History of Local Government in Kosovo – Relations between Politics and Administration Level

Place: Hotel Emerald
Date: 23 November 2012

Lecturers

Sadri Ferati, former Minister of Local Government, now Member of Parliament and Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Local Government

Päivi Nikander,  former chief of the Office of decentralization ICO / Senior Adviser for Decentralization - Local Governance UNDP

Ardian Zeqiri, Director of ECMI, former OSCE in Kosovo. Former official for Democratization and Support Specialist on Local Governance OSCE

Topics

•    History of Local Government Reform and Decentralization in Kosovo - Opportunities and Challenges

•    The institutionalization of policies for minorities within the government – restructuring local government through decentralization.

•    The Principles of the European Administrative Space; strategies of public administration reform in Kosovo, key elements of the reform processes in the EU.

•    The relationship between the political and administrative level

Sadri Ferati, former Minister of Local Government, now Member of Parliament and member of the Parliamentary Committee on Local Government

The above mentioned lecturer, said that the decentralization process has been a challenge for Kosovo, which is conceived as a level toward partition of Kosovo along the lines of its demographic composition, emphasizing that as a process during the implementation was misunderstood by the public, aiming to satisfy the needs and expectations of only non-majority communities in the municipalities where they live. Decentralization has mainly been political from top-down by International Community. Initially it was announced by the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, the one of after the 1999 war (Mitrovica). But a serious consideration had taken only after the Kosovo status negotiations led by Martti Ahtisaari.  During the status talks and discussion of decentralization in the upper level, beneficiaries and municipalities of this process are not consulted.

Decentralization in Kosovo was followed by challenges because it was very clear on paper, while in practice during implementation there were numerous objections, followed by protests, and all this because of lack of appropriate information to the public about decentralization process, lack of work of political parties with electorate.

Lecturer stressed the way of the contact group talks held in Vienna in the presence of internationals. He stressed that the municipalities which were separated and established new municipalities where they were not prepared for competences, lack of funds, for a functional administration, a strategic plan should be provided, a strategy with clear vision to action, such a thing municipalities lacked. Local elections held in 2000 as an important step in building local government, among others the lecturer stressed that most of the political programs of the candidates for Municipal Mayors did not have a proper strategy, with a concrete strategic plan for local development.

In these political programs mostly dominated projects for road pavement as priority. While the summary Besnik Tahiri emphasize that, for an effective administration a vision of working plans with strategic programs should be established that substantially have development strategy to increase own source revenue of municipality.

Päivi Nikander,  former chief of the Office of decentralization ICO / Senior Adviser for Decentralization, Local Governance UNDP

As a participant during the talks for the decentralization process in Kosovo, stressed the obstacles that have incurred on transfer of powers from central to local level, it first had to be regulated by laws which powers will be transferred to municipalities.

She stressed that it was necessary to regulate the legislative framework, such a thing is well defined on the Constitution of Kosovo, as well as laws that must be in accordance with the Constitution. She cited these laws as:

Law on Municipal Boundaries
Law on Local Elections
Law on Local Self-Government and Laws by Sector
She also stressed of transfer of powers and what will be delegated from central to local level. I was also necessary to determine the relationship between the new municipalities against mother municipality. She also explained about self powers, which include 18 areas, we will mention some of the most important, such as: local economic development, urban and rural planning, land use and development, regulations and building control standards, local environmental protection, public services and utilities, emergency response at the local level, pre-primary education and secondary education, public primary health services, social welfare, public housing, equipment and local services licensing as cultural and recreational activities, food, markets, street dealers, local transportation, appointment of roads, public parks, tourism, culture and many other.

In these competencies municipalities have full executive power; but she stressed that some municipalities will have increased powers, especially those municipalities with Serbian majority will have additional competencies in the fields of health, education and cultural issues and will have the right of electing participation for commanders of local police stations but some central authorities delegate powers such as cadastral records, civil records, voter registration, business licensing and registration, distribution of social welfare payments, forest protection.

Lecturer stressed that the delegation of powers had positive impact on municipal finances, who presented in the tables way from 2008-2012, where revenues from own sources in 2008 were 49% while in 2012 they were 60%. She also stressed the challenges that have accompanied the formation of new municipalities in relation to the mother municipalities. To overcome barriers to the transfer of records from the mother municipalities is done in accordance to the relevant ministries through joint signing of Memoranda of Understanding.

The challenge during the delegation of powers she stressed that there is lack of national debates on the appropriate level of authority, unclear definition of responsibilities, insufficient funds for tracking competencies, different capacities of municipalities to implement functions, a not good inter-ministerial cooperation, ownership and cooperation regarding natural resources and infrastructure, unclear ownership of public property and the slow process of privatization, slow process of public administration and the judiciary, exceeding the employment of civil servants that exceeds municipal freedom of workers.

Finally, she stressed that a great importance should be given to participation of the private sector, public-private partnership is essential while as example she cited companies for Waste Management, which returned to the local level, while water company is not properly defined yet. She stressed that for a peaceful rehabilitation of insider power in the external one must be a strategy accompanied by clear vision of action (payments - property taxes payable, an efficient judicial system, how to find a key that a citizen be will to pay etc.)

Ardian Zeqiri, Director of ECMI, former OSCE in Kosovo. Former official for Democratization and Support Specialist on Local Governance OSCE

Who among others stressed in his presentation by explaining the definition that decentralization is devolution of power from central to a lower level of local/peripheral government, in order to promote good governance, economic development, efficiency in public service delivery, and to accommodate the interests of divergent groups/communities.

Scope of local self-government is also provided in the European Charter on Local Self-Government, which requires that "public responsibilities shall generally be performed, in preference, by those authorities which are closest to the citizen. During the delegation of responsibility to another authority, one should measure masses and the nature of the task and requirements of efficiency and economization". This principle is also known as the principle of subsidiary so according to the Charter, which is the official source article 4 paragraph 3 articulates the general principle according to which the performance of public responsibilities should be decentralized.  In addition to referring to own competencies, Charter also provides delegated powers, which include the right and the ability of local authorities within the limits of the law, to regulate and manage a substantial share of public affairs under their own responsibility and in the interest of the local population.

Lecturer stressed that the Charter on Local Self-Government (Charter) was adopted in the form of a convention by the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the same is signed as convention by member states of the Council of Europe. This Charter was adopted by the Congress of the Council of Europe in 1985. This Charter is the most important international document that establishes the principle of local self-government, ratified by 44 of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, including all members of the European Union.

The above mentioned lecturer in his presentation of decentralization and minority in Europe said that there is no model that covers all the divergent interests of the groups. He cited:

•    Local Self-Governance
•    Special Rights / additional rights
•    Personal/cultural Autonomy
•    Territorial Autonomy

Various problems such discrimination, cultural rights, religious rights, which are implemented in different political systems.

Ardian Zeqiri, stressed the main principles of the Charter as:

•    Principle of subsidiary;
•    Local authorities elected democratically;
•    Local authorities have powers, except when this competence is taken in written and meaningful way by the upper level;
•    Local Authority to the extent possible should be consulted and will have an impact on all policies that affect their interests;
•    Local authorities will have broad powers as deciding to have their internal structures;
•    Supervision, in terms of their powers, will have only the form of legal supervision and interventions can only be proportionate;
•    Broader supervision is possible regarding their delegated powers from the central level;
•    Local authorities will have the right to adequate financial resources, including the collection of local taxes;

Local authorities will have the right to connect to each other;

All this intends for these results:


•    Good Governance
•    Democratization
•    Economic Development
•    Accountability
•    Responsible Politics
•    Participation
•    Improved services

In part of decentralization to communities he stressed local ownership. Allows the community to comment on the policies that affect their lives.

But to protect the "dictatorship of the majority" he stressed: Protection by the power of Central Government;

-    Economy
-    Ethnicity
-    Physical

Improving minority participation in political processes.  Lecturer stressed threats of decentralization, citing that:

-    Strengthens and legitimizes ethnic divisions - acceptance of ethnic differences in the same system.
-    New minorities are created - wide rights of communities.
-    Implications for state sovereignty - government oversight
-    Unsustainable municipalities - principle of subsidiarity & fiscal decentralization

It was stressed that one of the key factors of decentralization should be political will, participation, subsidiarity principles, fiscal decentralization.

Lecturer mentioned or made a comparison to the case in Kosovo, the overall establishment of the state - Constitution that stipulates in:

•    Article 2. The Republic of Kosovo is a state of its citizens...
•    Article 3.1 The Republic of Kosovo is a multi-ethnic society..
•    Article 57. Communities that belong to a national, ethnic, linguistic or religious group and that are traditionally present in Kosovo.

Special rights and additional rights along with the mechanism for protection of rights, the Constitution stipulates in Article 5, in addition to the rights and freedoms set out in Chapter Two (II) of the Constitution.

At the end lecturer also mentioned local self-government authorities, citing these elements:

•    The relocation of the municipal boundaries: 90 % of the minority communities living in municipalities where they are the majority;
•    Asymmetric devolution of power - additional powers to municipalities;
•    Partnerships between municipalities;
•    Special Reports with the Republic of Serbia;