Spring session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe – Malaga (Spain) – 13 to 14 March 2008
Statement by Vladimir ČEČOT, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Interior of Slovakia
(Check against delivery)
14 March 2008
Dear Mr. president of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe,
Dear representatives of the Council of Europe member states,
Dear Congress members,
I was pleased to accept the invitation by Mr. Halvdan Skard, the Congress president, to visit your session and inform you about the priorities of the Slovak Chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers related to the local and regional democracy, as well as some activities and intentions of the Slovak Republic in the area of the local administration reform and modernisation.
During its first Chairmanship, the Slovak Republic focuses on following priorities:
· Citizen’s Europe (civil society and citizen participation),
· A transparent and effective Council of Europe,
· Promotion of common core values: human rights, rule of law and democracy.
From the citizen’s point of view and involvement in the public administration it is especially important to improve his awareness which was one of the reasons why the Slovak Republic joined Council of Europe’s “Local Democracy European Week” initiative pilot project. Our aim is to focus citizen’s attention on the local democracy role, provide the local and regional administrations with a possibility to present the tools of its promotion, and increase citizen’s democratic participation in the local life on the local and regional levels.
On the occasion of opening the “Local Democracy European Week” during the Ministerial conference in Valencia on October 15th, 2007, a series of activities and events, proposed by the involved bodies, took place in Slovakia. Among many activities, we can mention, for example, the visit of elected deputies at secondary schools, open days arranged by communal administrations and their organisations or entertaining and interactive presentation forms such as quizzes or model situations like “What would you do if you were a mayor for a day?“ The public media had scheduled interviews, publicist series and public discussions with the elected communal representatives to inform the citizens about the local development and motivate them to increase their interest in public agenda. Today, I can announce that this pilot project has been successful and laid the basis for new tradition of events which can repeat regularly even in an extended scope and involving more communes.
In the framework of the second priority, the Slovak Chairmanship tries to improve Council of Europe’s co-ordination and cooperation with other international institutions – OSCE, EU, and UN – in order to extend their dialog and eliminate existing duplicity of common interest activities.
The third priority of our chairmanship emphasizes absolute observation of human rights, rule of law and democracy, including the rights pertaining to national minorities. The Slovak Chairmanship pursues common efforts to ensure adherence to the commitments related to the common standards adopted by the Council of Europe member states.
The public administration in the Slovak Republic, as a whole, is subject gradually to vital institutional changes. The programme statement of the Slovak Republic’s government stipulates also implementation of the steps towards modernisation of the public administration especially by its economisation, rationalisation and computerisation.
The Slovak Republic values, respects and recognises the important part that the local and regional administration plays in governing public matters. This is proved by the high level of decentralisation of the central authorities in favour of the municipal self-government as well as by the fact that, from September 1st, 2007, the Slovak Republic belongs to the group of European Council member states acceding among the first to all provisions of the European Charter of Local Self-Government.
Here, I would like to present one of the positive examples of improving the quality of services provided to the citizens and reducing administrative proceedings. Establishing the single contact desks within Slovak Republic’s existing network of Trade Licence Offices, where the individual tradesmen can obtain their criminal record abstract, tax bureau registration, health insurance company registration, and report changes to the tax bureaus and health insurance companies within the scope of Trade Licence Registry, means that providing these services to the businessmen requires much less time and money.
Abolishing the 8 regional authorities as of October 1st, 2007 and transferring their responsibilities to the 50 district authorities and appropriate ministries has been an important milestone. The district authorities as state funded organisations gained legal personality and, at the same time, we reduced organisational segmentation and personnel requirements of regional state administration structures by this step. The Government of the Slovak Republic however does not consider the abolishment of regional authorities to be the only measure of local state administration rationalisation, therefore, this process will continue also with other local state administration authorities.
The tasks approved by the Government of the Slovak Republic included an audit of effective legal regulations in order to simplify and improve state administration. In cooperation with the associations of self-governing authorities, necessary changes of relevant legislature governing the status of self-governments will be drafted in a short time.
Improving the effectiveness of the public administration will allow gradual reduction in the number of employees in the state budgeted and supported organisations by 20 %. The aim of these steps is to save the national budget finance as well as ensure more effective spending of the public funds.
On this occasion, allow me to express the idea that the fashion of large-scale organisational reforms of public administration is over nowadays. Further development and progress must be based on set quality parameters of public administration activities and outputs using all available scientific and technical knowledge of mankind together with appropriate respecting of the legal purity in decision-making as well as applying principles of economy in management.
To conclude, let me invite you personally to the Slovak spa of Piešťany to attend the international conference, named “Improving the local administration: tools and strategy”, held in the framework of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers Slovak chairmanship by the Council of Europe and Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic from April 17th to April 18th, 2008.
Thank you for your attention.