At the request of the CLRAE Bureau, its Rapporteur Group on Ukraine (Mr Kieres and Mr Roppe) accompanied by the Secretariat (Mr Hartley) visited Kyiv, 6-8 December 2000.
The visit had three objectives:-
a. to take part in a ceremony on 7 December, organised at the initiative of the Association of Ukraine Cities, and supported by the President of Ukraine, to mark the 10th anniversary of local self-government legislation in Ukraine;
b. to discuss with representatives of the Kyiv City Council and administration, the organisation of the CLRAE Conference, scheduled to be held in 2001 on the "Management of Capital Cities";
c. to bring up-to-date its information and impressions on the pace and scope of local and regional democratic reform in the country.
* * *
This report focuses on the last objective (c) of the Group's visit.
The Rapporteur Group has visited Ukraine several times since the occasion of its first visit in 1997, in connection with the controversy surrounding the dismissal of the former Mayor of Kyiv. Present in 1998 for the municipal elections; again in Kyiv for the election of the post of Mayor and in 2000 to L'Viv and Kyiv, the Rapporteur Group has constantly monitored the development of local and regional self-government.
A number of proposals were put together in a Recommendation of the CLRAE adopted at its Plenary Session in 1998.
This latest visit was requested both by the Bureau of the CLRAE, increasingly impatient at the slow rate of reform and by the Institutional Committee of the CLRAE, concerned about reports of dismissal of elected Mayors in some regions.
On this occasion, the Rapporteur Group met with:-
- Mr Y Ioffe, Chairman of the Standing Committee on state development and local self-government, the Parliament of Ukraine;
- Mr V Kravchenko, member of the State Commission on administrative reform and the Commission on administrative and territorial structure;
- Mr M Pytsyk, Vice-President of the Association of Cities of Ukraine.
At a meeting called by the Foundation for Local Self-Government of Ukraine, the Rapporteur Group held discussions with:-
- Dr M Pukhtinsky, President of the Foundation;
- Dr V Kuybida, Mayor of L'Viv, Vice-President of the Association of Ukraine Cities, Head of the CLRAE Ukraine Delegation; Vice-President of the CLRAE;
- Dr V Udovychenko, Mayor of Slavutych, member of the CLRAE Institutional Committee;
- Mr A Voytenko, Chairman of Zhytomyr Regional Council, member of the CLRAE Institutional Committee;
- Mr I Sagach, Vice-President of the Foundation; member of the CDLR;
- Mr V Likhachov, Mayor of Vasylkiv;
- Mr G Levchenko, Acting Chairman of Myrgorod City Council, Secretary of Myrgorod City Council;
- Mr O Glavlovsky, Member of Myrgorod City Council.
3. The legislative deficit on local self-government
Ukraine adopted in 1992 its law on local administration and in January 1993 ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government.
The implications at the time of the ratification of the Charter may not have been fully understood, in that ratification implied a full-scale "root and branch" reform of the system of territorial government in the country.
CLRAE reports over the last three years have mentioned some items of legislation which have been successfully adopted, notably a new law on the capital of Kyiv.
However, there is still a significant backlog. There has been no lack of programmes, proposals, decrees, emanating from a variety of sources – Presidential, Cabinet Ministers, Parliamentary groups. These have included budget and interbudgetary relations, local taxes and charges, municipal property, municipal police, the reform of territorial administration, control of the executive by the elected councils, employment and status of local government officials. There has even been a major Presidential initiative on State support for local self-government.
None of the above proposals have been enacted, despite assurances and undertakings given periodically to the Rapporteur Group, about the imminence of relevant legislation. For a variety of reasons – Presidential/ Parliamentary/municipal elections; the need to establish new Parliamentary committees; and latterly the time-consuming legislative programme consequent upon the Presidential referendum – the CLRAE Rapporteur Group has always heard that the programme, as proposed, could not be carried out.
The impression is one of lack of political will, coupled with an excessive number of often conflicting proposals for legislation.
It is important to concentrate on two or three key pieces of legislation:- on regulating the responsibilities between different tiers of government; on defining the budgetary relations between national, regional and local authorities, in order to increase the independence of local authority budgets; to regulate the relationship between the elected local and regional councils and the local and regional state administration.
It is equally important that responsibility for preparing and enacting such a programme should be clarified and expert advice taken, eg., from the Association of Ukraine Cities and with Council of Europe experts; and that a genuine political momentum for reform inside the Ukraine Parliament evolves.
4. Lack of regional democracy
The lack of genuine regional democracy, with its additional implications for local self-government, is a major shortcoming.
Certainly, there are elected regional councils, but they do not have their own significant subordinate administration or executive. This is provided by the State administration.
The distribution of responsibilities between the appointed Regional Governors, the elected regional council, the executive in the regions, is not clear with the result that the appointed Regional Governors have considerable powers, including and particularly over the elected local authorities within their respective regions. For example, local authority budgets within a region are distributed under the supervision of the Regional Governors, provoking an inevitable subjectivity and considerable differences in local authority budgets, even within those of similar size and population density.
Furthermore, regional administrations control key areas of public life such as the provision of energy resources.
Although there is legislation on the appointment of Regional Governors, procedures are sometimes shrouded in mystery and are certainly not democratically controllable. The profile of some of the all-powerful Governors - many of them are former Heads of Soviet institutions or newly successful businessmen – may increase the tendency to maintain vertical control and runs the risk of possibly bringing about conflicts of interest.
Inevitably in such a climate there is an inherent conflict between the locally elected Mayors and the regional administrations, with political and judicial pressure on Mayors and, occasionally, dismissal. Cases have been brought to the attention of the CLRAE:- in Zaporizzhia, Vasylkiv, Cherkasy, Kremenchuk, Derazhnia, Myhrorod, Chortkiv, Sukhodilsk, Sumy, Hlukhiv, Lebedyn Tsiuriupynsk, Pryluky and others.
Without making any judgment, either on the motivation or the procedures involved, or indeed on the view of the Association of Ukraine Cities that "there is an impression that there exists a competition between the oblasts of Ukraine as to who can discredit more city heads, legally elected by territorial communities", the CLRAE Rapporteur Group regrets the high incidence of such confrontations.
The solution is not necessarily only through the replacement of an appointment system of governors by an elected system – although this in itself would be a democratic improvement. The real solution lies in total legislative and financial clarity in the roles and responsibilities of the different partners involved:- tiers of government and councils and their administrations.
5. Some positive aspects
One of the most positive aspects is undoubtedly the President of Ukraine himself, who, if judged by public statements and some real achievements, supports the principle of balanced territorial government, with a definable and accepted role for local self-government. The presence in the Constitution of local self-government guarantees; the law adopted on local self-government in 1992, are genuine achievements which may not have taken place quite so rapidly without the active support of the President.
Equally, the existence of the Coordination Council and now, its supplanted Advisory Committee on Local and Regional Government, is a presidential initiative; as is the designation of 7 December, on an annual basis, as the day of local self-government.
There have been a succession of Presidential decrees and guidance to Parliament:– on the implementation of the CLRAE 1998 Recommendation; on state support for local self-government; on the regulation of the relationship between regional councils and state administration. The new first deputy Head of the Presidential Administration has solid municipal credentials, as indeed had the former Head of the Presidential Administration, Mr Kushnaryov.
There have been some legislative achievements:- on the status of local councillors, and restrictions on their holding office in respective local administration; legislation on the strengthening of local autonomy in Crimea; matters seem to have settled down in Kyiv and Odessa after vigorous and occasionally intimidating electoral campaigns.
The voice of the CLRAE Ukraine delegation is heard in Parliamentary and Presidential circles, the position and role of the Association of Ukraine Municipalities is becoming stronger and there remains an active source of proposals and help within the Presidential Foundation for Local Self-Government.
Local elections are popular with a high voter turnout and, generally, Mayors are respected by the population and seen as trying to do their best in difficult and legislatively confused circumstances, against a background of financial uncertainty.
6. Conclusion and proposal of the Rapporteur Group
The situation concerning local and indeed regional self-government in Ukraine is peculiar. There is an undoubted visibility and support both with some politicians and within the public for the firm establishment of self-government as an accepted factor in the successful democratic society.
However, reality does not reflect such a climate. Many of the proposals contained in the CLRAE 1998 Recommendation have not yet been put in place.
Whilst the CLRAE Rapporteur Group accepts that Rome was not built in a day, it now believes that the forces in favour of local and regional self-government in Ukraine need a further international reinforcement of the momentum for reform.
The Rapporteur Group therefore feels that the time is ripe for a further CLRAE Recommendation on local and regional self-government in Ukraine to be prepared in 2001 with a view to its adoption at the mini-Session of the CLRAE in November 2001.
In advance of this, the President of the Parliamentary Commission responsible for local self-government questions, together with a representative of the Ukraine Government, could be invited to the March Session of the Standing Committee in order to have a dialogue with members of the Standing Committee.
Furthermore, the CLRAE should be involved with the ADACS programme for Ukraine in 2001, particularly in respect of acquiring additional information concerning the financial relationship between different levels of government. In 2002, the ADACS programme may wish to take into consideration the proposals emerging from the new CLRAE report.
Finally, the Rapporteur Group expresses its conviction that such a report should be carried out in close cooperation with the Ukraine CLRAE delegation with the Association of Ukraine cities and relevant agencies, such as USAID, working towards the same objectives.