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The Local Self Government System in Slovenia with the
emphasis on the Local Authorities and relations between them

by Miro Hacek

The Slovenian Local Self Government System Before the Reform
Slovenia has developed three forms of self-government in medieval cities, firstly in the littoral cities and afterwards in the hinterlands, where new cities developed at the communication crossroads. The littoral part was mostly influenced by Venetian republic, which already in the 13th century carried authority over the majority of Istrian and Dalmatian cities. It is characteristic for the old littoral cities that they have developed relatively strong self-government, completely got rid of feudal authority of landholders and established their own administration. This was the administration of wealthy citizens, who came to power by gaining agrarian property. This was a municipal self-government. The littoral cities have been governed by their own written statutory law. The statutes were extensive written notes on municipal rights, resumed on the basis of actual practice of municipal agencies or their resolutions.Continental cities and market towns developed like elsewhere in Europe at the mercantile crossroads. Markets gained the right to periodical fairs. The principal characteristic of the city was the right to permanent performance of mercantile business. The establishment of the city meant also granting the right to the status of the city and the right to begin with building mercantile settlement. The holders of self-government in the cities were of course only wealthy citizens and merchants. The self-government of the continental cities was modest in comparison with littoral cities; continental cities mostly have not possessed the statutory law but only privileged law. The privileges were issued by city lord. Modest origins of local self-government were also developed in countryside; this was a village self-government, developed on the basis of common economic necessities of the then serf village. Medieval self-government was suppressed by the state absolutism, which in the 18th century spread its administrative organisation all over the state territory and by this clashed with feudal lords on the one hand and autonomy of the cities on the other. In the region of old Austria there were established 'kresije' as state administrative units, and within them there were districts and later also municipalities as the lowest units of absolutist state. These units had no right to self-government.

In Austria, political self-governmental municipalities were introduced as late as 1948. New municipalities gained self-government regarding municipal property, concern regarding the security of inhabitants and property, concern regarding municipal roads etc. At the same time, some state affairs were transferred from the state to municipality. Municipal principals received new title: a mayor. As early as 1866 the municipalities were reformed on the basis of the new law on municipalities. The stated Austrian arrangement permitted relatively strong self-government. The municipal agencies were voted, the municipalities were granted special resources of incoming. In the First Yugoslavia, the local self-government was organised according to the stated Austrian pattern until the adoption of 'Vidov-day' constitution (adopted on the St. Vitus's name day) in 1921. The following three-level local self-government was anticipated: at municipality level, district level and governmental level. The district self-government was never introduced since the districts functioned only as a state's administrative districts. The authorities functioned as state and as self-governmental agencies until the introduction of dictatorship in 1931, when banat provinces replaced them. The latter were also of double nature: state and self-governmental. The ban's province self-government was expressed in a special budget and public servants. However, they did not have elected representatives; all issues were handled by ban with his council. For this reason, the actual self-government was performed only at the municipal level. The rise of socialist Yugoslavia was a fundamental turning point in the political system of the state as well as the local self-government. The state Yugoslavia came under Soviet zone and consequently in the sphere of Soviet political arrangement.This was the moment of Slovenia's separation, not only from the local self-governmental model of that time but also from the classic European idea of local self-government in general. There was no room for local self-government in the European sense in the Soviet model, although there were some agencies of authority in the local units as well. This model of state's authority, which was in fact only a surface of omnipotent Communist party, was based on the principle of unified authority. This principle functioned in a horizontal sense (in relation to legislation, the executive and judicature) as well as vertical sense, in relation between the central state administration and local self-government. The authority was monolithic and strictly subordinated to central state's agencies and local authorities were only branches of central authority at the local level.

After the 1948 Yugoslavia tried to gain independence from the Soviet model and introduced as leading the idea of socialism in the self-government. The self-government system enabled Yugoslavia,as the only socialist country, to introduce market system of economy and certain autonomy of local community. The municipality was defined as basic unit of society,where citizens could perform all their common matters, in so far as they were not performed by central authority. With time the local self-government was supposed to develop into self-governmental community of citizens. This idea in practice deteriorated into its contrast, since the municipality has not prevailed over the state but vice versa - the state prevailed over the municipalities. The state has burdened municipalities with tasks to such an extent that they were forced to change their territorial and functional image.There were 62 communities (municipalities) established in Slovenia with an average area of 330km2 and with something more than 32.000 residents; the average community was therefore 3 times larger than the current average Slovenian municipality. It was estimated that municipal organs of state character carried out 85% of affairs. Municipality therefore represented mainly a first degree of state administration. Local tasks were transmitted to local collectives, although they were poor substitute of municipal self-government, since their organisation was closer to the voluntary societies of citizens than the organised local communities. Local collectives were mainly financed by themselves and with various self-imposed contributions, which were usually not enough even for basis needs. Performing local tasks, which should be basic concern of municipal self-government, was thus shoved aside, since local communities were not able to carry out them and municipalities were far too distant, dealing mainly with issues of state importance. However, municipalities did have a certain level of self-government. They had their own representative organs, elected through general elections and secret ballots and also their own executive organs, which were relatively independent, being only slightly connected with state organs. Municipal system was therefore something between state administration and local self-government; the issues of state administration and of local self-government were performed according to the same regime and were inseparable mixed among themselves. Gaining independence of Slovenia and introduction of parliamentary democracy thus represented a new beginning also in the field of local self-government.

The local government is mentioned already in the introductory provisions of Constitutionof RS, since the 9th Article of the Constitution states that, "local government is assured in Slovenia". According to the Constitution of RS, residents in municipalities and other local communities perform the local self-government. The Constitution of RS introduced a municipality with modest working field, limited to local issues. Let me present in short the development of the reform

The Reform of the Slovenian Local Self Government System
The introduction of a new system of local government in Slovenia meant an essential and deep modification of a system of local government, which was from the first reform after the admission of a new Slovenian constitution in 1991, essentially different than other comparable modern European regulations. The introduction of a new local government system deeply intervened in a past regulation. Accordingly, not only the context and situation of local government in that time had changed, but also the nature of relationship between the state and the local level. The introduction of the new local government system meant a transformation and actual replacement of the system with a new, essentially different one. This has caused many difficulties in understanding and adapting to a new system. In the previous system of local government, a municipality had covered far too many national (particularly administrative) public duties, but at the other hand it has also been relatively independent from the state, having also an important position in the local economy. The new system of local government demanded a new regulation with an emphasis on public administration regulation and the delegation of all national administrative tasks, which had until then been attended to the municipalities, back to the national level of administration (the introduction of the administrative units come into force). The whole process of installing new local self-government system clearly faced many problems. One of them was a lack of interest among political parties regarding the project of the new system and consequently absolute absence of the political consensus on the issue. Since the project of the new local self-government system of local government was also the project of societal changes, the political consensus on the issue would have been essential if not even necessary. The legislation, adopted after many implications, was a result of political compromise, where the prevalence of the idea, that the state ought to protect one of the elementary questions about the municipalities, especially their position, relationship to the state and the financing, had dominated. From today's point of view it could be argued, that these questions are less particular and qualitative regulated than in a majority of European states.

Preparation for the local elections in 1994 had coincided with the deduction of the local self-government reform, which repeatedly meant introduction of the classical local government, based on a strong differentiation of local competence's on the one hand and national competence on the other. The local government reform had two main goals: firstly, to enable the population of each local community the active co-operation in solving questions of local importance. Secondly, to achieve as big efficiency as possible and to rationalise the making of the local level power. According to this, the reduction of the past number of municipalities had been stopped. That kind of municipalities were much bigger than the average European municipality and were formed according to the principle of self-regulated state, which had burdened an average Slovene municipality to a such an extend, that the latter almost got suffocated under the burden of the issues from the national state competence, which the municipality was forced to perform.1 The reduction of the territorial circumference would consequently mean forming municipalities according to the wishes and needs of the local population and also according to the experiences of the states with longer tradition of local government. From the beginning, the reform was seen as one of the most important project in a process of democratisation of the whole political system and was, accordingly, put next to the process of privatisation. For the fulfilment of so important project, a consensus on a political level would be very helpful, but it turned out, that the interests of the political parties in the project were relatively low. Only the professional discussions were held quite for a long term; political parties have more seriously been engaged in the reform of local government later, when the legislation on a local election had started to prepare, this is due to their recognition that they would gain even more power and influence on the distribution of political forces with the remaking of former municipalities. The political parties have seen the formation of new municipalities in the light of their own interests and images about the necessary changes. Some parties were unsatisfied with the reinstated relations of social power at the national level. Consequently they have estimated that they have too little power at this level, also due to the objective smaller cadre potentials occupying the highest positions. They tried to change the unfavourable situation in the context of new municipalities.This statement is quite valid especially for the new parties (such as Slovenian Christian Democrats, Slovenian Peoples Party, Slovenian Social Democratic Party). Instead of political consensus, many conflicts between the parties emerged, preventing the selection of professionally founded and rational solutions.

Final solution was a political compromise. Some parties were in favour of segmentation of municipalities; others on the contrary spoke in favour of keeping the existing structures according to their better organisational situation in rural and urban environment. Accordingly differentially big municipalities were founded (from that with about 400 inhabitants to the two big municipalities with more than 100.000 inhabitants). From 147 new municipalities, 11 of them were special city communities, which have broader competence's than ordinary municipalities. Since the first democratic local elections in new municipalities, a list of defectiveness was shown and the Parliament adopted new legislation on a process for the foundation of municipalities and the definition of their territory in 1996. It also mended and completed the legislation on a local government.2 According to the existing legislationn 3, the whole process of the foundation of the municipalities is divided into three stages. The first is a transitional stage (establishing the will for the foundation of new municipalities), the second is a process of adopting legislation; and the final is a process of founding municipalities. The Parliament is the only body, which could found or changed a municipality or its territory. Few months before the elections in 1998, the Parliament of Republic Slovenia also started the procedure for the foundation of 46 new municipalities and the modification of the territory of the old municipalities. However, the characteristics of the procedure have not essentially changed despite the rearranged and accomplished legislation. Complete prevalence of political parties in local interest is shown again and even more rough violation of the legislation standards for the foundation of the new municipalities. Finally, there were 45 municipalities added to the existing 147 and consequently second local elections after the implementation of the local self-government reform were held in 192 municipalities.

The Local Self Government System in Sloveneia Today
There are 192 municipalities in Slovenia today, with average area of 105km2 and with approximately 10.300 residents. The organisation of municipality as a basic unit of local self-government is prejudiced in the Constitution of RS and in greater detail in The Local Self-government Act as an umbrella act in the field. The image of municipality is of course not defined only by its territory but by its functional content. Both elements; territory and function; are connected and interdependent: a significant number of tasks requires an extensive territory, and smaller local communities are not able to perform various extensive tasks. Working field of Slovenian community is limited to local issues; tasks which fall within the competence of the state can be transmitted to community, if in accordance with municipality and on condition that the state assures the financial resources. 4
This constitutional and legal formulation means modest municipality and sharp distinction between municipality (and consequently local self-government) and the state. As in the majority of countries of continental Europe, the formulation of the 140th Article ofthe Constitution of RS includes legal presumption about universal competence of municipalities regarding the local issues. However, the legislator has determined in detail all tasks of municipalities in the law. Resuming the provisions regarding the municipal tasks, defined in the Constitution of RS and The Local self-government Act, it can be ascertained that Slovenian municipalities have only one sort of tasks: those, which belong in the frame of local issues and are in the original competence of municipality.

Municipal Organs and Services
In Slovenia municipal organs are municipal council, mayor and supervisory committee. Municipal council is elected representative organ of the municipality with general competence for decision-making regarding the issues from the frame of rights and obligations of municipality. It is a holder of entire decision-making in the competence of municipality. The authorisation of the mayor, who leads meetings of the council and executes its decisions, does not limit the competence of municipal council, because mayor performs tasks, not being in the competence of municipal council as a representative organ. However, municipal council is not a sort of local parliament, since legislative competence within the local community does not exist.The council is competent for passing statute of municipality, decrees and other municipal documents, regional and other plans of municipal development, municipal budget and final account; for giving consensus to the transformation of tasks from state competence to municipality; for deciding upon gaining and alienation of theproperty; for controlling the work of mayor, deputy mayor and municipal administration; for appointing and relieving from duty deputy mayor etc. Municipal council is composed of 7 to 45 members elected for four years. The size of municipal council is determined by the number of residents in municipality; in this manner the smallest municipalities have 7 members and the largest 45 members. In the smallest municipalities, the members are elected according to majority system and the rest according to proportional system. Professional and administrative work for the members of the council and their working bodies is assured by municipal administration, to be presented later in a text. The members of municipal council perform their function as amateurs, and membership is also not consistent with other functions in municipal administration. However, this does not go for state functions.

Municipal councillor (and also mayor) may be in this respect also a member of Slovenian parliament. Supervisory committee is a somewhat obsolete institution for exercising control over the use of municipal resources. Its task is to control the use of municipal property, purpose and expediency of expenditures covered by budgetary resources and control financial operations of the budgetary users. The members of the committee are appointed by municipal council and cannot be employed in this function. However, this function is not consistent with the functions of mayor, deputy mayor or member of municipal council. Court of Financial Inquiry and other similar expert institutions exercises the role of supervisory committee. The very important municipal organ is also a mayor. According to the extent of rights, duties and competence, it cannot be compared with its famous predecessor the mayor of French type, known in numerous European regulations. Slovenian mayor is not a representative of the state in municipality and therefore he does not enjoy a protection of the state in relation to the municipal council, as in the case of other European mayors. The mayor is also an executive organ of municipality. He is elected at direct elections according to two-round majority elective system for mandate period of four years and presents and represents a municipality. Mayor has also a proposing right on the basis of which he submits to the municipal council proposals to adopt the budget, final account decrees and other documents in the competence of municipal council. Mayor convenes and leads sessions of municipal council. As an executive organ he takes care of announcement and execution of decisions adopted by municipal council. Decrees and other municipal documents can also be submitted by any other member of municipal council, except the budgetand final account. Mayor is also a guardian of legitimacy and can hold back an announcement of council's decree if being convinced that it is illegal or unconstitutional. Since he is elected at direct elections, he is primary responsible to voters and not municipal council. The mayor's most important task is to lead municipal administration. He defines systematisation of labour posts in administration; makes decisions about appointments and labour contracts of the employed in municipal administration. Mayor is also an organ of instance in administrative issues from (original) municipal competence. At the first degree, municipal administration board makes the decisions about these issues.

Regarding the issues from a transmitted municipal competence, a complaint goes to the competent ministry. The importance of mayor does not originate so much from his competence than from the position, which rests on: circumstance that he is elected at direct elections and regarding his mandate, he does not depend on municipal council, and that according to the law he is not responsible for executing his tasks neither to municipal council nor to any other organ inside or outside municipality and voters are not able to recall him. In this respect mayor is intangible through the whole mandate, meaning that with administration under his conduct, he can execute his own policy through the whole mandate irrespective of council's policy and decisions. While he has to execute council's decisions, he cannot be forced to do it so. Municipal council has in its hands decrees and other general documents, and especially budget, by which it can frame mayor's activities; municipal council can put pressure to mayor by delaying his proposals and by delaying adoption of budget. However, the municipal council is the one who is mainly dependent on mayor, since it cannot independently adopt some of the key documents, to be proposed by mayor solely. This is a case of a sort of dualism in municipal administration. Such an arrangement does not suit general definition of municipal council as a representative body, supposed to be a holder of administration in municipality. In reality, as expected many blockades take place in municipal administration, due to a party character of parliamentary democracy and also local self-government. In this context some interesting cases of cohabitation occur; on the one side there is a mayor from one political block and on the other side the majority of municipal council belongs to other political block. Such arrangement in its basis obstructs effective municipal administration and execution of its tasks. Consequently, there are present some solutions in Slovenian expert public, according to which a mayor would be elected in the municipal council, which would also have some more competence than today. Let us look at the municipal council once more. On the one side it depends on competence of municipality and even more on its extent and abilities to organise and finance administration. In smaller municipalities administration cannot be organised according to competence principle, while bigger municipalities do have administration organised according to this principle and have thus formed several administrative organs.

Thus in smaller municipalities there are only three or four administrative organs: mayor's office, organ for economic public services, organ for social public services, financial office and necessary subsidiary services. In this respect, the law presupposes common municipal administration for several municipalities. Despite some organisational difficulties, common administrative organs are suitable solution. Such solution is included also in German and Austrian arrangement and also in the French one.5 Organs that compose municipal administration are established by municipal council upon the proposal of mayor and makes a decision regarding its internal structure and working field. Organs of municipal administration are directed and controlled by mayor and directly led by director of municipal administration. The director is appointed and released by mayor. Neighbour municipalities can decide to establish one or more organs of common municipal administration. Such organ is led by principal, who is appointed and released by mayors of municipalities, which established the organ of common municipal administration. Before the reform of local self-government (1.1.1994), there were 6.520 employed persons in municipalities (not taking functionaries into account). By the 1.1.1995, 4.680 of them went over to state administrative units and the rest (1.840 or 28,2% of all employed persons within the old municipalities) stayed in the newly organised municipalities. In the next few years, the number of employed rapidly increased, and by the 1.1.1997 it reached 2.892 workers and additional 336 professional and 210 unprofessional functionaries. Introduction of local self-government also meant simultaneous reorganisation of state administration. The state took over all administrative tasks and competence in the fields for which it had competent ministries. However, the Constitutional Court of Slovenia intervened, taking up the position that regarding the issues, which in their nature do not exceed the local meaning, a competence of municipality also includes authoritative decision making.6 Reorganisation of the state administration started in Slovenia with executing The State Administration Act. Administrative units with headquarter in previous municipalities were established. Administrative units exercise administrative tasks defined by the law, which due to the nature or the way of work demand deconcentrative administration. The case of administrative units does not belong to the field of local self-government, but to the lowest level of state administration. Region of administrative units comprises several municipalities, however municipal borders and borders of administrative units are not always adjusted, and consequently it may happen that one community is parcelled out into two or more administrative units.

With the transition to the new system, the citizens could perform their administrative issues without difficulties, although many of them still do not understand the division between the state and local self-government. The basic competence of administrative units is making decisions regarding the administrative issues from the state competence at the first degree. Although the implementation of the reform happened five years ago, the relation between the state and local self-government is still re-establishing and the competence is still not ultimately divided. Slovenia is thus in the middle of the process of consolidating local self-government system and in front of a new challenge: establishment of districts, which would also be administrative districts.The latter is one of the main tasks in the field of local self-government in the first two years of the new millennium. However, the trend, already noticed at re-establishing new municipalities, is noticeable again; a loud debate within the expert circles, no public debates and no political interest. That is why I am afraid that the process of establishing and consolidating districts and administrative districts will be present throughout the first half of decade in the new millennium.

End Notes
1 It is estimated that the average Slovenian municipality did 80% of the tasks that werein the original domain of the state before the reform of the local government, and soonly 20% of the resources remained for the tasks of local importance.

2 The major changes were held on the relation legislative bodies of municipalities, municipal council and executive organ, a mayor domain, where the latter got bigger competencies.

3. It is about the legislative act on the procedure for the formation of the new municipalities and the definition of their territory (Uradni list RS 56/98).

4 The Constitution of RS (140. Article) and The Local self-government Act.

5 Austrian and German arrangement (administrative communities of municipalities, purpose association of municipalities) and French arrangement (unions of municipalities).

6 Consequently municipalities regained some competence from the field of traffic, arranging settlements and other interventions in the region, housing and some others.

Grad Franci. 1998. Lokalna demokracija - organizacija in volitve. Ljubljana. Casopisni zavod Uradni list RS.

Smidovnik Janez. 1995. Lokalna samouprava. Ljubljana. Cankarjeva zalozba. Vlaj Stane. 1998.

Lokalna samouprava (obcine in pokrajine). Ljubljana. FDV.

Zajc Drago. 1995. Cilji preoblikovanja lokalne samouprave in rezultati volitevv: Projekt "Vpliv volilnih sistemov na sestavo in delovanje predstavniskih teles", Lokalne volitve 1994 in njihov pomen za stabilizacijo politicnega strankarskega prostora v Sloveniji - Fazno porocilo za leto 1994. Ljubljana.FDV, Institut za druzbene vede, Center za politoloske raziskave (razmnozeno).

Other Sources
Results of Slovenian electoral commissions for local elections in 1994 and 1998.

Local election law (Uradni list RS, st.72/93, 7/94, 33/94, 61/95, 70/95).

Law about foundation of municipalities (Uradni list RS, st.60/94, 69/94 in 56/98).

Law of local self-government (Uradni list RS, st.72/93, 14/95, 24/98).

Data from Slovenian statistical office; database for years 1998 and 1999.