Malta is a centralised state and the powers that have been delegated are those to the local government. Indeed today two levels of government exist at the central and local level. Though the centre retains power, Maltese people tend to identify themselves with their locality. In every locality one finds that people tend to be proud of their hometown or village, and are willing to give their time for its improvement and its welfare. In this sense, the division of Malta into localities makes sense, because it is a division along lines that the majority of people recognise, understand, identify with and accept. That makes them more supportive and appreciative of the hard work carried out by the local government.
Malta cannot afford to be fragmented. It is simply too small. It cannot afford sixty-eight planning authorities, or sixty-eight education divisions. On the other hand, nobody understands the needs of a locality more than the people who live there. The central government does not have the means to ‘micro manage’ either. This is where local councils step in. When composed of hard working people who love their locality, they will strive to develop facilities, they will strive to ensure that the area is kept clean, that the gardens are ever- green and blossoming, that the playing fields are up to standard, that the roads are in good condition. They will also work hard to resolve the residents’ difficulties and concerns, including parking, criminality and personal safety. The Maltese central government has recognised this and tapped in to it. The results are there to be seen. In the authors’ locality for example, thanks to the local council there is a post office and a police station where before there were none, there are three public gardens where before there were only two, refuse collection works like clockwork, public talks and educational programmes are organised regularly, festivities and community events as well.
Much more would be done in all localities, if it were not for funds, or the lack of them. This is where the central government has tied the hands of local councils. They have to work within their budget, and opportunities to increase these budgets are restricted. Funds are greatly required to achieve more, in every locality. These may come, either by increasing the annual allocation, as has indeed happened year to year although money remained tight, or by changing the law to allow local councils to raise their own taxes. Ideas, dreams and aspirations are not enough, of course. Good management and discipline are a must, to counter un-bridled enthusiasm. Nor must parochialism be allowed to take root. Business plans must be well thought out, budgets adhered to, tenders awarded fairly and in a transparent manner. Mayors and councillors must be trained. The authors acknowledge the efforts in this regard on Central Government’s part, and such efforts must be sustained.
On the other hand, local councils have suffered as a result of political interference at local level. Malta’s local councillors are divided along political party lines. Although on the day-to-day level they normally get along well, when push comes to shove they will tow the party line, though this is not always the case. This may not be in the best interest of the locality, or of the residents, or possibly of the country as a whole.
Allegations are also made in the press from time to time, that the central government discriminates in favour or against certain localities, depending on the local council’s political leanings. This problem was built into the system of local councils in Malta from the very first elections. Partisan priorities, coupled with strong central government control, can present serious threats to good local governance and to the extent to which the intentions, the real meaning behind the European Charter of Local Self Governance, are respected and achieved.
Regionalism in terms of governance on Malta simply does not exist, whether in the law or in actual fact. The only reference to regional committees is in the Local Councils Act. Nor does the special attention given to Gozo make it a ‘region’. It is submitted that, Malta being so small, there is indeed no need for regionalism. The Maltese Islands, Gozo included, are small enough to be managed by the central government. Having said this, regional variations in terms of socio-economic, historical, cultural and environmental factors have long existed on the islands of Malta and Gozo. This reality is reflected in the NUTS and LAUs nomenclature identified for Malta. Though these regional variations may decline with rapid economic growth, they are as yet still present as the cases of Gozo and the Southern Harbor illustrate. This being so, regional responses of a sort are required, and are present in the Maltese setup, as has been illustrated, in order to address and alleviate regional disparities.
For the full report on Malta, click here.
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.