Slovak Republic

Slovak Republic - Monitoring report

Date of the monitoring visit: from 7 to 9 December 2015
Report adopted on: 24 March 2016

This report follows on from the two adopted by the Congress in 2001 and 2006 respectively on local and regional democracy in the Slovak Republic.  An improvement has been noted since the last report in 2006, primarily as a result of the country’s ratification of the articles in the Charter which it had not ratified upon accession.  All the provisions of the Charter therefore now apply throughout Slovakia.  The delegation noted with satisfaction the efforts made in terms of decentralisation.  The rapporteurs also welcome the registration of the association of representatives from the eight regions, which has enhanced the existing dialogue between central government and the regional level, but has not, however, improved communication between the local and regional tiers, which is still deemed to be too limited – with the result that there are frequent cases of overlapping of responsibilities.  Difficulties were also noted concerning the decision-making process in Bratislava, where the status of the capital does not give the mayor’s decisions precedence over those of the districts.  The rapporteurs also noted inadequate funding for investment projects in certain municipalities, and expressed concern about low voter turnout in local elections.

 

Consequently, it is recommended that the Slovakian authorities clarify the legislation on the distribution of powers (Article 4, paragraph 2) so as to avoid any overlapping and make co-operation between the regional and local levels more effective, and also grant Bratislava a special status as capital city or metropolitan city so as to facilitate decision-making by the mayor. With regard to the financial aspects, the rapporteurs recommend that the system for allocating funds to local and regional authorities (Article 9) be reviewed, while encouraging the merging of certain authorities with a view to rationalising their budgets.

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Article ratified Ratified with reservation Non ratified
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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.


Although the principle of local self-government is not explicitly recognised or proclaimed as such or with this precise wording, it can be implied from Art. 65 of the Slovak Constitution (see supra). Apart from that, the legal scheme for local authorities is clearly pervaded by the idea of “independence” or self-administration (samospráva, in Slovak). Furthermore, the interlocutors ensured the delegation that the principles enshrined in the European Charter on Local Self-Government do inspire domestic legislation on local governments. Therefore, it can be said that the requirements of Art. 2 of the Charter are satisfied by the present legal and constitutional situation of the Slovak Republic

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.


Concerning Article 3 para 1, the main question that must be addressed under this heading is whether, in the present situation, Slovak municipalities do regulate and manage a “substantial share of public affairs”. The impression of the rapporteurs is that this is so, in the light of the number and importance of local competencies, the fact that they have to power to enact binding local regulations, and the lack of “a priori” controls from State agencies and departments, for most of the decisions taken by municipalities (see, infra). 

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.


Concerning Article 3 para 2, the internal structure and organisation of local authorities stem directly from art. 69 of the Slovak Constitution, whose provisions have been supplemented and defined by the laws that have been passed since 1990, mentioned supra. In the light of this legal framework, the main bodies of the municipality are the city council and the mayor.

 

The representative body composed of “deputies”, elected through a process of secret, general, and direct voting. The municipal council is the body for debate and decision-making, and its members are directly elected by the citizens of the municipalities. The number of the council members is proportional to the town’s population. The council adopts the most important political decisions affecting the municipality: the local budget, the local master plan, and the generally binding regulations. These legal regulations or ordinances must be approved by a qualified majority. The sessions of the council are public. The city council approves its own internal by-laws and rules of procedure. 

 

In some large cities (like Nitra) there are boroughs, which, contrary to what happens in Bratislava, are not considered to be local authorities. In each of the boroughs there is a committee, comprised of local councillors and regular citizens.

 

The mayor (Starosta in most municipalities, “Primator” in Bratislava and Košice and in other 140 municipalities that have city status) is the top executive authority of the municipality. He is the head of the local authority personnel, he discharges all the executive functions and executes the budget. He is also elected directly (and independently from the council) by the citizens for a four-year term, through a secret and general voting process. Therefore, and contrary to what happens in many European countries, in Slovakia the two key bodies of the municipalities enjoy full and direct democratic legitimacy. In both cases, the electoral law (basically: Act No. 180/2014, on conditions of performance of suffrage and Act No. 181/2014 on political campaign) is based on a majority system, under which the elected members of the council or the mayor of the community are those candidates who get the highest number of valid votes in their respective constituency. The last local elections were celebrated on 15 November 2014. They had a turnout of 48.34 % and they saw a massive success for independent candidates, including the independent mayoral candidate in Bratislava.

 

The Act No. 253/1994, as amended, defines the legal status and the salaries of mayors, and they are considered infra. The mayor cannot be dismissed either by the State or by the city council. The grounds for the dismissal of the mayor of the municipality are exhaustively set out in the Act 369/1990 (§ 13a, paragraph 1). These grounds are: the expiry of his term of office; resignation; a final conviction for an intentionally committed criminal offence or a final conviction for a criminal offence, or the deprivation of his legal capacity or restriction of legal capacity. 

 

Apart from the “formal” bodies for decision-making, the Slovak Constitution provides specifically for citizens’ participation: in addition to the regular voting rights in local elections, the local residents may vote on important questions of municipal life through local referenda (art. 67). One special type of this referendum is the one by which the local population may dismiss the mayor, a possibility that has happened only in rare occasions.

 

Local residents may also participate in the regular meetings of local bodies and assemblies. They may also file motions and complaints against local authorities. Citizens’ participation is generally regarded as fairly appropriate regarding the existence of formal mechanisms, but it is not very developed in practice.

 

In the light of the precedent considerations, the Slovak Republic does fully comply with Art. 3 of the Charter.

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.


Under current Slovak Law, local authorities manage autonomously (“independently”) several matters. Competences may be divided into “original” competences and “transferred competences”, with the caveat that, under Slovak legislation, if the law does not determine that a given municipal competence is “transferred”, then it must be considered to be an original competence.

 

Municipalities have original competences in the following fields: management of movable property and real estate owned by the municipality, or transferred temporarily by the State; drafting and approval of their own budgets; administration of local taxes and fees; supervision of economic activities; protection of the environment; kindergarten and nurseries; housing and town planning, building permits; water supply, sewage, and heating; refuse collection and disposal; cemeteries and consumer protection; parks and open spaces; public lightning; housing; social services; culture; certain offences; municipal police; participation in regional planning.

 

Municipalities also enjoy transferred or delegated State competences in the following areas: registry offices, construction, public order; schools, environmental protection. This is performed by sectoral legislation and is allowed by Art. 71 of the Slovak Constitution. This is usual practice, although local authorities claim that, in general, these delegated tasks are not appropriately funded (see, para 69).

 

The current situation in the field of competencies for municipalities has been the result of subsequent processes of decentralisation, run by the central government since the nineties. In total, it is estimated that, along a multi-annual program of decentralisation, the State has ended up transferring more than 400 tasks and responsibilities to the municipal and regional level. In many cases, the allocation of public responsibilities has been decided on a rather up-down approach and following a technocratic criterion, based on reasons of scale. For instance, in the domain of education the local authorities are responsible for pre-school and primary schools, while Regions are responsible for secondary schools and the State is responsible for Universities. In the domain of health services, local authorities are responsible for first aid stations and primary medical centres, while Regions are responsible for first-level hospitals and the State is responsible for national hospitals. In the field of social services, local authorities have split competences with the regions, etc.

 

The overall feeling expressed to the rapporteurs by their interlocutors was that the depth and breadth of local autonomy is fair and reasonable, in the context of the historical evolution of the nation and the most usual practices in neighbouring countries. The situation has certainly improved since the last local monitoring visit in 2001.

 

This being said, the Slovak system lacks a residual powers clause or a clause générale de competence (as French Law depicts it) in favour of local authorities, which is common in other European countries. The rule is precisely the reverse, since it is provided that if a certain competence or responsibility is not expressly allocated to the municipal level of government, the power is understood to be allocated to the State administration. Furthermore, municipalities and regions can only take action or adopt measures when the Law clearly stipulates that they have the authority to do so. Summing up, it can be said that the local decentralisation in the Slovak republic, at least from the viewpoint of the scope of self-government, makes that municipalities do enjoy an administrative, limited autonomy on explicitly legally designated areas of intervention.

 

Therefore, the requirements of Art. 4 of the Charter are respected in the Slovak Republic.

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.


Consult answer indicated at article 4.1

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.


Consult answer indicated at article 4.1

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.


Consult answer indicated at article 4.1

Article 4.5
Scope of local self government - Article 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.

 


Consult answer indicated at article 4.1

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.

 


Consult answer indicated at article 4.1

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.

 


It seems that this article is respected in Slovakia, and the rapporteurs did not hear anything to the contrary. To begin with, Art. 66 of the Slovak Constitution provide that “the unification, division or cancellation of a municipality shall be regulated by a law”. In relation to mergers, domestic legislation stipulates that the merging of several municipalities (to create another, independent and bigger one) requires the celebration of a previous referendum in all the municipalities concerned, and an agreement between the said municipalities. Officially, the merger is subject to the approval by the deconcentrated State administration and implemented by means of directives of the central Government.

 

In the light of the precedent, the Slovak Republic complies with Art. 5 of the Charter.

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.


As a rule, Slovak local authorities are able to determine their own internal administrative structures, with due respect to general legislation. Thus, each municipality is supposed to have its own office, consisting of administrative officials who are responsible for discharging the instructions of the mayor and other municipal bodies. In large municipalities, the municipal office is sometimes run by a “principal”, appointed by the municipal assembly, responsible to the mayor. Towns and cities in Slovakia are quite independent in the field of human resources and as a matter of fact, they can freely appoint and withdraw their own employees. Municipalities also appoint an internal auditor or comptroller, usually elected for a 6-year term by the Council, as an independent and impartial employee. The comptroller is accountable to the council deputies, not to the mayor.

 

The overall impression is that Slovak local authorities do not have enough qualified personnel. The rapporteurs were told that, in general, the salaries are low, and the work in local administration is usually unattractive for young, qualified people.

 

Contrary to what happens in some European countries, in the Slovak Republic there is no “fonction publique territoriale”, or any corps or division of local civil servants, regulated or recruited at central level. Each municipality is responsible for hiring, managing and paying its own public employees, within the framework of applicable legislation and the by-laws and regulations adopted by each city. Large cities, such as Bratislava, do sign collective agreements with the local trade unions. These agreements regulate issues such as the mutual relations between the city and the unions, the working conditions and social benefits, the salaries and payments, etc. What is more, Bratislava has its own salary code. Small municipalities follow the general laws and regulations on the matter, and may, eventually take decisions by the council. They may also adhere to collective agreements made at national level for municipalities. In this sense, the ZMOS has the legal capacity to negotiate and conclude collective nationwide agreements, in partnership with the trade unions of the local employees.

 

Therefore, it can be concluded that the requirements of Article 6 of the Charter are met by the Slovak Republic

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


See answer indicated at article 6.1

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.


Slovak municipalities cannot determine freely the remuneration or financial compensation to be granted to the mayors or to the members of the local council. As a rule, local council members do not receive a permanent “salary” or wages. Only in big and some middle-sized municipalities do they receive a compensation for attending the regular meetings of the councils.

 

Slovak mayors are entitled to a minimum salary. They do receive such fixed remuneration, but this is strictly regulated by national legislation, in a manner that may summarised as follows: first of all, the gross average salary in the country serves as the basis for calculation (in 2014: 882 €). Then, this figure is multiplied by a coefficient, which differs according to the number of inhabitants of the municipality, for instance: a. 501 to 1000 inhabitants: 1,65; b. 50,000 to 100,000 inhabitants: 3,19; c. more than 100,000 inhabitants: 3,58 (in this case, the maximum salary would be around 3,150 €). In addition, this “fixed” remuneration may be increased by the local council in up to 70%, according to the performance of the mayor, additional responsibilities, special dedication, etc. Apart from this main “retribution”, mayors may receive allowances and other types of compensations for expenses incurred in the fulfilment of their tasks. In general, local leaders are satisfied with the present system of remunerations for the mayors. They find it fair in the light of the overall economic situation of the country and the salaries that are paid in the public and private sectors.

 

Consequently, the current Slovak system complies with the requirements of Art. 7 of the Charter.

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


See answer indicated at article 7.1

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.


See answer indicated at article 7.1

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.


The control of the State over local authorities is very limited, and strictly regulated in the Law. Three different aspects need to be addressed here: the system of inter-administrative appeals and the role played by the General Prosecutor´s Office (prokuratura), and, finally, the action of the National Accounting Office (NAO).

 

For what concerns the first issue, sectoral legislation foresees, in some fields of tasks delegated by the State, the possibility to appeal a measure or a decision adopted by a local authority before the local State administration (for instance, the corresponding district office). This happens in the domain of building, urban planning procedures, roads and transportation. The reason for these inter-administrative controls (which are foreseen in the Slovak Constitution, Art. 71.2)  is that in those cases the municipalities do perform State administrative functions, and they do so with the monies that the State allocates to the local entities.

 

Apart from these relatively few cases of inter-administrative appeals, the most important role in the control or oversight of municipalities is played by the General Prosecutor´s Office (Prokuratura), who is an independent body established by the Constitution (arts. 149 to 151), and governed by the Act No. 153/2001, on Prosecution, as amended. The General Prosecutor´s Office ensures that the Law is observed by all individuals and all governmental and public bodies. According to this general and comprehensive competence, it may also supervise the legality of the decisions, measures and binding regulations adopted by local (and regional) authorities. The Prokuratura is a peculiar feature of the Slovak Republic, and follows apparently the German model of the Staatsanwalt. The Prosecutor acts either on request or on its own motion (ex officio). Thus, he may conduct inspections on local authorities in any matter. Inspections, though, are considered to be a preventive mechanism instead of “ex post” supervision.

 

The control exercised by the Prokuratura over local bodies is only a control of legality and “ex post facto”. The Prokuratura, for instance, cannot cancel or quash whatsoever the decision of the local authority. In no case can the Prosecutor order a local authority to do or to refrain from doing something. The prosecutor cannot suspend a local body decision, neither. In some cases, the Prokuratura may intervene at the drafting stage, when a local authority asks for its advice on a given legal matter.

 

Contrary to what happens in other countries, Slovak municipalities are not obliged to communicate to the State authorities the decision or measures that they adopt. Therefore, the Prosecution can only initiate a procedure if it receives a complaint from local politicians or from affected persons, or as a result of an investigation file. By either way, the Prokuratura may decide to have a closer look on any decision, measure or binding regulation adopted at municipal level. If the findings show that the activity of the local body is not in conformity with the Law, then the Prosecutor´s Office can issue “warnings” or protests, addressed to the local authority. The local body has the duty to answer in a time limit of 30 days, accepting or refusing the Prosecutor notice. If the local authority refuses to amend or modify its decision or measure, then the Prosecutor may lodge an appeal in court within two months, asking the annulment of the contested decision. Litigation in this field, however, is not very usual (it only happens three or four times a year). It seems that local decrees and decisions are usually drafted with care from the legal point of view, and sometimes the Prokuratura itself is consulted on a preliminary basis, as noted above.

 

According to the General Prosecutor´s Office statistics, there is a clear improvement in the way municipalities are applying the Law. In this field, each Slovak municipality is independent and may independently decide to recruit a legal official or not. Large towns may have a more or less large legal department, but not small cities. If a municipality requires special legal advice on a precise manner, they may either hire a lawyer in the free market, or ask for an opinion or advice to the Prosecution Service. According to its annual reports, the number of allegedly unlawful local decisions has decreased over the years. The main areas of non-legal compliance, according to the Prokuratura, are the following ones: Building permits Land registry Administrative offences Taxes collection and management Local fees The legality of local binding ordinances can also been supervised, and there is also number of cases in this field. hey usually impose duties and obligations on the citizens that fall beyond what the Law authorizes (for instance, a local ordinance limiting the number of dogs per household was found illegal). 

 

In general, the current system of inter-administrative control does not seem to raise concern or controversy on the part of local authorities, and they feel free to take the decisions they find more convenient. Most of the interlocutors said that they did not have experienced any real case of attempt of unlawful control from the State authorities, and that the control takes place at the legality stage. However, some local leaders made three different complaints in this area: a. Firstly, they complain that in recent years there has been an increase of State legal regulations that lay down detailed procedures addressed to municipalities, which allegedly limit the way how municipalities are supposed to execute their powers (in case of original competences). b. Secondly, they complain that the Prokuratura implements a too narrow interpretation of the principle of legality and that of conferral of powers. Therefore, in some cases, when a Municipality decides to implement a decision or initiative, this is challenged by the Prokuratura on the ground that the said initiative has no explicit basis in the legislation. The interpretation is that municipalities can only act in those cases where there is a clear conferral of competences by the Law. This interpretation of the Law leaves little (if any) room to “implicit” or residual powers on the part of municipalities, as noted supra. The principle according to which municipalities are entitled to take actions and initiatives for the benefit of the local residents, as long as these are not prohibited by the Law, is ignored in the country as is opposed by the Prokuratura. c. Finally, local leaders also complained about certain cases of inconsistency among the activity and proceedings followed by the different regional offices of the Prokuratura. Apparently, there have been cases where a given local initiative or decision has been considered to be legal by the corresponding regional office of the Prosecutor´s Office, while the same type of local decision, adopted by a municipality in a different Region, has been found illegal by the respective regional office. This causes uncertainty among local leaders. 

 

As noted above, the National Accounting Office (NAO) performs a role in the control of local (and regional) accounting, budgeting and public expenditures, a role that has been reinforced by the recent Fiscal Responsibility Act (see, infra, para 69). This body is an independent agency, set up by Act No. 39/1993. The NAO supervises all financial and property operations of local governments. In doing so, it performs different types of audits, such as compliance audits, financial audits and performance audits. In this later case, the NAO controls the ability of municipalities to perform their original competences within their remit, as well as the competences transferred from the State. For each local authority that is surveyed, a NAO report is released and sent to the mayor and to the Council, as well as to the Ministry of Finance and to the National Council. Then, the Ministry of Finance may take additional measures, if needed. On the other hand, if the NAO finds a misdemeanour, they transfer the case to the criminal prosecutor. The NAO, though, has no power to paralyse or suspend a public expenditure by a local authority.

 

In the light of the above, the Slovak Republic fully complies with Art. 8 of the Charter.

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.


See answer 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.


See answer 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 in many other European countries, finances are perceived by local politicians as one of the most controversial aspects of the current situation. It should be stressed that the local finances system is homogeneous across the country. Therefore, there are no specificities or differences between regular municipalities and “cities”, or between small towns and large cities. The key piece of legislation in this field is the Act No. 564/2004 Coll., on budget determination of income tax yields to territorial self-government, the Act No. 582/2004, on local taxes and fees, amended several times, and the Act No. 583/2004, on budgetary rules of the local self-government. Fiscal decentralisation was deepened in 2005 and 2008. The main sources of local income are formed by exclusive local taxes and shared taxes, non-fiscal income and transfers. The main ideas underlying the system is that the original competencies of municipalities should be financed through “own revenue” (tax and non-tax revenue) while the tasks delegated by the State should be financed through transfers from the State budget.

 

In the domain of taxation, local authorities are entitled to the following taxes: a. Personal Income tax (PIT): this is the main source of funding for municipalities. According to data provided by the Ministry of Finance in 2014, the personal income tax amounts for 72.3% of total tax incomes; the real estate tax is accountable for 17.9% of said incomes and 9.8% comes from other own tax incomes. This State tax, regulated and collected at State level, but the national collection of this tax is mainly allocated to the regional and local governments. According to two memoranda of co-operation signed by the Government with ZMOS and SK8, the local and regional authorities receive the following percentages of the income tax collection: a. local authorities: 66-67% in 2014; 68.5% in 2015, and 70% in 2016; b. regions: 21.9 in 2014, 29.2% in 2015 and 30% in 2016. Therefore, in 2016 the whole national collection of the personal income tax will be granted to the regions and to local authorities. In addition, the system incorporates a formula allowing a certain degree of equalisation, because the actual amount of money that each municipality receives for this category is determined according to a complex formula that takes into account several variables and coefficients, such as the number of children under 15; the number of inhabitants of the municipality, the number senior residents who are older than 65, the altitude of the municipality, etc. b. Real estate tax: municipalities also collect the real estate tax and are entitled to 100% of the collection thereof. Tax rates are approved by the city council in the form of general binding bylaws, with due respect to applicable State tax legislation. c. Other local taxes are the lottery tax, the local tax on dogs, the tax on vending machines. d. Charges and fees: municipalities collect a number of different charges, such as the one for the municipal collection of waste, or for the use of municipal property.

 

Amongst the non-tax revenue: revenue from business, commercial activities, revenue from the ownership of property (sale of movable and immovable property); donations received; interests from deposits or other financial products; collection of traffic fines and other administrative offences; financial operations – the municipalities (like the self-governing regions) can ask for loans from the private sector and they can issue bonds. The prior approval of the Ministry of Finance is not required. However, municipalities and regions can only enter into these financial operations if they respect some ceilings or limits (see below).

 

Municipalities do receive transfers for the performance of delegated, State administration tasks. These transfers are earmarked transfers and are calculated by State agencies so as to cover, theoretically, the cost of discharging these delegated tasks. However, the rapporteurs received many complaints that the funds transferred do not cover adequately the provision of those services, especially in the domain of primary schools.

 

Municipalities may also benefit from the several EU funds established in the domain of urban development, rural development and other fields related to the municipal life. However, these revenues are in no way stable or periodic and depend on a large series of factor which mainly stand outside the municipalities reach.

 

The current overall situation of local finances was diagnosed in a contradictory way by the interlocutors met by the rapporteurs. For what concerns the local leaders, the situation was diagnosed as unsatisfactory in general, as far as the flexibility and sufficiency of financial resources is concerned. They claim that a great part of the money still comes from the State; that the system of local taxes is not satisfactory; that the total amount of disposable resources is not enough; and that the spending power of local authorities is still small as compared to the State. Small municipalities allegedly receive the minimum money for the functioning of their administrative apparatus, but Bratislava also complains. This aspect seems to be a permanent discussion in the Slovak political landscape. Some local leaders are not satisfied with the manner how funds are calculated, the system is considered not to be fair, and according to them there is not enough equalisation. According to the UMS, the formula of fiscal decentralisation should be changed because it is disadvantageous for small cities and towns.

 

In this sense, mention should be made to a study performed by the National Accounting Office in 2005. The NAO conducted audits in 100 municipalities, chosen according to previously established statistical selection criteria. At the end of this comprehensive survey, the NAO found that municipalities under 5,000 inhabitants could not really discharge their competencies and statutory responsibilities.

 

A different viewpoint is that of the central government. The relevant ministries claim that the current arrangement is fair and adequate for the country, which is suffering from the economic crisis. The Ministry of Finance considers that the level of financial autonomy of local authorities is satisfactory and that the principle of commensurability of local finances (as proclaimed by the Charter on local self-government and by art. 71 of the Slovak Constitution) is fully respected. Furthermore, the Ministry claims also that the amounts of transfers (to finance delegated tasks) have been sufficient over the last years. As an evidence of this assertion, it seems that in 2012-2014 the territorial self-governments showed a budget surplus or balanced budget. The crisis in 2008-2010 resulted in the decrease funds from the personal income tax and for that reason the Government granted an additional transfer to the municipalities of €100M in 2009 and €72.5M in 2010.

 

For what concerns the actual figures, the structure of revenues for municipalities can be broken down as follows for the years 2012, 2013 and 2014.

 

Independently from the official position of the Government, it is clear from the above table that, at least, the own revenues of municipalities have increased, while the state transfers have decreased. On the other hand, the fiscal decentralization has been deepened in the last years, something that can be understood to be right: during the last Congress monitoring visit on local democracy in 2001, local authorities spent some 7% of total government expenditures, while currently both local authorities and regions account for 18% of total government expenditures. However, it is true that the setting up of the regions has established a certain “cap” on the potential increase of financial autonomy of local authorities. Moreover, the said figure of 18% can be still considered to be low in the light of common practices in Europe.

 

In the domain of budgeting, all municipalities are free to draft and to approve their own budgets, but they must respect the budget structure established by the Law, which sets a unified legally binding system of budgetary classification. The local council is the competent authority to approve the budget. Local authorities are free to decide on what they spend their own revenues, and the Central government or other State authority cannot interfere with the municipalities budgetary autarchy. The Ministry of Finance respects the autonomy of municipalities and does not address binding instructions or guidelines to municipalities or to self-governing regions in the domain of budgeting.

 

However, the Law sets some specific limits or rules on the local public debt, such as: (a) loans which can only be used for capital purposes; (b) the total debt stock which cannot exceed 60% of the budget of the previous year; and (c) the annual debt payments which may not exceed 25% of the budget of the previous year. In the aftermath of the economic crisis, and in view to reduce the public deficit of local and regional authorities, some extraordinary measures and controls have been implemented on local/regional bodies as a consequence of the economic crisis: in accordance with the Constitutional Act No. 493/2011 Coll. on fiscal responsibility (Fiscal Responsibility Constitutional Act) and with the Law on Budgetary Responsibility of 1 March 2013, since 2016 these obligations or limits have been stringed, since the Act establishes a fine to the municipalities and self-governing regions in the event of exceeding the limit of debt (in December 31th 2015). During the consultation process, the Ministry of Finance informed the delegation that: “The government made an agreement (“Memorandum of Understanding") with local and regional authorities (ZMOS, SK8). The basic goal of memorandum was “consolidating public finances in order to bring the general government deficit below three per cent of GDP in 2013. Following the successful fulfilment of the Memorandum have been further discussions with territorial government authorities. The local and regional authorities negotiated an increasing their in the income of share from PIT as explained under para 76 (a, b, c) above.

 

Finally, and as far as municipal property is concerned, Slovak municipalities have their own property, goods and assets. The key piece of legislation in this field is the Act No. 138/1991, on the municipal property. In addition, the right to own land and real estate property is fully recognised to local authorities, and they manage them in a freeway.

 

In the light of the above, the Slovak Republic meets the basic standards enshrined in Art. 9 of the Charter.

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.


See answer indicated at article 9.1

Article 9.3
Financial resources of local authorities - Article 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.


See answer indicated at article 9.1

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.


See answer indicated at article 9.1

Article 9.5
Financial resources of local authorities - Article 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.


See answer indicated at article 9.1

Article 9.6
Financial resources of local authorities - Article ratified

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


See answer indicated at article 9.1

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.


See answer indicated at article 9.1

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.


See answer indicated at article 9.1

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.


In Slovakia, the right of local authorities to associate and to form common platforms is fully recognised. Local authorities are entitled to freely associate with others and thus form national associations. In this sense, Art. 66 of the Slovak Constitution provides that “a municipality shall have the right to associate with other municipalities for securing matters of common interest. Consequently, several associations have been established during the last two decades.

 

The oldest and most important association of local authorities is the « Association of towns and villages of Slovakia » (Zdrudenie Miesta a Obcí Slovenska, ZMOS). The foundation of the association dates back to January 1990, well before the creation of the new independent Slovak state. Based on the principle of voluntary adherence, ZMOS members currently include 95% of all cities and towns in Slovakia Today, ZMOS is regarded as a non-partisan organisation that defends and represents the interests of local authorities. The association acts as a local interlocutor with the government and conducts lobby in favour of vigorous territorial decentralisation in the country. The financial sources of ZMOS come from the contribution of its members. As a matter of fact, out of 140 municipalities with a city status, 132 are members of ZMOS.

 

The other important association at national level is the UMS (Únia Miest Slovenska – Union of Towns and Cities of Slovakia) founded in 1994. The UMS comprises only “cities” (in the technical sense), and an amendment of the UMS statutes in 2012 cancelled the possibility for villages to become extraordinary members, although it seems that several towns do participate actively in the UMS activities, Currently, the UMS has 63 de jure members (“cities”) in total. Is it possible for a city to be both a member of UMS and of ZMOS.

 

Besides these two main associations, two other “sectoral” associations have been established: a. the “K8 Association”, which is the Association of the city of Bratislava and seven regional capitals of Slovakia. It was founded in 2006 as an independent organisation or regional capitals. K8 priorities include the reform of public administration and the financing of the larger cities; b. the Association of Historic Towns and Cities of Slovakia (AHTSoS), formed by cities having historical districts and its main goal is the maintenance and development of their historical heritage.

 

Apart from “institutional” associations, formed by “genuine” local entities, there are other “personal” or professional associations at local level, such as: a. the Association of Municipal Finance Officers of the Slovak Republic (AMFO SR); b. the Slovak City Managers Association (SCMA); c. the Association of the Chief Controllers of Towns and Cities of the Slovak Republic (ACCoTC); d. the Club of the Mayors of Slovak Towns and Cities (CMSTC) e. the Slovak Association of IT experts working in self-governing institutions (ZISS) – supporting eGovernment implementation on self-government layer

 

Therefore, the association phenomenon is very well developed at local level in Slovakia. All the main associations entertain frequent and fluent negotiations and political dialogue with national authorities (Parliament, Prime Minister, President) (see para 27 supra).

 

As noted in the introduction of this report, the Slovak Republic has signed and ratified the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities and two of its protocols. This, in connection with art. 10.3 of the Charter, provides for a robust legal and political basis for engaging in transfrontier co-operation. The situation may be depicted as being fairly positive, and local leaders and associations told the rapporteurs that they do no perceive limitations or constraints from the State in this domain.

 

As a matter of fact, many municipalities have established partnerships, agreements and twining with towns and cities in other countries. For instance, the city of Bratislava is very active in the area of international co-operation. It conducts a strong co-operation scheme with Vienna, which has resulted in a number of joint projects (transport links, social housing, bike paths, etc.). Another cooperative structure has been done with the Austrian Land of Lower Austria. The agreement covers 11 main areas (transport, infrastructure and mobility, tourism, etc.). The city is also very active within the context of the Council of Danube Cities and Regions.

 

Besides the individual municipalities, both the ZMOS and the UMS associations are also very active in trans-frontier local co-operation.

 

Consequently, the present situation of the right of association is fully in compliance with the requirements of Art. 10 of the Charter.

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.


See answer 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.


See answer 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.


The implementation of this article of the Charter deserves a nuanced assessment. It is true, as noted supra, that Slovak municipalities enjoy a large scope of autonomy and that State control, as presented in the previous points, is legally limited and light in practice. It is also true that municipalities, as legal entities, do have the right to go to courts in order to defend their rights, ownerships or interests, but just as another entity would do. Therefore, municipalities can have access to the regular courts, where they can defend their autonomy, if it were ignored or reduced by the central government or by State agencies. The same is true concerning litigation in the Constitutional Court. Under Art. 127a of the Slovak Constitution, the court has competence to decide “on complaints of the bodies of territorial self-administration against unconstitutional or unlawful decision or against other unconstitutional or unlawful action into the matters of self-administration”. Furthermore, the court has the power to cancel the challenged decision, or if the infringement of the right lay in an action different than in a decision, “it shall prohibit continuing of infringement of the right and shall order, if it is possible, to reinstate the status before the infringement”.

 

The frequency of this type of litigation remains unclear, in any case, and so is the question whether this provision could be used by local authorities to challenge an Act of Parliament in the Constitutional Court, in the case that the said law would reduce or cripple local self-government.

 

In the light of the above, the Slovak Republic meets the basic standards enshrined in Art. 11 of the Charter.

Article 12.3
Undertakings - Non ratified

Any Party may, at any later time, notify the Secretary General that it considers itself bound by any paragraphs of this Charter which it has not already accepted under the terms of paragraph 1 of this article. Such undertakings subsequently given shall be deemed to be an integral part of the ratification, acceptance or approval of the Party so notifying, and shall have the same effect as from the first day of the month following the expiration of a period of three months after the date of the receipt of the notification by the Secretary General.


102. As noted in the Introduction to this report, the Instrument of ratification of the Charter that was first deposited by Slovakia contained several declarations or “reservations” to the Charter. Once the ratification process was fully culminated in 2007, there are no longer reservations, and this international instrument is fully applicable and binding on Slovakia. As compared to the practice of other countries, the Slovak approach must deserve a positive appraisal, and fully complies with Art. 12 of the Charter.
Article 12.2
Undertakings - Non ratified

Each Contracting State, when depositing its instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval, shall notify to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe of the paragraphs selected in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 of this article.


102. As noted in the Introduction to this report, the Instrument of ratification of the Charter that was first deposited by Slovakia contained several declarations or “reservations” to the Charter. Once the ratification process was fully culminated in 2007, there are no longer reservations, and this international instrument is fully applicable and binding on Slovakia. As compared to the practice of other countries, the Slovak approach must deserve a positive appraisal, and fully complies with Art. 12 of the Charter.
Article 12.1
Undertakings - Non ratified

Each Party undertakes to consider itself bound by at least twenty paragraphs of Part I of the Charter, at least ten of which shall be selected from among the following paragraphs:

 

– Article 2,

– Article 3, paragraphs 1 and 2,

– Article 4, paragraphs 1, 2 and 4,

– Article 5,

– Article 7, paragraph 1,

– Article 8, paragraph 2,

– Article 9, paragraphs 1, 2 and 3,

– Article 10, paragraph 1,

– Article 11.


102. As noted in the Introduction to this report, the Instrument of ratification of the Charter that was first deposited by Slovakia contained several declarations or “reservations” to the Charter. Once the ratification process was fully culminated in 2007, there are no longer reservations, and this international instrument is fully applicable and binding on Slovakia. As compared to the practice of other countries, the Slovak approach must deserve a positive appraisal, and fully complies with Art. 12 of the Charter.

ACCESSION

to the Council of Europe

RATIFICATION

of the European Charter of Local Self-Government

CONSTITUTION | NATIONAL LEGISLATION

Although the principle of local self-government is not explicitly recognised or proclaimed as such or with this precise wording, it can be implied from Art. 65 of the Slovak Constitution.



30Ratified provision(s)
0Provision(s) with reservation(s)
3 Non ratified articles
29Compliant Provision(s)
1Partially Compliant Provision(s)
0Non-compliant Article