Czech Republic

Czech Republic - Monitoring report

Date of the monitoring visit: from 13 to 15 June 2011
Report adopted on: 8 March 2012

The present report on local and regional democracy in the Czech Republic follows upon Recommendation 77 (2000) adopted in May 2000. It expresses satisfaction that the Czech Republic has made considerable progress since the country ratified the European Charter of Local Self-
Government in 1999 and that the legislative framework is in line with the Charter. It takes note, however, that the fragmentation of municipalities still poses a challenge to effective and efficient local self-government and that the overall system of controls carried out by the State administration would benefit from being coordinated and simplified.


The report recommends that Czech Government develop the echanisms of consultation with local and regional authorities. It encourages the government to uphold the principle of concomitant financing and to ensure that sufficient funds are allocated whenever tasks are delegated to local
authorities. It invites the authorities to ratify those provisions of Articles 4 and 9 of the Charter on which they had formulated reservations, since these are de facto operational now. Finally, it invites the Czech authorities to sign and ratify the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self- Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority (CETS No. 207) as well as the Additional Protocol to the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between
Territorial Communities or Authorities (ETS No. 159).

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Article ratified Ratified with reservation Non ratified
Compliance Partial compliance Non compliance To be determined
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Article 2
Constitutional and legal foundation for local self government - Article ratified

The principle of local self government shall be recognised in domestic legislation, and where practicable in the constitution.


The Charter is applicable with reference to local authorities of all categories (Article 13), and the Czech Republic has made no specific declaration as to its applicability to the regional authorities that have existed since 2000. However, the main line of legal and financial regulations in the Czech Republic is the same for local municipalities and regions. This makes it reasonable to present a common exposé of the situation for both, but with separate remarks regarding each of them insofar as commanded by the nature of each question addressed.

 

As already pointed out, the provisions enshrined in Article 8 as well as Chapter 7 of the 1992 Constitution take ample care of the requirement under Article 2 of the Charter that the principle of local self-government be recognised in the Constitution.

Article 3.1
Concept of local self government - Article ratified

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.


The legal and financial regulations leave little room for doubt that local and regional authorities in the Czech Republic enjoy a well-defined right according to Article 3 (1) of the Charter to regulate and manage their part of public affairs within the limits of the law only. This point will be further developed in later paragraphs. On the other hand, whether the requirement under Article 3 (1) of the Charter that the share of public affairs devoted to the regulation and management of local and regional authorities is “substantial”, may be open to some doubt.

 

According to information provided by the representatives of the Ministry of Finance during the meeting with the Congress delegation, the combined budgets of local and regional authorities represent approximately one third of the country’s total public spending. This may easily be qualified as “substantial”. On the other hand, the distribution of the combined local and regional share between tasks qualified by Czech law as either proper or delegated has been hard to identify. The rapporteurs therefore limit their observation to taking note that there is a possibility that what is left to the proper powers of local and regional authorities, much less strictly regulated indeed and therefore closer to genuine “self-government” than the delegated powers, might be below the level qualified as “substantial”.

Article 3.2
Concept of local self government - Article ratified

This right shall be exercised by councils or assemblies composed of members freely elected by secret ballot on the basis of direct, equal, universal suffrage, and which may possess executive organs responsible to them. This provision shall in no way affect recourse to assemblies of citizens, referendums or any other form of direct citizen participation where it is permitted by statute.


The requirements under Article 3 (2) of the Charter that the right to self-government be exercised by councils elected through free elections of free elections, gives rise to no particular concern as far as the Czech Republic is concerned. Because the executive organs are elected by the relevant councils, the same goes for the requirement about responsibility towards the council.

Article 4.1
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

The basic powers and responsibilities of local authorities shall be prescribed by the constitution or by statute. However, this provision shall not prevent the attribution to local authorities of powers and responsibilities for specific purposes in accordance with the law.


The Czech Republic meets the requirement under Article 4 (1) of the Charter in that the basic powers of local and regional authorities are prescribed by law. As already pointed out, not only the constitutional provisions but also the statutory instruments adopted in or around 2000 are compatible with the Charter.

Article 4.2
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

Local authorities shall, within the limits of the law, have full discretion to exercise their initiative with regard to any matter which is not excluded from their competence nor assigned to any other authority.


The same goes for the requirement about full discretion within the limits of the law according to Article 4 (2) of the Charter. As to the proper powers of local and regional authorities, there is not much to be added. When it comes to the powers delegated by law to a limited number of bigger municipalities and to the regions, on the other hand, the scope of discretion is generally much more limited. But the fact that Article 4 para. 1 explicitly opens up the way for the attribution of powers and responsibilities for specific purposes in accordance with the law, is but one of the elements that indicate that limited discretion in the execution of such functions is not in itself contrary to the obligations undertaken by the Charter (see further under Article 4 (5) of the Charter).

Article 4.3
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

Public responsibilities shall generally be exercised, in preference, by those authorities which are closest to the citizen. Allocation of responsibility to another authority should weigh up the extent and nature of the task and requirements of efficiency and economy.


Whether the principle of subsidiarity, as explicitly recognised in Article 4 (3) of the Charter, is respected by the Czech Republic in an optimal manner depends, among other factors, on the share of public responsibilities devoted to the proper powers of local and regional authorities, and not only to delegated powers that are much more strictly regulated (see above).

Article 4.4
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

Powers given to local authorities shall normally be full and exclusive. They may not be undermined or limited by another, central or regional, authority except as provided for by the law.


According to Czech law, only the judiciary may decide with binding effect upon contested questions regarding the limits to the powers of local and regional authorities under the law, the Constitutional Court playing a prominent role. It thus seems that the obligations of the Czech Republic under Article 4 para. 4 of the Charter do not give rise to serious doubts.

Article 4.5
Scope of local self government - Non ratified

Where powers are delegated to them by a central or regional authority, local authorities shall, insofar as possible, be allowed discretion in adapting their exercise to local conditions.

 


As already noted, Article 4 para. 5 of the Charter is not binding for the Czech Republic. On the other hand, the Congress delegation’s clear impression is that Czech law is well in conformity with that provision. Not only does the Charter limit itself to talk about what is “possible”, a criterion the substance of which is by necessity much left to the determination of the relevant state. Even more does it seem clear that the systematic need for a decision by the judiciary in cases where a local or regional authority is in disagreement with central government on the extent and/or substance of its responsibilities under the law makes Czech law comply with the obligation under the Charter, had Article 4 para. 5 been applicable.

 

It follows from what has just been said that the Czech Republic should consider withdrawing its declaration concerning Article 4 para. 5 of the Charter.

Article 4.6
Scope of local self government - Article ratified

Local authorities shall be consulted, insofar as possible, in due time and in an appropriate way in the planning and decision-making processes for all matters which concern them directly.

 


As regards Article 4 para. 6 of the Charter, during the Congress delegation’s visit, some complaints were received regarding the presumed lack of due consultation in the planning and decision-making processes for all matters which concern local authorities directly. The Czech Republic is one of the member States where no particular law exists that makes it a general requirement to consult local authorities at the different legislative stages. After the visit, the Ministry of the Interior drew the delegation’s attention to the fact that such a duty is stipulated by general laws (Act on Municipalities, Act on Regions, Act on the Capitals City of Prague) and also by the Legislative Rules of the Government that define regions and associations of municipalities as “obligatory consultative subjects” as regards legislative proposals with reference to self-government matters or competences. Moreover, all legislative proposals are included into the Electronic Library of the Office of the Government and thus made public. In addition, regional councils have the right of legislative initiative, which entitles them to submit legislative proposals.

 

To some extent, the complaints may probably be explained by the fact that the relationship between central and regional government is spelled out in quite detailed statutory (including budgetary) provisions, thus leaving the final say to the political processes carried out within the two chambers of the Parliament (consultation is foreseen for procedures related to changing the boundaries of local authorities but such consultation has the legal value of an opinion and not of a decision binding on national authorities). Also, many elected local officials hold parliamentary mandates which is a form of political influence and information exchange that lies somewhere between "consultation" and "lobbying", and has a major impact on decisions concerning local
authorities.

 

But it may nevertheless be worthwhile considering whether proper mechanisms of consultation should be further developed and formalised, not the least by involving the representative associations concerned (see further below on the right of local and regional authorities to associate under Article 10 of the Charter). Indeed, the Congress has already called on members States (including the Czech Republic), through its Recommendation 171 (2005) on consultation of local authorities, to introduce particular legislative provisions with a general requirement to consult local authorities at the different legislative stages “for all matters which concern them directly” and also to consult local authorities at all stages concerning the financial resources allocated to them (Article 9 para.6 of the Charter).

 

The question of the deadlines given to local authorities is an important element of proper consultation. In order that the terms stipulated by the Charter under Article 4 para. 6 ( “in due time and in an appropriate way”) can be implemented in a satisfactory manner, clear provisions should be set out in relevant legislation allowing local government authorities sufficient time in which to consider the issues of interest brought to their attention.

Article 5
Protection of local authority boundaries - Article ratified

Changes in local authority boundaries shall not be made without prior consultation of the local communities concerned, possibly by means of a referendum where this is permitted by statute.

 


Under Czech law, decisions to amalgamate two or more municipalities are based upon an agreement between the relevant municipalities (Act No. 128/2000, Chapter I, Part 3). Break-outs may be decided following a referendum held in that part of the municipality that wishes to break away. There is no reason to believe that the Czech obligation to consult before changes in the boundaries are made, as stipulated under Article 5 of the Charter, is not respected.

Article 6.1
Appropriate administrative structures and resources for the tasks of local authorities - Article ratified

Without prejudice to more general statutory provisions, local authorities shall be able to determine their own internal administrative structures in order to adapt them to local needs and ensure effective management.


The internal structures of local and regional authorities are regulated quite extensively by nationallegal provisions. At the properly administrative level, however, they enjoy a high degree of adaptation to local needs and management. The Congress delegation has no reason to believe that Article 6 para.1 of the Charter is not respected by the Czech Republic.

Article 6.2
Appropriate administrative structures and resources for the tasks of local authorities - Non ratified

The conditions of service of local government employees shall be such as to permit the recruitment of high-quality staff on the basis of merit and competence; to this end adequate training opportunities, remuneration and career prospects shall be provided.


On the other hand, the country has decided not to submit to Article 6 para. 2 of the Charter on the conditions of service for local (and regional) government employees. This fact may be understood in light of the wide discretion enjoyed by local and regional authorities in shaping their administrative and technical services and deciding about the staff needed to fulfil the different tasks. For that reason, training opportunities or requirements, career prospects etc. provided by central government may be considered as an interference in the autonomy of local and regional authorities within the limits established by generally applicable labour law within the framework of the national (and European) labour market.

Article 7.1
Conditions under which responsibilities at local level are exercised - Article ratified

The conditions of office of local elected representatives shall provide for free exercise of their functions.


No elements suggest that the free exercise of the functions of local and regional electedrepresentatives is hampered under Czech law in a way contradicting Article 7 para. 1 of the Charter.The same goes for paragraph 3 of that article on incompatibilities.

Article 7.2
Conditions under which responsibilities at local level are exercised - Non ratified

They shall allow for appropriate financial compensation for expenses incurred in the exercise of the office in question as well as, where appropriate, compensation for loss of earnings or remuneration for work done and corresponding social welfare protection.


On the other hand, the country is not bound by Article 7 para. 2 about financial compensation to elected representatives. This must be understood in the light of the fact that such questions are left to the discretion of the local and regional council themselves.

 

Law 128/2000 sets out the conditions of remuneration of municipal councillors as public civil servants. Councillors are divided into two categories, namely “released” and “non-released” members. Those who belong to the first group, i.e. who are “released” on a long-term basis in order to perform their office and those who were not in an employment relationship before being elected to the council, are remunerated by the municipality (this includes monthly salaries plus any additional remuneration and remuneration at the end of term of office). The “non-released” members of the municipal council, ifthey are in an employment relationship, are granted leave by their employer with a salary compensation for performance of their office. The salary compensation is transferred by the municipality to the employer. Non-released members who are not employed receive a lump sum from the municipality as compensation for loss of earnings in relation to the performance of their office.

Article 7.3
Conditions under which responsibilities at local level are exercised - Article ratified

Any functions and activities which are deemed incompatible with the holding of local elective office shall be determined by statute or fundamental legal principles.


Consult reply indicated at article 7.3

Article 8.1
Administrative supervision of local authorities' activities - Article ratified

Any administrative supervision of local authorities may only be exercised according to such procedures and in such cases as are provided for by the constitution or by statute.


In the Czech Republic, supervision of local and regional authorities’ activities by central government is systematically carried out according to the Constitution or statutory law and is basically limited to the legality of those activities (Article 8 paras. 1 and 2 of the Charter). In principle, discretionary power is left with the local and regional authorities themselves, and the final word when agencies of central government think the territorial authorities have acted or decided against the law is systematically left to the judicial branch of government. In this way, the requirement for proportionality between the controlling activities and the importance of the aims pursued under Article 8 para. 3 of the Charter, seems well taken care of.

 

The Supreme Audit Office (SAO), an independent body, is responsible for the “audit the management of state property and financial resources collected under the law for the benefit of legal persons, with the exception of resources collected by municipalities or regions under their independent jurisdiction” (Act 166/1993, Part 2, Section 3). This means that it can only control the use of means allocated by central authorities. The SAO also controls ministries which manage subsidies granted to local authorities (for example for construction of water works). 

 

Local authorities call on external auditors for all activities that fall outside the competence of the SAO. There is an additional “cascade” system of control through the regions, whereby the Ministry of Finance audits the regions to verify their control over the municipalities.

 

The rapporteurs have heard during their visit a number of complaints about an overburden due to suboptimal coordination of the controls, collection of statistical data etc. exercised by different branches of central government. Even if part at least of this supervision seems to have been directed towards activities that have little or nothing to do with the particular status of local and regional authorities (such as food and water supply hygiene), the complaints are linked to the need for a rational exploitation of limited resources in a way that clearly deserves attention by central government, possibly starting with due mapping of the problem.

 

It is also interesting to note that the National Reform Programme 2011 of the Czech Republic enumerates under its heading of “Concrete reform priorities”, para. 3 (a), that measures will focus on local government units in order to “increase transparency in decision making processes, both in the decision-making of policy bodies (assemblies and councils) and in decision-making at official level”. According to this, the SAO will be given the power to supervise local and regional government units; the relationship between assemblies and councils will be revised in order to prevent circumvention of the law, and assembly members will have easier access to information relevant to their decisions and supervisory activities. In addition to these steps, a register of violations will be introduced and public authorities will be required to prepare and publish a code of ethics.

 

It is not clear from the text whether this supervision by the SAO is intended to go beyond the verifications related to delegated tasks. However, it is clear from the above paragraph that there is a will to move towards more rigorous supervision of local authorities on the overnment’s part.

 

The problems raised by the Czech system of local and regional government are essentially linked to the financial system. However, the main problem is not a clear violation of Article 9 of the Charter. It lies rather in the fact that the Czech Republic has decided not to ratify important parts of that Article (paragraphs 3, 5 and 6), but behaves in accordance with these declarations and reservations (see further in the following text devoted to Article 9 paragraphs 3, 5 and 6).

Article 8.2
Administrative supervision of local authorities' activities - Article ratified

Any administrative supervision of the activities of the local authorities shall normally aim only at ensuring compliance with the law and with constitutional principles. Administrative supervision may however be exercised with regard to expediency by higher-level authorities in respect of tasks the execution of which is delegated to local authorities.


Consult reply indicated at article 8.1

Article 8.3
Administrative supervision of local authorities' activities - Article ratified

Administrative supervision of local authorities shall be exercised in such a way as to ensure that the intervention of the controlling authority is kept in proportion to the importance of the interests which it is intended to protect.


Consult reply indicated at article 8.1

Article 9.1
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

Local authorities shall be entitled, within national economic policy, to adequate financial resources of their own, of which they may dispose freely within the framework of their powers.


As to the provisions enshrined in Article 9 para. 1, no clear failures to comply were signalled to the Congress delegation. To the contrary, the general impression is that Czech local and regional authorities, although affected by the crisis, have not been victims of the recent financial crisis in the way so often claimed by sub-national authorities in other European states. At least partly, this is confirmed by a Dexia report of 2011 (“Sub-national public finance in the European Union”), according to which the Czech Republic counts among the EU countries where the sub-national revenues in 2010 increased at least as much as the country’s GDP (pp. 3 and 7)9. However it has been brought to the delegation’s attention that, in 2009, there was a 12% decrease in the amount of shared taxes allocated to local authorities, followed by a slight improvement in 2010.

 

In the Czech Republic, municipalities are highly dependent on financial redistribution by the State (which is based on population numbers and not on a population’s wealth). This system of “shared taxation”, according to which approximately 9 % of state taxes are transferred to regional authorities and about 22 % of state taxes are transferred to local and regional authorities, leaves the latter considerable freedom in deciding how these resources should be used within the field of their proper
responsibilities. However it is also a system which is beneficial to large cities and does not encourage local authorities to increase their own tax base. Municipalities have discretion over local fees (representing 2.3 % of municipal revenues in 2010) and some discretion over the property tax
(representing about 3 % of municipal revenues). Municipalities share the air pollution fee, the levy on the withdrawal of land from agriculture and the levy on the withdrawal of land from forestry as well as the charges for waste deposition in landfills.

 

The non-tax revenues are composed mainly of rental incomes, incomes from municipalities’ own activities and income from interests. Capital revenues amount to about 4,5 municipal revenues and their majority comes from property sale.

 

On the other hand, transfers that represent 36 % of the income of municipalities (with hugedisparities according to the size of their population) and 64 % of those of the regions are mainly destined at coping with expenses caused by the exercise of delegated powers which leave little or no room for local or regional freedom within the framework of those powers.

 

It has been argued that the transfers for the execution of delegated powers are not commensurate with the size and nature of these powers as stipulated by Article 9 para. 2 of the Charter and also para. 1 as regards the “adequacy” of financial resources. According to some local representatives, some municipalities or regions have to subsidise the accomplishment of these tasks by drawing on their share of taxes in a way detrimental to their possibilities to exercise their proper powers according to their own decisions about the nature and size of these activities.

 

The adequacy of the available resources compared with the expenditure necessitated by mandatory “delegated” tasks is a constant source of conflict in many European states, but on this point, the Czech Republic is far from appearing as a “worst case” among the parties to the Charter,
particularly given that a reform instituting a two-party system of technical evaluation of the costs objectively incurred by the accomplishment of delegated powers seems to have been established (a pilot project is now under preparation). Such a reform would represent a valuable contribution to improving the Czech system of local and regional autonomy.

Article 9.2
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

Local authorities' financial resources shall be commensurate with the responsibilities provided for by the constitution and the law.


Consult reply indicated at article 9.1

Article 9.3
Financial resources of local authorities - Non ratified

Part at least of the financial resources of local authorities shall derive from local taxes and charges of which, within the limits of statute, they have the power to determine the rate.


As already mentioned, the Czech Republic is not bound by Article 9 (3) of the Charter on the right to local taxes and charges, the rates of which the local and regional authorities themselves have the power to determine. This declaration corresponds to the actual state of the financial situation in the country. As a matter of fact, non-tax revenues and local charges and fees represent less than 14 % of the revenues of the municipalities and just 3,5 % of those of the regions. The overwhelming part (close to 90 %) of the financial resources for local and regional authorities thus stems from state taxes imposed according to rates decided by central government, and from state transfers.

Article 9.4
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

The financial systems on which resources available to local authorities are based shall be of a sufficiently diversified and buoyant nature to enable them to keep pace as far as practically possible with the real evolution of the cost of carrying out their tasks.


The issue of whether Article 9 para. 4 of the Charter, by which the country is actually bound, is fully respected depends on considerations already addressed by reference to paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 9. It should be mentioned, however, that no major complaint regarding the relationship between the overall tasks of municipalities and regions and the financial resources available for pursuing them was heard by the Congress delegation.

Article 9.5
Financial resources of local authorities - Non ratified

The protection of financially weaker local authorities calls for the institution of financial equalisation procedures or equivalent measures which are designed to correct the effects of the unequal distribution of potential sources of finance and of the financial burden they must support. Such procedures or measures shall not diminish the discretion local authorities may exercise within their own sphere of responsibility.


Article 9 para. 5 is the next provision by which the Czech Republic is not bound. This corresponds to the present state of the system that does contain elements of financial equalisation between weaker and wealthier municipalities and regions. The authorities seem to consider that the objective criteria of distribution of (mainly) shared taxes between local and regional authorities as defined by law, take sufficiently care of the needs in this respect.

 

It must be noted in this context that, there being no clear policy instrument in the Czech Republic which deals with fiscal equalisation transfers, and taking into account the inability of small municipalities to achieve a significant level of tax autonomy (only 50% of municipal budgets is based on tax revenue), local fiscal imbalances and investment needs are financed by borrowing (grants and loans). There are no clear rules for the distribution of these grants.

 

As regards municipal bonds, the delegation was informed during the visit that a draft of a new law would allow local authorities to issue municipal bonds for obtaining funds to

a) invest in fixed assets (long term tangible assets),

b) remove damages caused by natural or other disaster, and

c) finance projects co-financed from EU funds.

This means that under a new legislation local authorities cannot issue municipal bonds for repayment of existing debts, as bonds are expensive investment instruments.. However, it is worth noting that although the indebtedness of municipalities in the Czech Republic is growing and may constitute a problem for individual municipalities, this does not pose a serious problem in relation to the GDP, since the overall indebtedness of all municipalities does not exceed 3 % of GDP.

Article 9.6
Financial resources of local authorities - Non ratified

Local authorities shall be consulted, in an appropriate manner, on the way in which redistributed resources are to be allocated to them.


The fact that the Czech Republic is not bound by Article 9 para. 6 either, must be understood in the light of what has just been said: The absence of a genuine system of financial equalisation makes formal consultations about the criteria of equalisation superfluous.

 

On the other hand, consultations about the criteria to be used for the distribution of shared taxes to local authorities might be most valuable indeed not only as a means for searching a higher degree of consensus but even for the systematic adaptation of the system that would be needed. After all, the provision talks about “redistributed resources” in a way not at all excluding the kind of redistribution from central to local and regional government that actually plays an important role in the Czech system. In this respect, it should be mentioned that the provision does not require the consultation of every local council. Consultation with representative associations of the different tiers of territorial authorities would be sufficient.

 

For the reasons just mentioned, the Czech Republic should be invited to consider withdrawing its declaration of non-application of Article 9 para. 6 of the Charter.

Article 9.7
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

As far as possible, grants to local authorities shall not be earmarked for the financing of specific projects. The provision of grants shall not remove the basic freedom of local authorities to exercise policy discretion within their own jurisdiction.


As to Article 9 para. 7 of the Charter, Czech law features the particularity of combining a system where earmarking and freedom are combined through two quite distinctive parts of local and regional finances. Whereas transfers are basically earmarked in the sense of being linked to the fulfilment of delegated powers, the part of local and regional financial resources that stems from shared (state) taxes are disposed of freely in the interest of the proper powers of local and regional authorities (see
above). According to the information received from the Ministry of Finance, earmarked subsidies include subsidies for social care institutions or contributions to the school system, and a special type of subsidy called “contribution towards performance of the state administration”.

Article 9.8
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

For the purpose of borrowing for capital investment, local authorities shall have access to the national capital market within the limits of the law.


Article 9 para. 8 of the Charter seems to be well taken care of by the Czech system. Under the law, local and regional authorities are free to borrow under their own responsibility, and approximately half of the municipalities have actually contracted debts. If they want to issue obligations, on the other hand, formal acceptance of the Ministry of Finance is needed, a question that is likely to come up only for a few big players. But applications are rarely denied, and should it nevertheless happen in a way not accepted by the relevant authority, the final decision is submitted to the Constitutional Court.

Article 10.1
Local authorities' right to associate - Article ratified

Local authorities shall be entitled, in exercising their powers, to co-operate and, within the framework of the law, to form consortia with other local authorities in order to carry out tasks of common interest.


According to Article 10 of the Charter, local (and regional) authorities have the right to form different kinds of “consortia” with other municipalities in order to carry out tasks of common interest (paragraph 1), to associate for the protection of protection and promotion of common interests (paragraph 2) and to co-operate with their counterparts in other states (paragraph 3). Czech law seems to comply with all these requirements (see, inter alia, Act. No. 128/2000 Chapter II Parts 3 and 4). Section 50 thereof sets out in detail the activities that unions of municipalities may engage in, namely:
“a) tasks in the field of education, social services, health care, culture, fire protection, public order, environmental protection, tourism and care for animals,
b) ensuring cleanliness of the municipality, administration of public greenery and public lighting, collection and transport of communal waste and its safe processing, use or disposal, water supply, waste water transport and treatment,
c) installation, extension and improvement of networks of technical infrastructures and systems of public passenger traffic to secure transport services for a given locality,
d) tasks in the protection of the quality of air, tasks connected with the reconstruction of solid fuel heating or water heating to environment-friendlier sources of thermal energy in residential and other objects owned by the municipality,
e) operation of stone quarries, sand pits and facilities serving for the extraction and treatment of mineral resources,
f) administration of the municipality’s property, especially local roads, woodland, housing and residential stock, sporting, cultural facilities and other amenities administered by the municipalities.

 

In particular, it should be mentioned that all the regions are members of their association. And if the Union of Towns and Municipalities of the Czech Republic represents only 40 % of the local councils, its approximately 2500 members holds sway over 75 % of the country’s entire population. In other words, the main “absents” in this organisation are most of the numerous very small municipalities. These small municipalities are organised under several associations, as explained
under paragraph 3.4 above,. There are also professional associations of local government staff, such as the Association of Chief Administrative Officers.

 

The municipal and regional associations seem active and influential. They have trimestrial consultation meetings with the national authorities. The impression the delegation got during the visit is that these regular consultations are considered fruitful by both sides but that their effectiveness very much depends on whether the consultation is launched early in the process. The rapporteurs are of the opinion that it would be an improvement to formalise this consultation mechanism by legislation as regards legal and budgetary procedures directly concerning municipalities and regions, in order to render it more systematic and to establish minimum safeguards.

Article 10.2
Local authorities' right to associate - Article ratified

The entitlement of local authorities to belong to an association for the protection and promotion of their common interests and to belong to an international association of local authorities shall be recognised in each State.


Consult reply indicated at article 10.1

Article 10.3
Local authorities' right to associate - Article ratified

Local authorities shall be entitled, under such conditions as may be provided for by the law, to co-operate with their counterparts in other States.


Consult reply indicated at article 10.1

Article 11
Legal protection of local selfgovernment - Article ratified

Local authorities shall have the right of recourse to a judicial remedy in order to secure free exercise of their powers and respect for such principles of local self-government as are enshrined in the constitution or domestic legislation.


Finally, local (and regional) authorities’ right of access to a judicial remedy according to Article 11 of the Charter is very well taken care of in the Czech Republic.

 

First of all, central government cannot decide over local and regional authorities with legally binding effect. In cases of disagreement, they are bound to refer the question to the Constitutional court for the final decision. This instance (sitting in Brno) is completely independent from central government and takes itself care of the procedural rights of territorial authorities when considering such matters.

 

Constitutional complaints of local authorities can be dealt with by the Constitutional Court (Act 182/1993) and there can also be disputes over competences that are dealt with both by the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Administrative Court. The Constitutional Court also deals with
petitions emanating from the Ministry of the Interior which may propose the annulment of a statute, or the individual provisions of a municipal self-government regulation. 

 

Even in cases brought to the administrative court by private citizens or legal persons against a local or regional council, the relevant authority has an equal status as a party to the process, and may itself have access to courts in given cases.

 

The right of recourse to a judicial remedy guaranteed under Article 11 of the Charter is limited to securing free exercise of the powers of local (and regional) authorities as enshrined in domestic law. In the Czech Republic, however, international treaties by which the state is bound are a part of
domestic law with a semi-constitutional position (Article 10 of the Constitution). By consequence, the Constitutional court has referred to the Charter in more than 20 decisions initiated by the Ministry of the interior (on behalf of the relevant ministry) or – more frequently – by members of parliament according to the procedure for abstract up-stream review of new legislation. In the landmark decision 34/02 (2002), the Court defines in some length the exact impact of the Charter in domestic law, underscoring among others (as translated by the services of the Court) that “the framework nature of the Charter and the specific nature of collective rights it expresses do not prevent it from being used as a measure for the abstract review of the constitutionality of statutes”.

ACCESSION

to the Council of Europe

RATIFICATION

of the European Charter of Local Self-Government

CONSTITUTION | NATIONAL LEGISLATION

The provisions enshrined in Article 8 as well as Chapter 7 of the 1992 Constitution take ample care of the requirement under Article 2 of the Charter that the principle of local self-government be recognised in the Constitution.



24Ratified provision(s)
0Provision(s) with reservation(s)
6 Non ratified articles
23Compliant Provision(s)
0Partially Compliant Provision(s)
1Non-compliant Article