Report on local and regional Democracy in Azerbaijan - CG (10) 4 Part II Rev
Rapporteur: Mr Alan LLOYD (United Kingdom)
Mr Jean-Claude FRECON (France), co-rapporteur
Mr Gregory GRZELAK (Poland)
1. This report follows on from the official visits to Azerbaijan by the Rapporteurs of the Institutional Committee of the Congress. The visits were part of the process of drafting Congress reports on the situation of local and regional democracy in the member states (monitoring reports)1.
2. For the first visit (Baku, 25-28 August 2002), in the absence of the rapporteur on local democracy, Mr Alan Lloyd, the Congress delegation was headed by Mr Jean-Claude Frécon, Vice-President of the Congress and Senator of the French Republic, substitute rapporteur. It comprised Mr Grzegorz Grzelak (Poland), member of the Chamber of Regions and rapporteur on regional democracy, and Mr Fabio Pellegrini (Italy), member of the Chamber of Local Authorities, with more specific responsibility for the issue of local authority associations. It was accompanied by Mr Alain Delcamp, Chairman of the Group of Independent Experts on the European Charter of Local Self-Government, Mr Riccardo Priore, Head of the Secretariat of the Congress’ Institutional Committee, and Ms Marta Turi, member of the committee’s Secretariat. During the visit, the delegation was assisted by Ms Ayten Shirinova, representative of the Council of Europe Office in Baku.
3. For the second visit (Baku, 6-8 March 2003) the delegation comprised MM Lloyd, Frécon and Priore. For various reasons, MM Grzelak, Delcamp and Pellegrini were unable to take part. The programmes for the two visits are set out in appendix II. In this connection, it must be pointed out that, during the second visit, the meeting with the Head of the presidential administration was cancelled at the last minute. Given the important role of that administration in the sphere of local and regional self-government, the rapporteurs expressed their deep regret that this meeting did not take place.
4. Following a brief initial period of independence after World War I, the Republic of Azerbaijan only achieved sovereignty just over 10 years ago with its declaration of independence on 18 October 1991. It was admitted to the Council of Europe on 25 January 2001 and, like all new members, is the subject of a general monitoring procedure pursuant to Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Opinion 222 (2000). In this connection, a very comprehensive report was drawn up recently on behalf of the relevant Assembly committee by Mr Andreas Gross (Switzerland) and Mr Guillan Martinez Casañ (Spain)2. In particular, this report looked into the development of local self-government and came out in favour of working “together with (…) the Congress” with a view to “increasing [the] competences, responsibilities and resources” of the new local authorities in Azerbaijan.
5. The visits by the Congress delegation therefore followed on from the visit by the Parliamentary Assembly’s co-rapporteurs3. They also came after several contacts and events organised in the country on the respective initiative of the Congress itself, the Committee of Ministers and the Venice Commission. In addition, the first visit came only a few days after a constitutional referendum in the country aimed at making far-reaching amendments to the Constitution, which were grouped together in eight questions.
6. The Congress representatives were able to take account of the accession by the Republic of Azerbaijan to the European Charter of Local Self-Government. After signing the Charter on 21 December 2001, the Azerbaijani authorities ratified it on
25 December 2001 (adoption of the law) and 31 January 2002 (signing of the law by the President). The Charter had therefore officially entered into force on 1st August 2002 under the terms of the ratifying legislation passed by the Milli Mejlis, the Azerbaijani parliament. Under a declaration of 15 April, the Republic of Azerbaijan accepted most of the Charter’s articles as binding. It also declared its inability to guarantee the application of the Charter provisions “in the territories occupied by the Republic of Armenia” until such time as they were liberated. Articles 7 paragraph 2; 9 paragraph 5; and 10 paragraph 3 were not accepted.
7. The delegation was accompanied during the visits by members of the Justice Ministry’s Centre for Methodological Assistance to Local Authorities, in particular, its director, Mr Namik Aliyev, whose great willingness to help and perfect knowledge of Council of Europe procedures must be stressed here. The information gathered during the visits provided the basis for a preliminary text – drafted by Mr Delcamp – and subsequently, following talks with the competent authorities, the present report. On that basis, the rapporteurs have prepared a draft recommendation and draft resolution addressed, via the Committee of Ministers, to the presidential, governmental and parliamentary authorities of Azerbaijan. The rapporteurs wish to thank those authorities for the information provided and the warm welcome they received in the country. The rapporteurs also wish to thank Mr Delcamp and the Secretariat for their valuable assistance throughout the process of drawing up of these texts.
8. The delegation was able to gauge the Azerbaijani authorities’ actually very clear determination to bring the provisions of their legislation formally into line with the Council of Europe’s conventions and principles, including with regard to local self-government. However, the visit revealed the gap – which, although understandable, was sometimes very wide - between the principles asserted, which in some cases remain to be specified on the level of legislation, and their application in practice.
9. The development of local and regional self-government in Azerbaijan is taking place against the background of the commitment Azerbaijan has made towards achieving economic development and democracy. However, there remain a number of grey areas, which the Azerbaijani authorities need to clear up, in particular with the renewed assistance of the Congress, which is determined to help this new Council member country achieve more progress for the general benefit of its entire population.
II. AZERBAIJAN’S DETERMINED COMMITMENT TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND DEMOCRACY
2.1 Difficult geostrategic context but great potential
10. Azerbaijan is a republic of 86 600 km2 and a population of 8.1 million of average density (94 inhabitants per km2), a large proportion of whom still live in rural areas (almost 50%). Agriculture accounts for 25% of GDP. It is a small country surrounded by large neighbours: Russia, Iran and Turkey. Its coastline is formed by a landlocked sea: the Caspian.
11. The notion of a modern Azerbaijani State has its origins in the Caucasian Kingdom of Albania, which dated from before Christ. The States that existed within the territory of modern-day Azerbaijan were headed by monarchs with absolute power and authority. Owing to its strategic position, the country was a focal point of political tension during the rise of the Russian, Iranian and Ottoman empires, which resulted in the disintegration of Azerbaijan and its division between those different powers at the beginning of the 19th century. From then onwards, the territory of what is Azerbaijan today became an integral part of the Russian Empire and then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics following a brief period of independence between May 1918 and April 1920.
Azerbaijan is also a prisoner of the complex and not always entirely disinterested drawing of political boundaries in the southern Caucasus. For instance, part of its territory, the Republic of Nakhichevan, is separated from the rest of the country by a strip of territory belonging to the neighbouring Republic of Armenia and is therefore very largely dependent on its other neighbour, Iran, for supplies. For many years, Azerbaijan was the silent spectator to a kind of armed peace between the USSR and Iran, which shared influence over the Caspian Sea.
12. The discovery of major oil reserves in the 19th century gave Azerbaijan great economic importance, which explains the presence of very many foreign firms, in particular from the United States, Russia and Great Britain and, to a lesser extent, several other European countries such as Italy, France, Spain and Norway, as well as Asian countries such as Turkey, Iran, Japan, Turkmenistan and Malaysia.
13. In some respects, the renewed independence of the countries in the Caucasus region has greatly complicated the situation there, it being an unstable region marked by ethnic and religious conflicts, not to mention simple conflicts of interest among and in the various republics - on the boundaries of Russia (Chechnya), within neighbouring Georgia and inside the territory of Azerbaijan itself (presence of an Armenian minority in Nagorno-Karabakh).
14. Against this background, independence went hand-in-hand with conflict with the neighbouring Republic of Armenia. The situation of conflict persists today, with both Nagorno-Karabakh and the neighbouring areas having been occupied by the Armenian army since 1993. A total of 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory is under occupation at present. This has resulted in large numbers of displaced persons living in conditions of extreme hardship. The independence of the Central Asian republics has also complicated matters with regard to the apportionment of the resources in the Caspian Sea, to the extent that no real international agreement regarding the status of its seabed has yet been reached.
15. Azerbaijan and its capital, Baku, in particular, stand on the ancient silk route. The country is therefore an integral part of the European Union’s Traceca programme, which aims to strengthen the political and economic independence of the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia. The country is at the very heart of the strategies for transporting crude oil and gas supplies not only from its own production but also from other countries bordering on the Caspian Sea that actually have larger reserves (Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan), not forgetting those of Uzbekistan, which are roughly comparable.
16. Current affairs in the country are dominated by the new plans to build oil and gas pipelines westward to Europe. On 18 September 2002, work began on a 1 500-km oil pipeline that will cross Georgia and Turkey and go into service at the start of 2006. Given the difficulty and ecological risks of shipping by sea, after crossing Georgia, a planned gas pipeline will extend to another port in Turkey and then on to Greece and Italy. Already, however, crude oil from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan is passing through en route to Russian Black Sea ports, while other supplies are being transported by rail from Baku to Batumi, a harbour in Georgian territory that is the capital of the disputed Republic of Ajaria.
2.2 The economic context
17. Azerbaijan’s hydrocarbon reserves give the country some grounds for optimism: following a downturn linked to the conflict with Armenia and the political and economic difficulties of independence, GDP has grown by an average of approximately 9% a year since 1997. The national budget is more or less balanced, while the country’s debt level is entirely reasonable (of the order of a quarter of GDP). Increases in industrial output based on the oil sector look set to stand at a rate of approximately 40% per annum after 2005. Political stability is therefore crucial for Azerbaijan, as its growth depends very largely on foreign investment, which already accounts for three-quarters of capital expenditure. It is also a requirement to prevent the growing dependence on the hydrocarbons sector (92% of exports in 2002) becoming a weakness.
18. This foreign-investment-led economic expansion is having the effect of speeding up the privatisation of the economy. It should provide leverage for the necessary reforms of the former state apparatus and planned economy. The economic context would therefore appear to be favourable to a form of institutional organisation in which there is a wider range of types of authority, in particular at local level.
19. The potentially favourable economic background is partly reflected in the social situation, as the UN human development index (HDI) now places Azerbaijan on the same level as neighbouring Turkey. However, this optimistic view should not hide the fact that average per capita income is still very low and, above all, that almost 49% of the population live in poverty, with 17% reported to be below the breadline (approximately €15 a month).
20. This situation led President Aliyev to launch a Poverty Reduction and Economic Development Programme (PRSP) on 25 October 2002. Financed largely from the Oil Fund, this unprecedented programme, of which no real equivalent exists in the countries in the region except in Russia, focuses on macroeconomic stability, good governance and international integration. In macroeconomic terms, on the basis of tighter budgetary discipline, it involves directing oil revenues towards social measures and participation by the country in the funding of major transport investments for export purposes.
21. The social measures are aimed at reducing poverty through a whole set of practical economic development initiatives. They also include a major plan for the return of displaced persons to regions previously occupied by Armenia that have been taken back by Azerbaijan. The measures concerning public administration focus on the distinction between administrative and regulatory tasks, the continuation of privatisation and steps to support SMEs, especially in disadvantaged regions (in particular, Nakhichevan). Specific measures could involve economic development based on the processing of agricultural produce. Action in strategic sectors such as energy and water supplies will give priority to support for the private sector.
22. The future of local government may be affected by these changes: privatisation requires updating of property registry data and could lead to major changes in the way local public services are managed (water supply, district heating and refuse collection). In general terms, the positive economic trends and the changes they are bringing about in state bodies are bound to influence the institutional and political situation.
2.3 The development of Azerbaijan’s political institutions
23. The Constitutional Act of State Independence adopted on 18 October 1991 provided that the establishment of a constitutional state and a civil society was a key objective4.
24. Political developments prevented these intentions from being put into practice immediately. Military difficulties resulted in the resignation of the first two presidents in 1992 and 1993. Stability was only achieved with the election and subsequent re-election of President Heydar Aliyev, who was successively Chair of the Parliament of the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic and then of the national parliament, in October 1993 and then in October 1998.
25. A few weeks after the first election, the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan was adopted by referendum on 12 November 1995. The first “free” parliamentary elections were held the same month. The new Constitution established a unitary secular state based on the separation of powers, in which the President does, however, hold a predominant position.
26. The first two chapters are devoted to fundamental principles and rights (71 articles). Article 12 provides that the supreme aim of the state is “to ensure (…) rights and freedoms”. Section IV of Chapter II on Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities sets out the “principal obligations of citizens” (in particular, loyalty to institutions, but also environmental protection).
27. Section V, which is the first section in Chapter III on State Power, deals with legislative power, which lies in parliament, known as the Milli Mejlis. It is a 125-member unicameral body elected by majority vote in single-member constituencies. In the second elections (for five-year terms), which were held on 5 November 20005, eight parties and numerous “independent” candidates won seats in the National Assembly. However, President Aliyev’s party (New Azerbaijan Party) easily held on to its majority. The other parties are represented by only small numbers of members.
28. The powers of the Milli Mejlis are set out in Article 95. Apart from the passing of laws, they include many powers in terms of appointments and ratifications (usually upon the proposal the President, for instance, in the case of members of the Constitutional Court).
29. Executive power lies entirely in the hands of the President of the Republic. The system resembles a conventional presidential regime (the Cabinet of Ministers being almost totally subordinate6), but with certain additional powers such as the initiation of legislation and the budget. It is the President who makes appointments to the main state bodies. He also has a right to veto legislation, which can only be overturned by a qualified majority.
30. Section VII deals with judicial power, covering, inter alia, the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the General Prosecutor’s Office. These were the provisions that were examined more closely by the members of the Venice Commission, who stepped up their existing co-operation with the Azerbaijani authorities further to Parliamentary Assembly Opinion 222 (2000). A special programme was drawn up under the terms of reference assigned to the Commission by the Committee of Ministers, the areas covered being constitutional reform, electoral reform and the media. Following the assistance with setting up the Constitutional Court, this co-operation resulted in the drafting of several constitutional amendments that were submitted to the electorate in the referendum on 24 August 2002.
31. Despite the complexity of the questions and the joint decision by two opposition parties to boycott, the referendum produced a majority of 96% of the votes cast on a national turnout of over 88% of registered voters. 24 articles of the Constitution were therefore amended. For the purpose of simplifying the referendum, the amendments were grouped together in eight questions, one of which involved “honouring Azerbaijan’s obligations to the Council of Europe” (election procedures for human rights commissioners, replacement of the Economic Court by Appeal Courts and, above all, the possibility of bringing cases directly before the Constitutional Court and the ability of courts to apply to the Constitutional Court for interpretative rulings on the Constitution or legislation), while another involved “ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights” (state of emergency, constitutional protection of fundamental freedoms, conscientious objection). Other changes that may also be regarded as reflecting a concern to improve the rule of law involved restricting the use of referendums in order to preserve the powers of parliament (for instance, provision that the national budget may not be put to referendum), strengthening parliament’s powers and improving its operating procedures (system of sessions) and reorganising judicial power (including clearer definition of the General Prosecutor’s powers).
32. The constitutional amendments also included a second series of provisions related to Azerbaijan’s choice of sovereignty, which may, however, have implications in future for the relations between public authorities: enshrining in the Constitution of the system of majority voting only, simplification of the election of the President (ordinary majority instead of the two-thirds majority previously required, interim replacement of the President of the Republic by the Prime Minister instead of by the Chair of the Milli Mejlis).
33. With the possibility of direct appeals to the Constitutional Court, a third category could have an impact on the status of local and regional self-government: the proposals amended one of the articles on local authorities by extending the constitutional protection previously restricted to general electoral principles to include the principles concerning the organisation of municipalities. A further amendment concerned the status of the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, whose constitution must now be approved in a constitutional law (Article 134). Attention will have to be paid to the way these two changes are applied in future.
2.4 Institutions and the place of local and regional democracy
34. Azerbaijan had no past experience of democracy at local level. The development of a system of local government was, however, included from a very early stage in the methods chosen for building a democratic state in Azerbaijan. In particular, it was included in the Constitutional Act of State Independence of 18 October 1991. The desire to establish local government was also reflected very clearly in the Constitution of 5 November 1995 (adopted by referendum), which includes a specific chapter on the subject. Moreover, the transitional provisions provided for the adoption of appropriate legislation and the holding of local elections within two years following the official abolition of the system of soviets on 27 November 1995. The parliamentary committee on local government was set up at the same time.
35. The provisions on local self-government are set out in Chapter IV of the Constitution, while specific provisions for the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic are also set out in Section IX of Chapter III on State Power. Articles 94 and 95, which cover the powers of the Milli Mejlis, provide that it determines the general rules on municipal elections and the status of municipalities (94-7) and regulates administrative-territorial divisions (95-3). A specific article (124) deals with “local executive power” (actually the representatives of central government at local level). It is included in Section VI (Executive Power) of Chapter III.
36. Chapter IV itself includes five articles (142 to 146) which echo several provisions of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, despite being adopted before the country had signed the Charter (principle of elected local councils; powers, in particular of a budgetary nature; principle of financial compensation for decisions taken by state bodies). Article 142 provides that local government in towns, small rural towns and villages shall be exercised by municipalities.
Article 143 deals with the operating procedures of municipalities and provides that municipal meetings shall be chaired by the chairs of municipalities. Article 144 lists municipal councils’ (Belediyye) powers. These include approval of their members’ credentials, approval of regulations, organisational arrangements, election of municipality chairs and their deputies and of standing and other committees, local taxation and the ownership and management of municipal property. Three areas of responsibility in material terms are listed: social security and social development, economic development and the environment. In these three areas, municipal councils have the power to devise and implement “local programmes”. Parliament and the executive may also delegate additional powers to municipal councils. In such cases, the municipalities must be allocated the necessary financial resources. Parliament and the executive supervise municipalities’ exercising of the relevant powers. Article 145 deals with voting procedures: simple majorities are required for ordinary decisions, while two-thirds majorities are required for decisions on local taxes. Article 146 provides that municipalities are guaranteed protection in court (municipal councils may bring court actions) and reiterates the principle that they must be compensated for additional expenditure brought about by decisions by state bodies. However, there is no article on the principle of the supervision of municipalities, and the concept of a municipal “executive” is not mentioned either. A sixth article (Article 150) appears in Chapter V on Rights and Law (Legislative System). It lays down the general rules on the decisions taken by municipalities, which are binding on their citizens, but must not contradict either the Constitution (or the Constitution of Nakhichevan in the case of municipalities located there), the laws of the republic or the decrees or resolutions of the Cabinet of Ministers7. Lastly, it should be noted that by giving international law precedence over national legislation (except acts adopted by referendum and, of course, the Constitution itself) under the terms of Article 151, the Azerbaijani authorities have provided a formal guarantee that the Charter provisions will be applied.
37. However, these provisions have been followed by legislation that poses problems of interpretation with regard to the Charter. These points will be discussed in Part II below, before the actual implementation of the principles is examined.
38. The Constitution makes no reference to the possibility of a regional tier of government. However, it does include a specific section on the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. The latter has a special autonomous status and its own legislation, which must not, however, contradict national laws, the decrees of the President of the Republic or the resolutions of the Cabinet of Ministers. It has a Parliament (Ali Mejlis), a government headed by a Prime Minister and an autonomous judicial system. Its parliament has legislative powers in the following areas: elections, taxes, economic development, social security, environmental protection, tourism, medical care, science and culture. Central government’s local representatives are again appointed by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, this time on the basis of joint proposals by the Chair of the Autonomous Parliament and the Nakhichevan Prime Minister.
39. A first raft of local government legislation resulted from the speeding up of the process triggered by the negotiations on accession to the Council of Europe:
Law of 28 July 1999 on the status of municipalities;
Law of 18 October 1999 on the rules for municipal elections;
Law of 15 October 1999 on a model charter for municipalities for adoption and adaptation by individual councils;
Law of 7 December 1999 on municipal boundaries
Laws of 24 December 1999 on local referendums and on municipal services;
Law of 28 December 1999 on the fundamental principles of municipal finances;
Laws of 27 October 2000 on co-operation between, merging, separation and abolition of municipalities and on co-ordination between municipal councils.
40. This legislation was followed by the signing of the Charter on 21 December 2001 and then, pursuant to the law of 28 January 2002 approving the European Charter, to its ratification on 15 April 2002, after which it entered into force on 1 August. Nevertheless, there have been serious delays in the implementation of this generally satisfactory legislation. These delays may be interpreted as being a sign of the usual difficulties in putting legislation in place and of a degree of reluctance by central government to give up some of its powers.
41. Having originally been scheduled for 1997, municipal elections were not actually held until 12 December 1999 and the beginning of 20008. Until then, the authorities were appointed by the President of the Republic to exercise central government powers as decentralised bodies. In the most favourable cases, the new municipalities were not able to begin operating officially until 1 January 2000, or just about three years ago.
42. Although the legislative process has continued since then, it has been moving more slowly, to the extent that provisions as crucial as the requirements for the supervision of municipalities (under preparation during the delegation’s visit), as well as legislation on the status of municipal government staff and aspects concerning guarantees on the exercise of mandates, are still lacking. As can be seen in the table in Appendix 2A, most of the legislation approved by parliament is supplemented by implementing decrees issued by the President of the Republic. The memoranda from the Justice Ministry and Parliament submitted to the delegation refer to the existence at present of around 20 laws, supplemented by around 40 sets of regulations issued by the President9. During the second visit, Mr Zahid GARALOV, Chairman of the Standing committee of the Milli Mejlis (Parliament) on regional affairs, and the members of the committee gave the Rapporteurs a list of draft laws currently being prepared or debated in Parliament; the list is reproduced in Appendix 2 (B, C, D).
43. The implementation of the various provisions has led to the establishment of 2 663 municipalities. They are divided into 101 towns, 101 small rural towns and 2 461 villages. Each municipality is administered by a council, whose membership varies according to the size of the population, from five members in municipalities with populations of under 500 inhabitants to 19 members in municipalities with populations of between 100 000 and 300 000. There are special arrangements for the city of Baku, which is divided into 11 districts (decentralised entities) of varying size and population, and 48 municipalities ("devolved entities").
44. Under the law on the status of municipalities, municipalities have two categories of powers and responsibilities: those necessary for resolving problems of a social, economic or environmental nature not dealt with by the programmes put in place by central government authorities and those necessary for supplementing central government action in these areas. As will be seen below, they have their own budgets in principle. The legislation also makes provision for public participation.
45. The delegation therefore feels bound to note the “goodwill” demonstrated. However, its discussions did reveal that there was still a degree of disparity - not to say clear disparity - between the intentions expressed and reality. It therefore cannot but echo the observations made following previous visits by Congress members, in particular in the report on the conduct of the local elections10 and in connection with the national conference on institutional dialogue between the state and local authorities in Azerbaijan11.
III. GREY AREAS OR HOW TO ENSURE THAT THE ACTUAL SITUATION MATCHES INTENTIONS
46. The delegation was disappointed that it was shown no practical indication of any serious thought being given to setting up regional structures. There are two points it would like to make as regards local self-government:
There continues to be some ambiguity over the concept of local self-government which the authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan are intending to apply.
Independently of the observations made by other Council bodies or other international organisations on the fragility of democracy in Azerbaijan in general, the slow pace of setting up municipalities in practice is a clear indication of the reluctance continued to be shown by, if not the state apparatus as a whole then at least the pre-existing decentralised authorities.
3.1 Regional self-government: an issue currently dominated by the international situation and the partial occupation of the country
3.1.1. A difficult situation which reinforces reluctance to regionalisation
47. 20 % of Azerbaijan is today under occupation by foreign forces. Another part of the country (Nakhichevan) is inaccessible other than by air. There are almost one million refugees and displaced persons. A majority of these refugees and displaced persons are living in precarious conditions on the territory of Azerbaijan. The municipality of Baku has said that 93,500 out of the 151,600 officially recorded refugees are to be found within their municipal boundaries.
Such a situation does little to encourage the central authorities to consider embarking upon a process of regionalisation which could only weaken the unity of the country.
48. Accordingly, any consideration given to such a process remains dependent upon a solution to the conflict and the drawing up of an appropriate statute for the region of Nagorno-Karabakh which has a large minority of people of Armenian origin. The elections which took place there have not been recognised by the central government and the international community. Every effort must be made in the current negotiations within the “Minsk” group working under the auspices of the OSCE with a view to creating a highly autonomous region within the framework of the Republic of Azerbaijan. This proposal, broadly supported, was put forward by the Minsk Group at the OSCE summit in Lisbon in December 1996 and rejected by one government.
49. Moreover, the Institutional Committee of the Chamber of Regions could also provide assistance in this respect. It would require specific terms of reference, bearing in mind the contacts established at other levels in the Council of Europe (in particular via the Venice Commission).
50. The Azerbaijani authorities have indicated their readiness to grant Nagorno-Karabakh “the broadest possible level of autonomy”. This is doubtless because they now believe that a solution to the conflict is no longer impossible. It should be noted that the Presidents of both Republics have had a meeting and that there are growing contacts at trilateral level with Georgia. It was as a result of this that Congress elected representatives and experts were able to take part in a joint meeting between local elected representatives of the three countries in Tbilisi in 2001.
3.1.2 Statute of the Republic of Nakhichevan
51. The delegation was able to obtain hardly any concrete information during its visits on the situation in this autonomous republic even though it met the President of the region. Even though there is a parliament and a regional government, it would appear that central government continues to exert considerable influence: admittedly, the Prime Minister was appointed by the Ali Mejlis, but on a proposal from the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Even though there is a “regional legislative power”, its acts would appear to be subordinate to the regulatory acts of the central power (presidential decrees and even resolutions of the Cabinet of Ministers). The President has his own representatives on the ground, as in the rest of the Republic, through the appointment of district officials (chosen from candidates put forward jointly by the Ali Mejlis and the autonomous government). It would also appear that the Republic’s budget is also heavily dependent on the budget of the central state.
3.1.3 Other factors to be taken into account
52. Any assessment of the situation (or the potential for regional democracy) must also take into account a series of other factors: the fact that the country is divided into districts; the fact that there is a third part of the country with its own special status (the city of Baku); and the first steps taken to draw up a legislative framework for co-operation between municipalities.
220.127.116.11. The division of the country into territorial administrative units accountable to the executive
53. Azerbaijan is divided into 86 districts (11 in Baku) which broadly speaking predate municipal boundaries and cover much larger areas. They serve as a framework for the exercise of the decentralised central government responsibilities under the authority of governors who are accountable directly to the President. Such arrangements are not in themselves contrary to the European Charter of Local Self-Government or the draft Charter of Regional Self-Government. Nonetheless, it would be preferable if these districts could in future, along the lines of what has taken place in several European countries (such as, France, Italy, Norway and Spain), particularly in rural areas, serve as a framework for setting up elected councils which could be the state administration’s speaking partners. This could be one of the effects of the new legislative provisions on co-operation between municipalities.
18.104.22.168. First steps towards co-operation between municipalities
54. The new provisions which will serve as a framework for co-operation are to be found in two laws: 1) law on the status of elected representatives (2 July 1999); 2) law on co-ordination of councils (18 April 2000). The first deals with the merging or separation of municipalities and the type of co-operation they can undertake (Section 7). For example, they may set up joint institutions to further develop their activities within the framework of their responsibilities (economy, culture, ecology, social activities) and, in general terms, strengthen relations between them. A contract has to be drawn up for these new institutions.
55. The second law, “on the co-ordination of councils” is more general. It provides for “co-operation councils” to discuss and draw up programmes, and to share and disseminate experiences. These councils may also “put forward proposals to develop the system of local democracy”. They may also “participate in the promotion of international relations” with foreign authorities. They are administered by assemblies representing the member municipalities (a municipality may take part in several councils), with each council having an elected chair.
56. The functions are accordingly very open and are likely to result in joint activities or even boundary changes. These councils bear some similarity to the French “study and planning consortia”, supported by the Association of French mayors, which was the first step towards encouraging voluntary co-operation. This could also be a means for the government (or their departments responsible for assisting municipalities) to disseminate their ideas on local administration, or better still, to carry out an educational role, as the Ministry of Justice’s assistance department seems ready to do.
57. In general terms, the authorities met by the delegation were of the opinion that co-operation had to be founded on the willingness of the municipalities themselves. 35 co-operation councils have been set up at the level of the 86 districts, plus one other at the level of the Nakhichevan region.
22.214.171.124. The question of Baku
58. With 2 million inhabitants, “Greater Baku” occupies a predominant position in the institutional, political and economic life of Azerbaijan. It comes up against the same problems of statute encountered by all capital cities. Governments are particularly reluctant to apply ordinary law to the city which is the headquarters of their activities. Baku is no different but it is regrettable that its statute is not laid down in a legislative provision in proper and due form.
59. There is a two-fold problem facing Baku: the fragmentation of its structures which makes it impossible for a genuine “municipal power” to emerge; and the fact that the law on the election of municipality chairs does not apply in the city. Baku is divided into 11 districts each headed by governors who are subordinate to a “general” governor who has responsible for the whole conglomeration. There are no fewer than 48 municipalities (or according to some of those with whom we spoke, 49).
60. Accordingly, Baku is almost totally subordinate to the central administration and there seem to be no signs of any planned changes to its statute, in fact quite the opposite, despite the fact that the closeness of the central power and the resources available as a result should make it possible to embark upon local management projects which could then be extended to the rest of the country. The Baku issue highlights the more general question of the actual extent of devolved power at local level.
3.2. A local self-government situation requiring further clarification and practical implementation of the formal commitments entered into
3.2.1. The ambiguous definition of local self-government (Article 3 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government)
61. While referring to direct election by the people and distinguishing municipalities from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on the status of municipalities (28 July 1999) defines the latter as constituting "a non-government system" (Article 1.1) or "entities not included in the state system" (Article 14.4)
62. According to the information obtained, these expressions are intended to distinguish the municipalities from the central authorities. Nevertheless, interpretations to the effect that municipalities are not part of the country's system of public administration must be avoided. To obviate such misunderstandings – particularly as regards respect for the key principles underlying the main provisions of the European Charter of Local Self-Government – the law in question, while continuing to emphasise their autonomous nature, should make it clear that municipalities are public authorities forming part of the country's system of public administration, in the same way as other authorities directly elected by the people (President of the Republic, Milli Mejlis).
63. It is desirable, therefore, that the expression "non-government system" be deleted from Article 1.1 of the Law on the status of municipalities where the definition of local self-government is concerned, and that the definition of "municipality" set out in Article 2.1 of the Law on the status of municipalities expressly state that "municipalities are public authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan".
3.2.2. The consequences of these approaches for relations between municipalities and the local and regional representatives of the executive (Article 8 of the Charter)
64. In parallel to the devolution laws, a “provision on local executive authorities” was passed in June 1999 confirming the setting up of a central government decentralised administration network. There is nothing objectionable about this in itself but it makes it all the more necessary to spell out the respective roles of the two chains of power.
65. Parts of the law on the statute of municipalities clearly indicate (Section.14-4) that “municipalities and their bodies are not included in the system of state bodies” (reflecting the ambiguity already mentioned) but, conversely that “State bodies and state officials are not permitted to implement local self-government”. Section 39 stipulates that “municipalities independently form, approve, use and control local budgets”.
66. Under the Law on the status of municipalities (Article 52) financial control is via audits (once a year at the initiative of the municipalities, with the audit results then being sent to the Minister for comment) and by the Minister of Justice, at the latter's discretion. In the event of administrative failings, the Minister issues a written warning to the municipality concerned. If the municipality does not alter the decision constituting the breach, the Minister refers the matter to the judicial authorities.
67. With regard to practice, the discussions held left a mixed impression with the delegation. On the one hand, it appears that formal supervision by the local executive authorities is not excessive but that the municipalities take little action. On the other, old practices continue to be applied and they could be prejudicial to the key elements of self-government, namely resources.
68. The question is a particularly pressing one with regard to property and the use made thereof. When the municipalities were set up, the property had already been shared out between central government and the local offices of the central state administration. While part of the property (those whom the delegation suggested it was about a third) was officially and immediately assigned to the new municipalities at the beginning of 2000. Notwithstanding the presidential decree making provision for this and the efforts of the Ministry of Justice to have legislation adopted in this area, this transfer, in Baku, would appear to be far from having been fully applied in practice. The local representatives are often more than reluctant to do this since it involves resources made available to them. The delegation was informed of the case of one municipality obliged to rent premises from the state administration in order to function to a minimum level. The use made of property (sale, letting, etc) is closely monitored and subject to the authorisation of the decentralised administration. Thirdly, it apparently often happens that the revenue from the use made of property is appropriated by the central state representatives in the districts for their own administration.
69. The delegation was also given information to the effect that similar practices had apparently also occurred in respect of the fiscal revenue generated by certain municipal councils (for example, parking fees). The issue of revenue from advertising tax has been a case in point (and has been confirmed from various sources): a number of municipalities in the Baku conglomeration introduced this tax and began collecting it when a legislative provision was passed assigning retroactively the benefit to the administration of the central state representatives.
70. In the relationship between the municipalities and the state administration, the former are at a disadvantage because of the fact that they have only recently come into existence and have few responsibilities. Such a situation suits a population which has little time for institutional distinctions and prefers to opt for the channel leading most directly to power. It is essential to avoid such a vicious circle from becoming established by significantly enhancing as quickly as possible the powers of the municipalities.
71. One of the key factors in this debate is the very low profile of the decentralised executive. The roles of the Chair of the Council include both chair of the deliberating body and chief executive. Such a situation is not in itself shocking and is to be found in numerous countries. What is of greater concern is that the concept of “executive” for the reasons set out above, is restricted to the central administration. This results in a de facto prohibition on giving local executive posts the titles they really reflect. One suggestion could be for the chairs of the municipalities to be the officially given the title of “mayor” and the local chief executives (including in Baku) the title of “governor” or “deputy governor”.
72. Lastly, it would appear that way the central administration conceives its responsibilities perverts the course of democracy. Accordingly, the post of chair of the municipality is viewed often as a “step” in a career which could lead to what is regarded as higher responsibility posts in the central administration. This explains the influence exercised by the central authorities on the elections for the first municipal chairs. It would appear that the system of incompatibilities, for example with the post of director of a national company, has not been entirely applied.
3.2.3. Shortcomings in implementing the principles of local self-government
73. The inadequate development of local democracy is the direct consequence of reluctance on the part of the central authorities and their difficulties in devising a system of self-government. It is also a result of the inadequate dissemination of the principles of the European Charter, despite the efforts exerted by the new office (centre) for employment and methodological assistance to local and regional authorities and certain non-governmental organisations. Few elected representatives seem interested in asking for new powers, partly through lack of experience but, more especially, because they are unable to act autonomously. The wording of the text is not a starting point but a limitation. These comments apply equally to powers, finances and the conditions under which the term of office can be exercised.
126.96.36.199 Powers (Article 4 of the Charter)
74. The powers attributed have, as we have seen, been defined solely in relation to what is different from or complementary to those of the central state. The definition of local powers cannot therefore be anything other than a consequence of a decision by the central authorities deriving from a naturally extensive concept of their role.
75. Furthermore, the fact that the method of definition makes reference to programmes in comparable spheres of action makes the sharing of powers particularly difficult, especially in the social field (aid to refugees, the elderly and those in need, education, economic development, housing, maintenance of the road network and public buildings).
76. In reality, this lack of transfer, combined with a certain degree of passivity, has resulted in a particularly narrow sphere of real powers going hardly any further than the maintenance or renovation of property. This is in sharp contrast with the list given in particular in Section 4.2 of the law of 28 July 1999 (social welfare and social development).
77. At best, the municipalities are in the position of following the initiatives taken by central government. When they do act, their action is too limited to be able to persuade the population of their usefulness. The image of local government is therefore on the whole a fairly weak, if not to say poor one. It is viewed as a tax collector whose ability to provide practical services is much lower than that of the decentralised state organs.
78. It cannot therefore be held that the situation fulfils the Charter’s requirement for local authorities to be given “full and exclusive” powers. While at several points the Constitution makes a distinction between own powers and delegated powers, this distinction is barely discernable in the implementing laws. This lack of clarity is obviously prejudicial to the implementation, in itself difficult, of the principle of connectivity and equivalence between powers and resources.
188.8.131.52 Local Finances (article 9)
79. Under the law of 28 December 1999, the municipalities have their own budgets (Section 5). Section 4-1 clearly states that the municipal budget is not part of the state budget and that the underlying principle is one of non-interference by the central state authorities. Section 7 provides that revenue shall include taxes on built and non-built property, taxes on advertising and diverse economic activities related primarily to transport and tourism. There is also provision for corporation tax.
80. The collection of taxes falls in principle to the municipalities, subject to the transitional provisions assigning them to the state administration. Municipalities are also authorised to contract loans from banks. These financial resources are supplemented by the income from the rental and sale of municipal property, and state grants.
81. In reality, few municipalities can do without the assistance of the central state. The awarding of these grants is therefore an opportunity for supervision of the acts carried out and control of expediency. Local authorities are required to give full details of the balancing of their budget, showing their needs, and expenditure criteria must be no higher than those used by the state administration.
82. In reality, it would appear that not all municipalities receive grants or at least not all of them receive adequate grants in good time. According to the figures provided by the Baku governor, the amount of resources remaining available to the local authorities from the revenue deriving from the taxes collected is about 11%. This same percentage is also used, where necessary, in an equalisation of resources. It has not been possible to obtain precise figures on this.
83. Generally speaking, the delegation felt that it would have been useful to have been given an overall presentation of the local financial system and how it tied in with that of the central state administration. To sum up, it would appear that, for the moment, the majority of local authorities are, in drawing up their budget, dependent on the good will of the central administration.
184.108.40.206 Conditions under which responsibilities at local level are exercised (Article 7)
84. It would be difficult to take the view that the local elected representatives in Azerbaijan, as things currently stand, have any real legal security in the exercise of their responsibilities. Examples of intimidation were reported to the delegation. The life of an Azerbaijani local elected representative would appear to be particularly full of pitfalls.
85. The reports on the observation of the elections and the referendum criticised numerous irregularities in the electoral process, indicating inadequate maturity of the democratic process as a whole. This cannot but fail to be evident also in day-to-day management. The President of the Republic himself has, moreover, made the fight against corruption one of the key objectives of his programme to combat poverty.
86. More serious, elected representatives are not at all adequately aware of their rights. They are at a disadvantage from the fact that there are still no national associations which could provide them with a forum for exchanging experiences and support them in any claims made.
However, during its 2nd visit, the Delegation took note of a request lodged by a number of local elected representatives with the Ministry of Justice to set up an association, as well as another association formed of the municipalities of the capital city. According to the information gathered, the Ministry has not yet authorised the registration of the association. This question might be covered at the seminar which the Congress and the Secretariat Directorate concerned wish to organise in Baku in the second half of 2003. The Ministry of Justice has made commitments with a view to setting up the association.
87. A little more use is now being made of the possibilities available for appealing to the courts and there is every reason to hope that a similar trend applies to the new possibility to refer matters directly to the Constitutional Court. The provision in the Constitution concerning the Constitutional Court has been amended; the law on the Constitutional Court has also been amended.
88. The question is therefore less one of political customs and practices than one of texts. Improvement is possible only if there is a concentrated effort to disseminate information and train elected representatives. This is one of the tasks which the new methodological assistance centre has taken on. It has set about organising training sessions and publishing the applicable texts12. Training courses are provided for both elected representatives and public servants (of which there are some 22,000 whose level of training is not yet sufficient). Since its inception, the service has taken in 700 trainees and organised 6 regional seminars covering 80% of the country. There is an urgent need to officialise the possibilities of co-operation in the training field with the Council of Europe and, above and beyond the Council, the large national associations of local elected representatives. Such co-operation should comprise exchange programmes and training courses.
89. Two legislative texts would be of particular use to help bring about greater awareness of the value of local democracy: a law clearly setting out the conditions for administrative supervision – even in terms less demanding than those of the European Charter at least initially; and a second law spelling out the relationship between local authorities and the decentralised authorities of the state.
90. The draft law on administrative control of municipalities' activity drawn up in the Milli Mejlis has been repeatedly assessed by the Directorate of Co-operation for Local and Regional Democracy of the Council of Europe Secretariat. The latest version of its opinion points out that the draft law in question does not comply with the European Charter of Local Self-Government since:
i. it is extremely vague as regards the body responsible for administrative control and its status,
ii. it does not clearly define the scope of administrative control,
iii. it does not describe the control procedures with adequate precision.
91. In the light of these observations, the Congress recommends that the competent authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan:
i. do not proceed to the adoption of the draft law on administrative control of municipalities' activity before it is revised on the basis of the aforementioned opinion,
ii. swiftly adopt a law on the status of local elected representatives ensuring that they may freely exercise their office.
To date, no draft legislation on relations between decentralised authorities and municipalities has been forwarded to the Council of Europe for opinion.
IV. CONCLUSION AND PROPOSALS FOR IMPROVED APPLICATION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT
4.1. Summary of observations
92. To sum up:
The legislative initiatives taken after a slow and somewhat late start should be acknowledged. However, there is a need for greater precision to ensure that the legislative provisions are in conformity with the Constitution (which appears to be acceptable).
The effort should be placed more on precision and realism rather than on an attempt to be exhaustive, particularly with regard to the respective powers of central government and local authorities.
The more favourable budgetary prospects, if not compromised by international events, should result in a budgetary margin for manoeuvre which the government should undertake to use as a matter of priority to enable local authorities to “take off” .
93. However, prior to drafting any new legislation, it is essential to specify the concept of local self-government at legislative level and pursue the debate at political level. This presupposes drawing up a programme for future co-operation with the competent Council of Europe’s bodies.
4.2 Recommendations vis-à-vis the Azerbaijani authorities
94. The recommendations to be made to the authorities could be based on a desire to help them achieve gradually the objectives laid down by the European Charter of Local Self-Government, and, subsequently, the draft European Charter of Regional Self-Government.
95. The first objective is for political clarification and for more detailed information. Political clarification concerns, obviously, the question of local self-government and the question of compatibility between the latter and the principles of organisation and in particular the institutional strategy of the President and parliament of Azerbaijan.
96. The more detailed information requested should concern:
- a list of powers actually exercised,
- replies to the observations made concerning the various forms of interference by central state representatives and the measures which the government intends to take to address these,
- a detailed description of the apportionment of the finances transiting the local budgets.
97. The second focus is more legal. Parliament should be asked to supplement existing legislation, particularly in the following fields: distribution of powers, relations between elected representatives and representatives of the executive, statute of elected representatives and conditions under which their office can be exercised. It would also doubtless be profitable, in the absence of a national association, to organise an institutional dialogue with representatives appointed by the municipalities.
98. The delegation also draws the attention of the Azerbaijani authorities to the advantages it could derive from developing genuine local democracy despite the reluctance for which there are a variety of reasons and which it would be unrealistic not to take into account: Azerbaijan is in a difficult transition phase in which a notable feature has been the fairly rapid arrival of international society in its economic and institutional sectors. The policy pursued by its President would appear to take broad account of these international challenges and apparently intends to use them to ensure the stability of the country despite its disadvantages, in particular concerning its size.
99. This opening up has to be accompanied by a liberation of the widest possible variety of means of communication, an ability to adapt the public system as a whole, and recognition of the consequences that accelerated privatisation of the economy will doubtless have. Far from being a disadvantage, local self-government could be a real asset, particularly in terms of political training and also as a means of encouraging the involvement of the better educated sectors of the population and civil society in general.
100. Such could not be achieved unless there is a firm and clear policy to that effect. Such a policy should in particular seek to put in place a large-scale training system in liaison with the international organisations and the many non-governmental organisations (almost 1,500) which wish only to help disseminate the fundamental elements of a democratic culture.
101. Far from being an indictment of the policy pursued, this report is intended to provide an inventory of the difficulties and to call for the continuation of a frank dialogue in order to be able to bring about a new stage in co-operation.
A. List of applicable texts concerning local self-government in the Republic of Azerbaijan
· The Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan
· Laws and implementing decrees of the President of the Republic on the procedure for municipal elections
· Law amending the law on the procedure for municipal elections
· Law and implementing decree of the President of the Republic on the status of municipalities
· Law approving a model charter for municipalities
· Law and implementing decree of the President of the Republic on the transfer of property to the municipalities
· Law and implementing decree of the President of the Republic on municipal boundaries and property
· Law and implementing decree of the President of the Republic on municipal services
· Law and implementing decree of the President of the Republic on the fundamental principles of municipal finances
· Law and implementing decree of the President of the Republic on the canvassing of local opinion
· Law and implementing decree of the President of the Republic approving the rules of procedure of standing and other municipal committees
· Law and implementing decree of the President of the Republic on co-operation, merging, separation and dissolution of municipalities
· Law and implementing decree of the President of the Republic on the status of municipal councillors
· Law and implementing decree of the President of the Republic on the co-ordination of the local self-government council of the Republic of Azerbaijan
· Resolution by parliament on the statute of the committee on place names attached to the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan
· Law and implementing decree of the President of the Republic on territorial and administrative entities and the territorial division of the Republic of Azerbaijan
· Order of the President of the Republic on certain organisational problems relating to municipal activity
· Decree of the President of the Republic approving the statute of the Centre for Assistance to Municipalities, subordinate to the Ministry of Justice
· Tax Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan
· Land code
· Law on land reform
· Law on advertising
· Decree of the President of the Republic on the rules and arrangements for transferring state property to the municipalities
· Law approving a model statute for municipal associations
· Law on the organisation of water resources
· Law on the management of municipal property
· Decree of the President of the Republic approving procedures for submitting applications to municipalities
· Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers approving the rules for establishing financial and economic indicators concerning the activity of municipal corporations and organisations
· Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers establishing a minimum level for the acquisition of state and municipal property
B. Draft laws in the field of local and regional administration in discussion with the Parliament of Azerbaijan (until August 2002)
• Law on the administrative inspection of municipalities (1st and 2nd readings already made)
Additions and amendments to existing laws and regulations (3/12/2002)
• Management of water by municipalities
• Regional development by municipalities
(Additions to the regulations)
• Changes and additions to legislative acts of the Republic of Azerbaijan
○ Status of municipalities (Article 8 of the draft);
○ Model of municipalities regulations; (Article 8 of the draft);
○ Amendment and additions on the tax policy of the Republic of Azerbaijan
○ Partial changes of the cities and raïons regions of the Republic
(The draft modification will be adopted after the 3rd reading)
C. List of laws on local and regional Self-Government presented at the Parliament of the Republic of Azerbaijan's discussion
• inspection of the functioning of municipalities (3rd reading)
• draft of bodies charged with municipalities' taxes
D. List of decisions prepared for discussion by the Experts of the Standing Committee's Working Group on local and regional problems
• draft laws on the co-operation of local (decentralised) authorities with municipalities
• draft law on the statute of the Congress of municipalities of the Republic of Azerbaijan
• draft law on the preparation of legal acts of models of the documentation of municipalities
• draft law on the inspection of rule violation of municipalities
• draft law on local governmental bodies (municipal police) responsible for public security
• draft law on amendments and additions during the application of the local budget and on the preparation of draft budgets of municipalities
• draft law on the extension of deadlines of payment and of reduction of taxes in municipalities budgets
Programme and meetings held by the delegation
First official visit by the Rapporteurs of the Insitutional Committee of the CLRAE to Azerbaijan (Baku, 25-28 August 2002) PROGRAMME
Second official visit by Rapporteurs of the Institutional Committee of the CLRAE to Azerbaijan (Baku, 6-8 March 2003) PROGRAMME
LIST of local elected members having participated in the meeting of March 6th, 2003 (3.00-5.30 pm and 5.30-7.00 pm) with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) Delegation
1. Municipality of Binegedie-Eminov Mursel
2. Municipality of Bourg de Binegedie-Mammadov Zakir
3. Municipality of Bilegerie-Piriyev Fezahim
4. Municipality of Rasulzade-Aliyev Medjnun
1. Municipality of Chuvelan-Guliyev Enver
2. Municipality of Merdekan-Geferov Zakir
3. Municipality of Merdekan-Muftiyev Asif
4. Municipality of Bine-Aliyev Chefayet
5. Municipality of Busovna-Eminov Seyfulla
6. Municipality of Turkan-Aliyev Sabir
7. Municipality of Chagan-Abdullayev Zakir
8. Municipality of Gala-Reshidov Abdulaga
9. Municipality of Gurgen-Pirallahi-Mammadov Fazil
10. Municipality of Zire-Aliyev Marif
1. Municipality of Narimanov-Hasanov Museyib
1. Municipality of Nesimie-Akhundov Aziz
1. Municipality of Yasamal-Aliyev Ilgar
1. Municipality of Nisamie-Ismayolov Nadir
2. Municipality of Kechle-Yagubov Abbas
1. Municipality of Bakikhanov-Cherifzade Fikret
2. Municipality of Sabuntchu-Rzayev Dashgin
3. Municipality of Balakhanie-Aliyev Mekan
4. Municipality of Romanie-Aliyev Elman
5. Municipality of Zabrat-Hebifayev Adil
6. Municipality of Kurdekhanie-Abbasov Mammadali
7. Municipality of Pichaga-Mammadov Absalam
8. Municipality of Machtaga-Ibrahimov Seyidmovsum
9. Municipality of Bilgeh-Salahsade Aliabbas
1. Municipality of Sebayil-Huseynov Ahmed
1. Municipality of Hovsan-Talibov Nergise
2. Municipality of Amirdjan-Aliyev Tofig
3. Municipality of Bulbule-Selim Gulamhuseyb oglu
4. Municipality of Zig-Agayev Aliheyder
5. Municipality of Yeni Surakhanie-Gasimov Nasim
6. Municipality of Gara-Tchukhur-Mirseyev Evez
1. Municipality of Khetaï-Askerov Nabie
2. Municipality of Ahmedlie-Guliyev Perviz
1. Municipality of Kepez-Aliyev Ilham
2. Municipality of Nisamie-Ahmedov Faig
1. Municipality of Sumgaït-Kerimov Akif
1. Municipality of Ali-Bayramlie-Hasanov Lazer
1. Municipality of Mingetchevir-Nebiyev Idris
1. Municipality of Yevlakh-Zeynalov Rasim
1. Municipality of Chekie-Salamova Gulnaz
Letter dated 8 May 2003 from
Mr Fikrat MAMMADOV,
Minister of Justice of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Dr Herwig VAN STAA,
President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe
(Unofficial translation of the original letter in Azerbaijani)
Mr. Herwig Van Staa
President of Congress of Local and
Regional Authorities of Europe
Dear Mr. Van Staa,
First and foremost, I would like to express my gratitude for the mutual co-operation and attention of the organisation you represent, towards the development of local self-government in Azerbaijan.
Your communication concerning municipalities’ activity together with proposals highlighted in the reports of the Monitoring Group of Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe have been brought to the attention of the relevant agencies including the Parliament and the Government. Moreover, comprehensive discussions regarding, inter alia, the exclusive and full powers, financial sources of municipalities in Azerbaijan were held. Given recommendations were analysed and summarised from the perspective of their reflection in the domestic legislation, and the implementation of respective measures were launched.
Please note that the issue being considered, the subject of Congress’ concern, i.e. bringing the provisions of the domestic legislation defining the notion of local self-government in compliance with the requirements of the European Charter of Local Self – Government, is currently under way at the Parliamentary Office.
According to the national legislation newly established municipalities in the country have been granted many powers and their exclusive authorities in certain fields have been ensured. Thus, municipalities following the national laws enjoy an exclusive right to collect three types of taxes and six types of dues.
Alongside that, relevant executive bodies, taking into account the CLRAE proposals and recommendations on the aforementioned issue, are implementing certain measures towards further improving complete provision of full and exclusive powers of local self-government at the legislative level.
As far as the opinion that municipalities fully depend on the Government’s grants allocated without referring to any grounds is concerned, please note that basic income of municipalities’ budget is being formed due to above-mentioned local taxes and dues.
Along with this, according to the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on “Municipalities’ Status” municipalities may set up legal entities; solve matters of their reorganisation and liquidation so as to deal with lawful economic activity and other activities not prohibited by law.
State donations are being distributed among municipalities pro rata the population.
Concerning the administrative supervision over municipalities’ activity, we would like to note that issues contained in the relevant opinion of the Council of Europe were mostly taken into consideration in the draft law on “Administrative Supervision over the Municipalities’ Activity”, which is currently under discussions for its third reading in the Parliament. The Milli Mejlis have already submitted the relevant comments thereof to the Council of Europe experts.
In connection with municipal associations we would like to stress that municipalities are free to set up municipal unions. Several municipalities have already taken such initiatives and preparatory work related to this issue is under way. We consider it appropriate to hold a national seminar in Azerbaijan together with the Council of Europe with a view to learning international experiences aimed at assistance in setting up municipal associations. This issue was discussed with the CLRAE delegation during the meeting at the Ministry of Justice.
Once the status of Baku city is defined, the CLRAE recommendations thereof would be considered.
We are confident that CLRAE will assist our country, which is extremely interested in the development of local democracy, in bringing the national legislation in compliance with the European Charter of Local Self-Government.
I would like to thank you for your co-operation.
Minister of Justice
of the Republic of Azerbaijan