Recommendation 77 (2000)1 on local and regional democracy in the Czech Republic

The Congress,

1. Recalling the colloquy on regionalisation in the Czech Republic, held in November 1999 in Prague in co-operation with the Czech Union of Towns and Municipalities;

2. Having sent a delegation comprising its two co-rapporteurs, MM. Cuatrecasas (Spain) and Guégan (France), a consultant and the Secretariat to visit the Czech Republic from 9 to 11 November 1999 and from 12 to 15 March 2000, and having noted their report;

3. Welcoming the Czech Parliament’s ratification of the European Charter of Local Self-Government on 7 May 1999, and keen to ensure that the principles laid down in the Charter are given real effect in the Czech Republic;

4. Welcoming the Czech Parliament’s ratification of the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation Between Territorial Communities or Authorities on 20 December 1999, and keen to ensure that its principles are given real effect in the Czech Republic;

5. Having noted the Czech Government’s determination to reform the country's territorial system, and the system of public administration generally, as soon as possible, those reforms being among the government’s priorities;

6. Having also noted the difficulty of reaching a political consensus in the Czech Republic on the practical arrangements for implementing these reforms;

7. Having examined the preliminary versions of, inter alia, the draft law on municipalities and the draft law on the regions of the Czech Republic, on which the considerations included in its report are based and which have since been adopted by the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament;

8. Welcoming the speeding up in recent months of the legislative process that is to provide the legal basis for organising the first ever regional elections in autumn 2000 and for establishing functioning regions at the beginning of 2001;

9. Considers it necessary to recommend that the parliamentary and governmental authorities of the Czech Republic:

a. pursue the efforts made to date in the legislative sphere to establish functioning regions with real powers and to set up, via regional elections, the elected bodies without which such regions cannot operate;

b. seek the most appropriate ways of rationalising territorial ministerial delegations as the districts are gradually phased out;

c. increase municipalities’ own powers, thereby diminishing their dependence resulting from delegated competencies by the state;

d. invest municipalities and regions with full powers in staff matters under rules and regulations specific to public officials;

e. systematically consult local and regional authorities and their representative associations, when drawing up and discussing draft laws concerning them;

f. make sure that administrative scrutiny of local authority acts is governed by appropriate legislation and, with respect to their own powers, is concerned only with the legality of such acts, rather than with their expediency, in accordance with Article 8 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government;

g. set up an administrative court to ensure that local government bodies enjoy legal protection through a right of recourse to a judicial remedy, in accordance with Article 11 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government; make similar provisions for the future regions;

h. ensure that the financial reform does not penalise or demotivate those municipalities or regions that are more active and dynamic in promoting economic activities that generate wealth; establish a system for the apportionment of tax revenue that also takes account of objective criteria other than the number of inhabitants; make provision for appropriate horizontal equalisation procedures;

i. step up efforts to train local and regional government staff, given that successful decentralisation is always largely conditioned by the professionalism, motivation and efficiency of local and regional government officials;

j. encourage mergers between municipalities and inter-municipal co-operation, in any form they choose, in order to avoid excessive fragmentation and rationalise major public investment;

k. continue the dialogue with the Congress during the reform process currently under way, through consultations and exchanges of views with its members and experts, in order to benefit from their expertise and the experience of other European countries in the sphere of local and regional democracy;

l. consider limiting the scope of the Declaration formulated by the Czech Republic when it ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government;

m. appoint an appropriate delegation to participate in the Congress’ Chamber of Regions as soon as possible after the establishment of the regions and the election of their representatives;

n. promote transfrontier co-operation between local and regional authorities and explore the possibility of signing the additional protocols to the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities.

1 Debated by the Congress and adopted on 25 May 2000, third sitting (see Doc. CG (7) 4, draft recommendation, presented by M. L. Cuatrecasas and M. Guégan, rapporteurs).