The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was a constituent state of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia until 1991. Despite experiencing considerable decentralisation in the Yugoslavian period, after independence the country increasingly centralised itself. As a result, in the Nineties, FYROM was regarded as one of the most centralized countries in Europe. The Constitution and law prescribed a number of competencies to the local self- government units, such as in the areas of urban planning, pre-school and primary education, primary health care, social welfare, culture and sports. In practice, however, the competencies were limited to only a few. This is due to the fact that the enabling legislation for implementing such competencies was not put in place.
History of FYROM Local Self-government
In November 1999, a Strategy on Reform of the System of Local Self-government was adopted. For local self-governments units, it foresaw: increased financial independence, the decrease of their number and further decentralization of the central government competencies to them. In 2001, the end of the internal conflict between the two largest ethnic groups, Macedonians and Albanians, led to increased decentralization and delegation of power to other non-Macedonian ethnic groups. Decentralization was considered the best way for shared power among local communities of various ethnic backgrounds. The same year, the Ohrid Framework Agreement was approved and the Constitution was amended. This offered better guarantees for the achievement of the objectives defined by the 1999 Strategy, including further decentralization of competencies, enlarged scope for the use of languages in the local government and new procedures for adoption of laws pertaining the local self-government system.
In 2001, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia adopted the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics – NTES, aiming at the creation of regional levels for statistical purposes. The purpose was to provide statistical data at regional and local level on the basis of geographical, demographical, socio-economic and historical conditions. According to this decision, 5 levels were established for the Nomenclature: at level 1 and level 2 the whole country considered as one unit, at level 3 the statistical regions (8 units), at level 4 the groups of municipalities (34 units) and at level 5 the municipalities (123 units).
The adoption of a new Law on Local Self-government in January 2002 represented another step towards decentralisation. It was inspired by the pillars of the European Charter of Self- Government, which had been ratified by FYROM in 1997, thus recognising that decentralisation is essential for local government democracy. According to this Law, municipalities possessed general competency in all local matters. They were in charge of activities of local importance, not explicitly excluded from their competency nor falling under the competency of state authorities. The municipal competencies, prescribed in article 22 of the law, included: social welfare services, child protection, education, health care, urban and rural planning, communal activities, sport and local economic development1. Moreover, the Law on Local Self- Government Finances defined and regulated the revenue generation and fiscal management of Local Government Units (LGUs).
The decentralisation process started on 1 July 2005 in form of administrative and financial decentralisation or transfers. The legal reform was translated into five specific operational programs supporting decentralisation, which were supposed to elaborate the implementation of reforms towards higher local autonomy. The decentralisation process was conceived as a three phased approach, customized to the specific nature of an LGU and its development level. All municipalities have moved to the last phase of decentralisation. However, it has been pointed out that this has not guaranteed in itself the decentralisation success. Criticism emerged as decentralisation was politically-driven. Overlapping leadership and lack of efficiency in local government operations are often considered as obstacles to decentralisation. It has been noted that FYROM did not replicate its past local government success from Yugoslavia’s time. Regarding the financial and budget management, Macedonia is still far from the decentralisation level of EU countries.
Macedonia’s regions and the European Union
In 2003, the European Parliament established a new Regulation on NUTS, which regulated the joint statistical classification of the European territorial units for collecting, processing and disseminating harmonised regional statistical data in the Community. In 2004, the Republic of Macedonia adopted the Law on Territorial Organisation of the Local Self-Government. These developments required to harmonise the existing classification with the newly developed situation. Therefore, in December 2007, The Government of the Republic of Macedonia adopted the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics – NTES (“Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia” No. 158/2007) and in 2014 adopted amendments to it (“Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia” No. 10/2014).
The NTES nomenclature provides a single and uniform breakdown of territorial units at regional and local level. It also represents a basis for collecting, processing and publishing regional statistics, used for planning and running the regional policy in the Republic of Macedonia. As the Republic of Macedonia is an EU candidate country, the State Statistical Office is obliged to provide Eurostat with regional statistics on various areas, according to the NTES nomenclature. Currently, the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics – NTES is made up of 5 levels. NTES level 1 and level 2 represent the whole territory of the State, considered as an administrative unit, whereas level 3 consists of 8 non-administrative units, i.e. statistical regions formed by grouping the municipalities as administrative units of lower level. NTES level 4 consists of 80 municipalities, considered as administrative units, out of which 10 municipalities make up the Greater Skopje, which has a distinct status. NTES level 5 consists of 1767 settlements.
by Gianmartino Contu
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.