The principle of local self government shall be recognised in domestic legislation, and where practicable in the constitution.
The organisation and functioning of local government in Albania is guaranteed by the following legal acts:
the Albanian Constitution, Part I, Article 13 and Part VI on local government, adopted in 1998;
the European Charter of Local Self-Government, signed on the basis of Decision of Council of Ministers (DCM) No. 203, dated 26.3.1998 and ratified by the Parliament by adopting the Law No. 8548 “On The European Charter of Local Self-Government” dated by11 November 1999;
Law No. 8652, dated 31 July 2000 ‘On the Organisation and Functioning of Local Government in Albania’ as amended;
Law no. 8654, date 31 July 2000, “On the organisation and functioning of the municipality of Tirana”;
Law no. 8653, date 31 July 2000, “On the administrative and territorial division of local government units in Republic of Albania”;
Law No. 8699 dated 23 November 2000 “On the ratification of the Cross-Border Cooperation Framework Convention between municipalities and local authorities, its two protocols and other local governance documents”;
DCM No. 651, dated 29 December 1999 ‘On the Strategy for Decentralisation and Local Autonomy’.
The fundamental principles of the Constitution of Albania provide the key provisions for the structure and operation of local and regional authorities: separation of powers, supremacy of the sovereignty of the people, right to direct universal suffrage by secret ballot, political pluralism, and guarantee of the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens.
Article 13 of Constitution affirms that the local government in Albania is founded upon the basis of the principle of decentralisation of power and is exercised according to the principle of local autonomy.
Articles 108-115 define the principles of local government and authorities. Thus, Article 108(1) establishes that the units of local government are communes, municipalities and regions, while Article 108(2) establishes that the local boundaries cannot be changed without prior consultation of the inhabitants.
Article 109 (1) stipulates that, the representative organs of the basic units of local government are councils that are elected every four years in general direct elections by secret ballot. In addition, the mayor of the municipality and the head of the commune as the executive organ of the LGU, are elected directly in the same manner.
Article 110 defines that, the region (composed of several basic unit of local government) is the unit in which regional policies are elaborated, implemented and harmonised with state policy.
Basic powers and the principle of the right to local fiscal autonomy are listed in Article 113, establishing that the councils of the communes, municipalities and regions regulate and administer local issues, in an independent manner, within their jurisdiction by exercising the rights of ownership, administering all income created local issues, having the right to exercise economic activity and the right to collect and spend the income necessary for the exercise of their functions. According to this Article, local authorities should be entitled to adequate fiscal financial resources, which they may freely dispose within the framework of their powers.
The Law on the Organisation and Functioning of Local Government, no. 8652 of July 2000 (the Organic Law), is the main law that has been prepared and approved within the framework of the decentralisation reform. It affirms the rights and competences of the LGUs in conformity with the Constitution and the Charter, and establishes the framework of the relations between the central and local governments.
The Organic Law is divided into 11 chapters covering general provisions, the rights of the LGUs, the functions and competencies of Communes, Municipalities and Regions, local government finance, the composition, establishment, organisation, authority and tasks of municipal and communal councils, the mayors, territorial subdivisions, the organisation of the regional council and the reorganisation of LGUs.
By virtue of this law, municipalities and communes are clearly entitled to a substantial autonomy over a large list of functions in the areas of public services, economic development, social and cultural activities, public order and protection.
Other important acts with additional amendments of relevance to local government are:
Law No. 8743 dated 2.22. 2001 ‘On Immovable State Property’ that defines: the immovable properties to be transferred in property or in use to the local governments, the regime of property rights and the administrative management of the transfer process with key steps and respective deadlines;
Law No. 8744, dated 2.22. 2001 “On the Transfer of Immovable State Public Property to Local Government Units”;
Law No. 8653, dated 31 July 2000 ‘On the Territorial and Administrative Division of Local Government Units’, defines the borders of each municipality, commune, district and region;
Law No.8654, dated 31 July 2000 on ‘Organisation and Functioning of Municipality of Tirana’;
Law No. 8752, dated 26.3.2001, ‘On Establishment and Functioning of the Structures for the Administration and Protection of Land’;
Law No. 8927, dated 25.7.2002, ‘On the Prefect’;
Law No. 8934, dated 5.9.2002, ‘On Environmental Protection’;
Law No. 8978, dated 12 December 2002, ‘On the Local Tax for Small Business’;
Law No. 8979, dated 12 December 2002, ‘On some Additions and Amendments to Law No. 8438, dated 28 December 1998, ‘On Income Tax ’;
Law No. 8980, dated 12 December 2002, ‘On Amendments to Law No. 8560, dated 22 December 1999, ‘On Tax Procedures in the Republic Of Albania’’;
Law No. 8982, dated 12 December 2002, ‘On the Local Tax System’;
Law No. 9010, dated 13.2.2003, ‘On the Environmental Administration of Solid Waste’;
Law No. 7850 dated 29.7.1994 ‘The Civil Code’;
Law No 8991, date 23/01/2003, “On some additions and amendments to the Law No 8405, date 17.9.1998, “On urban planning”, amended by the decision No 2, date 25 November 1999 of the Constitutional Court, and by Laws No 8453, date 4.2.1999, No 8501, date 16.6.1999 and No 8682, date 7 November 2000”;
Law No. 9232, date 13 May 2004 “On social programs for housing residents in urban areas”;
Law No. 9632, date 30 October 2006 “On local taxes”;
Law No. 9675, date 13 January2007 “On some amendments to law no. 8417, date 21 October 1998 “Constitution of the Republic of Albania”;
Law No. 9719, date 23 April 2007 “On some changes and amendments to Law no. 9232, date 13 May 2004 “On social programs for housing residents in urban areas”;
Law No. 9745, date 28 May 2007 “On some changes and amendments to Law no. 9632, date 30 October 2006, “On local taxes”;
Law No. 9743, date 28 May 2007 “On some changes and amendments to Law no. 8405, date 17 September 1998 “On urban planning”, amended;
Law No. 9869, date 4.2.2008 “On loans for Local Government”;
Law No. 10 119, date 23.4.2009 “On territory planning”.
Article 2 of the Charter stipulates clearly that the “principle of local self-government shall be recognised in domestic legislation and where practicable in the constitution”. The Constitution of Albania (Article 13) recognises the concept of local self-government. Articles 108-115 thereof set up the fundamental rights, functions and power boundaries for the LGUs. The scope of their powers, internal structure and financial guarantees are defined by the organic law; territorial arrangement is established by the law on territorial and administrative division of the LGUs. There are also some 20 legal acts that regulate the local government system in Albania.
The Albanian legal system being monistic, the Charter is recognised as an integral part of the legislation and there is a specific law (No. 8548) that sets up the legal mechanisms for the realisation of the principles of the Charter. The Rapporteurs are satisfied to note that the principles of the Charter set forth in Article 2 are fully covered and taken into account by the legal acts of Albania.
The rapporteurs would only add that, in many Council of Europe member States, the administrative territorial division and the boundaries of municipalities are an integral part of the organic law on LGUs whereas in Albania, they are the subject of a separate law. This law regulates the structure, roles and responsibilities of both the regional authorities and the LGUs, which creates confusion. In an ideal case, there would be a separate law on regional governments and perhaps, this is a consideration that could be taken up by the legislator in further developing the legislation on local government.
It should also be noted that the current procedure for the adoption of normative acts gives the Council of Ministers the right to issue a decision that obtains status of law 40 days after formal adoption by the Parliament. This practice allows the government to make its decisions obligatory for all levels of public administration in the country. The rapporteurs would recommend replacing this procedure with the ordinary practice of adopting normative acts after three readings, giving parliamentary factions more control over the legislative process and improving legislative procedure.