Russian Federation

Russian Federation - Monitoring report

Date of the monitoring visit: from 23 to 25 October 2018 and from 5 to 7 March 2019
Report adopted on: 30 October 2019

This report presents the rapporteurs' conclusions following their visits to the Russian Federation from 23 to 25 October 2018 and from 5 to 7 March 2019 and takes into account the previous visits to the country since it ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1998.

 

The report notes with satisfaction the recognition of the principle of local self-government both in the Constitution of the Russian Federation and in ordinary legislation, as well as the application of the provisions of the Charter in the case law of the Constitutional Court. The report also notes that Russian legislation provides for a wide variety of instruments for citizens’ participation in public affairs. In addition, the cultural and educational rights of different ethno-linguistic groups are respected at the local and regional level in the Republics of Tatarstan and Chuvashia. 

 

However, the report highlights several cases of non-compliance with the Charter that pose a general problem for the development of local and regional democracy in the country. The rapporteurs regret in particular a low share of public affairs under the own responsibility of local authorities, the lack of financial resources available to them, the insufficient use in practice of existing mechanisms and procedures of consultation by some constituent entities and the unclear division of competences between different levels of government.

 

The rapporteurs also express their concerns about the access to electoral rights and freedom in the Russian legislation. Therefore, they invite the Russian authorities to increase the share of local level in the regulation and management of public affairs, to allocate sufficient own resources to local authorities, to implement the existing legislative provisions on consultation of local authorities on all issues that concern them directly and to clarify the delimitation of competences to enable local authorities to perform the functions assigned to them.

 

Finally, the rapporteurs call on the Russian authorities to adopt various measures to guarantee equal access to electoral rights to independent and opposition candidates, notably by abolishing the legal provisions requiring considerable numbers of signatures as a precondition for registration of candidates and the “municipal filter” for candidatures at the level of constituent entities.

 

The Russian authorities are also invited 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.

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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.


As already shown in several parts of this report, the principle of local self-government is recognised both in the Constitution of the Russian Federation and in ordinary legislation and, more specifically, in the Federal Law of 6 October 2003 N 131-FZ “On general principles of organisation of local self-government in the Russian Federation” (as amended, in force since 1 May 2018). According to Article 1 of this law:

 

Article 1. Local self-government

 

  1. Local Self-Government is one of the foundations of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation recognised, guaranteed and implemented throughout the territory of the Russian Federation.
     
  2. Local self-government in the Russian Federation is a form of exercise by the people of his power, providing, within the limits defined by the Constitution of the Russian Federation, federal laws, and in cases stipulated by federal laws, the laws of the subjects of the Russian Federation, an independent and the population under its own responsibility, directly and/or through local authorities issues of local significance, proceeding from the interests of the population, taking into account historical and other local traditions.

 

The existence of legal acts that are incompatible with this federal act and the constitution remains a serious matter of concern in domestic legislation. However, in spite of problems with various pieces of legislation, it is clear that the principle of local self-government is recognised both at the level of the constitution and legislation.

 

The rapporteurs consider that the Russian Federation complies, in principle, with Article 2 of the Charter.

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.


Reform of local self-government began in 2003 when local autonomies were restored in rural settlements and cities after they had been practically abolished during the period known as “phased constitutional reform” in 1993 and 1994. By the beginning of the 2000s, local self-government bodies had been absent in more than half of Russian cities and most rural areas. Heads of local administrations were appointed by governors; there was no accountability of the local executive to local deputies and citizens.

 

Threats to local self-government also emerged after the 2003 reforms. The rapporteurs note that the norms introduced by Law No. 136-FZ allow the Entities of the Federation to withdraw practically any competence from municipalities (in the fields of territorial planning and development, land use, and utility services); municipalities have lost a number of powers and responsibilities that have traditionally been inherent in local government, for example, social security and now public health (as of 2011).

 

The rapporteurs received information that several tasks have been taken away from local authorities. On the other hand, during the monitoring visit, interlocutors from federal authorities and authorities of autonomous republics mentioned several cases of devolution or delegation of tasks. It is also obvious that in view of the size of the country and the extremely uneven population density, different types of local authorities and corresponding tasks exist. Therefore, the rapporteurs are not convinced that the Russian authorities could systematically restrict the scope of competence assigned to local authorities in general. On the other hand, they are convinced that there are many opportunities for increasing the share of local authorities in the regulation and management of public affairs.

 

The situation in Moscow, where municipalities are deprived of basic functions and resources, is certainly at odds with the provisions of the Charter. The fact that Moscow city is a federal subject does not mean that one tier is sufficient for a territory of 12 million inhabitants. Cities that are federal subjects also exist in other federations, such as Germany (Bremen, Hamburg and Berlin), but in these cases they include a lower level where strong local government exists and this is not the case in Moscow, nor (to a slightly lesser extent) in Saint Petersburg.

 

During the consultation procedure, representatives of the city of Moscow highlighted “that the role of municipal deputies has increased significantly, the range of tasks and powers has become wider. Deputies are personally involved in the implementation of works on the improvement of the territories of districts, on the renovation of housing stock in Moscow.”

 

The rapporteurs however consider, on the basis of the above mentioned information provided during their visits, that the Russian Federation partially complies with Article 3, paragraph 1, of the Charter. In particular the situations in Moscow and Saint Petersburg are seen by the rapporteurs as quite problematic in this respect. The management of the share of public affairs should be globally improved in practice.

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.


During the consultation procedure the rapporteurs were informed by the representatives of the Republic of Tatarstan that the majority of the heads of municipalities are elected among members of municipal council (in Russia – 8 896 heads, 41.0%), or elected directly by universal, equal and direct election (in Russia – 6 718 heads, 30.9%). In the Republic of Tatarstan, for example, all 43 heads of municipal districts and two city mayors are elected among members of respected municipal councils. The rapporteurs observe that Law No. 8-FZ of 3 February 2015 has established a new model for the “election of the head of a municipality”: the status of the mayor can be acquired now by a person selected by a selection board originally established to fill another position, the head of a local administration. Thus, the head of a municipality is not subject to the procedure of election by the population or by the municipal council. Furthermore, the share of the selection board members appointed by the governor has increased to 50% and the governor also has the right to present candidatures for the position of mayor. So, the heads of municipalities are in fact appointed at the governor’s initiative and instruction.

 

The rapporteurs conclude that Article 3, paragraph 2, of the Charter is not respected.

 

On the basis of their exchange of views with various interlocutors the rapporteurs received information that direct elections have become the exception rather than the rule: local governments are prescribed to renounce direct elections (heads of municipalities are elected from among the councillors or – more often – appointed, following a contest). Only four federated entities provide for the opportunity to determine independently the structure and organisation of local governments. Among 80 regional capital cities, only eight of them have retained direct election of mayors (while the number of the heads selected through a contest has reached almost 50%). Besides, the regions very often abolish direct elections for the local government representative bodies at the level of municipal raions and town districts, which have intercity municipal formations (this refers to three city districts), replacing them by delegation.

 

Recently, in March 2019, the State Duma planned to examine the draft federal law No. 631751-7 “On Amendments to the Federal Law ‘On General Principles of Organisation of Local Self-Government in the Russian Federation’ (especially the Part referring to Issues of Territorial Organisation of Local Self-Government)”. According to criticism from the Yabloko party, the “election of mayors of cities and heads of districts has removed almost everywhere. The bill gives the right to the Russian regions (and, virtually, the governors) to liquidate local self-governments in cities and rural settlements by giving municipal districts the status of a municipal territory, which does not envisage having a local self-government in cities and rural settlements that used to be part of the municipal district”. These provisions of the draft law would “directly contradict the Constitution of the Russian Federation, according to which local self-government is guaranteed in the Russian Federation and is carried out in urban and rural settlements and other territories through elected bodies of local self-government”.[18]

 

According to recent information provided by the Russian National Delegation to the rapporteurs after the second visit, amendments to the legislation regarding the direct mayoral elections in the Russian Federation were about to take place. Voters may now choose in which way the mayor should be elected. As was explained by the members of the delegation, in accordance with the law, there are four different definitions of a mayor.

 

1. A mayor who is elected from among the members of the representative body/municipal council. About 20% of mayors throughout the Russian Federation are elected this way.
 

2. A mayor who is elected through a direct election. In this case the mayor can be a head of either a representative or of executive power.
 

3. There is the provision for a mayor to combine the functions of a head of both the representative and executive powers. This is mostly practised in small rural constituencies (with small populations).
 

4. The last option is currently being explored as an experiment in 2 to 3% of municipalities – election of a mayor by conducting a tender. For the selection of the mayor, a special committee is created, set up by deputies.

 

The choice of one of these four options is to be made by the voters. They are informed about it through public hearings, mass media and other ways of increasing of public awareness. After the public consultation, the judicial bodies register the method of mayoral election chosen by the population.

 

However, during the consultation procedure, the State Duma informed the rapporteurs that the draft law to which the National delegation referred to, will not be considered by the State Duma, notably because, in its opinion, “it does not comply with the institutional principles of the Russian legislation”.

 

Under the Federal Political Parties Act, a political party is freely established without the permission of State authorities or officials. A political party may be established at the constituent congress of a political party (Article 11). Federal Law No. 28-FZ of 2 April 2012 “On Amending the Federal Law ‘On Political Parties’” reduced the required minimum number of political party members from 50 000 to 500 people. A member of a political party may be a member of only one regional branch of a given political party – at the place of permanent or primary residence. The charter of a political party may establish requirements for the minimum number of members of a political party in its regional branches (Article 3, paragraph 2, and Article 23, paragraph 6, of the federal act on political parties).

 

A political party (Article 3.2 of the federal law “On Political Parties”) must have regional branches in at least half of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. The governing and other bodies of a political party, its regional branches and other structural subdivisions must be located in the territory of the Russian Federation. In 2012 the requirements with regard to the number of political parties were eased which resulted in the registration of 60 new parties. In reality, many parties operate in a few regions, although they have a federal status. Quite a few of them have been abolished by court decisions, because the number of their regional branches had dropped below the minimum.

 

Article 2, paragraph 25, of Federal Act No. 67 of 12 June 2002 on basic guarantees of electoral rights and the right to participate in referendums for citizens of the Russian Federation (hereinafter – Federal Law No. 67-FZ) provides for participation in local elections as electoral associations not only of political parties and their structural subdivisions but also of other public associations, established in the form of public associations and public movements and registered in accordance with the established procedure (including regional and local), whose charters provide for their participation in elections.

 

Recommendation 297 (2010) of the Congress had pointed out difficulties faced by new parties for registering at local and regional level and it asked the Russian authorities to prevent the use of closed lists in local and regional elections, while it also suggested measures to ensure that independent candidates may stand in these elections everywhere. During the first part of the monitoring visit in 2018, some local independent experts criticised legal provisions prohibiting regional and local parties since only federal parties having their branches in more than half of the regions can participate in local elections.


At the same time, however, the right to run for local elective office has been attributed to public organisations (associations and movements).

 

In fact, “closed lists” (party lists) are used in many European countries, but rather in national (parliamentary) elections. According to information provided by the Federation Council, the open-list system, in which voters were given the opportunity not only to vote for a list but also to express preference for one or more candidates from the selected list, was practised during the election of deputies to legislative (representative) bodies in the 1990s and 2000s in some constituent entities of the Russian Federation (Kaluga and Tver regions, Chukchi Autonomous Okrug). However, it was not widespread due to the difficulties in organising and conducting voting. Open lists were used only in four regions in the 2003 and 2005 elections, following which they were abolished by law in all regions where they were allowed. Open lists were allowed in four regions in the 2010 local elections if local authorities wished to have them. But in recent years, they have been abolished in the Republics of Saha (Yakutia), Tuva and Ulyanovsk Oblast. For a short period of time, open lists were provided for by the law of Tver Oblast, but they were also later abolished. In 2013, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation ruled that the system of closed lists did not violate the constitution nor was it at odds with European standards.[19]


At present, open lists are still available in only one region – the Samara Oblast. But no municipality has made use of such an alternative.

 

The proportional electoral system has become widespread at the regional and local levels, mainly as a part of the mixed electoral system (providing for the election of one part of the deputies from the lists of candidates in proportion to the votes cast for these lists, the other part – from single-mandate or multi-mandate constituencies). According to Federal Law No. 67-FZ/2002, the adoption of a proportional electoral system for the election of all members or for parts of the legislative (representative) bodies of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation or of local self-government assemblies was left to the discretion of the constituent entities.

 

In accordance with Article 35.19 of Federal Law No. 67-FZ/2002, elections to the assemblies of rural and urban settlements (excluding urban districts) with a population of less than 3 000, as well as to assemblies of rural and urban settlements (including the representative bodies of urban districts) with a population of less than 15 000 shall be held only in single-mandate and/or multi-mandate constituencies. In these elections there is no provision for applying a proportional electoral system, in which, following the election results, the deputy mandates are distributed between the lists of candidates nominated by political parties and other electoral associations. Thus, this legal provision prohibits the nomination of candidates by means of lists of candidates from any political party or electoral association, including the application of “closed lists” in these elections. According to the Federation Council, a steady trend that emerged in 2011 and 2012 and intensified after the adoption of the federal law of 2 November 2013, No. 303-FZ “On Amending Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation”, is the reduction in the use of both a purely proportional and mixed electoral system in municipal elections and its replacement by a majority electoral system with single- and/or multi-member electoral districts.

 

Concerning the legal right for independent candidates to stand in local or regional elections, it should be noted that Russian citizens may be nominated directly (a candidate in a single-mandate or multi-mandate constituency) or as part of a list of candidates (in a single constituency). The direct nomination of candidates may be done through self-nomination or through nomination by an electoral association. Candidates may be nominated as part of a candidate list by a political party entitled under federal law to participate in elections or by its regional branch or other structural subdivision entitled under federal law to participate in elections at the appropriate level (Article 32, paragraphs 1, 2 and 3, of Federal Law No. 67-FZ). Federal Law No. 67-FZ provides for the possibility of independent candidates participating in elections at both regional and local levels by self-nominating. An exception is the election to the “highest offices” (heads of the highest executive bodies) of the State in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. In these cases, the possibility of candidature by self-nomination in accordance with paragraph 2 of Article 32 of Federal Law No. 67-FZ is left to the discretion of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. But following a return to direct elections of the governors in 2012, regional laws did not envisage independent candidates, and this is true for most regions. Independent candidates are not provided for in the regional elections held on a proportional basis.

 

According to the view of some critics, there have been obvious efforts to exclude independent candidates from the elections. Two instruments have been used for this end:

 

–A mechanism aimed at excluding independent candidates from the elections by sorting out the fake signatures from among the electorate or removing candidates because of faulty documents (for example, an attempt to remove Konovalov, a candidate running for a position of governor in Khakasia, by the Procurator’s Office on the pretext that there was a mistake in the name of the Communist Party branch which put forward his candidature for the election).

 

–The absence of any opportunity for an independent candidate to carry out an advertisement campaign: even if a candidate could afford to pay the high prices for publishing promotional material, the mass media would deny him the right to do so: tough measures rule out advertising in the streets and on houses, and billboard advertisements are torn off by special groups whose organisers and sponsors cannot be identified. Street rallies and meetings with the electorate are also banned.

 

There were also complaints, coming both from experts and representatives of opposition parties and independent deputies, that several kinds of resources available to the administration are used for the benefit of incumbent politicians who are standing as candidates. Concerning fairness and transparency of election campaigns, according to information provided by the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation, Federal Act No. 67 of 12 June 2002 on basic guarantees of electoral rights and the right to participate in referendums for citizens of the Russian Federation (Article 24, paragraph 10,
sub-paragraph “e”), provides that the election commissions of municipal entities are vested with the authority to take measures in the territory of the municipal entity to finance the preparation and holding of local government elections and local referendums. They can also take appropriate measures for the distribution of funds allocated from the local budget and (or) the budget of the constituent entity of the Russian Federation, the financial support for the preparation and holding of local government elections, local referendums, as well as monitoring the use of those funds for their intended purpose. In addition, Federal Law No. 6-FZ (Article 9) entrusts the accounting authorities of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation and municipal entities with the authority to monitor the implementation of the budgets of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation and municipal entities, the legality, efficiency (effectiveness and economy) of the use of the funds of these budgets, as well as the funds received from other sources provided for by the legislation of the Russian Federation, and control over compliance with the established procedure for managing and disposing of State (municipal) property.

 

One of the suggestions included in Recommendation 297 (2010) was the ratification of the additional protocol on the right to participate. The Federation Council commented that the protocol “does not have a new, broader legal content than the current legislation of the Russian Federation regulating legal relations related to the implementation of local self-government in the Russian Federation”. The legal norms available in Federal Law No. 131-FZ regulate the relations on the realisation of the right to participate in the affairs of local authorities. Thirteen articles of the federal act (Articles 22-33 and 251) set out a wide range of “participatory procedures” – specific forms of direct citizens’ involvement and forms of participation (local referendums, public hearings, citizens’ gatherings, citizens’ meetings, citizen surveys, citizens’ law-making initiatives, territorial public self-government, etc.). Article 33 of Federal Law No. 131-FZ provides that citizens have the right to participate in the affairs of local self-government in any form that does not contradict the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the federal laws and the laws of the subjects of the Russian Federation.

 

According to information provided by the Federation Council, public hearings and public discussions can be initiated by both local authorities and the population, and they are held with the participation of residents to discuss drafts of municipal legal acts. An important feature is that drafts of some acts of the municipal entity, such as those governing its charter and local budget, have to be submitted to public hearings. A citizens’ meeting may be held to discuss issues of local importance, to inform the public about the activities of local self-government bodies and to implement territorial public self-government. At the meeting it may be decided to apply to the local self-government bodies, and persons authorised to represent the meeting of citizens in relations with local authorities may be elected.

 

An important form of direct citizens’ participation is the local referendum (Article 3, paragraph 2, of the Charter). Citizens, election associations, public associations or the representative body of a municipal formation can initiate a referendum. The most important issues related to the organisation of local government, such as early termination or extension of the term of office of local government bodies, early elections to local government bodies, adoption or amendment of the local budget and fulfilment of financial obligations of the municipality, can be the issues of such a referendum. Decisions taken in a referendum are mandatory throughout the entire territory of a municipal entity. Laws of several constituent entities include detailed provisions on local referendums. For instance, in Leningrad oblast, the law of 9 June 2007 “On local referendums in Leningrad oblast” was adopted, which establishes the procedure for preparation and holding of local referendums in municipalities. In addition, Regional Law No. 44-oz of 8 May 2009 “On the referendum of the Leningrad Region” defines the procedure for the preparation and conduct of the regional referendum at the level of the Leningrad Region. During the consultation procedure the representatives of the Leningrad region highlighted that in the Leningrad Region referenda on local issues are regularly held. For example, in September 2016 there were 3 referenda in Lomonosov Municipal District and in Tosno Municipal District. However remain cautious about the extent of the practical relevance such forms of citizens’ participation have in reality, taking into consideration the experience of Moscow, where the ability to hold a referendum was barely exploited.

 

During the consultation procedure, again the rapporteurs were also informed that in Leningrad Region over the past five years, special attention has been paid to the development of local self-government in such forms as village elders, public committees, initiative commissions (since 2018). Village elders contribute to communication between municipal administration and people. It is especially useful in remote areas where the communication infrastructure is not well developed. Local initiatives from village elders are supported through regional, municipal budgets.

 

Laws of constituent entities of the Russian Federation and normative legal acts of local self-government bodies may create new forms of citizens’ participation as long as they comply with the existing federal or regional laws. For example, participatory budgeting and the institution of elders first emerged through popular initiative and were supported by deputies of the representative bodies of municipal entities. Nevertheless, representatives of the Federation Council argued, as already mentioned, that the existing level of citizens’ participation would not need the backing of the additional protocol.

 

The rapporteurs would like to express their satisfaction at several positive changes that have been introduced, following Recommendation 297 (2010). For instance, minimum numbers of members for the registration of parties was drastically reduced, registration of candidates supported by associations and groups is allowed and the direct election of governors was reintroduced. The introduction of single-mandate constituencies in municipalities for the election of deputies could also promote accountability of representatives. Closed lists deprive voters of the opportunity to take advantage of preferential voting but they do not directly violate the provisions of the Charter. In fact, the free election of assembly members provided by Article 3, paragraph 2, of the Charter does not necessarily include a right for voters to carry out preferential voting. On the contrary, legal requirements for candidates to gather a considerable number of signatures supporting their candidature and, even more so, the municipal “filter” for candidatures at the level of constituent entities (federal subjects) pose serious obstacles to election freedoms and should be abolished. Methods of citizens’ participation that have been introduced constitute positive developments, even though it seems that instruments like local referendums are formally provided for but barely implemented.

 

As regard the “municipal filter”, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation stressed during the consultation procedure that “the presence of a “municipal filter” stimulates political competition at the local level, forcing political forces to work with local problems and nominate political leaders from their midst who are ready to take responsibility for solving the problems of local communities and cooperate with higher authorities. Thanks to the “municipal filter”, local self-government becomes a “school of democracy” and the elected head of the subject of the Russian Federation is forced to take municipal interests into account in its activities.” 

 

The rapporteurs do not share this opinion and in view of the aforementioned facts, the rapporteurs’ opinion is that the Russian Federation partly complies with Article 3, paragraph 2, of the Charter and should therefore abolish the provision for considerable numbers of signatures as a precondition for registration of candidatures, as well as the “municipal filter” for candidatures at the level of constituent entities. Finally, it should also be stressed that the fact that the several participatory instruments have formally been introduced is a strong argument for the ratification of the additional protocol by the Russian Federation.


[18]. http://eng.yabloko.ru/?p=21218.

[19]. In Ruling No. 324-O of 6 March 2013, “At the request of a group of State Duma deputies to verify the constitutionality of the provisions of Parts 1 and 2 of Article 89 of the Federal Law ‘On the Election of Deputies of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation’”, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation noted that in elections held under the rules of the proportional electoral system of closed lists, citizens, while exercising their active right to vote, do not vote for specific candidates but for the entire list and, essentially, votes are cast for the respective political party, its political performance and its election programme. Thus, the court confirmed the right to establish a proportional system with closed lists. The same ruling noted that the position adopted by the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) on the legal regulation of the activities of political parties (Venice, 15-16 October 2010) also states that the nomination of a person as a candidate of a political party is an expression of his or her personal right to be elected (paragraph 126); in electoral systems using closed lists, parties may determine the order of their candidates on the electoral lists, but parties should be prohibited from changing the order of candidates on the electoral lists after the beginning of voting (paragraph 129).

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.


According to Article 12 of the constitution, “local government ... shall be independent within the limits of its authority”. Article 130, paragraph 1, of the constitution provides that local self-government shall ensure the independent solution by the population of issues of local importance. Article 132, paragraph 1, provides that local self-government bodies “shall independently ... solve matters of local importance”.

 

Federal Law 131-FZ sets out the legal framework for the activities of local self-government bodies, as well as issues of local significance (Chapter 3, Articles 14-18) that are dealt with by local self-government bodies independently and at the expense of local budgets. Such issues include, for example, power, heat, gas and water supply, construction of municipal roads, provision of transport services to the population, creation of conditions for provision of communication services, public catering, trade, conditions for mass recreation of citizens, culture, sports, landscaping and many other issues.

 

Some criticisms the delegation heard during its visit concerned municipalities being short of competence. In particular, general education operations (except the maintenance of school buildings and some minor aspects), provision of public services, the organisation of the provision of emergency medical care, primary health care in outpatient and hospital institutions, medical care for women during pregnancy and during and after childbirth, the organisation and implementation of environmental control of industrial and social facilities, guardianship for minors and guardianship for seniors are excluded from the jurisdiction of local self-government.

 

As a result, the availability of primary (non-specialist) health-care facilities for the population has deteriorated (many institutions have been eliminated, such as paramedic services, obstetric stations, outpatient health-care facilities and hospitals in rural settlements). The availability of educational institutions and preschool education institutions has also been reduced, especially in rural areas. The removal of environmental control has led in some cities and regions to large-scale environmental crises because of a lack of services for processing household and industrial waste. In general, many of the powers of local self-government do not have adequate legal regulation. The issues that are by nature local have been delegated to State authorities, while local authorities are attributed powers which do not cover local issues.

 

During their visits, the rapporteurs were told that the practice of delegation of powers does not comply with the standards of the Charter, according to which the competences must be fully delegated, together with commensurate financial resources and responsibility for their execution. Instead, there is a practice of partial delegation of authority with partial funding from a higher level. Thus there was a vicious circle involving the withdrawal of powers from local government and their transfer to the level of subjects of the federation, which in turn returned them to the level of local authorities in the form of delegated powers with partial financing.

 

According to some interlocutors met during both visits, there has been: an extension of local government’s responsibilities that are alien to this level of public authority (such as an involvement in combating terrorism and corruption and a role in territorial defence); a growing number of powers and responsibilities attributed simultaneously to several levels of public authorities (local governments have been entitled to exercise State powers together while local issues are shared between local settlements and districts (raions, etc.)); and a delegation of State powers to town districts and municipal districts (raions), which has long exceeded all reasonable proportions. It is not an exception that the volume of delegated powers conferred on local governments outweighs the share of their own powers and responsibilities. Local authorities in those cases have to deal mostly with the delegated powers rather than with their own affairs.

 

In 2011, local governments were stripped off of their powers with regard to public health, which traditionally has been provided in Russia, in a similar way to many other countries in Europe, by local authorities. Moreover, Law No. 136-FZ of 27 May 2014 provides for the right of federal subjects to strip any local authority of its powers and responsibilities. Rural authorities in particular have lost many of their own powers and responsibilities compared to city authorities. In addition, the practice of delegating rural local governments’ responsibilities to the raion level has been increasingly used in recent years. (Part 4, Article 15, of Law No. 131-FZ).

 

Part 3 of Article 13 of Federal Law No. 131 removed 27 powers from rural settlements, which were transferred to the level of municipal districts, adding the possibility of selective return of these powers by the law of the subject of federation. The most important competences are presented in the following table. Subsequently, amendments to the tax code also reduced permanent contributions to the budgets of rural settlements from the tax on personal income from 10% to 2%.

 

  • Organisation of electricity, heat, gas and water supply, sanitation, fuel supply
     
  • Road works and traffic safety, creation of parking lots
     
  • Provision of low-income housing, organisation of municipal housing stock, municipal housing control
     
  • Creation of conditions for the provision of transport services and organisation of transport services
     
  • Organisation of library services, acquisition of library funds
     
  • Protection of cultural heritage (historical and cultural monuments) of local importance
     
  • Development of local traditional folk arts and crafts
     
  • Creation of conditions for mass recreation of residents of the settlement and organisation of arrangement of places of recreation for the population
     
  • Organisation of collection and removal of household waste and garbage
     
  • Use, protection and replanting of the forestry areas located within borders of settlements
     
  • Approval of general plans for settlements, rules of land use and development, permit granting for construction projects, approval of local standards for town planning and the design of settlements, the implementation of municipal land control
     
  • Organisation of funeral services and maintenance of burial places
     
  • Provision of emergency services in the settlement’s territory
     
  • Implementation of measures to ensure the safety of people on water bodies, protection of their life and health
     
  • Development of therapeutic areas and resorts of local importance, municipal control and protection of specially protected natural areas of local importance
     
  • Management informing the population about restrictions on their use

 

The rapporteurs were told that number of powers and responsibilities are shared by several levels of government. There is no clear division between them, although dozens of federal laws deal with the division of responsibilities, and that makes the whole situation in this field even more confused. Moreover, the law retains the institution of “specific rights” (Articles 14.1 to 16.1 of Federal Law No. 131-FZ) – overlapping responsibilities that local governments must fulfil themselves.

 

Law 136-FZ brought about three serious changes in the regulation of competence. On the one hand, federal subjects (regions), as already mentioned, were allowed to regulate the competence of the municipalities within the framework provided by the federation. On the other hand, this concerns the redistribution of competences between rural communities and rural districts. The “federal” list of municipal responsibilities comprises roughly 40 tasks. However, since the entry into force of Act 136-FZ, only the municipal districts have been entitled to these. According to this law, rural communities have only 15 tasks. The remaining municipal tasks are now to become tasks of the districts, unless the regional legislator decides otherwise. An analysis of the regional legislation at the end of 2015 showed[20] that by October 2015 a total of 50 regions transferred at least some of the responsibilities back to the rural communities. Most affected were areas such as waste disposal (48 regions), cemeteries and burials (48), social housing (40), water, sanitation and heating (35), and the prevention and elimination of corruption (35). In most cases the transfer of tasks takes place on a flat-rate basis without differentiation between the rural communities concerned. Among the consequences of this regulation is not only a multiple asymmetry between municipalities of the same type (urban and rural municipalities in one region as “two classes” of municipalities, same municipalities in different regions, etc.) but also the erosion of the core competence of rural municipalities and their degradation to largely meaningless institutions.

 

An even bigger problem (at least from a constitutional point of view), however, is the further amendment of Law 136-FZ, which allows for an upscaling of municipal tasks in favour of the State level on the basis of regional laws. Regions can withdraw tasks from the municipalities (regardless of the type – municipality, county or independent city) at will and then carry them out themselves. The status of such tasks (for example, whether they become State tasks by law or are to be understood as municipal tasks “transferred” to the State) remains unclear. Much more important, however, is the fact that this regulation seems to contradict the constitutional regulation (Article 130 speaks of the fact that municipal tasks are to be carried out exclusively by the municipalities) and several decisions (and legal positions contained therein) of the Russian Constitutional Court. This court has repeatedly emphasised that the constitutional principle of autonomy of local self-government is based on the independent competence separated from the State tasks, and that the municipal tasks may[21] only be fulfilled by the municipalities themselves. For example, in the decision of 29 March 2011, No. 2-P, the Constitutional Court pointed out that a mixture of State and municipal tasks would lead the legislator to impose an unclear and constantly changing range of tasks on the municipalities, which would not be in conformity with the constitution. Apart from the fact that this affects local self-government at its core (because the autonomy of the sphere of responsibility is no longer guaranteed), it can also represent a substantial restriction of citizens’ rights to certain (municipal) services.

 

However, many federal subjects (regions) have already made use of this provision in Law 136-FZ. By October 2015 a total of 21 regions had passed corresponding laws on the “redistribution” of competences. In all these laws there is an upscaling of municipal tasks. For example, the Nenetski Autonomous Region has taken 18 tasks away from all its municipalities, and Moscow and Orel Oblasti (areas) have taken seven each. In most cases, competences in the field of urban planning (local planning, land-use plans, urban development plans, etc.) are taken away (14 out of 21), but also in heat and water supply (9), waste disposal (7). This brief list alone shows that the core competence of local self-government is affected. It is also interesting to note that among the regions that have deprived the municipalities of core responsibilities are some relatively wealthy regions (with correspondingly relatively wealthy municipalities), including Nenetski and Tyumen (oil regions), and Moscow oblast.

 

Critical voices claim that relationships between the executive bodies of public power at all levels are based on the principle of tight and arbitrary subordination. Local legislative initiatives tend to assume the form of petitions. As for the relationship between legislative bodies of public power in the regions, those are characterised by a lack of legislative initiatives from local governments. Similarly, very few initiatives have been addressed by regional legislative assemblies to the State Duma of the Russian Federation. In recent years, it has been only on very rare occasions that the State Duma has discussed such legislative initiatives.

 

An important consultative and advisory mechanism enabling members of the Federation Council and representatives of the municipal community to discuss draft laws and ways of addressing topical issues in the field of local self-government is the Council on Local Self-Government under the Federation Council. The Council on Local Self-Government is a permanent expert advisory body to the Federation Council and it consists of members of the Federation Council, representatives of federal government bodies, government bodies of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation and municipal entities. This council meets at least twice a year. The meetings are attended by representatives of the authorities from all regions of the country, as well as representatives of the public, non-profit organisations and the scientific community. The main objectives of the council are to develop recommendations for the formation and implementation of public policies in the field of local self-government, to discuss the most significant draft federal laws affecting the relevant legal relations, to analyse the practice of local self-government, to promote the dissemination of good practices and to interact with expert advisory bodies of public authorities.

 

Following the results of the meeting of the Council on Local Self-Government, a decision with recommendations to the Government of the Russian Federation, to other federal authorities, to State authorities of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation and to local authorities is adopted. According to representatives of the Federation Council, in most cases, the recommendations on local self-government are taken into account in the work of public authorities at all levels. In 2018, meetings of the council were devoted to the issues of improvement of human settlements, as well as the formation of a comfortable urban environment. In November 2018, the council held its regular meeting on “Tools to improve the quality of municipal governance”, which addressed issues related to the development of mechanisms to improve the quality of municipal governance.

 

With regard to the consideration of the opinion of local self-government bodies, it should be noted, however, that there is currently no direct legislative prescription to take their opinion into account in the legislative work of the parliament. An explanation provided by representatives of the Federation Council was the fact that local self-governance is not considered to be part of the system of State power. However, this would not mean that the position of local self-government bodies is not taken into account. On the contrary, most of the public and political activity, for example, of the relevant committees of the Federation Council and the State Duma would be related to the inclusion of heads of municipal entities in the legislative process. In particular, there is scope to ensure the participation of representatives of municipalities in public events of the Federation Council (parliamentary hearings, round tables, meetings, including field meetings in the regions, conferences, etc.): “they are given the opportunity to speak on the most important issues for them, their position is heard, understood and analysed, and in cases where their initiatives, proposals or comments are recognised as justified, balanced and legally acceptable (including, in terms of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens), they are supported in the chambers of the federal parliament” (Federation Council).

 

However, there have been cases where even some of the strongest constituent entities have complained about not being heard. In 2004, Moscow City Duma applied to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation regarding the constitutionality of Order No. 176 of the President of the Russian Federation of 20 February 1995 “On approval of the list of historical and cultural heritage sites of federal/pan-Russian importance”. This Order of the President classified all historical and cultural monuments which were subject to protection as monuments of State/republic importance and had been subject to State registration and protection in accordance with the established procedure between 1960 and 1994 as historical and cultural heritage sites of federal/pan-Russian importance and included them in the approved list of historical and cultural heritage sites of federal/pan-Russian importance. The following were included in this list without the opinions of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation being taken into account.

 

- Sites which were previously classed under the established procedure as immovable historical and cultural monuments of local importance or newly discovered sites of historical, scientific, artistic or other cultural value (hereinafter, “newly discovered sites”);

 

- Sites which were not classed by regulations as historical and cultural monuments or newly discovered sites and which were not subject to State registration and protection in the records of historical and cultural monument protection authorities at the time when Order No. 176 of the President of the Russian Federation entered into force.

 

Concerning compliance with the different paragraphs of Article 4 of the Charter, it is clear that the Russian Federation complies with paragraph 1, since basic powers and responsibilities are prescribed by the constitution and by law.

 

As regards Article 4, paragraph 2, and in the light of the situation described above (see in particular paragraphs 113-116), the rapporteurs are of the opinion that local authorities do not have full discretion to exercise their initiative. There are many detailed legal provisions barely leaving any space for local initiative and therefore it can be stated that the Russian Federation does not comply with Article 4, paragraph 2.

 

The subsidiarity principle is not properly implemented and there are obvious tendencies to upscale several responsibilities without considering the alternative of intermunicipal co-operation. In the case of Moscow, it is obvious that responsibilities are not exercised by those authorities who are closest to the citizen, since nearly all significant responsibilities are concentrated at the city level, while the lower level (the Moscow municipalities) has very few responsibilities and resources. Therefore, the rapporteurs conclude that Article 4, paragraph 3, is violated by the Russian Federation.

 

Similarly, as regards Article 4, paragraph 4, the rapporteurs would like to refer to their conclusions under paragraphs 117-118, which lead them to conclude that the situation in the Russian Federation does not comply with this provision. In fact, powers of local authorities are not exclusive and overlapping of responsibilities is quite frequent (also, Recommendation 297 (2010) suggested an improvement in the division of competence). Overlapping of responsibilities is a problem emerging in many countries and Russia is no exception.

 

As for Article 4, paragraph 5, the discretion of local authorities when they exercise delegated powers seems to be more than limited.

 

Concerning Article 4, paragraph 6, the rapporteurs note that there are several mechanisms and procedures of consultation, but according to some interlocutors met by the delegation, these mechanisms have been eliminated in some constituent entities. It seems that the consultation process differs in law and in practice, which should be improved. Consequently, the rapporteurs consider that the situation partly complies with Article 4, paragraph 6.


[20]. See E. Markwart “Local Self-Government in Russia experiences another setback”.

[21]. See, for example, decisions of the Constitutional Court dated 24 January 1997, No. 1-P; dated 15 January 1998, No. 3-P; dated 30 November 2000, No. 15-P; and dated 29 March 2011, No. 2-P.

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 reply 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 reply 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 reply 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 reply 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 reply 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.

 


According to Article 131, paragraph 2, of the constitution, changes in borders of the areas in which local self-government is administered shall be made with the consideration of the opinion of the population of the corresponding areas”.

 

Pertinent regulations also exist at the subnational level. In the Chuvash Republic, for instance, the procedure of conducting a local referendum is provided by the Law of April 28, 2004, No. 2 “On local referendum and voting on issues of changing the boundaries of a municipality, transforming a municipality, recalling a deputy, a member of an elected body of local self-government, an elected official of local self-government”.

 

During the consultation procedure the representatives of the Republic of Chuvashia referred to the Federal Law No. 62-FZ of April 3, 2017 “On Amending the Federal Law “On the General Principles of Organizing Local Self-Government in the Russian Federation” establishes the legal status of a city district. Representatives of the Republic of Chuvashia explain that a city district is constituted by one or several settlements united in a common territory that are not municipal entities in which local self-government is exercised by the population directly and (or) through elective and other local self-government bodies. A city district can exercise certain state powers transferred to local self-government bodies by federal laws as well as by laws of the Federation entities. The settlement is granted the status of a city district by law of the Federation entity on a number of legal grounds and with the consent of the representative body of each of the municipalities. The authorities of the subject of the Federation together with the local authorities should assess the development prospects of territories and the feasibility of endowing these territories with the status of a city district. Citizens of the Russian Federation exercise local self-government through various forms of expression of will, but most often through elected and other bodies of local self-government. The representative body of the municipality in fact represents interests of a particular municipality's residents and expresses their opinion on certain issues.

 

At the same time, it was stressed to the rapporteurs during their visits that Law No. 62-FZ of 3 April 2017 provides for the elimination of rural local governments. According to the relevant provisions, any local territory can be dubbed a “town district”, even though there are no town settlements of adequate size and territory connection. The real aim of this law would be rather to establish a single local authority for a town district as compared to the district (raion) where there existed a two-tier system of local government. Some federal subjects have used this law to do away with local self-government: local settlements have been abolished, direct elections for the head of local government have been scrapped and municipalities have been stripped of their powers and responsibilities. This policy has been pursued in a most aggressive way, notably in the Regions of Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Kaliningrad.

 

As an example, the rapporteurs would like to refer to the complaint that was addressed to the Congress in January 2019 by the representatives of some municipalities of the Odintsovo district (Moscow region) and reportedly supported by 14 000 signatures of residents of this district. They claimed that local rural settlements had been transformed into a single urban municipality in violation of Article 5 of the Charter and despite the opposition of the residents against what they perceive as a “forced urbanisation”.

 

According to some interlocutors, the rapporteurs understood that it has become common practice for the regions to establish “town districts” in territories, including rural areas. More than a third of the regions in Russia have been applying this right widely, which results in abolishing local settlements. To achieve this, it is enough for a region to simply change the name of a municipal district to a town district (okrug). This entails the abolition of seven to ten settlements in a district. As a result, the same number of local government heads are dismissed, as are between 50 and 100 local elected representatives for each district. Even though the Russian Federation’s constitution and legislation provide for prior consultation of local communities affected, it seems that in practice several communities have been abolished without prior consultation. Prior consultation of local communities should be organised not only in cases of amalgamation but also in cases where a certain level or category of local authorities is abolished and integrated into a higher level or another category of territorial authorities.

 

Therefore, on the basis of the above-mentioned information, it appears to the rapporteurs that the situation in the Russian Federation does not comply with Article 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.


According to Article 131 of the constitution, “the structure of local self-government bodies shall be determined by the population independently”.However, it appears that following relevant provisions of Law No. 136-FZ of 27 May 2014 and the related act of 3 February 2015, No. 8-FZ, it appears that municipalities have lost their right to determine the structure and organisation of local government which has been passed over to regional authorities.

 

Through this legislation, the regulatory discretion of regions has grown considerably. The Russian Constitution stipulates that municipal organs are not State organs and that the population itself decides on their structure and formation within the framework of the law. The previous regulation in Law No. 131-FZ provided that the federal legislator offers a choice of municipal models and the municipalities themselves decide which of them they adopt. The corresponding variant should be anchored in the main statutes of the municipality. After Law No. 136 FZ came into force, the regions received the right to define the municipal models appropriate for their municipalities. In this way, this kind of organisational autonomy was taken away from the municipalities. Other regulations concerning the offices of “municipal heads” (mayors, for example) are particularly sensitive. Although the federal law still provides for direct election (“strong mayor”) and for election by the Council (followed by the appointment of a head of administration – “city director model”), it has now introduced a new model: a person appointed by the Tender Commission can be appointed as mayor or district administrator by the municipal council (city council, district council). Half of the members of the Tender Commission are appointed by the governor of the region who also has the right to nominate candidates. By the end of September 2015, a total of 77 Russian regions had passed corresponding laws on the reorganisation of municipal bodies. Out of these regions, 38 have completely abolished the election of district administrators/mayors and only six have retained the elections, while some regions have left the decision on the respective model to the municipalities themselves. Out of the 77 regional laws analysed by local experts, 32 have already introduced the “hybrid model” with the State-dominated Tender Commission for all or certain types of municipalities. This process continues. Many Russian academics have raised doubts about the constitutionality of these new regulations, and citizens in some large cities filed remedies against the abolition of direct elections in 2015 (in the case of Irkutsk, even going as far with their appeal as the Constitutional Court). So far, however, this kind of mobilisation against the new law has proved to be in vain.[22]

 

In some cases, however, regional laws are sometimes empowering the municipalities to make their own choices. This seems to be the case, for instance, in the Chuvash Republic. According to information provided by the State Council of the Chuvash Republic, the number of deputies of a representative body (assembly) and the term of its office are determined by the municipality and included in its charter. Assemblies are elected on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage. The municipality also defines the procedure for the election of a head of the municipality, the status and the powers of this head and the term of office. He/she can be a person elected from among the deputies, or directly elected by the people or by an assembly from among the candidates selected by the Competitive Commission. For instance, in the capital city of Cheboksary, the head of the municipality is a person elected from among the deputies, who guides the activities of the Cheboksary municipal assembly of deputies. The Head of Administration, chief of the executive body of the city, is assigned under a contract concluded on the basis of a competitive procedure for this position, and his/her term of office is defined by the City Charter.

 

Only self-sustained municipalities can independently establish their own staff and salaries (that is, between 2 and 4% of all local governments, according to the figures provided to the rapporteurs during their visits). The extent to which local budgets are subsidised determines the degree of their freedom to establish staff and their salaries.

 

Concerning the autonomous determination of internal administrative structures, the Russian Federation used to be a country where municipalities enjoyed a comparatively high degree of organisational autonomy. Since the regions obtained the right to determine these structures, it was clear that several regions would have this autonomy considerably restricted.

 

The rapporteurs believe that Article 6, paragraph 1, is not fully respected in practice.

 

As regard municipal staff and salaries, increased autonomy for self-sustained municipalities is an option that does not exist in many other European countries. In general, the intensity of State regulatory intervention into aspects of employee management in local government is similar to many other European countries.

 

In this respect, the delegation considers that Article 6, paragraph 2, is respected.


[22]. See E. Markwart, “Local Self-Government in Russia experiences another setback”

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.


Consult reply 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.


Recommendation 297 (2010) called on national authorities to remove the provisions included in Article 74 of Law 131-FZ for the dismissal of mayors, but this has not happened and governors can remove from office mayors and heads of local administration in local authorities. However, the delegation was informed that nowadays this power is rarely used.

 

During the consultation procedure, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation agreed that this mechanism is based on a judicial review but stressed that “it is extremely rarely used”. It also stressed that “this mechanism does not go beyond the generally accepted understanding of the responsibility of the head of municipality before the population and local deputies”.

 

Federal Law No. 131 introduced restrictions on the number of deputies who can work in a representative body on a permanent basis and who can receive monetary compensation at the level of municipal employees. Accordingly, deputies exercising powers on a non-permanent basis, as a rule, are not allowed to make permanent use of the premises (offices in the representative body, offices outside the representative body). Some deputies have public reception rooms, which are held at the expense of their own funds and donations, or of the parties of which they are members.

 

Financial conditions for the activities of elected officials of local self-government are characterised by a certain territorial irregularity. Therefore, a general uniform assessment about the sufficiency of remuneration of deputies, members of elected local self-government bodies and elected officials of local self-government exercising powers on a permanent basis is not possible. In general, these people are provided with sufficiently adequate working conditions. At the same time, however, representatives of the Federation Council admitted that many municipal entities whose budgets are subsidised do have a need to improve financial support to elected members of local self-government bodies.

 

In some municipalities, as a rule, deputies exercising their powers on a non-permanent basis do receive permanent monetary compensation for expenses for the execution of their powers, as per the established tradition before the entry into force of Federal Law No. 131. Although the law does not prohibit such forms of compensation, attempts by deputies to introduce regulations providing for such forms of compensation have often been blocked by the strong resistance coming from the administration, aimed at limiting the influence of independent and opposition deputies.

 

Conditions of office are also very different for elected officials at the regional/State entity level. In Moscow, deputies of the City Duma have worked both on a professional permanent basis and also in parallel with their main jobs. The following posts in Moscow are considered to include work on a professional basis: the Chairman of the Duma, his deputies and, by decision of the Duma, the heads of its permanent structural subdivisions. They are forbidden to undertake other paid work, except teaching, academic or other creative activity, or participate as defence counsels or representatives in civil, criminal or administrative cases. Deputies who work on a permanent basis receive financial remuneration, travel expenses, communications expenses, and so on.

 

Deputies who serve in parallel with their main job in Moscow do not receive any financial remuneration for their work as deputies but are not subject to any restrictions concerning their main job. Deputies are excused from their jobs when they attend sessions of the Duma, committees, working groups and parliamentary groups, but for no more than six working days a month. For journeys related to the exercise of their powers as deputies, they are provided with official transportation upon request.

 

During the consultation procedure, representatives of the Leningrad region said that it should be noted that the legislation of the Russian Federation does not contain provisions on the right of governors to dismiss mayors, and all the powers of the heads of regions of the Russian Federation to initiate the judicial procedures are well described in terms of both the legal grounds and procedures, and the deadlines.

 

The rapporteurs wish to highlight that still the dismissal of mayors by decisions of politicians (governors) elected at the regional level raises serious doubts about compliance with Article 8 of the Charter.  As it was stressed in the previous report, the rapporteurs consider that the right of governors to dismiss mayors, which constitutes a violation of Article 7, paragraph 1, of the Charter, undermines the principle of free exercise of functions by elected politicians in local authorities. Even if governors make very rare use of this power, the possibility offered to elected politicians at the regional level to dismiss mayors should not exist.

 

Concerning paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 7, it seems that the Russian Federation complies with these provisions. However, the rapporteurs would like to stress that they did not have the opportunity to examine the situation in several federal subjects, where conditions for compensation and remuneration of elected representatives can be very different.

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.


Consult reply 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.


The analysis article by article is currently unavailable

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.


A system of supervision of local authorities by other levels of government does not generally exist in Russia. One exception is the supervision of a local authority’s fulfilment of delegated powers. During the consultation procedure the Federation Council objected that this conclusion by the rapporteurs is not correct. It argued that some provisions of the Russian legislation on supervision concern also activities of municipalities, and provides, as an example, “Article 21 of Federal Law No. 2202-I of 17 January 1992 on the Prosecutor’s Office of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and laws in force in the territory of the Russian Federation, including activities of local authorities”.

 

However, the rapporteurs note that annulment of municipal legal acts and their suspension by the competent State authority of the Russian Federation or of a Russian Federation subject is possible only to the extent that the act in question deals with the exercise by local self-government bodies of individual State powers assigned to them by federal laws and the laws of Russian Federation subjects respectively.

 

For instance, according to Law No. 55 of the Chuvash Republic dated 30 November 2006, “On providing local self-government in the Chuvash Republic with separate governmental powers”, local self-governmental authorities of municipalities and city districts are provided for an indefinite period with the State powers of the Chuvash Republic aimed at creating and supporting administrative commissions in order to process the cases of administrative offences, and are provided with the State powers of the Russian Federation to officially register acts of civil status. In this case, one of the Ministry of Justice and Property Relations’ functions is the control of the creation of and support for administrative commissions in municipalities and city districts, as well as the control over the exercise by local authorities of delegated State powers in the field of registration of civil status acts.

 

The cancellation of normative acts and decisions of local self-government bodies can occur only through judicial procedure; with such a claim, the State authorities, and citizens, have the right to apply to the court if their rights and legitimate interests are violated.

 

The Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation and its regional subdivisions[23] ensure that the legal system of the Russian Federation is uniform. For these purposes, a regional subdivision carries out, in accordance with the established procedure, anti-corruption reviews of the charters of municipalities and municipal legislative instruments in relation to amendments to the charters of municipalities when they are registered with the government.

 

In pretrial procedures, the prosecutor’s office has the right to protest to the local self-government bodies against a normative legal act that contradicts, in the opinion of the prosecutor’s office, the law with the requirement of its abolition or the idea of eliminating violations of the law and the rights of citizens by the actions of bodies and officials of local self-government, which must be considered without fail within a certain period. If the requirements are not satisfied, the prosecutor’s office has the right to file a lawsuit.

 

During their various meetings with interlocutors, the rapporteurs received information that with the current practice, the rights of local self-government are limited a priori since the prosecutor’s office shall conduct an anti-corruption expertise of the local self-government bodies’ draft regulations in order to check their competence in the light of anti-corruption norms. At the same time, the prosecutor’s office often goes far beyond the issues of possible corruption, believing that local government can carry out only those actions that are imputed by law. The federal laws of 21 December 2013 (No. 370-FZ) and 18 July 2017 (No. 171-FZ) have amended Article 77 (“Control and supervision of the activities of the bodies of local self-government and local government officials”) of Federal Law No. 131-FZ and established the power of “the Procurator’s Office of the Russian Federation to oversee local self-government bodies and officials of local self-government”.

 

During the consultation process on the present report, the Russian National Congress of Municipalities stressed that “a preliminary anti-corruption expertise at the prosecutor’s office is more beneficial for municipalities than a restriction of their rights. The anti-corruption legislation in Russia is quite complicated; the legislation at federal, regional and local levels is changing constantly. Rural deputies are often not familiar with legal techniques and do not know all the legislation in force. Preliminary examination allows identifying and correcting possible errors in draft municipal acts before its adoption and avoiding administrative fines and time spent in courts”.

 

However, the delegation still considers that the Russian Federation lacks a comprehensive system of specialist State authorities responsible for administrative supervision. Today, there are several legal provisions about controls by State authorities and important tasks of supervision are given to the prosecutor’s office. Even though there are no clear indices of systematic expediency controls or of disproportionate measures, it is obvious the competence of the prosecutor’s office (who is used to acting according to penal law) for administrative supervision appears as a peculiarity and the rapporteurs would encourage the Russian authorities to consider the development of a comprehensive system of administrative supervision by State authorities that could include different versions in the different constituent entities of the Russian Federation.

 

The rapporteurs conclude that there is an obvious need for reform in order to establish a comprehensive transparent system of administrative supervision. As regards Article 8, paragraph 3, the current practice of preventing corruption by the prosecutor’s office when local authorities are obliged to send draft regulations for a priori control raises serious doubts about the compliance of this practice, especially with regard to paragraph 3 of Article 8. When this “anti-corruption expertise” steps beyond issues of corruption control then it is clear that Article 8, paragraph 3 (as well as paragraph 1), is violated. Therefore, the rapporteurs consider that it is necessary to clarify per law the limits of this anti-corruption control in a way that will also ensure compliance with the principle of proportionality.


[23]. Russian Ministry of Justice Order No. 26 of 3 March 2014 “On approval of regulations concerning the management of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation in a constituent entity (or entities) of the Russian Federation and the list of departments of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation in the different constituent entities of the Russian Federation”.

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.


According to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, local self-government bodies independently manage municipal property, draw up, approve and execute the local budget, and establish local taxes and fees. According to Article 52 of Federal Law 131-FZ, each municipal entity has its own budget (local budget). Preparation and consideration of the draft local budget, approval and execution of the local budget, and control over its execution, preparation and approval of the report on the execution of the local budget are carried out by local self-government bodies in compliance with the requirements established by the Budget Code of the Russian Federation (Part 2, Article 52 of Federal Law 131-FZ).

 

The Budget Code enshrines, inter alia, principles like the principle of balanced budget, the principle of total (aggregate) coverage of budget expenditures, the principle of transparency (openness), and the principle of budget reliability. Budgetary authorities of municipal entities are established by the Budget Code of the Russian Federation (hereinafter referred to as the Budget Code). Articles 61 and 611 to 615 of the Budget Code regulate in detail the issues of revenues of budgets of urban settlements, municipal areas, urban districts, urban districts with intra-city division, intra-city districts and rural settlements.

 

In accordance with Article 55 of Federal Act No. 131-FZ, local budget revenues are generated in accordance with the budget legislation of the Russian Federation, legislation on taxes and fees and legislation on other mandatory payments. The revenue base of local budgets is made up of local taxes and levies, as well as of shares from federal and regional taxes and levies assigned to municipal entities on a permanent basis. At the same time, local taxes include the land tax and the individual property tax, since the tax base of these revenue sources is relatively evenly distributed across the country, and local authorities have a real opportunity to exercise effective control over the relevant objects of taxation. In addition, these tax sources are less subject to volatility as a result of fluctuations in the international economy.

 

Articles 387 to 418 of the Tax Code of the Russian Federation include general provisions for and limits on local taxes and duties (in particular, these provisions determine the taxpayers, objects of taxation, tax base, tax period, limits of tax rates and benefits). Local taxes comprise the land tax, the tax on the property of individuals and the trade tax. The law also provides for mandatory federal budget transfers to local budgets from the revenue of the following federal taxes: individual income tax, excise taxes on petroleum products, special tax regimes for small and medium-sized businesses, the single tax on imputed earnings and the single agricultural tax. According to the Russian legislation, the trade fee can only be set on the territory of federal cities, but for this purpose they need to adopt the relevant law in advance. As of 2019, the legal act (Law No. 62 of 17 December 2014) establishing the trade fee was approved only by the Moscow City authorities and came into force on 1 July 2015. There is no trade tax throughout Russia, except in Moscow.

 

Constituent entities of the Russian Federation also contribute to tax legislation. In the Chuvash Republic, which the rapporteurs visited, and elsewhere, municipal assemblies are empowered to determine, within the limits provided by the Russian Federation Tax Code, the tax rates and the order and terms of tax payments; moreover, they can introduce tax benefits and/or non-taxable amounts for certain categories of taxpayers. In the same republic, the system of ”initiative budgeting” exists, when the population and business are involved in a decision-making process in the field of spending budget funds to finance a specific project. The total cost of the project is made up of funds from the regional and local budgets (82%), funds of individuals and companies (18%). Projects are estimated according to the degree of citizens` participation. During the consultation procedure the representatives of the Republic of Chuvashia stressed to the delegation that in the neighbouring Republic of Tatarstan another variable of “self-taxation” so-called “initiative self-budgeting”, was successfully introduced. It provides for the allocation of additional funds from the budget of the republic to the budgets of municipalities in which initiative self-budgeting of citizens is introduced: the republic adds four more to each ruble collected by the residents of the settlements. The collection rate of citizens' funds on the basis of referendums on initiative self-budgeting in 2018 was 79.8% (217 million rubles). On 18 November 2018 in the Republic of Tatarstan in 844 settlements in 43 municipal districts, local referendums were held on initiative self-budgeting of citizens for 2019. In the structure of activities carried out with the attraction of initiative self-budgeting funds, taking into account co-financing from the republican budget, 47% are road works (including the maintenance of bridges), settlements are improved with initiative self-budgeting funds, cemeteries are repaired and maintained, fire safety is ensured, etc.

 

An independent expert met by the delegation highlighted during the consultation procedure that authorities of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation understand the interest of local authorities in introducing self-taxation. However, the residents themselves, who formally submit initiatives, are not interested in additional fees and do not make timely established payments.  Funds from self-taxation, which are to be replenished by municipal budgets, do not come in full. For example, in Tatarstan, at the end of 2016, it was possible to collect from 17 to 62% of the planned amount in different municipal entities. The authorities are working on mechanisms of administrative responsibility for non-payers. Similar experience exists in a number of constituent entities of the Russian Federation when fines are applied. Thus, failure to implement the decisions of the referendum is considered as an administrative offense in Ingushetia, Komi, Mari El, Khakassia, Volgograd, Kirov, Nizhny Novgorod, Orenburg, Pskov, Sakhalin, Tver, Orel, Chelyabinsk Regions and Krasnoyarsk Territory. It should be taken into account that the decision on self-taxation does not mean unanimous support from the population. However, in case of introduction of fines, there is a discrediting of the mechanisms of manifestation of initiative.

 

The Chuvash Republic also offers an interesting example of the financial system applied in a big city, more precisely in the capital city of Cheboksary. The city budget of Cheboksary amounts to 12 billion roubles. Out of the total revenue, 40% is tax and non-tax revenue collected in the city, while the rest is in the form of funds transfers provided by the republic. Local tax rates are set by the city assembly in accordance with the Budget Code and the Tax Code of the Russian Federation. Federal legislation leaves a margin of discretion of between 0 and 2% for the property tax and Cheboksary has decided to set a rate of 1%. The main source of revenue is the income tax. The Republic establishes an additional standard in order to transfer 15% of these tax revenues from the consolidated budget of the Chuvash Republic. Another additional standard 7% of those tax revenues are set in favour of the city to local budgets.

 

In a country as diverse as the Russian Federation, it is obvious that revenues of local authorities can be very different in the various territories and/or authorities. In the Republic of Tatarstan, for instance, where total municipal revenue reaches 20% of total public revenue, local revenues made up more than half of all revenues (50.6%) in the budgets of municipalities in 2018, while 10% of all municipalities can cover 100% of their expenditure through their own revenue. Individual income tax yields 62% of total tax revenue of local budgets in Tatarstan and between 60 and 90% of revenue in the different municipalities. When the laws of the republic delegate certain State powers to local authorities, the latter are given subsidies with the aim of compensating additional expenses. The amount of these subsidies is defined through a corresponding methodology that should provide a consistent approach to distribution of given funds. The Accounts Chamber of the Republic carries out a financial assessment of draft laws on delegating State powers to municipalities including the funding methodologies to be approved.

 

The funds allocated to local authorities for implementation of delegated State powers are shown in the budget of the Republic of Tatarstan every fiscal year separately for each delegated task. In 2018, 25 billion roubles were allocated for delegated tasks. The Accounts Chamber carries out audits of the completeness and timeliness of the allocations. The results of these audits are included in the reports of the Accounts Chamber, which are submitted to the parliament of the Republic of Tatarstan every three months.

 

Taking into account the size of the country, measures are being taken to equalise the financial capabilities of local authorities. At present, such equalisation is being carried out through the provision, from higher budgets, of non-repayable and irrevocable grants, which do not have a specific purpose. Based on the presence of two levels of local self-government entities, subsidies are received through three channels:

 

  • rural/ urban settlements, urban districts without internal division and intra-city districts receive donations from the regional budget in proportion to the size of the population;
     
  • municipal areas and urban districts, and constituent entities of the Russian Federation distribute subsidies, taking into account the potential revenue base and the volume of necessary expenditures to solve local problems;
     
  • municipal areas provide donations to their constituent rural/urban settlements, also taking into account potential revenues and costs of budgets of these rural/urban settlements.

 

Among others, the Republic of Tatarstan has its own statutory methodology of calculating the equalisation transfer. Local authorities independently define what these transfers will be used for. Other subsidies are allocated from the budget of the republic to co-finance expenditure arising from tasks concerning local affairs. These funds are allocated on the basis of agreements with local authorities.

 

In general, according to data provided by the Federation Council, over the past six years (2012-2017), the revenues of local budgets of the Russian Federation show a steady growth rate: from 3.14 trillion roubles in 2012 to 3.85 trillion roubles in 2017. Thus, the growth amounted to 22%. At the same time, two thirds of the revenue comes from the municipalities’ own revenue sources: tax and non-tax revenues.

 

According to the data provided by the Federation Council, the Russian Federation complies with paragraph 3 (part of revenue deriving from local taxes and charges) and paragraph 4 (financial system of a diversified and buoyant nature).

 

This being said, people interviewed during these visits stressed that the financial situation of local government has been deteriorating and the number of subsidised local governments has increased (their number rose from 96% to 98% of all municipalities). Settlements today, as before, receive the revenue for their budgets from two local taxes – a property tax and a land tax. But they have not become the primary source of the local budget. Thus, in 2017, according to the enactment of all local budgets, the share of the property tax was 3%, and the share of the land tax 14.5%. As a whole, the budget revenues derived from taxes (even together with an income tax, which is transferred to the local budget on the basis of a specific rate) make up less than half of local budget revenues. An increase in taxes would not be commensurate with the local governments’ powers and responsibilities.

 

So, the local budget situation remains very complex. The introduction of a differentiation approach designed to determine the revenue sources of town and rural settlements has been prompted by a change in local government legislation. It implied a significant cutback in the volume of public affairs under local governments’ responsibility. Today such a cutback in the revenue sources of rural local governments cannot be considered reasonable. Especially painful for rural authorities has been a cutback in levies from the income tax (it dropped from 10% to 2%). That brought about a drop in the share of tax revenues in local budgets, tipping their balance, and an increase in dependence on the transfers from the raion and, especially, regional budgets.

 

In 2017, rural local governments’ budgets – the number of which in Russia exceeds 18 500 out of 22 000 municipalities – received only 6.7% of the tax revenues out of the aggregate volume of tax levies (75.3 billion roubles). Thus, the changes in the legal basis for distribution of revenue and expenditure powers between different levels of government, introduced in 2014, have added to an acute level of demographic problems, a lack of working places and a relatively low level of wages in the country.

 

Concerning the commensurability principle, Article 83, paragraph 1, of the Russian Federation Budget Code provides that whenever a law or other regulatory legal act is adopted, causing an increase in expenditure commitments, or new types of expenditure commitments are introduced, which, prior to the adoption of the act, were not being met by any public-law entity, the said regulatory legal act must contain provisions determining the sources of and procedures for executing the new types of expenditure commitments, including, if necessary, the procedure for transferring funds for the new types of expenditure commitments to the relevant Russian Federation budgets. It has not been possible, however, to confirm whether the aforementioned provisions that are following the commensurability principle are effectively implemented in practice.

 

Federal and regional budgets actively subsidise local authorities to solve problems within the framework of national projects. For example, in recent years, significant funds have been allocated for the construction and reconstruction of schools, kindergartens and sports facilities, as well as for the improvement of courtyards and public spaces. According to critical experts locally, however, there was a negative change in the structure of interbudgetary transfers (a sharp increase in the share of “earmarked” transfers in the form of subsidies and subventions and a drop in the general grant share).

 

More specifically, the period between 2010 and 2017 saw a significant increase in the volume of earmarked transfers to local budgets. A great increase in particular has been characteristic of subventions (more than doubled), i.e. the resources are earmarked for the fulfilment of powers transferred to local governments, which cannot be regarded as a positive trend. The grant volumes for the same period have not changed, which means that the real volume of subsidies has dropped, taking account of a high inflation rate. The share of subsidies in the whole volume of transfers to local governments in 2017 dropped from 23% to 15%. This cannot be positively assessed from the point of view of the European Charter which stipulates (Article 9, paragraph 7) that “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”.

 

Municipal borrowing is understood to be municipal loans, which are carried out by issuing securities on behalf of the municipality, placed in the domestic market in the currency of the Russian Federation, and loans to the local budget from other budgets of the budgetary system of the Russian Federation and from credit organisations, which incur municipal debt obligations. Municipal borrowing in Russian currency abroad is not allowed under the Budget Code of the Russian Federation. The power to carry out municipal borrowing on behalf of the municipality in accordance with the Budget Code of the Russian Federation and the charter of the municipal entity belongs to the local government assembly.

 

In order to prevent over-indebtedness of local authorities’ budgets, the restrictions established by the Budget Code of the Russian Federation are applied. According to Article 921 of the budgetary code the local budget deficit should not exceed 10% of the confirmed total annual revenue (without taking into account the confirmed volume of gratuitous receipts). The maximum volume of municipal debt shall not exceed the approved total annual volume of local budget revenue.

 

In accordance with Article 111 of the Budget Code of the Russian Federation, the volume of expenditure on servicing the public debt should not exceed 15% of the volume of total expenditure. If during the execution of the budget of the subject of the Russian Federation, the local budget violates the limit values specified in the Budget Code, the local government has no right to accept new debt obligations, except for the adoption of the relevant debt obligations for the purpose of restructuring the municipal debt (Article 112 of the Budget Code of the Russian Federation).

 

Concerning the transfer of State property to regional and local authorities, as suggested by Recommendation 297 (2010), the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation informed the delegation that during the first three quarters of 2017, the territorial bodies of the Federal Property Management Agency transferred ownership of 4 755 objects of federal property to federal subjects and municipal ownership within the framework of delimitation of powers between public entities. In 2017, the Federal Property Management Agency also transferred, within the framework of special programmes, 327 land plots with a total area of 1 271 hectares to municipal ownership and 320 land plots with a total area of 2 751 hectares to federal subjects of the Russian Federation.

 

Even though the financial situation of local self-government can vary considerably across the different constituent entities of the Russian Federation, the general impression of the interlocutors is that the Russian Federation partly complies with Article 9 of the Charter. The issue of adequate financial resources leads to some scepticism, especially concerning some types of local authorities, like the municipalities in the city of Moscow that obviously do not have adequate resources.

 

In such cases, Article 9, paragraph 1, is being violated.

 

Concerning the principle of commensurability, it seems that there are several pertinent provisions and mechanisms, but it is not clear whether they are reliable. Other sources of information criticise the tendency to centralise powers which are then transferred to some local authorities as delegated tasks without commensurate funding. Therefore, the rapporteurs conclude that there is a partial compliance with regard to Article 9, paragraph 2.

 

The Russian Federation complies with paragraph 3 since a considerable share of revenue derives from local taxes and charges for which the local authorities can determine the rate.

 

The financial system seems to be sufficiently diversified as required by paragraph 4.

 

Equalisation procedures exist in the Russian Federation and its constituent entities and the Russian Federation complies in principle with Article 9, paragraph 5, even though it is not clear whether these different equalisation mechanisms in the constituent entities are fair and transparent.

 

Apart from some earmarked grants, the majority of allocated funds seems to come from general grants, even though it is not clear how far this is the case in the different constituent entities of the Russian Federation, which, in principle, appears to comply with Article 9, paragraph 7.

 

The same holds true for Article 9, paragraph 8. According to information provided by local interlocutors, it seems that local authorities have access to the national capital market according to the legal framework.

 

Finally, some there is some scepticism concerning the appropriate consultation about the allocation of redistributed resources and consequently the compliance of the Russian Federation with Article 9, paragraph 6. According to information provided by interlocutors to the rapporteurs during the visits, this seems not to be the case in several constituent entities.

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 - 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.


Consult reply 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.


Consult reply 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.


Consult reply 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.


Consult reply 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.


Consult reply 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.


Consult reply 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.


Russian legislation provides for the right of intermunicipal co-operation, setting out its forms. In accordance with Articles 8, 66 and 67 of Federal Law No. 131-FZ, municipal associations have been established in each subject of the Russian Federation, together with a pan-Russian umbrella association of municipalities known as the Congress. There are also other intermunicipal co-operation organisations operating in the Russian Federation, such as the All-Russian Council of Local Self-Government, the Union of Russian Cities, the Association of Small and Medium-sized Cities of Russia, the Association of Siberian and Far Eastern Cities of Russia, etc.

 

There are, however, some pieces of legislation that pose obstacles to intermunicipal co-operation. This involves, in particular, budgetary legislation (the problem of mutual financing of local government’s powers and responsibilities by co-operating municipalities), legislation on privatisation and some other problems. For example, according to Federal Law No. 44-FZ, municipal property cannot be transferred to any other entity other than via an open tender. Therefore, if municipalities form some intermunicipal governing body, they cannot transfer any property or means directly to this body. For the same reason a municipality has no ability to purchase any service providing public goods from another municipality, although such a form of co-operation is common in many countries.

 

Another reason provided to the delegation is that municipalities themselves are not motivated enough to co-operate with each other. For most of them it is safer and more convenient to solve their problems at the upper level of governance, also because regional State governance would usually be reluctant and suspicious of any form of intermunicipal co-operation “behind its back”. On top of this, there is a very low level of trust between local governments, and a lack of tradition of intermunicipal co-operation, much less positive experience or practice.

 

The most typical forms of intermunicipal co-operation are maintained through the representative bodies such as intermunicipal associations (federal and interregional – North-West, Siberia and Russian Far East, etc.) or are regional or sectoral (between small cities, coal cities, etc.). These associations are quite widespread and many are active in exchanging experiences and lobbying for municipal interests at the State level, although some aspects of their activity are not quite clear according to the existing legislature.

 

However, forms of intermunicipal economic co-operation at the micro level are developed very poorly. Several intermunicipal agreements signed by municipalities of the same metropolitan area do exist but most of them are mere declarations of intentions and rarely concern issues of economic or social activity. There are quite a few successful intermunicipal projects in the areas of transportation system co-ordination and cemetery management, among others, but they are considered as rare exceptions. Probably the only type of micro-level intermunicipal co-operation that gained some popularity is the co-ordination in the field of strategic planning, but this does not imply economic activity as well.

 

Interlocutors from the Federation Council have stressed their co-operation with the All-Russian Public Organisation “All-Russian Council of Local Self-Government” (VSMS). The most important direction of work for this organisation is identifying the best practices of municipal management and the organisation of exchanges of experience between representatives of various municipalities. The VSMS also pays special attention to the issues of assistance for improving the potential of staff within the municipalities and the formation of a personnel reserve for the local self-government bodies.

 

The Federation Council Committee on Federal Structure, Regional Policy, Local Self-Government and Northern Affairs closely co-operates with the Russian National Congress of Municipalities (OKMO). This is a non-profit organisation, which includes councils (associations) of municipal entities of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. In accordance with Article 67 of Federal Law No. 131-FZ, it is this organisation that submits proposals on the composition of candidates for the representatives of the Russian Federation in the Chamber of Local Authorities of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

 

It has been pointed out that most local government associations in the regions have not been able to defend local government’s interests, and merely limit their actions to representative functions.
The Russian National Congress of Municipalities would be even less capable of standing for local self-government in general and municipalities in particular.

 

During the consultation procedure on the present report, the Russian National Congress of municipalities objected that OKMO drew attention on some local issues such as lack of funding of local budgets, hold congress meetings and that a consultation takes place with the Federal Assembly and Federal ministries regarding the implementation of their recommendations.

 

Formally, the delegation concludes that the Russian Federation seems to comply with Article 10, even though there is an obvious need for further development of pertinent legislation that would encourage independent initiatives of intermunicipal co-operation to be implemented in practice.

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.


According to Article 133 of the Russian Federation Constitution, local authorities have the right of recourse to a judicial remedy. Moreover, according to Article 7, paragraph 5, of the statutory Law 131-FZ on local government, if a local self-government body considers that a federal law or another regulatory legal act of the Russian Federation or a law or another regulatory legal act of a Russian region concerning issues of organisation of local self-government and/or the establishment of rights, duties and liabilities of local self-government bodies and local self-government officials does not comply with the Constitution of the Russian Federation, federal constitutional laws, federal laws, agreements on delineation of cognisance and powers between governmental bodies of the Russian Federation and governmental bodies of a Russian region the issue of compliance shall be resolved by the responsible court.

 

In practice, however, according to information provided during the visits, local authorities make rather rare use of this right. Partly, this is explained by the growing dependence of the judicial system, its subordination to the executive bodies and the Procurator’s Office. This is felt especially in the actions and rulings by the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation. For a long period of time it had remained to a certain extent a custodian of local self-government, but in recent times it has lost this function, according to critical experts locally.

 

The legal framework of the Russian Federation also stipulates the existence of regional constitutional courts; however, only 15 federal subjects have established their own constitutional court, whereas 70 federal subjects decided not to take this step. In the Republic of Tatarstan, the law provided for the existence of a Constitutional Court in 1992. According to information provided by this court, eight out of 60 decisions implementing international law have been the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. During the consultation procedure the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation stated that the court ruling No. 81-P of 5 March 2019, referred to in the draft report, deals with the transfer of municipal property when changing the boundaries of municipalities, rather than providing resources for the exercise of delegated powers. The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Tatarstan noted in its ruling that the constitutional nature of the order of changing the boundaries of municipalities is based on proactive discretion and mutual consent of municipalities to implement such transformations, which in itself presupposes the observance of reasonable terms when initiating the transfer (acceptance) of municipal property in the ownership of another municipality in order to distinguish between municipalities.

 

The rapporteurs conclude that the Russian Federation complies with Article 11. Criticisms bringing into question the independence and impartiality of the judicial system could not be examined further, as it is not part of the mandate of the Congress.

ACCESSION

to the Council of Europe

RATIFICATION

of the European Charter of Local Self-Government

CONSTITUTION | NATIONAL LEGISLATION

The principle of local self-government is recognised both in the Constitution of the Russian Federation and in ordinary legislation, as well as the application of the provisions of the Charter in the case law of the Constitutional Court. 



30Ratified provision(s)
0Provision(s) with reservation(s)
0 Unratified Provision(s)
13Compliant Provision(s)
4Partially Compliant Articles
7Non-compliant Provision(s)