Report on the situation of local and regional self-government in the Republic of Bulgaria - CG (5) 3 Part II

Rapporteurs: Giorgio DE SABBATA (Italy) and Llibert CUATRECASAS (Spain)

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EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM 

FOREWORD

Under Resolution 31 (1996), paragraph 11, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) decided that, from time to time, reports should be drawn up on the situation of local democracy in the member States. Under this policy, and in view of a preliminary report by Mr L CUATRECASAS (Spain), Vice President of the CLRAE and member of the Chamber of Regions, following an explanatory mission to Bulgaria from 14-16 July 1996, the CLRAE decided to appoint two co-rapporteurs to prepare a specific report on the situation of local and regional democracy in Bulgaria (Resolution 58 (1997).

As a result, two CLRAE delegations visited Bulgaria. The first visit was carried out from 3 to 6 December 1997 by a delegation made up of Mr G. DE SABBATA (Italy), member of the Chamber of Local Authorities, Mr A-M. MORENO (Spain), expert, and Mr G. TESSARI, member of the Secretariat. The second, from 11 to 14 March 1998, was conducted by a delegation composed of MM DE SABBATA, CUATRECASAS and TESSARI.

This report consists of two complementary parts. The first part (A) is essentially a preliminary approach drawn up after the first visit, and its general introductory nature has been preserved. It is largely descriptive, while the second part (B), prepared after the second mission, develops the issues raised in (A), and, where required, confirms, corrects or explores them. It differs from the first part in being both more selective and concise. However, there is no rigid separation between the two parts, since they both contain description and analysis. At the same time, as the two parts were prepared at different periods, the report contains some repetition. It should also be noted that the objective of this report is not to present an exhaustive overview of local democracy in Bulgaria. Such an undertaking would have required more time and resources. In addition, it has already been carried out, at least partially, in the brochure about Bulgaria in the series "Structure and operation of local and regional democracy" (Strasbourg, 1997), published by the Council of Europe’s Directorate of Environment and Local Authorities.

Instead, this report is intended to bring out and illustrate the understanding of the Bulgarian system reached by the delegations. It pays particular attention to the questions most frequently raised with the Bulgarian interlocutors during the two visits, and the aspects that, in the opinion of the delegations, allow an evaluation (admittedly incomplete, but nevertheless as accurate and realistic as possible) of the situation of local and regional democracy in Bulgaria. In this spirit, the writers hope that their report will be a positive and useful element in the current process of consolidating freedom and self-government in Bulgaria.

During the two visits, the delegation had a very busy programme of talks and meetings with many people in several towns, as outlined in Appendix I. Throughout the visits, the delegations met with a very friendly, receptive and open attitude on the part of the local, government and parliamentary authorities, who were always ready to provide assistance so that the missions could be carried out satisfactorily.

This Act was published in the Official Journal on 12 December 1997.

During its visit to the National Assembly on 12 March 1998, the delegation learned that a Municipal Budgets Act had been adopted that same day.

 

A. THE GENERAL FRAMEWORK OF LOCAL DEMOCRACY IN BULGARIA

1. The economic and political context

Any analysis of the health and extent of local government in Bulgaria must of necessity start with the economical and political situation in the country. Economically, Bulgaria is going through an exceptionally difficult period, which is alarmingly reflected in all the macroeconomic indicators (inflation, average pay, unemployment rate, weakness of the currency, economic growth rate, etc). Politically, Bulgaria has undergone a period of upheaval in the last few months.

The situation can be broadly summarised as follows: the last presidential elections were held in October/November 1996 and were won by Mr Petar Stoyanov (with Mr Todor Kavaldjiek as Vice-President), from the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) party. This party also won the last general elections in April 1997, obtaining 137 out of 240 seats in the National Assembly, ahead of the coalition of the Democratic Left (58 seats), the Alliance for National Salvation coalition (19 seats), the "Euro-left" coalition (14 seats), and lastly, the Bulgarian Business Bloc (12 seats). The new government formed after these elections is led by Mr Ivan Kostov. The ministry responsible for local government is the Ministry for Regional Development and Public Works, headed by Mr Evgeni Bakardjiev.

However, the main winner by a wide margin in the most recent local elections, held in 1995, was the Socialist Party, which now forms the parliamentary opposition. As a result, there is now a form of local "cohabitation" between the central administration and the local authorities. In spite of this, the delegation could see that, irrespective of the political standpoint, there is a general commitment in official circles to moving the country forward and solving the problems in local administration.

2. The normative framework: recent developments

The current Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria was adopted by the Grand National Assembly on 12 July 1991. Local self-government, understood to mean "self-management", is established in Article 2, para 1. In addition, the Constitution covers "local self-government and local administration" in Chapter VII, Articles 135–146. The formal requirements of Article 2 of the ECLSG are therefore clearly met. In addition, Bulgaria signed the ECLSG on 3 October 1994 and ratified it on 10 May 1995; the ECLSG entered into force on 1 September 1995. In addition to is constitutional foundations, local government in Bulgaria is governed by the Local Self-Government and Local Administration Act, promulgated in 1991 and subsequently amended several times. The Act dates from the same year as the Constitution, and comprehensively sets out the legal basis of local government.

The Act is "outline" legislation, and other Acts govern particular aspects of local government in Bulgaria, such as:

the Organisation of Local Administration in Bulgaria Act, adopted on 30 June 1995

the Local Elections Act, adopted in 1995 and amended in 1996

the Consultation of the People Act, promulgated in 1996

the Taxes and Local Charges Act

the Municipal Property Act, adopted in 1996

the Capital and Large Cities Territorial Division Act, adopted in 1995.

With regard to the latest legislative developments, it should be mentioned that at the beginning of December, the National Assembly had just approved a new Act on taxes and local charges, which was due to enter into force in 1998. At the time of our visit, it was so recent that it had not yet been published in the Bulgarian Official Gazette, and no English or French translation was therefore available. The delegation was informed that one aim of the new law was to improve the existing laws technically (for example, by making a clearer distinction between taxes and charges). The new law also sought to make local authorities more financially independent. Among other things, it would enable municipalities to collect their own taxes by establishing separate tax departments. Until now, the state financial authorities have collected local taxes.

With regard to future legislation, the delegation learned during its meetings that new laws on local authorities or related issues are due to be approved in the next few months by the National Assembly.

a. During the meeting at the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works, the delegation was informed that:

- there are plans to reform property law in order to advance the process of transferring state property to the municipalities;

- several bills on regional planning, which will affect municipalities' planning role, are being prepared; they include laws to protect the Black Sea coast and the banks of the Danube, and a law on developing mountain regions.

b. During the meeting with local councillors in Smoljan, the delegation was informed that a bill on border regions was being prepared.

c. The delegation learned in other meetings that:

- amendments are planned to the Local Self-Government Act and to the Regional Planning Act;

- legislation on the regions and on the civil service is also envisaged: this has yet to be deliberated.

In short, the legal framework of local self-government in Bulgaria has been fairly dynamic for some years and, far from coming to an end, activity is set to continue. It is worth mentioning that the delegation found an almost unanimous determination to improve the laws on local self-government, although it must be borne in mind that in the present economic and social situation, "technical" improvements to the legal framework are not necessarily Bulgaria’s highest priority.

3. Supervision of Local Authorities

Bulgarian law on local self-government and local administration provides for supervision of the municipalities by various central state institutions.

The State Audit Office supervises the financial activities of local authorities. However, from the ECLSG standpoint, more consequential supervision is exercised by the governor, appointed by the Council of Ministers, who is the supreme monocratic embodiment of state authority in the regions. The governor has many responsibilities in the state’s regional administration. For example, he manages state property and co-ordinates the business activities of state companies. In the sphere of local government, under Articles 143 (3) and 144 of the Bulgarian Constitution and Article 71 of the Local Self-Government and Local Administration Act, the governor supervises and reviews municipal administrative decisions. Under the Constitution and the Act this supervision is confined to ensuring compliance with the law and is not concerned with expediency. Prima facie, at least, this conforms to the letter and spirit of the ECLSG (Article 8). During its meeting with the Governor of the Sofia Region, the delegation was assured that this supervision concerns only the legality, and not the substance, of municipal administrative decisions. In response to a municipal decision in his/her region, the governor is empowered only to suspend it and bring it before the courts. This supervision operates in two ways:

a. Routine supervision: all municipalities must inform the governor of the region of any decisions taken in the course of their work (this provision of information, which does not affect local self-government, does not contradict the spirit of the ECLSG and exists in other systems with strong local government, such as Spain’s). The decisions are then examined by legal specialists on the governor’s staff, who identify any procedural irregularities or breaches of the law or regulations.

b. Anyone injured by a municipal decision may complain to the governor on the ground of the decision's illegality.

Whichever the procedure, the governor can formally suspend the administrative decision and then submit the case to the Administrative Court; it appears that the court usually delivers its judgments reasonably quickly.

Another issue must be raised in this context - the suspension of mayors under a criminal investigation. In law, mayors who are charged with a crime may be temporarily removed from office, so that the investigation can proceed without hindrance. It is for the State Prosecutor to issue an order removing the mayor from office so that s/he may be investigated. Consequently, what is involved in principle is not definitive dismissal but a provisional suspension from duty, to be lifted once the verdict has been delivered. About 5% of all Bulgarian mayors are under provisional suspension at the moment. Certain politicians from the parliamentary opposition have complained that this measure has not always been applied correctly and with circumspection.

4. Finance

Turning to municipalities’ financial resources (Article 9 of the ECLSG), our starting point must be the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, Article 141 of which provides: "A municipality shall have its own budget. A municipality’s permanent sources of revenue shall be established by a law. The state shall ensure the normal work of the municipalities through budget appropriations and other means". In practice, however, this is perhaps one of the weakest areas of Bulgarian local self-government. This introductory observation (though the country’s economic situation must not be overlooked) is based on the following points.

a. On the one hand, the bulk of the municipalities’ revenue comes from the state, through appropriations or grants. There is also a financial equalisation system applying a polynomial formula that includes about 20 different criteria. For the municipalities in greatest difficulties, there is a possibility of increased state subsidies.

Thus, heavy financial dependence on the state can be identified as a salient feature of Bulgarian local government. However, this dependence varies according to the importance and size of the municipality, which means according to its ability to raise revenue from taxes and local taxes, dues, municipal commercial activity, the privatisation of local businesses, and other sources of its own. To take one extreme, according to the Mayor of Sofia the city receives 83% of its income from "own resources", while the remaining 17% comes from the state budget. At the other end of the scale, there are small municipalities that depend almost entirely on financial assistance from the state. Between the two extremes there is a huge diversity. For example, the local elected representatives of Stara Zagora informed the delegation that 27% of the municipality’s income comes from the state budget, while the remaining 73% comes from "own resources".

b. The delegation noted that local elected representatives were also unhappy about an – apparently very frequent – occurrence: Acts of the National Assembly or decrees by the Council of Ministers that assign municipalities a new power or responsibility without identifying or providing the requisite financial resources (unfunded mandates)

c. Finally, the municipalities do not have any means of collecting their own taxes and revenues. The state taxation authorities collect the taxes and subsequently pay the yield to the municipalities, which therefore rely organisationally on the state for collection of local taxes and charges. This situation should change as a result of the new Act on local taxes and charges, approved at the end of 1997.

5. Local Authority Staff

With regard to local government staff (Article 8 (2) of the ECLSG), the situation in Bulgaria may be summarised as follows.

- Unlike their counterparts in other European countries, public authority staff have the same legal status as ordinary workers. There is therefore no "civil service" in the limited legal sense of the term. Public authority employees are governed by general employment law.

- The number of employees varies greatly, according to the importance, size and resources of the municipality concerned, but as a general rule, the municipalities are not able to employ all the staff they require. As an example, the town of Sofia employs almost five hundred people, while the small municipalities do not have technical or specialist staff. Where possible, municipalities remedy this by grouping together so that the group can employ staff who work for all the member municipalities.

- The government sets the categories of civil servant at both national and local level. It also (through the Finance Ministry) sets public sector pay. Municipalities can sign collective agreements with their employees, but they cannot exceed the pay limits set by the Ministry. The salaries of municipal staff are severely affected by the country’s economic situation. The delegation learnt that public authority salaries are on average considerably lower than private sector ones and that, for the same administrative post, a municipal employee would normally receive less pay than a ministerial employee. As a result, the municipalities find it hard to hire qualified staff.

- With regard to the recruitment of public sector employees, the elected representatives who met the delegation said that, as a general rule, there are no large nationwide competitive examinations for entry to the administrative service comparable to those in other western countries. "Open" selection, based on objective criteria, is often used, but appointments tend to be very much at the municipality's discretion.

- As regards job security, local government employees do not have stable or permanent posts comparable to those in some European systems with an "independent" civil service. Quite the opposite: most employees have temporary contracts and can therefore be fired, which is what usually happens when political power changes hands. This is perhaps similar to the "spoils system". Those we met also regarded the absence of a genuine civil service and an administrative career path as a shortcoming that should be corrected in the future. The future Civil Service Act will doubtless be vital in initiating reform.

6. Local Authority Property

Municipal property is without doubt one area undergoing enormous change, with large amounts of hitherto entirely state-owned property being transferred to the municipalities. Of course, this is a complex process, but two aspects can be singled out.

a. The legal aspect

Article 140 of the Bulgarian Constitution provides: "A municipality shall be entitled to own property, which it shall use in the interests of its community". This same right is recognised in Article 51 of the 1991 Local Self-Government and Local Administration Act. As well as by these general provisions, the question is comprehensively regulated by the 1996 Municipal Property Act. This law is divided into eight chapters. Chapter One gives general definitions and divides municipal property into public municipal property and "private" municipal property, each category having different management and protection regulations. It seems that this is a completely new system for Bulgaria, and inspired by other traditional European systems, such as those in France or Spain. The remaining chapters cover municipal property management (Chapter 2), compulsory expropriation (Chapter 3), protection of municipal property (Chapter 4), housing (Chapter 5), municipal businesses (Chapter 6), the property register (Chapter 7), and finally, contracting out franchises (Chapter 8). On the whole, this law is considered a relatively satisfactory first step towards resolving a complex problem. However, the biggest criticism of this new legislation is that it stipulates that the networks and installations for energy and water supply, transport and other public services belong to the companies that provide the services. Since it is state companies that provide most of them, the municipalities cannot own the installations and infrastructure and are therefore not responsible for standard of service. Decisions about investment, renovation and maintenance of municipal services are thus taken at central level, which we believe could be contrary to the principle of subsidiarity.

b. the operational aspect

The elected representatives met by the delegation strongly criticised the process of transferring state property to the municipalities for its slowness and complexity. One person we spoke to stated that about 80% of property was still controlled by the government and state enterprises. The municipalities have their own assets, but elected representatives say the process of identifying and efficiently transferring municipal property is unsatisfactory. It is directed and managed by the regional governors, and is apparently lengthy, cumbersome and technically complex.

During our visit to the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works, the Deputy Minister admitted that local ownership was a precondition for local government, and said that the ministry was conducting a huge property reform programme for the benefit of the municipalities. In Plovdiv, for example, the Ministry was about to transfer various buildings (such as the Opera), which had been state owned until now, to the municipality. It seems that similar programmes have been started in other municipalities, and these operate through agreements between administrative authorities. During this interview, the delegation was also told that there are plans to transfer other kinds of state property, such as public housing, to the municipalities.

At the same time, there is mention of transferring certain public services to local government control, which would involve creating municipal companies, eg for water supply. This municipalisation intersects with the privatisation process, and, in some cases politicians will have to choose between them.

7. Associations of Municipalities

Article 10 (1) and (2) of the ECLSG establishes the right of local authorities to associate. Article 137 of the Bulgarian Constitution states: "Municipalities shall be free to associate in the solution of common matters. The law shall establish conditions conducive to association among municipalities". This constitutional provision is developed a little in Article 9 of the 1991 Local Self-Government Act, which provides for creating regional associations and a national association.

It should be noted that this aspect of local democracy is positively flourishing in Bulgaria, a fact which came as a pleasant surprise to the delegation. We met many of the associations of municipalities (regional ones as well as the national one), most of them very recent, though their emergence is not in fact unprecedented in Bulgaria: during the period 1925-1944, the Union of Bulgarian Cities grew considerably.

The development of municipal associations is paralleled by a remarkable growth in NGOs working in the sphere of local self-government. The most important of these is probably the Sofia-based Foundation for Local Government Reform, which we visited (see appendix).

7.1 The regional associations

The delegation spent an entire morning meeting representatives from these associations (see appendix). Remarkably, most do not correspond to the boundaries of the existing Bulgarian "regions". Rather, they are based on grouping of areas that share certain economic or natural features. To a certain extent, these associations, listed below, are "trans-regional":

1. The Association of Bulgarian Danube Riparian Municipalities was created in 1993. It brings together municipalities located on an east-west axis along the Danube. It currently numbers 16 municipalities (Rousse, Belene and Tutrakan, among others), and according to its president, Mr Peter Dulev, new members are expected. According to the association’s executive manager, Mr Gankov, it is actively involved in inter-municipal support and co-operation such as hire of lawyers or experts for the joint benefit of the associated municipalities. Information exchange between the members is well developed and includes periodicals and newsletters.

2. The Association of Black Sea municipalities

As in the previous example, the members belong to several of the official regions. They are all on the Black Sea coast, on a north-south axis. The association currently includes 17 municipalities (Kavarna, Varna, Bourgas, Sozopol and Pomorie being among the largest). The association’s main aim is inter-municipal co-operation in the areas of transport, environmental protection and economic development, particularly tourism.

3. The Central Stara Planina Municipalities Association

This association was formed only five months ago, and brings together municipalities of the Stara Planina mountains. The association has 5 members to date, notably the town of Gabrovo, Bulgaria’s equivalent of Manchester. According to the executive manager, Ms Iva Taraleshkova, the association is open to other municipalities, and expects more members in the future. The main aim is mutual assistance in the spheres of tourism, health, infrastructure, support for crafts, etc.

4. The Haskovo Region Municipalities Association

This association comprises 10 municipalities from the south-east of Bulgaria (Haskovo is the main centre and the others include Dimitrovgrad, Simeonovgrad and Stambolovo). The association’s main goal is to promote the regional economy, especially in terms of attracting foreign investment in the region’s main economic activities such as light industry, tool and furniture production and tourism.

5. The Rhodope Mountains Municipalities Association

This association, founded in 1992, is the oldest in Bulgaria. It currently numbers 15 municipalities from the mountain area bordering Greece. It is based in Smoljan, the largest town in the area. The main aim of the association, which has a standing committee, is to promote the local economy, particularly winter tourism and the timber industry.

6. Mention should also be made of other associations, such as: the Trakia Regional Association, which comprises 22 municipalities (notably Stara Zagora) and has been in existence for only three months; the Association of Sub-Balkan Municipalities, a new association which includes towns such as Karlovo; and the Association of Plovdiv Region Municipalities, which brings together the municipalities around Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city.

7.2 The national association of Bulgarian municipalities

Article 9 (3), of the 1991 Local Self-Government Act provides for a national association of Bulgarian municipalities. Its membership must include at least 70% of all Bulgarian municipalities. Among other rights, it is entitled to represent municipalities to the government and to propose local government reforms. The National Association of Municipalities of the Republic of Bulgaria was constituted accordingly in December 1996, on the legal basis of Article 134 of the Persons and Families Act. At the time of the delegation’s visit 206 municipalities (out of 246 in the country) were members of the association. The National Association’s main organs are the General Assembly, where each member municipality has a vote; the Board of Management, whose nineteen members are elected by the General Assembly; the Executive Director; and the Monitoring Committee, consisting of five persons elected by the General Assembly.

The association’s main function is to represent municipalities to the country’s political institutions. It would take too long to list the many activities already begun despite the association’s short existence. For the sake of conciseness, we will give only the following examples.

a. At the representative level, the association’s most important achievement is to have already been recognised by the central political institutions as the real voice of the municipalities. It is something of a lobbyist of the government and the National Assembly. In addition, it will be taking part in the legislative process in matters affecting local authorities. Its representatives told us the association had just signed an agreement on the 1998 budget with the government.

b. At the organisational level, the association organises training programmes for mayors and elected representatives: it provides specialised help for its members and a network for ongoing exchange of information between municipalities. Here, it should be mentioned that it issues a bulletin of all the member municipalities' decrees, orders and regulations. The association is funded by the member municipalities and from foreign sources (in particular USAID). Its officials informed the delegation that next year they plan to increase the number of staff from nine to fifteen and to move into new offices in the centre of Sofia.

The association trend is therefore very marked in Bulgaria but representatives say there is a legal gap in that there is no law dealing specifically with associations of municipalities. Under the Persons and Families Act, the existing associations are subject to the same laws as other "ordinary" associations.

8. Crossborder co-operation

Article 10 (1) and (2) of the ECLSG establishes local authorities' right to co-operate with authorities in other states. Several municipalities, alone or within associations of border municipalities, have arrangements for co-operation with municipalities or associations in neighbouring countries, especially Romania and Greece.

The Association of Bulgarian Danube Riparian Municipalities', for instance, collaborates with the neighbouring Romanian municipalities along the Danube. For example, it recently held a conference on developing crossborder relations. Representatives of the Sub-Balkan Association informed the delegation that it was also making progress in this area, etc.

9. A second tier of Territorial Authonomy in Bulgaria?

Bulgaria is currently divided into nine regions (the City of Sofia, and the Sofia, Plovdiv, Haskovo, Bourgas, Varna, Rousse, Lovech and Montana Regions). In Bulgaria, the region is not a self-governing territorial unit, rather an area within which the state carries out its responsibilities and provides services and whose supreme administrative organ is the regional governor. This is clear from Article 7 of the 1991 Local Self-Government Act (which also briefly regulates the region and regional administration in Articles 68 to 72). The current division into regions abolished the former districts (okraks). Several border districts were united to form a new region. Only the City of Sofia region still has the old district boundaries. However, not only do the current regional boundaries seem artificial, but the former system has also not been disappeared completely. The old districts still form the areas for providing many public services, such as police, health care, transport or education.

A regionalisation plan for Bulgaria, adding a tier of regional self-government to the local one, was mentioned several times in the meetings. In spite of the many references to it, there seems to be no definitive and clear conception of the size, nature, structure and functions of this regional tier. The director of the National Centre for Territorial Development and Housing Policy informed us that his centre was due to conduct a wide-ranging technical and economic study to determine the advantages and disadvantages of establishing a regional level of self-administration.

At this stage, one can only note that there are many people in Bulgaria in favour of establishing this second level, but that the idea has still barely taken shape.

 

B. A TENTATIVE EVALUATION

1. Supervision and supervision procedures

The concept of "supervision" played a key role in the functioning of the former totalitarian systems. Among other things, it allowed purely administrative matters to be included in an all-embracing management approach, justified by the principle of discretion. It was also used to support the almost unlimited powers of the "peoples’ prosecutors". With the establishment of democracy and a state based on the rule of law, "supervision" admittedly continues to have a role, but its nature has now changed drastically, and its scope is limited by the new Constitution, the resultant legislation and, last but not least, the establishment of local "self-government". It is therefore appropriate to assess briefly the extent of this change in Bulgaria.

The first form of supervision to be considered is that existing between the "bodies" in a municipality: on the one hand, the municipal council, "the body of local self-government", and on the other, the mayor, "the body of executive power".

Under Article 45-1 of the Local Self-Government and Local Administration Act (LSGLAA), the municipal council "may rescind actions of the mayor taken in contravention of its decisions under Article 21". For its part, the mayor may "challenge a Municipal Court decision", with "suspending force" when he deems that it contradicts "the municipal interests" (expediency) or "violates the law" (legality). If the council reaffirms its decision, the mayor shall execute it, or, if it contradicts the law, shall seize the Court (Article 45-2).

There is therefore "two-way" supervision, the scale and impact of which may become troublesome, if not disastrous, for the municipality’s activities where there is constant open conflict between mayors and the municipal council. These bodies are in fact elected by different processes. The CLRAE delegation heard about several serious conflicts between councils and mayors and the resulting disruption to municipal activity. At this level of conflict, and particularly when the mayor continues to refuse to execute a council decision, there may be recourse to the forms of supervision exercised by two other supervisory bodies: the governor and the prosecutors. It would perhaps be interesting to investigate the instances of protracted conflict between municipal councillors and mayors which result in disruption to municipal activity, to establish their reasons, scale, impact and consequences, and to consider the role that the relevant authorities could play in resolving them.

We have just seen that the mayors are responsible for the initial supervision of the legality of municipal council decisions. Under Article 143-2 of the Constitution, the governor exercises "administrative control". Article 144 states that the central bodies of state and their local representatives shall exercise control over the legality of the acts of the bodies of local government only when authorised to do so by a law. The connection between the two provisions is not clear. However, Article 71 of the LSGLAA states that the governor shall exercise "control" over the lawfulness of acts of the bodies of local self-government (municipal councils) and local administration (mayors). According to Article 72 of the same law, the governor is empowered to discontinue the execution of unlawful acts of municipal councils and to rescind unlawful acts of mayors. There is therefore a balance between the consequences of this form of supervision and those of the internal "two-way" supervision, as the acts of the mayor’s decisions may be rescinded and the municipal council’s decisions suspended in both cases.

In practice, the result is the same, since suspension removes the opportunity to execute the disputed decision. The relevant body may either accept the decision to suspend or rescind, or may seize the courts, which may in turn either lift the suspension or quash the annulment. In the majority of cases, municipal councils accept the governor’s decisions.

The nature of the conflicts between the legislation and the supervised decisions is not clear. However, the cases notified concern conflicts of jurisdiction between municipalities and the state, especially with regard to land and property ownership (for example, halting the sale of an apartment that the governor had declared state property, or suspending authorisation to open a petrol station on state land).

Some kinds of supervision of legality are not within the powers of the governor, as they are exercised directly by state ministries: if acts are deemed illegal, municipal councils are penalised by a fine.

Given the difficulty of recognising in which instances the law allows for administrative supervision (Article 8 of the ECLSG), it is impossible in practice to evaluate the controlling authority’s intervention in relation to the importance of the violation, or the use of the proportion criterion mentioned in Article 8 of the ECLSG ("proportion to the importance of the activities which it is intended to protect").

The regional governor is appointed by the Council of Ministers (Article 143-2, Constitution and Article 69, LSGLAA), while the vice regional governors are appointed by the Prime Minister (Article 69). Again under Article 69, the regional governor and his deputy may not hold positions in "leading bodies of political parties" nor in "managerial bodies". This provision is all the harder to interpret given that the delegation learnt of at least one case (apparently there are others) where a regional governor was a member of the municipal council for a regional capital (Plovdiv), and unless they were misinformed, was also president of a majority political group. It is not clear whether there are "governor-mayors".

Several people, at different levels of authority, stated that the supervisory procedures were out-dated. They pre-date the Constitution and the law on local self-government. The structures and administrative practices are unwieldy and complicated, and there is consequently a certain overall lack of transparency.

As a result, the possibility cannot be excluded that, in certain cases, supervision of legality becomes, perhaps involuntarily, a disguised way of supervising expediency, or results in paralysis of the bodies concerned, particularly where there is a dispute between the municipal council and the mayor, or where the municipalities are controlled by a political group that is in the minority at national level. After all, the governor’s appointment is a political one (Article 69, LSGLAA). However, it should be stated that the delegation did not find any instances of systematic administrative harassment.

To sum up, it would perhaps be appropriate to remove any hint of "partiality" from the governors’ supervision, firstly by setting out the forms and cases of administrative supervision (Article 8-1 of the ECLSG) in an appropriate law, and then by simplifying and reorganising the process, in short, by modernising this area.

2. Procedures for suspending and removing mayors and municipal councillors

The powers of a municipal councillor (Article 30, LSGLAA) and of a mayor (Article 42) are discontinued if he or she "has been sentenced to imprisonment for a premeditated crime and the sentence has come into force".

The preliminary police investigation is initiated by the State Prosecutor. On completion, the Prosecutor may decide to discontinue the investigation or to submit the case to an investigating judge, who launches an official inquiry and summons the accused by a "writ".

The prosecutor decides either to dismiss the proceedings and file the case, or to press charges. If the prosecutor considers that the municipal councillor or the major is likely, in exercising his/ her functions, to hinder the inquiry, he orders a temporary suspension from duty, in conformity with Article 154 of the Penal Code. In principle, suspension should be for a specific length of time. The investigating judge, responsible for "the preliminary investigation" (Art. 128 of the Constitution) cannot supervise the prosecutor’s power of suspension. Such supervision is exercised only by a superior, the Chief Prosecutor, who is entitled to annul the suspension.

In practice, certain mayors who have been suspended challenge the legality of the procedure itself. In particular, the prosecutors are accused of abusing their powers to suspend, or at least of using them unfairly. Indeed, by introducing successive charges, the prosecutors can prolong the suspension. Thus, one mayor was suspended nine times in two years, the charge being dropped on each occasion. The mayors drew attention to the excessive length of investigations, which has implications for the length of the suspension, and thus leads to a kind of de facto removal from office.

In fact, the prosecutors are not subject to any "external" supervision, as the Constitution states that they are "independent" (Article 117-2).

It is true that the current criminal and criminal procedure laws predate the current Constitution and resultant laws; it is therefore very possible that the existing contradictions between the two legislative systems may give rise to abuses. It would thus be appropriate for Parliament to remove any ambiguity in this sensitive area by introducing an appropriate juridical process for suspending mayors (and municipal councillors). The fight against corruption, which is in fact a major concern for prosecutors, should not justify prolonging a situation that seems not to conform fully to the principles of a law-based state, as inscribed in the European Convention of Human Rights. On the contrary, such reforms would help to end suspicions that are liable to poison relations between the parliamentary majority and minority.

In this context, it should also be noted the National Association of Bulgarian municipalities is currently proposing that mayors (and municipal councillors) be excluded from the scope of Article 154 of the Criminal Code.

According to the information provided, about ten municipal mayors are currently suspended from office. Many more mayors of "inhabited places" (areas within the territory of a municipality: Article 10-1, LSGLAA) are suspended.

3. Competences, municipal property and finances

This section covers a vast field. There are many legislative and statutory texts, and being unable to examine them all in detail, we will limit ourselves to a few conclusions drawn during the discussions that took place between the CLRAE delegation and the Bulgarian authorities. For more information, the official documents should be consulted directly.

Article 11 of the LSGLAA lists the competences of municipalities. These include both "own" competences and those "shared" between the municipalities and the State. The dividing line between these two main spheres of competence is determined by old laws and regulations which predate the 1991 Local Self-Government and Local Administration Act, but which are still in force.

Thus, the following are included among "own" competences: the maintenance of streets and squares, public transport, garages, the collection and disposal of rubbish, parks, gardens and green spaces, cemeteries, crèches and kindergartens, culture (including clubs, municipal theatres, museums, libraries, etc) and sports facilities. The municipalities are clearly responsible for the management of municipal administration and for municipal organisation and planning. Article 21 of the same Act states that the municipal council "shall adopt municipal development strategies, projections, programmes and plans".

Municipal companies may be set up to carry out certain municipal duties directly. "Municipal concessions" may be used to provide other municipal functions, such as water, gas and various other services, indirectly. It is up to the municipal council to decide which of these functions are to be carried out directly and which indirectly.

In the area of "shared" competences (particularly schools, hospitals and social welfare), the municipalities must not only provide and maintain the facilities, but must also remunerate their staff.

What resources are available to the Bulgarian municipalities to meet these obligations?

Article 9 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government states that local authorities shall be entitled to "adequate financial resources of their own" (9-1), which are "commensurate with the responsibilities" (9-2), derived in part from local taxes and charges (9-3) and keeping pace as far as practically possible with the real evolution of the cost of carrying out their tasks (9-4). These resources are supplemented by funds "redistributed" on the grounds of financial equalisation, state "grants" and access to the national capital market (paragraphs 5 to 8).

What is the situation in Bulgaria in this respect?

Firstly, it should again be stated that local finances suffer from the general shortage of public resources. That said, it was noted that the municipalities are very financially dependent on the state, which contradicts the concept of local financial "independence" set out in Article 9 of the ECLSG. In particular, the ratio between "own" resources and state grants is clearly unbalanced in favour of grants, especially for small and medium-sized municipalities. Consequently, "own" resources do not always appear. On the other hand, resources, including state grants, do not always seem to be "commensurate" with the responsibilities placed on the municipalities, particularly with regard to "shared" competences". In this respect, the complaint that the municipalities have to implement projects without possessing the requisite financial resources is still pertinent. In future, the dividing line between state and local authority competences should not be altered without at the same time considering the allocation of financial resources.

However, it must be recognised that considerable efforts have been made to establish objective criteria for the parameters used to calculate the grants to various municipalities, in consultation with local authorities (Article 9-6, ECLSG).

The nature and scope of municipal property, especially buildings, determines the level of the municipalities’ financial resources and the quality of their overall public management. In this area, Bulgaria is in a transitional phase, characterised by two simultaneous processes: the transfer of property from the state to municipalities and the privatisation of public property and activities.

This technically complex phase is also economically sensitive, as it is likely to determine the direction and quality of the country’s overall development, in both the medium and long term. For example, privatisation is making possible the creation of "municipal development funds", which must be allocated to large-scale investments. However, it seems that to date the necessary transparency and efficiency have not always been evident. The powers of the central authorities, especially of the Ministry of Public Works, which is responsible for the property index, are deemed excessive by local authorities. The general climate is dominated by uncertainty over what is state property and what is municipal property, and over the distinction between transferable and non-transferable property. This situation is a source of tension, conflict and lawsuits, and was drawn to the delegation’s attention on several occasions.

Reform of state property and municipal property legislation is currently being studied by Parliament. Consequently, it is to be hoped that this reform will introduce all the clarity and precision required for legal certainty, while guaranteeing the right to property ownership required by the municipalities for quality financial operations and administration.

4. The relations between the muncipalities and the central administration

The Bulgarian Constitution states that the "regions shall be an administrative territorial unit entrusted with the conduct of a regional policy, the implementation of state government on a local level, and the ensuring of harmony of national and local interests" (Article 142). Administration in the regions is provided by a regional governor, aided by a regional administration (Article 143-1). The regional governor ensures "the implementation of the state’s policy" (Article 143-3).

Based on these provisions, it is possible to conclude that there must necessarily be at least two aspects to the "state’s policy". The first should cover the government’s attitude to municipalities, especially in those areas which concern the competences shared between state and municipalities. The second must relate to the areas, sectors and competences assigned to the central administration which are "managed" by either the government or its regional representative, namely the governor.

It is therefore appropriate to examine more closely how the relations between the two levels are organised.

The first sphere is that of shared competences, which includes essentially education and pre-school education, primary and secondary education, hospitals and other medical establishments and social welfare. A "special" case of shared competences is to be observed in the following areas: the supply of running water, drainage, sewage and central heating, which may be supplied by the state, the municipalities or mixed structures.

The 2nd edition of the publication on Bulgaria in the series "structures and operation of local and regional democracy" (Council of Europe, 1997) notes that the competences of the central authorities lie mainly in the introduction of universally applicable regulations and service standards, overall management and the appointment of senior officials (school heads, hospital heads, etc). The local authorities are responsible for the facilities and the remuneration of the staff. The same booklet states "given that these powers of the central authorities are generally to be found in the decisions of the Council of Ministers, it happens that restrictions (constraints) are placed on the powers of local authorities – openly or tacitly"(p.28).

A few comments are required at this point. In the first place, the CLRAE delegation met several mayors who complained about this imbalance, which is at the root of certain disputes between the municipalities and central authorities. In addition, there appears to be no real overall policy as to how the state and the governor should exercise power with regard to shared competences, only improvised interventions dictated primarily by financial circumstances. Thirdly, it is appropriate to question whether the municipalities have the same scope for response and appeal when their powers are restricted as those enjoyed by the central authorities and the governor. In other words, the following question is legitimate: should the dividing line between powers be regulated by legislation, or is it exclusively a matter of administrative discretion?

The law does not seem to address or answer this admittedly difficult question. Moreover, the publication mentioned above notes the existence of "an imbalance between rights and responsibilities: the rights are rather reserved to the central authorities and the responsibilities (including the expense and the remuneration) on local authorities. For these reasons, the problem of equitable division of powers in the sphere of shared competences has still to be settled"(p. 28).

In the light of its various meetings (conversations, colloquies and first-hand accounts), the CLRAE delegation acknowledges the aptness of the above observation.

The law regulates the relations between the regional governor and the local authorities as follows (Article 71 of the LSGLAA):

- (the governor) shall "co-ordinate the work of government agencies within the region and their interaction with local authorities" (71-1);

- "assume responsibility for the reconciliation of national and local interests" (72-2);

- "interact with the bodies of local self-government and local administration" (72-2).

But can it really be claimed that the governor has the means to implement his policy?

Here, circumstances are everything. Obviously, these include the geographical factors (nature of the area, climate, population, agriculture, industry, services, etc). Above all, however, it is the area’s institutional features that are decisive, particularly the number and size of the municipalities.

In fact, there seems to be only one successful instance of real "co-ordination", "reconciliation" and "interaction" between local authority and region, the two levels of competence. This is in the City of Sofia region – the capital city that is also a large municipality divided up into twenty-four districts ("unit, with status of region": Article 8, LSGLAA). Clearly, in a city that is both capital and region the position of the municipal council and the mayor when dealing with the governor will tend to be stronger than in other municipalities. In other regions, the governor’s role may prove stronger. In practice, since the governors are not elected representatives, and their powers are constantly controlled by the central authorities, it could be difficult to exercise the powers given in Article 71, and most of their work would therefore focus on exercising administrative control. A situation somewhere between these two cases exists in cities such as Plovdiv, Varna or Rousse, which could be regarded as regional capitals and therefore provide opportunities for initiatives by their respective governors.

It must be admitted that this is not an issue that is relevant only to the Bulgarian situation, but one that concerns all democracies. Deadlock, difficulties, vacillation and search for solutions in this area are the stuff of daily public discussion. However, the ubiquitous tension between centralisation and decentralisation takes on a particular form in Bulgaria, which for many years was a state managed directly from the "centre". In this regard, a study of the governor’s "role" could indeed be profitable.

5. Regional development and regionalisation

Article 135 of the Constitution states that the territory shall be divided into municipalities and "regions". A "region" shall be an administrative territorial "unit" (Article 142), entrusted to a governor who "governs" it (Article 143). The "regional policy" is one of "implementation of state government" (Article 142).

As for the LSGLAA, it states that the region has "an administrative purpose" (Article 7) and that in this "unit", state authority is decentralised for the purpose of pursing an "effective regional policy" (Article 68). Article 71 confirms that the regional governor shall "implement government policies" in the region.

This much is clear: the "unit-region" does not constitute "self-government" in the sense of Article 3 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. On the other hand, regional management of territory (or of a territory sub-divided into regional units, which amounts to the same thing), is in reality very centralised. There is nothing exceptional about this situation: it is a product of the past. However, two major challenges have now appeared: the new concept of municipal "self-government", which is increasingly powerful, and the collapse of all centralised planning, especially economic, at a time when democracy, Europe, the market economy and technological change are the order of the day. In other words, the entire traditional system of managing a state’s territory has been called into question, and we are seeing economic, administrative and ultimately (in the widest sense) political transition.

While "territory" and "self-government" are not exactly the same, the relationship between them is nevertheless close.

Article 71 of the LSGLAA contains an interesting provision, namely that the "governor shall organise the development and implementation of regional strategies and programmes for regional development".

However, in the current situation, this provision is destined to remain ineffectual. In the first place, the governor does not have the means to carry out regional planning. In fact, apart from the state budget, there are no other instruments for economic or regional planning, nor are there regional development funds. The only development programmes are those prepared by the municipal councils (Article 20, LSGLAA) which benefit from municipal development funds earmarked for large-scale investments.

In this context, regional "programming" cannot replace the centralised "planning", which no longer exists and cannot exist in its previous forms.

Under the former system, economic planning was carried out from above through authoritarian administration. The governor’s function was one of transmission and supervision only. Nowadays, against a radically different general background, the old forms and structures remain, preventing the creation of a new system. There is therefore an urgent need to develop a legal framework at regional level, which would allow for democratic, independent and modern planning that is worthy of the name.

The bodies of local self-government, i.e., the newly "liberated" municipalities, are faced with a paradox and a void. Regardless of all their efforts and goodwill, the governors cannot be credible interlocutors for the local authorities. There is an aspect of obstruction and opposition to progress that is viewed as interference by the most active local authorities, and that is likely to be expressed in pointless struggles and ineffective projects.

Indeed, on the one hand it would be possible for political energy to be spent in outright attempts to obtain partisan control of the territory, and this at a time when the challenge for national democracy is to "release" the potential of the Republic’s territories for the benefit of a collective commonly agreed programme.

On the other hand, the municipalities are attempting to open new avenues for joint action outside the current administrative framework. Thus, a series of municipal associations have been created on a purely geographical basis (the Danube, Black Sea, Stare Planina, the Rhodope mountains, the sub-Balkan group). In one way, this is a positive development, as it demonstrates the vitality of the principles of freedom of associations, and the dynamism of the associations’ members. However, it results in a curious dissociation between the territories and municipalities and could lead to a weakening of the collective action required within the only existing administrative area, namely the regional "unit", which, if it is to be reformed, requires massive investment. However, it should be added that associations have recently been formed on the basis of regional capitals such as Haskovo and Plovdiv. This trend should be encouraged: whatever else can be said, the current administrative division has above all the advantage of already existing, and there is, in addition, a certain logic: each regional area includes a large city (Plovdiv, Haskovo, Burgas, Varna, Rousse, Lovetch, Montana) which is a vital political, economic and industrial centre and which could be the catalyst for a given territory’s potential. The ground is already prepared: it requires only to be sown¼ By grouping themselves around the existing administrative structure and with a collective strength in negotiating, the municipalities could be in the vanguard of any regional reform, rather than simply submitting to it.

Admittedly, regional centralism is to be avoided, but it is first necessary for the regions to exist in one form or another as self-governing entities; it should never be forgotten that the best antidote to any "centralism" is a mixture of democracy and self-government. Once again, the example of Sofia, region and capital city, is interesting in several respects, and confirms the relevance of some of the conclusions reached above. An information document dated November 1997, which was given to the delegation during its December visit, stated that the Sofia municipality "combines the self-government of the community with the implementation of government policies for the development of the capital". In other words, the municipal development programme and fund are also genuinely regional. However, this coincidence is not applicable to other areas, and is only possible by dissociating the capital from the large surrounding region, which is consequently deprived of all links with the city on which its development is in fact dependent. It could be argued that co-ordination between two inter-linked regions takes place at central level. This is certainly possible: however, it is also true that we have no information on such inter-regional co-operation. On the other hand, the relevant ministers, not least the Minister for Public Works and Regional Planning, do not seem particularly equipped for this task, although the deputy-minister mentioned "blueprints" for regional (or inter-regional) development: if we understood correctly, the management of these could be given to "ad hoc agencies".

Paradoxically, the relevant ministries are looking for interlocutors for regional development, and have apparently found one in the Association of Black Sea municipalities, as the only development plan approved by the current government to date focuses on this "inter-regional" area.

It would be interesting to know the approach taken to this question by two bills, on "regional development" and "regional planning", which have apparently been under consideration in Parliament for some time.

The Bulgarian authorities’ confusion with regard to regional issues is obvious and understandable. A genuine public debate on the subject is therefore essential. The government believes that work on regional policy reform could begin in the near future. This work, aimed at clarifying the current situation, should precede the introduction of any second tier of democratic self-government.

 

CONCLUSIONS

Between 1989 and 1996/1997, Bulgaria went through a very difficult political situation, marked by considerable instability that resulted in the country losing valuable time in its efforts to become part of Europe.

Since the last legislative elections, won by the current majority following major economic collapse, the country seems to have found political stability.

Legislative activity has recommenced, and since June 1997, Parliament has adopted two additional acts: the Local Taxes, Fees and Charges Act (10 December 1997) and the Local Finance Act (adopted 12 March 1998). It is now preparing to examine a government-sponsored bill on regional development, to amend the acts on state and municipal property and to launch, in 1998-1999, a debate on devolving power to the regions.

In 1995 and 1996, the development of municipal self-government was completely blocked. Municipalities in particular suffered greatly from the isolation imposed on them by the central authorities, which occasionally left them in an exceptionally difficult situation. This proves that "self-government" is not a prison: neither is it a "sovereign state". Like any institution, it survives only through democratic debate, openness and permanent dialogue. The European Charter of Local Self-Government states that "public affairs" are to be regulated and managed "in the interests" of the populations. In other words, the concept of self-government can only be viable in a constitutional context where the democratic rules are respected.

The situation now seems to have improved. Throughout its visits, the delegation was aware of an attitude of openness and dialogue, a concern for "the other".

In December 1996, at the time of the most recent tragic events in Bulgaria, the National Association of Bulgarian municipalities was set up. In 1997, the government signed a framework agreement with this association to negotiate the level of annual state grants to be paid to municipal budgets. Following intervention by the relevant committee for local authorities, Parliament has also opened its doors to representatives of this association, who now attend the committee’s meetings on a non-voting basis, but with the right to participate in discussions and submit proposals.

These agreements between the parliament and the government on the one hand, and municipalities on the other, go beyond the traditional political divisions and occur at the level of institutional confrontation, and thus conform to the spirit of the European Charter. Admittedly, there are still considerable obstacles to be overcome and important reforms to be introduced.

More than anything, the difficulties are linked to the past and its uneasy legacy. It is both an indication and evidence of the health of Bulgarian democracy that, whatever their political opinion, the local authorities (municipalities), defend their sphere of freedom (self-government) with growing assurance and hope to see it increase democratically. Political freedom and self-government are not only a quantitative matter of competences and resources, but also refer to a style of governing, and the attempt to develop this new style is already well under way in Bulgaria. Even the potential difficulties between local authorities and central government, far from being disastrous, could become a positive factor in speeding up the democratisation process. The next local elections are due to take place in September 1999, and we are sure that local freedoms and democracy will emerge from them even stronger.

However, while it is necessary, a new political style is not in itself sufficient. The reforms must be continued. Admittedly, a considerable body of legislation has already been adopted. However, the reforms must gradually address those areas or sectors that we have briefly touched on in this document (without claiming to have dealt with them fully, and, we hope, without being dogmatic). On the one hand, it is a question of ridding the legislation of the vestiges of the former system, which does not conform to the generally accepted standards in the majority of Council of Europe member States. At the same time, the reforms must be centred on another important principle of the ECLSG, Article 4-3: subsidiarity. By constantly referring to this principle, and learning from the experience of other European countries, Bulgaria will rapidly be able to become not only democratic, as it is already, but also modern and efficient.

Bulgaria is still caught between the past and the future, but the transition is almost complete. Every day the past becomes more distant and the future becomes more of a reality. The time has come for this fascinating country, with its long history, interesting culture and strong European identity, to have complete confidence in itself. Equally, the rest of Europe, the members of the Council of Europe, and the European institutions, including the European Community, must do the same, by providing Bulgaria with a greater level of genuine assistance for strengthening democracy by all possible means. There should be closer co-operation between Bulgaria and other European countries, notably effective inter-municipal and inter-regional co-operation. Bulgaria also wishes to participate in all CLRAE activities on co-operation between the Mediterranean countries, particularly with all the countries on the north coast of the "common sea".

Appendix I

Institutions and personnalities met by the CLRAE Delegation

President (Mr Rossinov), Secretary (Mrs Spassova-Stoyanova) and members of the Bulgarian Delegation to the CLRAE

Two meetings with the President (Mr Kaltchev) and members of the National Association of Bulgarian Municipalities

Regional associations of municipalities: Rhodope, Maritza, South Balkan, Trakia, Danuben, Black Sea, Stara Planina, Plovdiv

Vice-President of the Republic: Mr T. Kavaldjiev

Vice-President of the Bulgarian National Assembly: Mr I. Kurtev

Two meetings with the Presidents (Mr Toshev and Mr Botev respectively) of the Bulgarian Delegation to the PACE and of the Committee for local authorities regional planning and public works as well as with members

At the offices of the Council of Ministers, the Head of local administration and regional policy (Mrs Yaneva) and officials

The Deputy Ministers for Regional Development and public works (Mr Miltchev and Mr Evrev) and officials, the General manager of the National Centre for regional development and housing policy (Sofia)

The Governor of Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna regions

The Mayor of the following big cities: Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Rousse, Dobrish as well as other towns and villages: Smoljan, Mogilizar, Nessebar

The municipal councils (President and members) of Plovdiv, Rousse

The Public Prosecutor of Dobrish

The Foundation of Local Government reform (Sofia)

 

Appendix II

Chapter Seven

Local Self-Government and Local Administration

Art.135

(1) The territory of the Republic of Bulgaria shall be divided into municipalities and regions. The territorial division and the prerogatives of the capital city and the other mayor cities shall be established by law;

(2) Other administrative territorial units and bodies of self-government shall be establishable by law.

Art.136

(1) A municipality shall be the basic administrative territorial unit at the level of which self-government shall be practiced. Citizens shall participate in the government of the municipality both through their elected bodies of local self-government and directly, through a referendum or a general meeting of the populace.

(2) The borders of a municipality shall be established following a referendum of the populace.

(3) A municipality shall be a juridical person.

Art.137

(1) Municipalities shall be free to associate in the solution of common matters.

(2)The law shall establish conditions conductive to association among municipalities.

Art. 138

The body of local self-government within a municipality shall be a municipal council elected directly by the populace for a term of four years by a procedure established by law.

Art.139

(1) The mayor shall be the body of executive power within a municipality. He shall be elected by the municipal council for a term of four years by a procedure established by law.

(2) In this activity a mayor shall be guided by the law, the acts of the municipal council and the decisions of the populace.

Art.140

A municiplality shall be entitled to own municipal property, which it shall use to the interest of the territorial community.

Art.141

(1) A municipality shall have its own budget.

(2) A municipality's permanent sources of revenue shall be established by law.

(3) The state shall ensure the normal work of the municipalities through budget appropriations and other means.

Art.142

A region shall be an administrative territorial unit entrusted with the conduct of a regional policy, the implementation of state government on a local level, and the ensuring of harmony of national and local interests.

Art.143

(1) Each region shall be governed by a regional governor aided by a regional administration.

(2) A regional governor shall be appointed by the Council of Ministers.

(3) The regional governor shall ensure the implementation of the state's policy, the safeguarding of the nation interests, law and public order, and shall exercise administrative control.

Art. 144

The central bodies of state and their local representatives shall exercise control over the legality of the acts of the bodies of local government only when authorised to do so by law.

Art 145

A municipal council shall be free to challenge before a court any act which encroaches on its rights.

Art.146

The organisation and the procedures of the bodies of local self-government and local administration shall be established by law.



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