Slovakia is a parliamentary representative democratic republic governed under the Constitution of 1992. In terms of territorial administration, the Slovak Republic is divided into 8 regions (corresponding to the EU’s NUTS 3 level) and 2,890 municipalities (as of Dec. 31, 2014). The public administration is organised on three levels: state – region – municipality. Every level has its own elected officials, distributed responsibilities and liabilities. Regions of Slovakia are statistically divided according to EU territorial classification into four NUTS 2 level regions – Bratislava region, Western Slovakia, Central Slovakia and Eastern Slovakia.
Slovak public administration is of a dual nature, with relatively separate lines of local government (local and regional) and state administration (regional general state administration, specialised state administration). There is a clear-cut distinction at the regional and local level between the responsibilities of the local government and those of state administration.
Until 2002 there was a one-tier system of local government comprising more than 2,800 municipalities of varying sizes with the vast majority of very small municipalities. The regional government was established as of January 1, 2002. The creation of a regional tier of self government should have addressed the problem of the large proportion of small municipalities with limited professional and financial capacity capabilities to manage some public services as well as the problem of services where economies of scale and scope exist and services with catchment area exceed municipal jurisdictions.
The municipalities and regions are endowed with rule-making power. Every level (region and municipality) has its own elected officials, defined responsibilities, and tasks. The Constitution depicts the higher territorial units (which is the technical name given to the regions) as legal persons ‘which manage their own property and their financial means independently, under the conditions laid down by a law’. The Constitution lays down the basic institutional organisation of the municipalities and regions.
Governments in the eight Slovak regions were given powers over regional roads, territorial/ physical planning, regional development, secondary schools, hospitals, some social service facilities (retirements homes, social services for children, crises centre, orphanages, etc.), cultural facilities (galleries, museums, theatres, some libraries, etc.), and participation at civil protection, licences for pharmacies and private physicians. Regions can develop a strong trans-frontier co-operation, by the subscription of appropriate agreements, and even become a part of international associations. As far as delegated competences are concerned, the regions execute some tasks transferred from the state administration (for example, a part of the competencies in education, health system, and road transportation).
Representatives of regional governments (councillors of regional assemblies and regional presidents) are elected in direct, free, and democratic elections, which are open to political party candidates as well as independent candidates. However, regional elections typically show lower voter turnout than national and municipal elections. The first regional elections in 2001 were considered a disappointment because they drew only 26 percent of the voters. But recent regional elections in 2013 lured just 20, 1 percent of the country’s eligible voters to the ballot box.
There are sharp regional differences across Slovak regions. Regional inequality is apparent in terms of GDP per capita, employment and income indicators. The eastern regions have a much higher incidence of poverty, as economic activity is heavily concentrated in the west, particularly around the capital, Bratislava. Regional GDP per capita ranges from 186 per cent of the EU average in Bratislava to only 53% in Eastern Slovakia (2014). Regional disparities are not only substantial, but they also tend to be persistent.
Despite regional governments being responsible for the comprehensive integrative development of the region, their direct impact on economic, social and environmental development of their territories is still relatively small. The transfer of executive competences from the state administration bodies to the municipalities and regional governments in 2002-2003 was accompanied by a significant devolution of expenditure responsibilities from the centre to sub-national governments in the areas of education, social services, roads and health care, etc. As a result, the regions became an important component of the public sector and the whole economy. However, a 16.1% share of subnational government expenditure in total public spending can be still considered to be low in light of common practices in Europe. On the other hand, institutions that strengthen the region’s “voice” are arising to deal with different issues of regional development.
by Sona Kapkova
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.