Albania derives from a deeply centralised tradition of the pre-pluralist era. The transition from a centralised to a democratic system led to the inclusion of Albania in a comprehensive process of political, economic, fiscal and administrative decentralisation.
Albania’s history of decentralisation
The period from 1991 to 1998 marks the first phase of political decentralisation – the transition from de-concentration to decentralisation and the creation of local government units. During this phase, political decentralisation prevailed over fiscal decentralisation and economic reforms. The Constitution, approved in 1998, sanctioned three levels of governance in Albania: national, second level-regional (qarks) and first level – local (municipalities and communes).
The period 1999-2003 marked the start of the second phase of decentralization with the presentation of the National Strategy for Decentralization and Local Autonomy, the adoption of Law No. 8652 (31.07.2000) “On the Organisation and Functioning of Local Government,” which institutionalised regions as the second level of local government. In this context, 12 regions were created instead of the 36 existing districts, but the district continued to appear in the Organic Law.
In 2000, Albania adopted and then ratified the European Charter of Local Self- Government. The adoption gave major impetus to the decentralization process in Albania. In fact, it was followed by the adoption of the Decentralization Strategy in 1999 and the Legislative Package in 2000 that included the New Organic Law on Local Government no. 8652, Law no. 8654 on the Organisation and Functioning of the Municipality of Tirana and the Law no. 8653 on Administrative-Territorial Division.
According to the Organic Law 8652, the role of regions consisted in the design and coordination of development policies and strategies at the regional level; coordination between central and local government levels; providing services delegated by the central government and region’s constituent local units. Anyway, this definition remained general and theoretic.
Last phase of decentralisation: empowering local government
The period from 2003 onwards marked the third phase – the continuing of economic reforms and fiscal decentralization.
The Cross-cutting Strategy for Regional Development, (CSRD, 2007) primarily dealt with the needed institutional setup and regional strategic planning and management processes, while nancial mechanisms were developed independently through the fiscal policy (competitive grants, since 2010 under the Regional Development Fund).
In 2014, the Parliament approved the New Administrative-Territorial Reform that aimed at empowering the local level of government. This reform, upheld the actual number of regions sanctioning the division of Albania’s territory into 61 units, named municipalities, which included smaller territorial units (communes and smaller municipalities). With the local elections of 21 June 2015 the new territorial division will come into force as part of the ongoing reform process.
Regional development on hold
From 2003 to today, whereas the role, functions and competencies of first level, government units were clearly defined, the role, functions and competencies of the regions haven’t undergone thorough analysis, and remained controversial and subject to government initiatives under the framework of the decentralization and regional development reform. In general, the decentralization process has functioned normally for the first level government units, but it has stopped for the regions.
The phenomenon of “ financial gap” and the superposition of the risk of competence with de-concentrated structures of central government, constitute major drawbacks of regional self-government in Albania that require further consolidation of the regional level and a deep reform in regional finance system.
In this context, a lack of political will is evident as regards regions and the regionalisation process. The enhancement of their position is mentioned only under the framework of European Integration and Structural and Cohesion Policy Funds.
So far, the country has not effectively implemented a regional development policy, while the Candidate Country status and integration process into the European Union require the adoption of the EU cohesion policy principles and practices by the domestic RD policy framework. As of today, there is no special law about regions and regional development.
Respecting the subsidiarity principle, an administrative-territorial reform proposing a new territorial division cannot be considered apart from the redistribution of local unit functions.
In this regard, the reform of 2014 failed to define the number of local government tiers, the degree of government decentralisation, the fiscal decentralisation, the relations with the de-concentrated power and the election system modalities for local and regional authority bodies. Therefore, further steps need to be taken in order to correct what the reform failed to achieve as regards the regional level governance.
Albania and the EU
Finally, the vision of EU and Albanian regional actors for qark is its continuous empowerment and consolidation, considering it as an important institution that ensures a sustainable regional and economic development.
In this context, the Albania EU Candidate Status requiring policies and regional development processes, encourages the presence of a second tier with appropriate competencies. This presence should increase the efficiency of the LGU functions, ensure scale for economic development, proper planning in areas such as territory and tourism, education, environmental protection, transport, rural mobility, while respecting at the same time historical boundaries, social interaction, common culture and traditions.
by Lorena Totoni & Kristo Frasheri
The Report on the state of Regionalisation in Europe.
More than 40 experts contributed to this work, by delivering detailed reports about the state of regionalisation and multilevel governance in chosen European countries. The study covers 41 countries, and each country report is based on a similar structure, thereby allowing a comparative approach among all studied countries.
- The first part of the report gives the political impetus from the main European stakeholders
- The second part of this report entails a summarised version of the country reports. The objective is to provide interested readers with a short overview of the main features of regionalisation in various European countries. The complete versions of the country reports are available on the AER website, under LINK
- The third part provides a thematic approach based on the main findings delivered by the country reports and the current state of regionalisation in Europe. The trends and outlooks lead to open questions on the future of the regions in the European landscape, and more broadly on the role of subnational authorities in the shaping of the continent.
- The fourth part gives the floor to the actual regional decision-makers in Europe, across a series of interviews and statements by Presidents, Vice-Presidents and elected representatives of the European regions.
Over the next months, we will be focusing on a different European country’s approach to regionalisation. During these months, look out for #RoR2017 on Twitter and/or Facebook and follow us at @europeanregions.
Strong European regions are a pathway to a stronger Europe.