Local self-government in Armenia: positive developments but still room for improvement concerning the skills, consultation and financial resources of local authorities

Despite the positive development of local self-government in Armenia, the powers of municipalities have not been extended, their role in the provision of public services remains limited and local authorities do not have sufficient funds, according to the report. the follow-up report adopted today by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, which also provides recommendations to the Armenian government to improve the situation.

The report based on a country visit in May 2019 welcomes the fact that Armenia has ratified all the provisions of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. It also welcomes the consolidation of communities and the government’s legislative initiatives in the area of ​​local referendums, public hearings and financial aid to municipalities.

Despite these good developments, the powers and duties of the municipalities have not been extended to enable them to manage a substantial part of public affairs under their own responsibility. Municipalities have a limited role in the provision of public services, which goes against the principle of subsidiarity.

In addition, there is no legally guaranteed consultation procedure between the State and the municipalities, the local authorities are not adequately involved in the decision-making process concerning their finances and the local authorities are not consulted on the modifications of their territorial limits.

“We have been informed that during the recent merger process some local authorities and residents learned from the press about the mergers of their communities,” said Gunn Marit Helgesen (Norway, EPP / CCE), one of the rapporteurs who presented the report, noting that efficiency and broad communication on territorial reform “was still lacking in Armenia”.

“For the reform to be successful, it is important to give incentives to the merged communities. They need more power and therefore money to execute them, ”stressed Helgesen.

Bryony Rudkin (UK, SOC / G / PD), the co-rapporteur, echoed this concern. “Local authorities continue to lack the financial resources to carry out their own tasks,” she said. “In addition, the State does not make the corresponding resources available to communities when it delegates powers. As a result, many small communities simply cannot cope with the delegated tasks or cannot provide good quality services ”.

Rudkin highlighted other issues, such as the poor working conditions of municipal workers in local government offices and unwarranted state interference in local tasks: administrative oversight of local government decisions goes beyond control of legality and various state authorities have overlapping supervisory powers.

The Congress recommended that the Armenian government accompany the delegation of tasks by providing corresponding financial resources and ensure that local communities have access to adequate financial resources on their own; further decentralize powers to increase the share of public affairs that are regulated and managed by local authorities and to guarantee in law the right of local authorities to be consulted on matters which concern them directly, recommends the Congress. In addition, the “own” competences of municipalities should be revised and clarified, state supervision limited to legality control and the working conditions of municipal employees improved.

The rapporteurs described as “welcome steps” the information on some new legislative initiatives prepared by the government in the field of local referendums, public hearings and financial assistance to municipalities. “We are convinced that all political changes and reform efforts have opened up new perspectives and opportunities for democratic transformation in Armenia to have a positive impact on local democracy and we look forward to continuing the already long-standing cooperation we have with them. Armenian authorities, ”concluded Bryony Rudkin. .

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Teresa R. Cabrera

The author Teresa R. Cabrera