European Association for Public Administration Accreditation

I. Working Group on Local Government

WG Programme Coordinators:

Gabor Soos, Political Science Institute of Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary

Arto Haveri, Local Government Studies, University of Tampere, Faculty of Economics and Administration, Finland

Topic 2012:

"Local autonomy in the context of administrative reforms"

1. Call for Papers – for the 20th NISPAcee Annual Conference

The fifth year of the Working Group on Local Government focuses on the state and development of local government/municipal autonomy in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

A major theoretical and practical justification for elected local government systems has been to make a variation in policies possible across localities. Local government should be able to engage in activities which they see as locally important. Without some degree of autonomy or discretion from the upper level of governments, this would be difficult, if not impossible. On the other hand, the idea of municipalities exerting complete autonomy in their activities is often considered impractical and sometimes dysfunctional in modern societies. There is often a tension between central and local governments on the question of how municipalities should perform their tasks.

In public administration reforms, decentralisation has recently been an important trend in many European countries, often containing the idea of increased local and regional autonomy or multi-level governance. Nevertheless, there are also other (counter)trends and developments depending on national policies or international reform doctrines.

The general aim of the workshops in 2012 is to explore the state and development of local government autonomy in the context of public administration reforms. Have the reforms and decisions of upper level governments contributed to the increased central control of local policy making or have local authorities been given more resources, power and autonomy in deciding on local affairs? Autonomy can be approached, for example, from the following three perspectives:

1)Resources of autonomy (financial, material, human resources).

2)Legislative basis of autonomy (the right of local authorities to resist subordination to regulation or upper authorities).

3)Political autonomy (dependence on national parties, civic democracy, institutions).

The papers may also discuss such issues as the concept of local autonomy and the different outcomes of local autonomy (or lack of it). What is local autonomy and how is it related to the functions of local government? Is there also a "negative autonomy” in addition to the positive outcomes often connected to local autonomy? One definition of local self-government is given by the Council of Europe in the European Charter of Local Self-Government, Article 3: "Local self-government denotes the right and the ability of local authorities, within the limits of the law, to regulate and manage a substantial share of public affairs under their own responsibility and in the interests of the local population”.

The coordinators especially welcome papers which provide within-country or cross-country comparisons of local government autonomy, the factors that have driven an increase or decrease in autonomy and the effects of those reforms.

The accepted paper proposals should go beyond a mere description of the system or problems of public administration in a given country and should belong to one of the following categories:

· empirical papers on the actual state, development and consequences of local autonomy within the context of administrative reforms;

· theoretical papers on the concept or importance or dysfunctions of local autonomy;

· methodological papers on how to study local government autonomy in different contexts or comparatively.

The papers presented at the workshop in 2012 are expected to contribute both to LG studies and to administrative and other social sciences in general. The coordinators hope to obtain the relevant funds to publish the findings.

2. Working Group on Local Government

NISPAcee’s Working Group on Local Government was established in 2008. The Working Group invites researchers and practitioners to take part in a project aimed at exploring the reforms of, and at, the local government level in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

The theme of the Working Group is local government. By using the term "local government” we prefer the broader context of governance to the internal machinery of local administration. The core of the mission of the Working Group is built around a comparative analysis of local government developments in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) area. The developments are also compared with the European and Anglo-Saxon local administration models, as well as with the theories of self-governance and decentralisation.

The Working Group especially focuses on local government reforms. Members are expected to compare the challenges which CEE countries face, identify the trends and waves of changes, and draw conclusions on the convergence and divergence within CEE and between CEE countries and the rest of Europe. The reforms examined by the group include both large-scale structural changes of public administration and small-scale managerial reforms initiated by local decision-makers. Contributions are encouraged, especially covering the following topics: local government reforms, multi-level governance, metropolitan governance, local network governance, e-governance and e-democracy, the relationship of local politicians and administrators, and local democracy. All these areas of research fields can be analysed by using political, administrative, cultural and economic views.

The first meeting of the Working Group in Bratislava (2008) collected various papers on local governments in CEE and the CIS. The second, in Budva (2009), had a more specific focus on city-regions. A volume was published with 10 papers and presented at the conference. The third meeting in Warsaw (2010) provided an opportunity to discuss the impact of the global economic crisis on local government and the fourth in Varna (2011) focused on the relevance of history for the future of local governments in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

3. Working Group Directors and Members

Gabor Soos, Institute for Political Science (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest). He holds a PhD in Political Science, MA in Sociology, and MA in History. He edited and co-edited four books on local government in Central and Eastern Europe.

Arto Haveri is a Professor of Local Government Studies at the department of Regional Studies, University of Tampere. He focuses primarily on local governance and local government management, and most recently on promises and problems of democratic network governance. He also maintains an interest in the problems of administrative reform design and evaluation, particularly in areas of local and regional government and regional development.