Decentralization and development of modern local government systems were fundamental components of transition in Central Europe. During this first decade of demolishing centralized states and unifying public services, various local government models were designed. Political mechanisms, economic systems, inherited institutions and management practices were restructured in these countries. Several shifts in objectives and modifications in the speed of changes characterized the long learning process of establishing new local governments. Ten years after political transformation, this book is an attempt to assess the most important elements of local government systems and to present the similarities and differences in the existing models of eight countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).
This publication is a continuation of the first anthology on local governments in the region published by the predecessor organization of the Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative (LGI) in 1994. At that time there was a need for basic information on local governments. Those reports described a wide range of countries in a concise manner. Our first goal with this publication is to update the information on the first of three groups of countries. At the same time our intention is not only to present systemic information, but also to analyze and evaluate internal processes. In this way local government structures can be better understood and compared.
These goals are in line with LGI’s mission to generate knowledge on local governments and public services in the CEE region. This information and analysis will be an important building block for the gradual development of local governments. Countries following different patterns might learn from this information on local models. We also hope that through this publication LGI will be able to establish new partnerships with policymakers and other potential users of this book.
The collection of descriptive papers in this volume is the first product of a three-part series analyzing systems of local government in the postcommunist countries of the former soviet bloc. One of the most important elements of the transitions taking place in the 1990s is the establishment of new democratic municipal systems and intergovernmental relations. This process has been continuous, which is why this comparison is to be used not only as a source of information, but also as a collection of lessons for other countries in the region.
The group of countries scrutinized here belongs to Central Europe—this geographical category being interpreted in a wider sense, including the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia), the countries of the so-called Visegrád group (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary) and Slovenia. The selection is not meant to create absolute categories; rather, the grouping is based mainly on practical issues that will be elaborated below.
The method utilized by the authors of the volume is mainly descriptive, which seemed to be most useful at this stage since even the most basic relevant information on public administration reform is lacking. Based upon the first publication by the Open Society Institute on these topics [ILGPS 1994], this volume attempts to provide updated material on the progress of local government reform processes in the region. This introductory study also aims to find common characteristics in eight Central European countries actively transforming public administration and, if possible, in the structural features of these developing systems. It is hoped that such an exercise may be relevant to other countries in understanding their specific transformation processes. Simultaneously, this analysis hopes to identify the different models used and the typical obstacles that have arisen in the process of building new local democratic institutions.
Tamás M. Horváth
Tamás M. Horváth, lawyer, PhD, DSc graduated from Faculty of Political and Legal Studies, Eötvös Lóránd University, Budapest in 1984. He started to work in the Hungarian Institute of Public Administration and got practical experience in different levels of councils. In the 80ies he studied local governments, different areas of municipal public policy and took part in the preparation of the act on local self-governments (passed in 1990) as one of the most emblematic laws in the system transformation of Hungary. Then he was a free lance consultant working for different projects of the British Know How Fund, World Bank, UNDP, OSI Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative. These projects focused on comparative analyses of municipal systems in Central and Eastern European countries and Middle Asia, making proposals for the institution-building and development of public policy areas, especially public utility services, environmental protection and administration in mayors’ offices. Between 2001 and 2007 he was deputy director general of the Hungarian Institute of Public Administration.
After getting different degrees, like PhD in 1992, post-doctoral degree (DSc) in 2000, dr. habil. from economics and managerial studies in 2001 he became university professor of the University of Debrecen in the Faculty of Political and Legal Studies. Now he is the head of Department of Financial Law and Public Management, leader of the PhD school and responsible for the MA course in Public Management of the faculty. His more than 120 articles, parts of books and books were published in Hungarian or English, and some of them in other languages. From all of these, the most cited work (ed. 2000) is Decentralization: Experiments and Reform, Local Governments in Central and Eastern Europe, Budapest, OSI/LGI. Main fields of experience in consulting and research are public management, policy-making at different levels of administration and local policies.