Local Government in Slovakia

Author:Angel-Manuel Moreno

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1. Brief historical evolution

The history of Slovakia as an independent country and of its public administration is relatively short. The Slovak Republic was established on 1 January 1993, as the result of the amiable break up of Czechoslovakia, following major changes after the «Velvet Revolution» in 1989. The first important steps in public administration reform were launched in the early stages of the transition period to replace the old «socialist» system. The first democratic elections were held in June 1990, and became the basis for most of the changes in the public administration system in Czechoslovakia.

By virtue of the National Council (Slovak Parliament) Act 369/1990, a new territorial system replaced former local administration authorities and established 38 districts, local and state administration offices and 121 sub-district offices. Local self-government, created by this act, was intended to have characteristics similar to those of developed countries (see subsequent chapters).

In 1996, Slovakia implemented a second wave of public administration reform, characterized by parallel themes of radical change in the territorial and administrative structure of the state, and the establishment of a uniform two-tier system of territorial structure, with a broad range of tasks and responsibilities. These important changes were reflected in two significant pieces of legislation: Act No. 221/1996, on the territorial and administrative sub-division of the Slovak Republic, and Law No. 222/1996, on the organization of local administration. The first of these laws had two parts: the territorial sub-division and the creation of the legal framework that would establish the spatial distribution of self-governmental functions. Municipalities occupied the highest level in the hierarchy of territorial units, and their administrations were closely linked to the principles of self-government. The second part defined the administrative sub-division of Slovakia into 8 regions and 79 districts, and limited the author-

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ity of state bodies in local areas, unless these bodies were given special powers by other laws. Regional and district offices of state administration were given a broad range of tasks within this structure. Other governmental units included municipalities and military counties that performed state administration responsibilities under special laws. The «1996 reform» in Slovakia aimed to increase the effectiveness and quality of public administration and to create a customer-friendly and responsive system serving citizens. The costs of the reform were much higher than planned, and results were very limited (Audit ustrednej statnej spravy, 2000).

After the general elections in 1998, the new liberal government returned to the issue of public administration reform as a key goal. Accession to the EU required that regional self-government authorities be created and operationalized as a first step in reform. The later phases of this wave of reform (which took place after the 2002 elections) focused on decentralization, by executing a massive transfer of competences from state to local and regional authorities and by promoting a radical change in the state administrative structure, marked by a return to the specialized system and the abolishment of the district offices. The administrative and fiscal decentralization measures that occurred during 2000–2005 set the foundation for Slovakia’s current system of public administration, where local and regional self-government supply most public services (see budgetary data in Section 8).

Decentralization measures marked the last important change in the Slovak self-government system. No important changes were introduced during Prime Minister Fico’s coalition period (2006-2010) and those who were actually implemented are no longer a priority today. Important problems such as excessive financial deficits will likely be handled through savings rather than structural changes. Table 1 below provides different economic indicators in Slovakia:

Indicator/year 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
GDP (bil. Sk current prices, EUR from 2008) 1091.8 1189.1 1325.5 1437.6 1636.3 1822.5 67.3 63.6
Inflation 3.3 8.5 7.5 2.7 4.3 1.6 3.9 1.8
Unemployment rate 18.5 17.4 18.1 14.6 13.3 10.9 8.0 11.7
Public debt (% GDP) 43.3 42.6 43.6 36.7 30.9 30.8 33.8 42.0
Public deficit (% GDP) 7.5 3.6 3.3 3.4 2.9 2.9 6.5 7.9

Source: www.finance.gov.sk. www.nbs.sk

2. Basic facts and figures

The Slovak Constitution was ratified on 1 September 1992, and became effective on 1 January 1993. It was modified in September 1998, to allow for the direct

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election of the President, and later amended in February 2001 to allow Slovakia to apply for NATO and EU membership. The head of executive branch is the President, who is elected by direct, popular vote for a five-year term. The head of government is the Prime Minister. The Cabinet is appointed by the President on recommendation of the Prime Minister. The legislative branch is represented by the unicameral National Council of the Slovak Republic (Narodna Rada Slovenskej Republiky) with 150 seats; the members of Parliament are elected on the basis of proportional representation and serve a four-year term. The judicial branch is represented at the top by the Supreme Court (judges are elected by the National Council) and by the Constitutional Court (judges are appointed by the President from a group of nominees approved by the National Council).

Two tiers of self-government exist in Slovakia: municipalities («obce») and self-governing regions («samospravne kraje»).1Cities («mesta») are municipalities that are declared as «cities» by the National Council of the Slovak Republic. Today, there are 138 «cities» in Slovakia. Special laws regulate the legal status of the city of Kosice and of the capital, Bratislava. By 2010, there were 2,883 municipalities in Slovakia and 8 self-governing regions: Bratislava, [c37][c55][c51][c44][c59][c44][c0f][c03][c31][c4c][c57][c55][c44][c0f][c03][c37][c55][c48][c51] [c74][c51][c0f][c03][ce6][c4c][c4f][c4c][c51][c44][c0f][c03][c25][c44][c51][c56][c4e][c69][c03][c25][c5c][c56][c57][c55][c4c][c46][c44][c0f][c03][c33][c55][c48][ce5][c52][c59][c03][c44][c51][c47][c03][c2e][c52][ce5][c4c][c46][c48][c11]

Territorial fragmentation is a problem on both levels. On the one hand, the number of municipalities is extremely high, and has increased continuously since 1989. The most part are very small municipalities: 68% have populations of less than 1000 inhabitants. On the other hand, regional authorities are not large enough to fulfil the criteria for NUTS II (under the EU cohesion policy terminology) and have been classified as NUTS III, which creates a potential to increase transaction costs in managing EU funds and in executing other responsibilities.

3. Legal framework of local self-government
3.1. The role of the European Charter of Local Self-Government (ECLSG)

The Slovak Republic adopted the ECLSG in 1999, with reservations, agreeing to adhere to only the following parts: Article 2; Article 3. Part 2 ; Article 4. Parts 1, 2, 4 to 6; Article 5; Article 6. Part 1; Article 7. Parts 1, 2 , 3; Article 8. 1, 2 a , and 3; Article 9. Parts 2, 3, 4 a and 8; Article 10. Part 1; Article 11. By 1 November 2002, the Slovak Republic had also accepted Article 6. Part 2, and on 7 September 2007, all the remaining parts were also accepted. The Charter was incorporated as an «acceptance of an international treaty», and according to the Slovakian Constitution, international treaties are approved by Parliament, and will superseded domestic laws. The full content of the ECLSG was accepted once national legislation was in line with all parts of the Charter.

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3.2. Constitutional arrangements and provisions on local government

The main source of local and regional self-government law is the Constitution. Chapter 4 states that Territorial Self-Administration (articles 64-71) provides all of the main principles for the organization of territorial self-government, especially:

– The municipality is the basic element of territorial administration. The municipality is an independent territorial and administrative unit of the Slovak Republic, comprised of...

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