Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Video: The model of self-government in Sofia is vicious

Adelina Marini, December 10, 2009
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Have you asked yourself why in your neighbourhood in Bulgaria for the past 20 years instead of getting better, it is getting worse? Who is responsible for this and why nothing is being done? We asked a mayor of a region in Sofia these questions because we thought he could answer them. And we thought he could answer them because in 2007 for the first time the local elections have the opportunity people to elect their representatives in the local authorities. This created the illusion that local mayors had some responsibility.

Quite on the contrary. It proved that in Sofia instead of going toward gradual decentralisation, the power is centralizing even further. Thus, the problems with parking places in the quarters, the repair works in the streets, sanctioning of communal companies for not doing their job properly in time, cannot be solved by the regional mayors. They even cannot fine anyone.

For years non-government organisations, economists and international institutions have been calling for decentralisation of local self-government because this would give regional mayors the power to solve more successfully the problems locally. So far a strategy has been developed in 2006, on which progress was reported, mainly in the area of education - vicarious budgets for schools and also the local authorities was given the opportunity to define the local taxes.

At its session in the end of November, the government established a Decentralisation Council as a permanent body with the main task to deal with the decentralisation policy. The Council succeeded the Decentralisation Council, established by the previous government of the tripartite coalition in 2006.

However, in the strategy, approved in 2006 in the very beginning of it the problems for its realisation are clearly outlined: "The problems of decentralisation of government are directly related to the overall process of democratisation of society. Decentralisation is not an end in itself which must be implemented at any cost. Decentralisation is a tool for realisation of important social targets - better services for citizens, more effective use of resources, better quality of life. The degree of decentralisation is relevant to the degree of social-economic development of a country and reflects the degree of democratisation, national specifics, traditions and maturity of the civil society".

This definition cannot be more than true, given the incommensurability in development especially of smaller municipalities. The mayor of the region of "Lozenets" in Sofia, one of the richest in the Bulgarian capital Proshko Proshkov* thinks though that there is a solution. Obviously because of the differences in the development of municipalities, it is not possible the richer regions to keep their revenues for themselves, but according to Mr. Proshkov, the current centralized model can be kept but taking into account the contribution of a municipality to the common budget. Thus, richer regions can receive more money which would hive them the chance to develop independently.

Otherwise, Mr. Proshkov says, a possibility for favoring of municipalities, even based on personal contacts. The political element is also not excluded, though the mayor of Lozenets did not complain of any political pressure.

But there are many problems that cannot be solved even after a full decentralisation process. Such problems, as you could see from the interview with Mr. Proshkov (in Bulgarian), are throwing of old furniture, construction waste, tree branches, the noise, the relations between neighbours. The only solution to these problems is more active civil participation.

So, if you have a neighbour that has thrown away old furniture in the middle of the street or the pavement or has cut his trees and bushes and has thrown them on the pavement, and you don't like this, you can call the Sofia Inspectorate. The number of the director of the Department for Environment, Cleanness and control" is 09377 502, extension number 502.

The new legislation for the apartment houses also gives a lot of possibilities to solve similar and even inter-neighbourly problems. To do this, you have to register your apartment house council with the regional municipality which will always help you. The number of non-registered apartments houses is record high although the deadline for registration is over. The minister for regional development Rossen Plevneliev proposed the deadline to be extended so you still have time to do it. If you do not, the municipality can fine your apartment house and then the regional police office will start checks. The main idea of the new legislation is to help the police to easily find crime suspects because each apartment house is obliged to have a book with all inhabitants, even temporary ones.

And last but not least, if you want to live in a clean, quiet and well arranged quarter, after all it depends on you. If you do not make even the least effort to achieve this, you have no arguments to complain of anything.

*Proshko Proshkov is 35 years old. He was born in Sofia, in the quarter of Lozenets. He was elected a mayor of the Lozenets municplaity from the party Democrats for Strong Bulgaria