Recommendation 48 (1998)1 on local and regional democracy in Ukraine

The Congress

1. Welcomes the report on Local and Regional Democracy in Ukraine drawn up by MM Chénard and Bodfish with the assistance of a consultant - the result of several visits to the country, including on the occasion of the municipal and regional elections of 29 March 1998; and the fruit of discussion with associations, institutions and personalities in Ukraine;

2. Recalls that in the Ukraine Constitution, local self-government is defined and protected; that Ukraine has signed and ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government; and has passed in 1997, general legislation on local administration in the country;

3. Recalls that the ratification of the European Charter of Local Self-Government means that its principles be applied to the activities of all bodies of local self-government in Ukraine;

4. Recalls that the CLRAE Bureau on several occasions since the last Plenary Session of the CLRAE has discussed the question of local and regional democratic reform in Ukraine, as a result of which several recommendations have already been made to the Ukraine governmental authorities and to delegates of the Ukraine Parliament;

5. Recalls that these recommendations concern principally:-

a. the need to achieve a better balance between the requirements of central and local government in the management of Kyiv and Sebastopol and particularly, to give their elected Heads and Councils their own administration, subordinate and answerable to them in line with Article 3 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government;

b. the equally important democratic reform of ensuring that throughout the country, the elected regional, district and municipal councils have their own administration, responsible and answerable to them; and that, in this respect, the Parliamentary law on territorial administration, currently subject to Presidential veto, be enacted;

c. the importance of respecting and strengthening the Law on the status of elected councillors, which expressly forbids the tenure by Municipal and Regional councillors of positions of responsibility within their own executive administrations;

6. Note therefore that there is consequently a legislative deficit on local self government, falling well short of the list of promised legislative acts given to the CLRAE in September 1997; and a current practice that is not always in conformity with the Charter;

7. Deplores that the recent political climate in Ukraine has been bedevilled by a confrontation between President and Parliament over, inter alia, questions of local and regional democracy, with both parties anxious to assert their prerogatives and supremacy; and with no Constitutional clarity for resolving the impasse;

8. Notes that such a confrontation has given rise to a series of unwelcome and damaging incidents and events, amongst which are:

a. the destitution, in 1997, of the elected Head of the City Council of Kyiv who, despite a judgement of the Supreme Court in January 1998, was unable to resume his functions and still faced sealed offices behind a permanent police guard;

b. A series of alarming incidents in Odessa, particularly during the recent election campaign, arising from a conflict between the local and regional authorities, creating an unsettling and intimidating electoral climate;

9. Welcomes the high voter participation in the recent municipal and regional elections of 29 March, observed by the CLRAE and by domestic observers from political parties who, except for continuing meddling with lists of candidates in Odessa, reported no major irregularity on the day of voting;

10. Regrets, however, that these elections were marred by an electoral campaign characterised, in places, by press censorship and closure; unequal access to media for some candidates; last minute changes to electoral boundaries; uncertainty about direct elections in Kyiv and Sebastopol for the position of Heads of respective Councils;

11. Regrets strongly that after weeks of uncertainty about the direct elections for the Heads of Council in Kyiv and Sebastopol, that they were finally cancelled on the eve of polling by a decision of the Constitutional Court which in the end deprived the citizens of the cities from exercising fully their democratic rights and responsibilities;

12. Considers nonetheless that the results of the elections in the country may bring in their wake some progress on local and regional democracy.

RECOMMENDS TO THE UKRAINE AUTHORITIES THAT:-

13. The newly-elected Parliament, as a matter of some urgency, drafts and adopts legislation on local and regional self government which is in line with the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the Constitution of Ukraine, both of which guarantee self-government to municipalities, districts and regions;

14. The new Parliament seeks, in so doing, to make a clear distinction between the role and spheres of responsibility of different levels of authority.

15. Such legislation should include:-

a. a new statute for Kyiv and Sebastopol which clarifies the respective roles of central and local government and particularly ensures that the elected Heads and Councils have their own administration, subordinate and answerable to them in line with article 3, paragraph 2 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government ;

b. provision that, throughout this major and sizeable country, the elected regional, district and municipal councils have their own administration responsible and answerable to them, in line with article 3, paragraph 2 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government;

c. provision for regional, district, and local authorities to have a budget proportionate to their tasks, with a capacity to raise revenue locally;

d. clarification on the question of privatisation and ownership of municipal land and property;

e. strengthening and strict application of the law on the status of elected Councillors so as to ensure that elected Councillors do not hold office in their respective administrations;

16. The Council of Europe be asked to assist in the preparation of the above legislation;

17. The President and Parliament attempt to co-operate in a more satisfactory manner than hitherto, in order to guarantee that the above-mentioned legislation be adopted in the shortest possible time, in order to put an end to the legislative deficit and correspond, in a better manner, to the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government signed and ratified by Ukraine.

18. Correct and properly supervised elections be held as soon as possible for the position of Heads of the municipal Councils of Kyiv and Sebastopol in line with current legislation;

19. The examination by the electoral and judicial authorities of alleged irregularities arising during the electoral campaign (intimidation of candidates, kidnapping, murder of an electoral officer, untimely imprisonment of a candidate and sundry acts of violence) and in the course of some of the local and regional elections on the day of 29 March, to be conducted rapidly and the results published;

20. Encouragement be given to foster and strengthen the development of politically independent associations of municipalities in Ukraine;

21. Decisions of the Supreme Court in respect of local and regional government be respected and applied;

Recommends that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe:-

22. Includes in its programme of seminars and assistance to Ukraine in 1998 and 1999 as part of the Joint Programme with the European Union, the following subjects:-

a. the role, statute and functions of capital and major cities;

b. the role of the CLRAE in strengthening local and regional democracy;

c. models of local self-government in Europe;

d. local finances.

23. Enlists the experience and expertise of the CLRAE in the local and regional democracy component of its monitoring process for existing and applicant countries.

1 Debated and approved by the Chamber of Local Authorities on 27 May 1998 and adopted by the Congress on 28 May 1998, 3rd Sitting (see Document CG (5) 6, Draft Recommendation presented by Mr A. Chénard and Mr K. Bodfish, Rapporteurs).

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