Local Government in the Czech Republic

Author:Angel-Manuel Moreno

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1. Brief historical evolution

Modern Czech territorial self-government was established in 1848, at the time of a revolution that led to the end of feudal administration and the beginning of territorial administration based on ideas of natural law. Thus, the inception of territorial government was connected with the end of feudal absolutism and with the establishment of constitutional monarchy, following the key principle that the essence of a free State is an independent municipality.

At the turn of the 19th and 20th century, the territory of the Czech Republic was a part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The constitutional grounds of this union were laid down in the Constitution of December 1867. After declaring the independence of Czechoslovakia in October 1918, that constitutional Act became of foremost importance and kept the continuity with Austrian-Hungarian law and public administration. Thus, the territorial self-government (municipalities, districts and provinces) of the newborn State was identical to the original (Austrian-Hungarian) one.

In November 1918, the interim constitution of the Czechoslovak Republic was adopted. This document did not regulate the issue of the territorial self-government though. It was succeeded by the Czechoslovak Constitution of February 1920, which stated only that the composition and competences of self-governing unions would be regulated by special acts. Consequently, in 1927 a new Act on the organization of public administration was adopted. It abolished the existing representative districts and their bodies. Moravia and Silesia were united in one Moravian-Silesian province and new self-governing districts were established. This new territorial organization remained in force until 1945 (without considering the protectorate period). In 1945, the local, district and provincial national committees were constituted as interim bodies of government.

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Legal regulation of local self-government in the period of the First Czechoslovak Republic was represented by provincial local codes (Czech, Moravian, Silesian) adopted in the 60s’ of the 19th century. These codes were very similar to each other and were based on the Imperial General Act on Municipalities of 1862. This Act stated basic rules for the structuring of local government, including a determination of the municipal bodies (municipal council and board), the municipal competences («independent» and «delegated» ones) and the basic rules for State control. In 1927, a new Act on the organization of political administration was passed.

A period of more than 40 years of socialist State and law took place in the country between 1948 and 1989. It implemented a system of «national committees» instead of the original organisation of territorial self-government. Moreover, the new Constitution of the Czechoslovak Republic of May 1948 destroyed parliamentary democracy at the State level, as well as territorial self-government. The new system of national committees (local, district and regional) existed only as bodies of the territorial State administration, in a system of subordinate and superior hierarchy. The next step in the legal regulation of the national committees was the adoption of the Constitution of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and the new Act on National Committees of 1960. The last socialist regulation of national committees was the 1967 National Committees Act.

After the «Velvet Revolution» in November 1989, the socialist constitution was changed, and both the democratic State of Law and territorial government were restored (1990). The reform of territorial government represented a return to the pre-war principles. The new 1990 Constitution abolished the system of national committees as bodies of the State administration. On the other hand, a new regulation of local autonomy was established. In place of the abolished district national committees, new district authorities were set up as monocratic, territorial bodies of State administration with a general competence (self-government was not established at the district level). Moreover, the regional national committees were also abolished, without replacement. Their agenda was delegated to the district authorities and the central State administration bodies. In connection with the new Constitution, the new Municipalities Act was adopted in 1990. This legal rule is based on the so-called «mixed system», which means that the units of territorial self-government, in a regime of functional duality, perform their own competences (independent competences) and delegated competences (belonging to the State administration).

In the context of the dissolution of the Czechoslovak Federation and the subsequent establishment of the Czech Republic, the new Constitution of the country (still in force) was promulgated in December 1992. It guarantees the self-government of the territorial units by providing that: «The Czech Republic is subdivided into municipalities, which are the basic territorial self-gov-

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erning units, and into regions, which are the higher territorial self-governing units». The newest principal development of the Czech local and regional autonomy was represented by the reform of territorial government, performed mainly in 1997-2002. In the first phase, the Constitutional Act of 1997 established 14 regions, but their legal regulation was not adopted until May 2000. At the same time, a new Act on Municipalities and an Act on District Authorities were adopted. The first phase of territorial government reform finished on the day of elections to the regional councils, in November 2000. Regional councils and bodies were established. The second phase of the reform consisted in terminating the activity of the old district authorities by the end of 2002 and in delegating their competencies to the new local and regional authorities.

The reform of 1997-2002 has established a new structure and organization of public administration, but it has not implemented an ideal territorial government. The most problematic issues are: the lack of rationality; growing financial demands of local and regional authorities; and the lack of effectiveness of the current system (see further sections of this contribution). At present, the main problem is realisation of the so-called smart government, that should ensure effective public administration and friendly public services. Thus, at present there are not significant discussions about organizational reforms.

2. Basic facts and figures

The Czech Republic is subdivided into municipalities, which are the basic units of territorial government, and into regions, which are the «higher territorial self-governing units».1Every part of the territory of the Czech Republic is a part of one municipality. Nowadays there are 6246 municipalities in the Czech Republic, which are dived into different types:

– (common) municipalities (obce) (5447 municipalities) – market town [c0b][c50][c17][c56][c57][c5c][c56][c48][c0c] (206)
– cities[c0b][c50][c17][c56][c57][c44][c0c] (569)
– statutory cities [c0b][c56][c57][c44][c57][c58][c57][c69][c55][c51][c74][c03][c50][c17][c56][c57][c44][c0c] (23)
– the Capital City of Prague [c0b][c4b][c4f][c44][c59][c51][c74][c03][c50][c17][c56][c57][c52][c03][c33][c55][c44][c4b][c44][c0c].

Whereas the designation of «market towns» and «cities» has got only a formal character, without any other legal consequences, the «statutory cities» may have their territory subdivided into smaller self-governing units: the city districts or city boroughs.

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Moreover, municipalities are also divided, according to their range of delegated competences (as deconcentrated units of the State administration), into:

– common municipalities (all municipalities, obce),
– «municipalities with a commissioned municipal office» [c0b][c52][c45][c46][c48][c03][c56][c03][c53][c52][c59][c17][c49][c48][c51][cec][c50][c03]

[c52][c45][c48][c46][c51][c74][c50][c03]Î[c44][c47][c48][c50][c0c] (388 municipalities),
– «municipalities with extended powers» [c0b][c52][c45][c46][c48][c03] [c56][c03] [c55][c52][c5d][ce5][c74][c49][c48][c51][c52][c58][c03] [c53][c5b][c56][c52][c45][c51][c52][c56][c57][c74][c0c] (205 municipalities).

The number of municipalities in the Czech Republic is quite high. The structure of municipalities according to their number of inhabitants is clear:

– up to 200 inhabitants: 24.7% of municipalities
– from 200 to 499 inhabitants: 31.7%
– from 500 to 999 inhabitants: 21.5%
– from 1,000 to 1,999 inhabitants: 11.4%
– from 2,000 to 4,999 inhabitants: 6.3%
– from 5,000 to 9,999 inhabitants: 2.3%
– from 10,000 to 19,999 inhabitants: 1.1%
– from 20,000 to 49,999 inhabitants: 0.7%
– from 50,000 to 99,999 inhabitants: 0.2% (15 municipalities) – over 100,000 inhabitants: 0.1% (6 municipalities).

Statistics show that roughly 56% of the Czech municipalities have less than 500 inhabitants, and that about 78% of the Czech municipalities have less than 1,000 inhabitants.2Apart from municipalities, in the Czech Republic there are also 14 «higher territorial self-governing units» (regions, [c4e][c55][c44][c4d][c48]), for...

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