Opening of the Academy/First Module - I Decentralisation and Democratisation

Venue: Harmonia Hotel, Republic of Albania
Date: 27 February – 1 March 2014

Lecturers:

  • Besnik Tahiri, Master of Sciences of Decentralised Governance and International Development
  • Besnik Osmani, Master of Sciences –American University of Kosovo, Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government
  • Fatmir Haxholli, Master of Contemporary European Studies
  • Arian Galdini, Master of Political Sciences and Public Policies

Visit to Institutions:

  • Ilir Meta, President of the Assembly of the Republic of Albania
  • Erion Veliaj, Minister of Social Welfare and Youth

Topics:

  • Decentralisation in historical, academic, study aspect - International Context of Local Governance and Development of Local Governance
  • Basic Concept of Decentralisation: Administrative Devolution, Deconcentration and Decentralisation –Rondinel Principles
  • Central Governance versus Local Governance (relations between the central and local level)
  • Democratisation in relation to Decentralisation – Case of Kosovo
  • Theory of Public Election – Governance, Institutions and Democracy
  • State building in relation to Decentralisation - Case of the Republic of Kosovo


Mr. Besnik Tahiri, executive director of KLGI

Executive Director of Kosovo Local Governance Institute, Mr. Besnik Tahiri in program opening pointed out that there are 4 key elements on which the program is based:

  • Findings from surveys and the periodical work of KLGI;
  • Needs assessment for capacity building of the municipalities;
  • Methodological and professional support of the University of Birmingham;
  • Exposures of international, local and regional lecturers.

According to Mr. Tahiri this is going to enable interrelation of regional practices, international theories related to local governance and the current developments, including the current needs Kosovo has.
When elaborating the theories ‘Theoretical Concepts of Decentralisation’ Mr. Tahiri emphasised that before a society brings forward the policy of decentralisation, at least three prerequisites are to be met:

The first refers to the high level of central capacity of the state, because the effective implementation of decentralisation requires coordination between the levels and seeks more regulations to guarantee basic transparency, accountability and; a weak state cannot implement decentralisation in a successful manner. The second requirement is a well developed civil society.

This is important not only for the aspect of participation, but also because it would provide additional sources for information and comments and constructive critics for the local governance. The third is a political project where an organised political force supports decentralisation and ensures its implementation. We must also bear in mind that effective local governance depends on existing sources, which are adequate and sustainable.

Besnik Osmani, Permanent Secretary of MLGA

The concept of state organisation in relation to local governance or vice versa. In fact the 20th century has recognised the localisation and globalisation, the latter as an opportunity for development, e.g. EU and other international institutions. At the same time localisation needed large scale political and administrative movements in order not to go high above the state but to move down towards citizens;

Thus, we have the sub-national concept, e.g. large states, we have the regions, provinces… there we have the administrative power, consequently we have the trend that policies have been left with the state, whereas the services to the regions; the binary concept of state building has been to have a democratic state, whereas the basic functions to be left with the local self government institutions; if we see here, with few words we have to deal with Kosovo attaching to a social, political, European trend or development… this is related to orientations and not necessarily is related to quality;

In the European Card for Local Self-Governance we find the dough of what local self governance is… our constitution interlocks two basic principles, subsidiary and transparency; Concept of decentralisation is manifested in two forms: we have the decentralised system, but whenever needed, the state says its own final word and the local autonomy and whenever needed it is the municipality to say its own final word, thus, do we have an advanced decentralised system or local autonomy. We have a slight dividing line. The question is how much the state may decide regarding an issue; e.g. closure of schools in Prishtina, we want to say that we have a system of self-governance and not a local autonomy, but when we are in the position of the mayor and the state interferes, the question is whether we have a system of self-governance of or local autonomy.

Our legislation has reduced state interference and has strengthened the role of courts. In no case the government may interfere to give final words, but the court, if having local autonomy according to international rules it would not be like this, but we have a highly advanced local self-governance system. In this sense, the conclusion for this matter is that we have an advanced system of local self-governance which is completed just before passing into local autonomy.

Everything was applied a little bit, e.g. decentralisation, we have the autonomous competences of the municipalities which belong to central level, we have also had deconcentration of the power which has not been left to the hands of local bodies, it has come down closer to the citizens but it has still remained in hands of the government to finally decide, thus, it is a form of decentralisation where the authority remains to the government, whereas the functional authority remains to the municipality. We also have privatisation of services provision, with our legal framework, public services that should be offered to the citizens, possibilities have been left to provide them through private services.

Collection of waste has been left as a competence of municipalities, what we have in this case is the fact that the state believes in a service of a private operator. So, with growth of the private sector in a certain field, we pass into provision of services what in the modern world has passed to private service provision. In modern countries, administration is done by the municipality, whereas provision of services is done by the private companies. A relation is established between administration and economy.

As for territorial organisation, history recognises the concept state - city, or as the metropolitan zones are known, they are state-city, and if their competences are analysed, we may find a state in a state, only matters of sovereignty, but when quality is in question, state - cities have been allowed and they have become like promoters of their economic development from 1945 to 1990-ies. After 90-ties, we see a trend where these state-cities have become very powerful as they came to a position as to risk the main functions of the states, and accordingly the power of these state-cities has decreased and lower levels have been foreseen by preserving the developed trend but also by disintegrating the trend of monopolies. We need locomotives of economic development. Do we need to have single level competences, such as Gjilan and Ranillug... I would say, no. to go away from the uniformed concept.

So important is the balanced division of economic, financial resources, today it is easy to be a mayor because 80% of it you do not collect but you take as readymade... the most important work is to collect ... unfortunately we have remained in a level where 15 % is collected in local level, 85% from the central level... almost 45% of the budget of the country is in the hands of mayors and 55% of the government.

Mr. Besnik Tahiri, Executive Director of KLGI

During the lecture for the attendants of the program “Local Governance Academy” he raised several matters which are important and which are related to explaining the aspects of decentralisation, principles of good governance, relationships between central and local level, intergovernmental fiscal relations, clarification of competences over all matters, establishment of continuous communication in order to reduce the disagreements in between the two levels.

In the introduction he pointed out as follows: ‘The national public good is best served when the public local good is represented in its best way’; The aim of the constitution is to provide competences according to local interests in order to create the sphere of dividing the powers; however, regardless the local interests and the national interest will match or sometimes will even be in contradiction.

Intergovernmental fiscal relations

Fiscal balance between the functions and sources in all levels; determining the sources of income; distribution of income; grants: block and specific ones; access to financial credits. Fiscal inspection: Ensuring fiscal sustainability; Resources used in effective and efficient manner.
Central - local relations, Include the state - local relationships in the central system; formal relations: Legal ground for CG/LG; Defining the intergovernmental income & transfers; central regulations and controls. Informal relations: political; professional; Associations of LG; media, civil society.

Clarification of competences

Definition of general authorisations of the municipalities on issues which have not been regulated and determined for other governmental bodies; Municipalities must adjourn the strategic review of laws for intergovernmental finance, natural resources and public enterprises and issues for environment protection in order to ensure clarification/amendment of municipal competences, as needed;
The central level must engage in preparation of administrative instructions with the purpose of supplementation of laws, these must be carried in cooperation with municipal leaders in order to incorporate municipal principles for development, to avoid challenges for the functionality of administrative instructions to be weakly reflected without clear legal guidance from the central government.

Building of mechanisms for reducing disagreements

Development of coordinating mechanisms between MLGA and respective ministries for drafting the legal framework to avoid overlaps and contradictions to the sector level laws;
Review of strategic options for settlement of disagreements, in particular the possibility of MLGA to take the primary function of settlement of disagreements between the municipalities and respective ministries; Regulating follow up and reporting from MLGA for implementation of recommendations given to municipalities;

MLGA must enhance monitoring and evaluation of municipalities in relation to applicability of laws and other acts regulating or pertaining local governance. He stressed out that the first confrontation of the citizen with the state and its services is the municipality, when municipalities have had good results, the state has had success.

Visit to Central Institutions of the Republic of Albania

Mr. Besnik Tahiri, Executive Director of KLGI

At the opening of the meeting, the executive director of Kosovar Local Governance Institute Mr. Besnik Tahiri notified the President of the Parliament Meta related to the program, delegation and the purpose of the visit stressing out:

Aims of LGA are focused at support to governance and local democratisation in Kosovo. More exactly, this program discusses topics which are related in between the central (government) and local level (municipality), the legal framework regulating functioning of central and local government. Above all, issues and program policies are discussed, related to stimulating development of local governance and decentralisation in the country.

Within the program, there are 40 members, Mayors and Deputy Mayors, Presidents of Municipal Assemblies, whereas the other participants are from the level of directors and chiefs of parliamentary groups. Participants come from 6 municipalities; the group of officials comes from various nationalities, parties and regions.

In this aspect, KLGI, along with the senior officials participating in the Academy for Local Governance wishes to get better acquainted to the successes and challenges that you as institutions have. Above all, we wish to get better acquainted with your work and engagement, more exactly with the relations between the assembly and the local government.

Mr. Ilir Meta, President of the Parliament of the Republic of Albania

I am not the most suitable person to inform you about the local governance, as I have never been in the role of the local government.

I may inform you that the Republic of Albania is currently involved in a administrative and territorial reform, this appears as a result of the fact that Albania has a fragmentation of local units. We have many Municipalities, many Districts and Town Halls which help this fragmentation, majority of local units do not produce more than 1-3 % of own source budget and what needs to be covered by the central government.

Fragmentation also impedes investment, because to make an investment, first the Licence is required from the Municipality, Town Hall and in the end also from the District. Many of the local units do not reach the possibility to have capacities and cadre in certain fields, therefore, we are not the best scenario to learn about the local governance but we must learn from you. We face problems with the standards and services, problems in development of the municipalities that many of them be followed to the central governance.

We do not need all these employees at the local administration, because the budget is extremely overloaded, for this reason we need to undertake reforms in order to increase efficiency of the municipalities by lowering the expenses and increasing the quality of services, reform also is going to help on raising the sustainable debate between the local units and the central authorities, government and parliament.

Erion Veliaj, Minister of Social Welfare and Youth

At first, Minister Veliaj notified about the role of the Ministry he is directing, emphasising that this department is managing with 27% of the budget, while being home of 2/3 of the citizens of the Republic of Albania, then, he emphasised that the Ministry he is directing includes net of welfare, social services and those of assistance, the Religions’ Committee, Child Protection Agency, Work Offices, youth issues and many other fields that interrelate with welfare and youth.

We have decreased staff for 30% and also have established new practices for grant – social assistance distribution, assigning women (head of family) as managers, these practices are based on the fact that women are better managers in regards of family demands and needs.

Policies are not those we follow every day on news, “policy” has to do with the muscle of the state in
order to regulate life of the citizens.

Employment – We are engaging in strengthening the Employment Generation Agency, but we are facing with a gap between the qualified of the labour market and absorbing capacities
We are working for the advancement of professional schools which meanwhile are facilitating the growth of the perception and evaluation for each work not remaining only within the margins of heavy works meaning as “filthy”, many of those who work in professional work places treat this as “filthy work and clear money”, also the employment of militants should be stopped in order to employ professionals.

We are advancing the access into work offices with the concept “5 minutes to receive an answer”, this is an investment that is called “matching institution”, because for many of us this is institution number one, even if we cannot offer a job to a citizen, at least we say him/her a good word. Our mission is intercession of market since 80% of the unemployed in Albania have returned from emigration and
each of them has at least one vocational qualification.

My message is to keep in touch continuously with citizens looking at their demands and needs as this is the real contact.

Arian Galdini, Master of Politic Sciences and Public Policies

Mr. Gadini starts his lecture with the citation that “In order to achieve power one should wear the politic dressy, but in order to implement it you should the dressy off. There is no public policy that satisfies every citizen, but a good public policy should receive citizens’ satisfaction”.

He continues making a comparison between consolidated democracies and Balkan states which aim to become so. “In consolidated democracies decision-making wills are bought, and not the votes via clientele principle. Politic decision-making in Balkan is directed towards informal groups, and as a consequence of this, the public policy encounters difficulty in addressing citizens’ interests.

The public is detached from this process. Every decision that is made in Balkan has the black shadow of informality” – he explained this to participants. As a concrete example he gave the one of constructing roads from 2001 to 2009, which was regarded as of priority for both Albanian governments. Most of the roads were funded by European Union, but in the end, they were not constructed in compliance with standards! There was propaganda with them to win elections, but when it turns on the public side everything is different. The reality on paper and the reality in practice do not match”.

Mr. Galdini explained also the importance that the transparency and decision-making has in a public policy, taking as example the last protests against chemical weapons in Albania. What missed in the public communication with citizens was placing citizens in front of reality. They said “No”, because of their ignorance and fear. This was the biggest people’s protest (apolitical) after 90s, and the government did not communicate with citizens. But, after the decision was made, they directed to the mass saying that they had lost a good chance. Hence, citizens were put in dilemma asking themselves “what if we had agreed”, and this question is as a result of the lack of transparency from government, policy propaganda, and policy of dilemmas, notwithstanding that public policies are not policies of dilemma. There the citizens participate in decision-making – said Mr. Galdini.

Furthermore, Arian Galdini made a critical observation on public policies in Balkan, identifying also the guilty because they cannot be called public. “Unfortunately, the public policies in Balkan are a violence of state and citizen, thus, damaging the atom of citizenship. Politicians are facing with citizens only for economic benefits and not for the social impact. When politicians consider their service as a favour, then it is there where the public policy ends. It is their duty to serve because citizens are tax-payers from who they receive salaries. Arrogant officials, who consider their offices as patriarchies, cannot develop public policies” – was the critic of Mr. Galdini addressed to politic officials.

In the very end, the lecturer gave his full message on how should a public policy be. “Public policy becomes public when the vision of politician goes for a close communication with the public. Public policy starts with ‘I’ and ends with ‘we’. In democracy, the citizen becomes the co-author in compiling long-term policies, because the key element of a good policy is its long-term applicability. Public policy should build communitarian principle. When compiling a policy, the beneficiaries should not be only a group of citizens but rather a whole community”.