is. The Swedish government’s initial stance claimed that public sector information is not within the European Commission’s jurisdiction and driven by the definition of ‘handling’. This posture has been supported and defended by the Swedish bureaucracy, unwilling to share the information with private entities, and seeking to maximize the bureaucratic influence. The Swedish case visualizes the complexity to implement legislation pursuing information dissemination requiring the cooperation of an established path dependent bureaucracy.

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