NISPAcee Annual Conference
Municipal Council of Silistra
Incentives to inter-municipal co-operation: the case of municipalities of Tutrakan and Slivo pole, Bulgaria
Paper files are available only for conference participants, please
Abstract not available
Urban challenges, ranging from environmental degradation, to social inequality, to economic growth and fiscal health of localities, are increasingly becoming complex and interrelated, and a single local government faces difficulties to respond to them. Strategies, formulated and executed in collaboration with other stakeholders, would better address the emerging problems. Partnerships, mobilising public, private and the non-profit sector, are largely promoted as the best response to existing local problems and, somehow, co-operation within the public domain is overlooked.
Local authorities (obshtini) are, of yet, the only tier of local self-government in Bulgaria, and decentralisation has predominantly devolved the performance of public services together with fiscal authority to them.
The joint history of two Bulgarian municipalities – Tutrakan and Slivo pole began in 1997. The same year the Bulgarian NGO Green Balkans in cooperation with the WWF-International Danube-Carpatian Program Office initiated a program for the restoration and sustainable development project in the basin of the Danube River. Based on the project results, the Kalimok marshes were selected as a priority restoration and management site, and highlighted options for restoration.
The appearance of the Kalimok-Brushlen Protected Site has influenced the life in the two above-mentioned municipalities and posed challenges to the local population. The KBPS brought in new rights and obligation to the municipal administrations in terms of environment protection and natural resources ownership. They expect from this management environmental and social benefits to the local population as well.
The local governments are both concerned with effective and efficient management of KBPS. The municipalities of Tutrakan and Slivo pole do need to co-operate in order to protect the shared asset. Thus, local governments agreed to co-operative arrangement that allows them to retain their institutional autonomy. In 2002 an NGO was established to manage KBPS. Several organizations, including civil society organisations, became founders of the new NGO along with the two municipalities. The NGO created was active up to 2009 when the majority of its activities were taken over by the Regional Environmental Agency in Ruse.
However, the two municipalities have furthered their co-operation. The same year they started to negotiate to establish a joint Fishery Local Action Group in order to get funding under the Bulgarian Operational Programme for Development of the Fishery Sector, funded by the European Fishery Fund. Later, the two municipalities set together a Local Action Group under the LEADER initiative of the EU, funded by the Bulgarian Rural Areas Development Programme. The first initiative was successful and the FLAG got funding from the Indeed, the six municipalities define a functioning region. The approval for the LAG funding is still under consideration.
Co-operative arrangements for public service delivery and joint efforts for absorption of EU funds allow local governments to retain their institutional autonomy. This is an opportunity to build and sustain a collective capacity. However, several questions are still pending. The very first of them seems to be: what makes/forces/requires local governments to act together? Indeed, some public services like environment protection are suitable to common agreements, also together the two municipalities can ask more funds but there is a need for co-ordination and steering of the joint efforts. Indeed, the two municipalities define a functioning region. The paper is attempted to shed light on incentives to inter-municipal co-operation.