Local self-government denotes the right and the ability of local authorities, within the limits of the law, to regulate and manage a substantial share of public affairs under their own responsibility and in the interests of the local population.
Taking into consideration the very small size of the country and the proximity of the state authorities to the citizens, it is obvious that local government in San Marino cannot have the range of responsibilities that is appropriate in other countries. This cannot mean, however, that local authorities should barely have any decision-making responsibilities. This seems, unfortunately, to be the case in San Marino: In this respect, very little has changed since the last Congress information report on San Marino (1999), when the rapporteur stated that the townships: do not “...have decision-making powers or competency in certain specified areas of activity... they nevertheless participate in the administrative process by drawing up reports or preparing opinions (pareri) on various issues (opening of premises of plants, urban development etc.), the final decision being taken by the central authorities. In general, these reports and opinions have purely consultative status. In a few cases, for example travelling markets, the central authorities are obliged to comply with the parere”.
Today Art. 22 of Law No. 127/2013 stipulates that the Council decides autonomously, within the limits of its annual budget, on: interventions of a humanitarian or social solidarity nature; financing of cultural, recreational, sporting and social initiatives, also in collaboration with other entities, institutions, institutes and associations, public and private; design and construction of public works as specified in Article 28 and Article 32 (green spaces and parks; maintenance of local roads, street lighting and paths by the state public works entity AASLP, and in emergency situations, also by private companies after decision of the Mayor (“Capitano”) The Councils are also responsible for co-ordinating cultural, recreational and social initiatives in their township and facilitating collaboration between the various operating agents in their territory. Social centres which benefit from state funding co-operate with the township councils on the basis of an annual schedule based on the joint agreement between the Councils and the responsible Secretary.
Furthermore, according to Art. 23 of the same law, the township councils submit binding opinions on travelling trade and issue directives on the organization and operation of markets and on the establishment of businesses in the case of a disruption in the supply of goods.
The democratic legitimacy of local government bodies is ensured through the direct election of Mayors (Capitani) and Councillors. As already mentioned, 22,172 voters were registered for the last municipal elections in 2014. The total population of the Republic is approximately 33,000 inhabitants, of whom nearly 5,000 (more than 15%) are foreigners, mostly Italians. The Republic of San Marino has not ratified the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority. The Republic of San Marino should be encouraged to ratify the Additional Protocol on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority.
The ratification of the Additional Protocol is made easier by the fact that the Republic of San Marino has already developed a wide range of institutes of direct democracy, including direct accountability to the citizens (“Instanza d’ Arengo”), legislative initiative by citizens (Art. 30 of Law No.1 of 29. May 2013) and the three different types of referendum procedures (referendum propositivo o di indirizzo, referendum confermativo, referendum abrogativo). Furthermore, the small size of the country and the small size of local authorities (only the biggest municipality, Serravalle, has more than ten thousand inhabitants) would further facilitate the introduction of additional participatory institutions
The rapporteurs conclude that there is a formal compliance with Article 2 of the Charter since the principle of local government is recognized in domestic legislation. In addition, Article 3 paragraph 2 is respected in San Marino, since the bodies of the townships are directly elected. There is also a strong institutional arsenal of instruments and procedures promoting direct democracy. The rapporteurs would therefore encourage further development of participatory institutions at local level, including the introduction of municipal voting rights for foreign residents in San Marino.
It should be noted that the townships still have very few decision-making powers. The law of 2013 bypassed this enormous deficit of municipal competence which cannot be overlooked because of the well-known particularities and the size of the country. Eighteen years ago, Recommendation 63 (1999) stated that there seemed to be no constitutional or political barriers to consolidating a local government system that includes municipal competence in areas that are important to the local communities. Unfortunately, the laws still prevent the townships from regulating and managing local affairs such as basic local infrastructure and services that belong to the standard repertoire of municipal competences in all European countries. The rapporteurs therefore conclude that Article 3, paragraph 1 is not respected in the Republic of San Marino.