Decentralization of Public Administration in the Context of European Integration of Ukraine

MAKSYM KOLISNYK PhD in public administration, associate professor of Kharkiv Regional Institute of National Academy of Public Administration attached to the Office of the President of Ukraine.

Actual social and economic development of Ukraine stipulates for intensification of reforms of all spheres of public activity. The most important problems are in general further democratisation of public affairs and particularly – rationalisation of public administration, imporevement of financial system, implementation of new innovation model in economy, administrative and territorial reform etc. Realization of these questions is closely connected with division of responsibility between central and local authorities, subsequent development of local self-government of Ukraine. At the same time it is necessary to take into consideration that official strategy of Ukrainian state is integration to the European Economic Community. In view of this the aim of research and generalization of European practice of decentralization is arising within the scope of principal objective of improvement of existing methods of administration and decreasing of disproportions in territorial development.

Analysis of practice shows that there is real necessity of changing of administrative relations between central power and territorial communitites. Ukrainian scientists in different spheres – public administration, law, economy, philosophy analyze the problem of division of powers and consider decentralization as socially useful for our country. This theme is also subject of research of such international organizations as European Commission, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, World Bank and other. With regard to urgency of this question there is a necessity of adaptation of rational achievements of foreign experience for Ukraine in the process of economic and social transformation.

National encyclopaedic literature determines decentralization as a foreign term, originated from de- and centralization and means abolition, annulation or weakening of centralization and also accrual of rights of lower administrative levels (Sovremennaya..., 2005, p. 164.). In its part centralization is descended from latin word “centralis” – median. There are two principal meanings – concentration of direction, management in unique center or concentration of greater part of public functions under the jurisdiction of public institutions.

Ukrainian scientists consider decentralization in connection with centralization and if the fisrt is “phenomenon characteristic for the sphere of public administration determined by objective and subjective factors. Concept of decentralisation reflects specific features of administration that are differ from centralization and clearly appeared through the object and subject of management.” (Derzhavne..., 1997, p. 16.). Analysis of Ukrainian researches shows that there is no contradictions between scientists concerning necessity of decentralization of central powers. And also it is considered that “there is no insurmountable antagonism among strengthening of centralisation and enlargement of decentralisation that becomes especially apparent in selfgovernment of administrative bodies and enterprises and also regions, that it is two characteristics of unique process which might and have to be developped simultaneously” (Derzhavne..., 1997, p. 18.). This approach reflects quite completely a nature of investigated category but it is difficult to determine necessary proportions of two processes. Solution of this problem could be only consistent purposeful public policy of extension of competencies and responsibilities of administrative bodies of territorial communities. At that transfer of functions must be provided with necessary resources for its execution, and role of the state has to be changed. Research of European experience will assist in comprehension of mentioned problems and to find the ways of their solution.

In the process of analysis of administrative reforms in Western Europe it is important to note that possibility of joining of Ukraine to European regionalisation process requires adaptation and application of mechanisms of regional development similar to European instruments and first of all implementation of purpose-oriented programm method. At all its diversity the principal particularity consists in the fact that they organize participation and combine the efforts of different administrative levels in regional development (Romaniuk,..., 2000, p. 27.). The differencies between countries lies in scope of authorities and responsibilities of administrative bodies and local self-government and also in orientation of reforms on certain level – regional or municipal in the country. It is not easy to make direct comparison between countries but the direction of this research is to show general tendency in European Union and principal particularities in its different members.

Considering decentralization in historical aspect the principal reason of its devolution is search of effective ways of overcoming of economic crisis in European Union an the end of seventies – beginning of eighties of twenty century. Economic problems led to significant increasing of unemployment and stipulated for changing of administrative relations (decentralization) and re-orientation of business on the high technologies and market of highly skilled labour power i.e. on innovation development strategy.

As far as the main scientific interest for Ukraine concerns regionalised and unitary state systems, report of Committe of Regions indicates several motives of regionalisation in Europe. “One is a recognition of the importance of the region for economic development and planning. A second is the restructuring of the welfare state and the management of health and social welfare, including the relationship between welfare policies and labour market policies. A third is to respond to the demands historic regions, stateless nations, and national minorities, as in Spain, Belgium and the United Kingdom. A fourth is to encourage administrative modernisation and policy experimentation and innovation. A fifth is to bring government closer to the citizen by devolvong powers from the center” (Study on the Division, 2008, p. 25.).

History of decentralization in France is contained more than two centuries. The basis of modern territorial and administrative system was established by Napoleon in 1790 after creation of “départements”. Analysis of French scientific literature (Fonro, 2004, Moreau, 2004, Verpeaux, 2004) is allowed to make some conslusions regarding importance and practical role of decentralization in public life:

  • it is complex process that includes all administration levels and public power;
  • has legal, economic, social, demographical and territorial aspects and particularities;
  • could be organizational form of state of both regionalised and unitary state;
  • is realized during rather long period (from the eighties of 20. century and up to now) and in terms of concrete historical conditions of the country;
  • is grounded on associated partner basis i.e. the state stimulate initiative of local authorities and in general is advisor but not authoritarian subject of power;
  • main level in France was municipal – “une commune” and now there is an increasing role of regions;
  • decentralization is a factor of increasing of efficiency of public administration;
  • key concepts and principles were fixed (territorial communities, their rights etc.) in the Constitution and were improved in the course of transformation, and in Ukraine there is no clear definition of such notions as „territorial community”, “region”, rules and procedures of its functioning;
  • decentralisation must be attended by deconcetration of central power as a factor of stability and protection of state interests in certain territory.

Nowadays there are 36 778 communes in France and each second of them has less than 400 inhabitants (Study on the Division…, 2008). The state territorial structure is one of most stable and archaic in European Union but it is not an obstacle for high living standards. For Ukraine it is important to use French experience in the sphere of decentralisation due to similar area and administrative- territorial system.

From the beginning of 21. century distinguishing feature of decentralization in Great Britain is an approach as to the mechanism of distribution of economic resources and as a part of industrial modernization policy of the country. Public administration of the United Kingdom is kmown as one of the most centralized and conservative in Europe but local authorities have a right within te limits of its jurisdiction to encourage development of area. On level of state structures in the regions correction of economic development is realized by departments and representations of ministries with shared (deconcentrated) functions. Until 1988 the directions of state economic polisy were oriented on support of small and medium busines, development of infrastructure and education system of labour power (Lendel, 2001, p. 93.). Experience of decentralisation in Great Britain (Clementi, Sterpa, 2004) has shown that the main duties of local authorities are encouragement of small and medium business, employment of population, promotion and marketing of the territory among potential investors. General precondition and the reason of decentralisation in the United Kingdom was necessity of decrease of regional disproportions in economic development and increasing of investment attractivity of territorial communities. And the role of the state is delineated as principal moving force of this process, activating necessary changes in proportions and scope of powers for the purpose of balanced development of their territories.

The one of the principal particularities of the state structure of Italy is presence of the regions with different status and autonomy named as “federalism without constitutional changes” (Rosa, 2004, p. 45). The nature of above mentioned is that 15 regions have general status and 5 has habilitated by special status note autonomous as first. Decentralization in Italy has developed after the moment of removal Benito Mussolini from the power in 1943 and the next 1950 the law on territorial communities was established.

The new phase of decentralisation is characterized by adoption in 1999–2001 laws regarding extension of right of territorial communities that has provoked changes to the Constitution of Italy. This reform has improved relationships between the state, regions and local authorities and fixed that “...the state consists of municipalities, big cities, provincies, regions and state”. (Rosa, 2004, p. 52) In contrast of previous text the Basic Law has recognized not only regions, but also municipalities, provincies and big cities as autonomous organizations with proper status, competencies and functions. In general modern phase of decentralization is described by grant of large powers to territorial communities and connected with European integration of the country.

One of the fundamental principles of administrative system of Germany is federal state structure i.e. division on lands (Länder) that have constitutional, legislative and legal autonomy (Corrado, 2004, p. 11). This constitutional order has been established in the Basic Law in 1949 and acknowledged in political and academic circles as successful model of political stability and economic prosperity. It’s an example of cooperative federalism as also Austria.

With the object of generalization and elaboration od principal legislative intiatives regarding federal reforms the parliament of Germany has created special commission including representatives of all three levels of administration – federal government, lands and municipalities. Main tasks of this commission was: first of all – improvement of legal capacity in decision making process and actions of federal government and lands, in the second place – to make political responsibility more transparent and provide for efficient problem solving; in the third place – change of division of legislatives competencies between federal government and lands; in the fourth place – revision of functions and rights concerning participation in federal legislative process and problem of financial relations between federal center and lands (common objectives and united financial system). Such complex approach and cooperation of different levels of powers is very demonstrative in the light of attempts of Ukrainian government to solve the question of administrative and territorial reform by the forces of only one person even if this person is Vice-Prime Minister or Minister of Regional Policy.

In Spain as a country with old traditions of regionalisation local politicians propose to grant autonomy (Catalonia) or to fight for full independance and a right of the community for self-determination (the Basque Provinces). Even in France, traditional unitary state, decentralization and subsidiarity became characteristic of state organization.

In the countries without institutions of meso- level, for example Danemark, Sweden, Netherlands decentralisation is directed at association and coordination of municipal acitivity. There is general point of view here that reduction of local municipalities will encourage rational utilisation of public ressources (improvement of quality of services and rationalisation of administrative structure).

In Ireland necessity of strengthening of municipal authorities became stimulus for system reforms of local self-government which have begun by constitutional reform of 1999 and adoption of Local Self-Government Act in 2001. In Greece comprehension of role and functions of state power and increasing of its importance has stipulated for structural reforms of public administration.

Besides, the authors of the research (Strengthening regional…, 2004) have determined presence of relationship between European integration and reforming of subnational administrative level, for example entry of Sweden in European Union has falicitated to accelerate decentralization in direction of rationalisation of public development and support of local economic and transport planning. Other example is the fact that transformation of local self-government and transfer of competences in Poland from the center to local communities was accompanied with negotiations regarding entry in European Union at the beginning of nineties 20. century.

At last, it is necessary to note, as it seems to me, the most rational conslusions for Ukraine:

  • precondition of decentralization in a majority case was crisis economic situation or insufficient economic development and regional disproportions that’s why the decentralization is directed at increasing of capacity of local communitites and local state administractions to influence of social and economic development;
  • efforts of local self-government bodies is concentrated on support of small and medium business, attraciton of investments, different forms of stimulation of research and innovations;
  • necessity of decentralisation was determined by low level of realization of economic relation in regions;
  • fiscal decentralisation efforts an opportunity and commitment of local authorities to develop proper fiscal base, because of major part of them remains for territorial communities;
  • experience of Italy and France shows efficiency of transfer of right of experiment (initiative) to local authorities of execution of certain functions previously appertained to the state;
  • decentralisation to a greater or lesser extent is characteristic to federal, regionalised and unitary states.

All above mentioned illustrated that general tendency of regional policy in countries of European Union is extension of powers, responsibilities and obligations of territorial communities, increasing of autonomy in realization of economic policy. It is possible to determine certain common order of decentralisation: first phase in all states was constitutional and legislative changes concerning fundamental rights of local communities. Reforming of public administration has realized by two ways: in the first place – bringing of discussion of all levels of authorities with creation of plenipotenriary commission (Germany and France), secondly – establishment of agency of regional development (Great Britain, Poland etc.) and finally – change of legislation in view of the requirements of European integration (Italy, Sweden, other countries).


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