Local Government in Slovenia

Author:Angel-Manuel Moreno
Pages:577-597
 
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1. Brief historical evolution

In Slovenia, local government was established in the middle of the 19th century, when its territory was a part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. After World War I, when Slovenia became a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenians (later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), the system of local government was established by Yugoslav legislation. During that period, local government consisted solely of municipalities. There were also larger territorial units similar to districts, but they had only an administrative character. Nevertheless, the system of local government did not differ much from that of other European countries. The situation changed radically after World War II, when Yugoslavia became a socialist country and a federation. Local government took a very different turn, following at first the Soviet model and later forming its own model based on the so-called communal system.

After World War II, the uniform vertical organisation of State power was introduced in the Yugoslav Constitution of 1946 and the Constitution of Slovenia of 1947. At the local level, this was apparent in the multi-tiered organisation of the people’s committees. These were established at the levels of villages, quarters, towns and districts. Two principles were characteristic for relations among them: that of hierarchy and that of accountability of the lower people’s committees to the higher ones. But all committees were subordinated to higher State authorities.

After 1952, a different development took place. First, a two-tiered system of local government with municipalities and districts was established, and the autonomy of local authorities increased. In 1955, the so-called communal system was introduced. Municipalities assumed the central role, and districts were shortly abolished. Municipalities were supposed to be the basic socioeconomic social cells in a given territory, and at the same time a basic unit of State power, as they were charged with the execution of the majority of State

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regulations. This soon meant that municipalities became too small for the execution of all their duties, which is why they grew more and more big and finally they came near to the size of the former districts. At the same time, the overloading of municipalities with State duties caused neglect of their local responsibilities, since - as the first tier of State authority- they were focusing mainly on those of the State. In performing State duties, however, municipalities enjoyed considerable independence from State authority and acted principally in accordance with local interests; in so doing, they quite successfully avoided its control.

The end results were that municipalities were too large to perform the usual local tasks, but at the same time too small to carry out the functions of a real second tier of local government. For this reason, smaller territorial units—local communities—were established within municipalities. These communities dealt with local needs, but their position was too weak to be compared with modern European municipalities.

The Slovenian Constitution, adopted in 1991, introduced a new system of local government which, according to the original concept, should follow the pattern of contemporary European municipalities. In many ways, however, the system differed from this original idea, later causing numerous problems in adopting local legislation and in establishing the system of local self-government.

According to the Constitution, local government is to be exercised through municipalities and other local communities. Until that time, only municipalities had been established, since (according to the Constitution) wider self-governing local communities (including provinces) were not obligatory and should not be created by the State, but should be the consensual creation of the municipalities themselves. In 2006, the Constitution was amended, making «provinces» obligatory. Therefore, this constitutional amendment in the area of local government has enabled Slovenia to create a two-tiered system of local authorities. Nevertheless, «provinces» have still not been established, since political agreement as to the number of the future provinces and their territories has not yet been reached.

2. Basic facts and figures
2.1. Local government bodies

According to the Slovenian Constitution, local government is two-tiered in structure, with the municipality ([c52][c45] [c4c][c51][c44]) as the lower tier and the «province» ([c53][c52][c4e][c55][c44][c4d][c4c][c51][c44]) as the upper. As stated above, provinces have not yet been established. Apart from the ordinary municipalities, the Constitution provides for the existence of the «urban municipality» ([c50][c48][c56][c57][c51][c44][c03][c52][c45] [c4c][c51][c44]) which, according to

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Art. 141 of the Constitution, may be allocated specific duties and functions related to urban development. There are 11 such urban municipalities in the country.

According to the Local Government Act (see below, point 3), the municipality, with at least 5,000 inhabitants, is the basic self-governing local body; an «urban municipality» must have at least 20,000 inhabitants. A municipality may be comprised of a single community or of a number of communities whose inhabitants are linked by common needs and interests. It may be established by statute, following a favourable vote in a popular referendum held in the area affected. Thus, the National Assembly (the Slovenian Parliament) decides on the boundaries of a municipality on the basis of a non-binding referendum of the inhabitants, but usually acting in accordance with its outcome.

The same process is followed both for the establishment of a new municipality and for various changes of the municipal territory. The latter may occur if two or more municipalities merge into a single new one, or if a municipality splits into two or more, or if one part of a municipality separates from the rest and establishes itself as a new municipality or joins with one already existing. In all these cases, the will of the residents of the affected territories must be determined by referendum. A municipality may therefore not be established without a referendum: its celebration is obligatory.

The Local Government Act regulates the conditions that a municipality must meet in order to carry out its basic functions. Accordingly, a municipality must guarantee the conditions enabling it to provide primary education and health care, essential goods, and postal, library and other municipal services; it must also dispose of the premises for local community administration. In addition, and as explained above, a municipality must consist of at least 5,000 inhabitants. Exceptionally, a municipality may have fewer than 5,000 inhabitants for reasons related to geography, border location or ethnic composition, or for historical or economic reasons. Despite the legal minimum of population for founding a municipality, currently more than half of Slovenian municipalities (111) fail to fulfil this basic criterion. Many of them were politically enforced and created on the basis of one of the abovementioned exceptions.

On the other hand, the Slovenian system does not distinguish between «rural» and «urban» municipalities; it does, however, allow for the possibility of a town acquiring a special status as an «urban municipality» ([c50][c48][c56][c57][c51][c44][c03][c52][c45] [c4c][c51][c44]). Specifically, Art. 141 of the Constitution states that a town may attain the status of «urban municipality» in keeping with the procedures and under the conditions set by law. As part of its original competences, an «urban municipality» also carries out particular duties related to urban development, as established by law.

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An «urban municipality» ([c50][c48][c56][c57][c51][c44][c03][c52][c45] [c4c][c51][c44]) is a compact settlement or group of settlements linked in a unified geographic area in which the people in the periphery commute daily into the centre. A town may acquire such status if it has at least 20,000 inhabitants and at least 15,000 jobs, of which at least half must be in tertiary and quaternary activities. In addition, this town must be the geographic, economic, and cultural centre of its gravitational area. An urban municipality is founded by the National Assembly in the same way as an ordinary municipality. The law determines the territory and name of the urban municipality.

As stated in the Local Government Act, in addition to meeting the conditions for establishing ordinary municipalities, «urban municipalities» must guarantee the following services:

– vocational schools and colleges
– university college departments and faculties
– a hospital
– a network of civil services
– a telecommunications centre
– university and specialised libraries
– specialised information documentation centres – cultural...

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