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Recommendation 30 (1997)1 on the state of local self-government and federalism in Russia

The Congress,

1. Bearing in mind that:

a) according to the European Charter of Local Self-Government (hereinafter the Charter), local self-government is one of the fundamentals of democracy;

b) local self-government and federalism are essentials for the process of decentralisation currently taking place in the Russian Federation;

c) the Russian Federation, as one of the members of the Council of Europe, signed the Charter and will ratify it according to the Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 193 (1996);

d) in order to improve the situation of local and regional self-government in Russia, significant efforts have been made and are still being made.

2. Considering:

a) the actual state of local government state legislation described in the report of the Working Group set up by the Congress;

b) that the Russian Federation, as well as the Subjects of the Russian Federation are responsible for the development of local self-government.

3. Welcoming:

a) the fact that, the Constitution of the Russian Federation, promulgated on 12 December 1993, provides substantial guarantees for local self-government;

b) these Constitutional guarantees are in conformity with the principles set up by the Charter;

c) the Russian law on General Principles of Local Self-Government, (Federal Law) promulgated on 1 September 1995, being the most important legal foundation for local self-government, is in conformity with the principles set out in the Charter;

d) the provisions of the Russian Constitution, in general, are enforceable in the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation which have been clearly interpreted by some judgements of this Court;

e) in some Subjects of the Russian Federation, rules concerning local self-government have been brought into effect successfully;

f) in the last years, an active role has been played by certain associations of Russian cities and local authorities; their efforts should be encouraged;

4. Regarding as shortcomings that:

a) more than one year after Russia’s accession to the Council of Europe, the Charter of local self-government has still not been ratified and the legislation of the Russian Federation and that of the Subjects of the Federation concerning local self-government, have not been completed;

b) there have been cases of severe constitutional infringements of the Russian Federation and the Federal Law on Self-Government by some Subjects of the Federation;

c) certain Subjects of the Federation have still not adopted the required legislation for implementing the Federal Law, as well as the principles of the Charter;

d) some Subjects of the Federation have adopted restrictive legislation concerning the definition of the subjects of local self-government;

e) the municipalities do not dispose of the necessary financial funds, therefore, they depend on subsidies provided by the State authorities;

f) there is a lack of well-trained municipal staff as the training facilities for the municipal staff are neither efficient nor co-ordinated;

g) the Russian judiciary suffers from severe obstacles which cause negative effects on the enforcement of local self-government.

5. Recommends to the authorities of the Russian Federation:

a) to ratify, as soon as possible, the European Charter of Local Self-Government;

b) to define the scope of application of the Charter as extensively as possible to make sure that it is applied not only to towns and townships but also to rural districts (Rajony);

c) to support the drafting of the European Charter on Regional Self-Government and consider Russia’s accession thereto, as this also should contribute to the improvement of local self-government

d) to adopt lacking legislation concerning all aspects of local self-government, taking into account the opinion of the municipal entities and their associations in the legislative process, particularly the finalisation of a Tax Code, the Federal Law on Financial Resources of Local Self-Government, the Law on the Fundamentals of State Organisation in the Subjects of the Federation, providing that, in accordance with the principles of the Charter, administration at the level of towns and rural districts (Rajony) will be exercised by entities of self-government and not by the State administration authorities;

e) to study the need to include, in the Federal Law on State Organisation in the Subjects of the Federation, a provision inviting the Subjects of the Federation to create municipal entities covering the whole of their territory, including rural areas;

f) to draft model acts on the Subjects of Russian Federation taking into account different aspects and structural varieties of self-government within the Federation to which the Council of Europe may assist upon request.

g) to consider also to amend the Federal Constitutional Law on the Constitutional Court, in order to provide that municipal entities themselves shall be entitled to file an appeal to the Constitutional Court to guarantee that the judgements of the Constitutional Court will be respected throughout the Russian Federation and to ensure the conformity of the legislation of the Subjects of the Federation with the Federal Law.

6. Recommends to the Subjects of the Russian Federation:

a) to continue in designing the legal basis for local self-government and to amend their legislation whenever necessary to guarantee conformity with the federal legislation, as well as the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government;

b) to establish bodies of self-government in conformity with the Federal Law, including the town and the rural district (Rajony) levels;

c) to provide local authorities with the financial and technical resources required for the effective implementation of their responsibilities;

d) to ensure that sufficient and well co-ordinated training facilities are provided for the local government staff;

e) to assure that the population is provided with adequate information on local matters, as required by local democracy.

7. Recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

a) focuses on the joint European Union/Council of Europe Programme for Russia, RUS-2, in particular by taking the following measures:

i. sets up a pool of experts providing systematical information for preparing statements on draft laws in relation to the principles set up by the Charter and providing advice for institutions of the Russian Federation, its subjects, municipal entities and their associations;

ii. makes sure that centres distributed in different geographical areas in Russia are responsible for the exchange of and dissemination on legislation concerning local self-government and activities of the constitutional and administrative supervisory mechanisms;

iii. supports the training of staff (ie elected officials of the municipal entities, staff of the entities, officials of the Federation and its Subjects in charge of local self-government), providing assistance to the Russian authorities with a view to defining a strategy for municipal and regional staff and elected representatives, implying the creation of regional training centres with the support of ENTO (European Network of Training Organisations for Local and Regional Authorities);

iv. establishes a permanent unit in Russia, providing information and advice on local and regional government during the reform period, taking into account varieties of local self-government existing in the Russian Federation.

1 Debated by the Congress and adopted on 3 June 1997, 1st sitting (see Doc. CG (4) 4 draft Recommendation presented by Mr A. Tchernoff, Rapporteur).

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