Sinaïa, Prahova (Romania), 7-8 October 2002
Colloquy organised jointly by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in Europe, the Ministry of Public Administration and the Federation of Local Authorities of Romania – National Union of the County Councils of Romania
1. Regionalisation is spreading throughout Europe and most countries are affected by it. In the transition states, it represents an attempt to adapt public structures to the requirements of territorial democracy, and to modernise the state for the purpose of increasing public participation, acknowledging regions' cultural identities and facilitating local development.
2. The advantages of regionalisation are generally recognised:
Regionalisation allows for the emergence of a form of public sovereignty that is more diverse and closer to citizens. It extends the grass-roots action conducted by municipalities (which are too small for certain tasks) and allows for implementation of the principle of subsidiarity. Regionalisation increases neighbourhood democracy. Regions act as genuine interlocutors for the central State and helps to prevent socio-cultural conflicts through recognition of a country's territorial diversity. It is an essential factor in the promotion and economic development of the regions, particularly via regional, national and European policy and in terms of environmental protection policies. Transfrontier co-operation, as envisaged in the Council of Europe's 1980 Framework Convention, requires the existence of regions with strong powers on both sides of the border, so as to facilitate harmonious transfrontier economic development. Regional structures also allow citizens to participate more fully in building European unity.
3. The European Union's structural and regional policies are increasingly providing additional stimulus in developing both regionalisation policies and partnerships for inter-regional co-operation at European level.
4. Regionalisation processes differ, and depend on a particular state's structure, history and socio-economic and cultural development.
5. Several States have recently introduced major administrative reforms in order to set up regions or, where necessary, to increase the latter's powers through appropriate transfers. This has been the case, inter alia, in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as in Italy, the United Kingdom and now France.
6. Where regional authorities have been set up, the principles of subsidiarity and regional self-government have been recognised in domestic legislation and/or in national constitutions.
7. Regional self-government refers to regional authorities' legal powers and effective ability to regulate and manage a share of public affairs under their own responsibility and for the benefit of their populations, in application of the principle of subsidiarity and in line with the Constitution and/or legislation.
8. In principle, a regionalisation policy consists in ensuring that regions are endowed with the following characteristics, in line with the draft European Charter of Regional Self-Government:
- the existence of own competences: these should be defined by the Constitution, the statutes of the region or by national law (also applicable to limitations on these competences);
- decision-making and administrative powers in the areas covered by their competences: regions should have their own resources, administrations and staff;
- their own bodies: regional authorities should be endowed with a representative assembly, elected on the basis of direct and indirect universal suffrage, and an executive body that is answerable to this assembly;
- the right to participate in international co-operation by regions, and to be involved in national and international programmes;
- the absence of hierarchical subordination between the regions and the State, and between regions and local authorities, without prejudice to the supervision of legality by state bodies;
9. A draft Regional Charter of Local Self-Government is being examined within the Council of Europe: its main principles have already been approved by the Conference of European Ministers responsible for Local Government, meeting in Helsinki in June 2002. A list of six regionalisation models was drawn up on the basis of the existing structures in member States.
10. The political will expressed in Romania demonstrates an openness to administrative reforms for the purpose of encouraging regionalisation. However, the various political circles concerned have put forward varying concepts and scales for such reform, without calling into question the State's unity.
11. The Romanian Prime Minister has launched a major debate on regionalisation, which will be pursued until 2004, so that the Government that emerges from the forthcoming elections will be able to take the appropriate decisions in this area.
12. However, a degree of regionalisation could be introduced via the legislation on the country's administrative organisation, the general system for local self-government and local public administration, based on judets; these are local territorial authorities at intermediary level which enjoy a certain autonomy. Increasing the size of the judets and introducing devolution, i.e. transferring more competences and resources, seems possible (under Article 121 (1) of the Constitution).
13. The possible transformation of judets, grouped together in this way, into regional-type authorities should be analysed from the socio-cultural, economic, legal and historical perspective, and could consequently be a step towards regionalisation in Romania.
14. The development regions set up in 1998 are not autonomous regional authorities; instead, they represent a form of inter-county co-operation without legal personality, for the purposes of regional socio-economic development.
15. The European Union's regional and structural policy has the effect of encouraging greater regionalisation, particularly through:
- the requirement that publicly-elected representatives be involved in managing their environment and drawing up plans for regional development;
- the need to set up regional management structures endowed with democratic legitimacy so as to be able to manage EU structural funds.
16. The establishment of regional authorities in Romania requires that all the parties concerned be consulted, namely the representative associations of local authorities and of judets; the process should take into account the requirements of administrative modernisation, increasing effectiveness and responsibility to citizens, faced with the requirements of sustainable and balanced regional development and the country's social cohesion within an integrated Europe.
17. The European Commission and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe have expressed their willingness to support research and activities in the area of regionalisation by providing resources and experts. A task force could be set up for this purpose, and in particular for drawing up assistance arrangements and programmes; it would be co-ordinated by the Ministry of Public Administration, and participants could include institutional representatives with powers in this area.