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.
Article 4 paragraph 6 of the Charter provides that “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”.
Consultation is a key principle of the Charter. The Charter does not define or prescribe the forms of consultation or substantially regulate the consultation process. Since its basic function is to establish the general approach and framework for consultations, it may be concluded that the main process of consultation is dependent on three basic conditions: (a) local authorities should be able to obtain full information on decisions and policies that concern them directly, and this information should be available at the initial stage of the decision-making process; (b) local authorities should have the possibility of expressing their opinion on decisions and policies before these become legally binding documents; and (c) local authorities should have the time and ability to prepare recommendations or alternative drafts and submit them for consideration.
Recommendation 300 (2011) pointed out the necessity to improve the consultation mechanisms.
Since then, this aspect has been addressed by several reforms and during the monitoring visit the delegation was informed that, generally, the consultation works quite well, although sometimes the short delays do not allow the local authorities to duly examine the acts submitted for consultation.
The Administrative Code contains several provisions on consultation. Article 78 establishes the procedure for decentralising State competences.In all stages of the transfer process, it is mandatory to consult the associative structures of the local public administration authorities. Article 82 establishes that the representatives of the associative structures of the local public administration authorities are also members of the Committee for Local Public Finances, which has an advisory role in the drafting and implementation of financial and fiscal decentralization policies. Article 86 provides that
“Theauthorities of the central public administration initiating a draft normative act have the obligation to consult the associations of local authorities, at least 15 working days before the submission for adoption/approval of any draft normative act that directly concerns the local public administration and/or that has an impact on local communities. In the case of projects of urgent normative acts, the term can be reduced to 10 working days”. According to paragraph 3 of the same article, “The points of view of the associative structures of the local public administration authorities regarding the draft normative acts on which they were consulted are motivated in accordance with the legal provisions and can be transmitted, through the care of their presidents, within 10 working days from upon receipt, at the authority of the central public administration initiating the draft normative act, respectively within 7 working days, in the case of draft normative acts of an urgent nature”.
Those provisions have been specified and detailed by the Government Decision nº 635/2022 on the procedure for consulting the associations of local government authorities in preparing the draft legal acts.
The delegation was informed by the Ministry of Development, Public Works and Administration (MDPWA) that, to ensure a coherent framework for analysing the implementation of the consultation procedure, consultative meetings are organised every six months at the level of the Ministry between its management and that of the associations. In 2021, the Ministry sent 230 draft legal acts to the associations of local authorities as follows:
- 155 draft laws;
- 30 draft Government decisions;
- 30 draft Government Ordinances;
- 4 draft Emergency Government Ordinances;
- 9 draft orders of ministers.
The associations of local government authorities have sent opinions on the draft legal acts mentioned above, as follows:
- 5 opinions from the Romanian Association of Communes;
- 36 opinions from the Romanian Association of Municipalities;
- 3 opinions from the Romanian Association of Towns;
- 183 opinions from the National Union of County Councils of Romania.
In 2022, new regulation was passed by the government also on the interministerial technical committee for decentralization. It is a structure with a consultative and permanent character, with the participation of the president of the Romanian Association of Communes;the president of the Romanian Towns Association; the president of the Romanian Association of Municipalities; the president of the National Union of County Councils in Romania. It approves the draft of the general decentralization strategy developed by the coordinating ministry of the decentralization process; proposes solutions regarding the sectoral decentralization process or regarding the need to improve the way decentralised powers are exercised, as the case may be; endorses the projects of sectoral decentralization strategies and the projects of sectoral strategies for improving the way of exercising decentralised powers, proposed by ministries or other specialised bodies of the central public administration; approves the quality and cost standards proposed by the ministries or other specialised bodies of the central public administration, which are subsequently approved by a Government decision; approves the monitoring and evaluation reports regarding the implementation stage of the sectoral decentralization strategies and the sectoral strategies for improving the way of exercising decentralised powers.