NISPAcee Annual Conference
 
Key Paper Details
Local Government
Author(s)  Gabriele Burbulyte-Tsiskarishvili 
  Klaipeda University
Klaipeda  Lithuania
Audrius Kutkaitis, Inga Normante 
 
Paper Name  Local governments as the main actors of regional development in Lithuania
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Presenter  Gabriele Burbulyte-Tsiskarishvili
Paper Abstract  
  
The process of territorial decentralization in Lithuania started in 1995, when the new territorial-administrative reform was introduced. In accordance with the Law on Administrative Territorial Units, Lithuania was divided into the two main sub-national territorial administrative tiers: 10 counties - higher administrative units, whose management was organized by the Government and 60 municipalities - lower administrative units, where self-government was introduced. It appeared, therefore, that regional level of governance was missing. Nonetheless, the Government has started regional development programmes since 1997. First of all, the Law on Regional Development was introduced in 2000. Secondly, the year of 2002 the Parliament accepted the Master Plan of Territorial Development. Both these documents treated region and regional policy in the terms of regional economy – the main aim was to reduce territorial socio-economic differences. The means for achieving this aim, however, were not clear enough until the Government and the Parliament introduced several new documents concerning territorial development vision until 2013. All these documents diverted regional policy towards socio-economic cohesion. The main radical change that happened recently has been the abolishment of the county Governor administration in 2010. All the years since the start of regional policy implementation counties were treated as the main potential substitute for the regions/regional level. After that, situation became very strange. Lithuanian regional policy became very ambivalent, as we can talk about regional policy without regions. Regions are used as analytical concepts subjected to the needs of the Government. The main institutional body implementing/forming regional policy became Regional development council. There are 10 Regional development councils (one in each county). Each council is composed from: municipalities’ mayors (from all the municipalities belonging to that particular county), delegates from local councils, and an authorized person appointed from the Government or Governmental institution. These councils, however, are not very independent as they must work under the directions of the Ministry of Interior (namely, Department of Regional Development). The newly created institutional bodies, nonetheless, represent the efforts of the state Government to form some kind of regional governance system. Usually governance is understood as a process permitting the non-state actors (stakeholders) to participate in the decision making process. Institutional changes and reforms of regional policy led to the centralization of powers instead of decentralization. It appeared that the former deconcentrated system was more favourable for local governments to participation in regional policy. As regional development plans were at the responsibility of the county Governor administration, a bigger number of stakekholders and more openly were able to participate in the process. The current situation seems to be leading from regional governance back to regional government. At least, some basic changes should be done in the main sphere of national regional policy – i.e. reduction of socio-economic disparities. Currently economic side of the problem is of a bigger priority. It could be a proper approach some twenty years ago. Recently, social aspects, namely future orientation indicators (as educations and innovations) should be treated as of not less importance as the economic ones.