Recommendation 84 (2000)1 on regional democracy in Moldova

The Congress, having before it a proposal from the Chamber of Regions,

1. Recalling:

a. its Recommendation (38) 1998 on the situation of local and regional self-government in the Republic of Moldova, in which it formulated a number of comments addressed to the Moldovan parliamentary and governmental authorities;

b. its Resolution (59) 1998, in which it decided to continue monitoring the development of local and regional democracy in Moldova with a view to producing a final report;

2. Having taken note of the results of the official visits to Moldova by the rapporteurs of the relevant working groups for the purpose of implementing the above-mentioned decision;

3. Having regard to the report prepared by Mr Nicolae Radu (Romania, R), Rapporteur on regional democracy in Moldova, as examined by the Chamber of Regions;

4. Having taken note of the opinion prepared by Professor Philippe De Bruycker, consultant, on the legislation mentioned below;

5. Commends the Moldovan Parliament for responding positively to its recommendation to pass the bill prepared by the government on the country's new organisation of local and regional authorities; in this connection, it is pleased that in November 1998 the Parliament enacted:

a. a law on the organisation of local and regional authorities enabling nine new regions (judets) to be established;

b. a law on local government (also concerning the regional level);

6. Welcomes the passage by the Moldovan Parliament of other legislation on local financing, local property and the status of regional elected representatives which also refer to the regional level;

7. Concerning Gagauzia, is of the opinion that its special autonomy should be reflected not only in laws and regulations but also in practice, in conformity with the proposals contained in paragraph 15.e of this recommendation;

8. Is pleased that the discussions concerning the former district (raion) of Taraklyia have been concluded with the creation of a new region in addition to the nine others created by the law on the organisation of local and regional authorities; that is a clear sign of the Moldovan authorities' determination to respect the rights of national minorities and testifies to their efforts to develop pluralist democracy at regional level;

9. Welcomes the fact that, following the creation of the ten regions, Moldovan citizens were able to choose directly the representatives of these new regional administrative entities in democratic elections;

10. Thanks the Moldovan central authorities for inviting it to observe these elections, including those concerning Gagauzia and Taraklyia;

11. Is pleased that in July 1999, following its recommendations, the representatives of the new regions and Gagauzia created an association representing their interests (Association for Regional Development through Local Self-Government);

12. Considers that the creation of this association constitutes an important element in promoting co-operation between these regions and their representation in dealings with the central authorities;

13. Is convinced that a settlement of the conflict between the Moldovan authorities and the authorities of Transdniestria must remain a national priority in the context of preparations for Moldova's greater European integration;

14. Recalls that it is prepared, if the Moldovan authorities so wish, to lend assistance, in conjunction with the Venice Commission, in defining a special autonomous status for Transdniestria;

15. Concerning the establishment and development of regional democracy in the country, considers it necessary to make the following comments and recommendations to the Moldovan governmental and parliamentary authorities:

a. The setting up of self-governing structures on a regional basis constitutes a very important contribution to resolving the problems of integrating the peripheral regions in the social, political and economic life of the country. From this point of view, the creation of new regions must be welcomed as a first step in this direction;

b. It must also be pointed out that the regionalisation process can create the necessary foundation for the economic development of the entire country, which continues to be one of the Moldovan authorities' priorities;

c. It is urgently necessary to put into place a specific and distinct legal framework for the recently created regions as well as the city of Chişinau, which have been experiencing problems and have needs that very often differ from those of local municipalities in the strict sense (towns and villages);

d. The law on local government may be said to be on the right track, because it covers a large number of questions that concern regional self-government. However, it needs to be improved upon in order to:

clarify the relationship between the local authorities and the new regions; from this point of view, there is reason to doubt the appropriateness of giving the regions general powers for co-ordinating municipal activities,

spell out the status of prefects whose functions – despite the fact that the law states that there is no relationship of subordination between the prefects and local government bodies – do not seem to be well accepted by the recently created regional authorities,

increase the number of meetings of regional councils during the year: four meetings do not seem to be sufficient,

iv. define the links between the adoption of the regional budget and the adoption of the national budget,

v. provide for civil and criminal liability for regional authorities as legal entities alongside the direct personal liability contemplated for elected representatives;

e. Finds that the implementation of legislation on local government and the organisation of local and regional authorities pose particular problems with regard to Gagauzia and its special status. In this context, it wishes to formulate the following comments and recommendations:

it is not desirable for Gagauzia to be considered, by law or interpretation, to be a second tier of regional government in the same way as the other nine regions and the city of Chişinau, despite its special status recognised by the Constitution (see the Venice Commission’s opinion in this regard),

ii. the institution of a prefect in Gagauzia does not seem to be in keeping with the autonomy granted this entity; this comment also flows from the status of the Governor of Gagauzia (Bashkan) who, as ex officio member of the government, represents it in the region in which he was elected,

iii. conflicts might arise in the future between the prefect and the Gagauzia authorities that jeopardise the balance achieved after long and difficult negotiations between the central authorities and the Gagauzia authorities,

the law on the special status of Gagauzia can only be amended by a special majority; accordingly, it is part of the corpus of constitutional law, and its provisions take precedence over other Moldovan laws in keeping with the hierarchy of legal rules (principle of lex superior),

v. from a political and legal point of view, it would be necessary for the Moldovan Parliament to confirm the special autonomy of Gagauzia and specify once and for all the institutional nature of this autonomy and the powers of the elected bodies in Gagauzia under the Moldovan legal system. On this basis alone will it be possible to interpret and amend the legislative provisions concerned, which now seem to be in conflict. The Congress is prepared to participate with the Venice Commission in the efforts of the working group established by the Moldovan authorities for this purpose;

f. From a general point of view, recommends that the new legislative and administrative machinery for regional self-government be improved and revised to take account of the above-mentioned problems;

g. On this basis, the requisite measures should be taken to implement this legal framework so that the regional authorities can:

i. govern their regions within the limits of the autonomy recognised by law and the Constitution, in particular as concerns reconciling financial resources and powers,

ii. establish far-reaching relations with authorities in other European countries and become involved in associations representing them at international level.

1 Debated and approved by the Chamber of Regions on 23 May 2000 and adopted by the Standing Committee on 25 May 2000 (see Doc. CPR (7) 4, draft Recommendation, presented by Mr N. Radu, Rapporteur).