Acknowledging that both analysts and practitioners face problems of meaningful categorization of social order in general, and the European political-administrative system in particular, this article suggests a conceptual frame through which European administrative order may be understood. Providing such a frame is important, because the catalogue of categories of the European Union (EU) polity developed so far fails to acknowledge its administrative dimension. Given that the ongoing political transformation in the EU implies ever more administrative interaction between political levels in order to coordinate, manage and implement policies, this administrative dimension becomes ever more important. This article thus sets out a threefold agenda: First, it offers a supplementary conceptual frame that takes the ‘administrative dimension’ seriously. It is suggested that the European politico-administrative organism should be conceived as a European multilevel administrative system (MLA) consisting of three dimensions: Institutional independence, integration and cooptation. Second, the article suggests how the MLA approach differs from one of its main conceptual rivals – the multilevel governance approach (MLG). Finally, the article offers some empirical illustrations of the value of the developed MLA approach for our understanding of the contemporary European administrative system.