We are talking with Ivan Lukerya, representative of the Central Reform Office at MinRegion, in Uzhgorod, during a meeting on the draft Perspective Plan for hromadas’ amalgamation in the Zakarpattia Oblast. The meeting is held in the Zakarpattia Oblast State Administration with the participation of the oblast leadership and Deputy Minister Vyacheslav Nehoda. We are talking with Ivan Lukerya about the state of the reform in the region, which is still called the outsider of the decentralisation reform, since there are only eight AHs in the Zakarpattia Oblast and there is still no Perspective Plan for hromadas’ amalgamation. According to Mr Lukerya, the issue for Zakarpattia is now only whether this reform of the region will be implemented from Kyiv, or whether local hromadas will follow the principle of voluntary amalgamation and take the opportunity to define their own fate.
- What is the current situation with the decentralisation reform in the Zakarpattia Oblast? Until now, our region has been called an outsider in this sense, as it is the only oblast in Ukraine where there is still no Perspective Plan for hromadas’ amalgamation, and the number of such hromadas is the least – only eight. With the new government in this sense, has anything changed in your opinion?
- Actually, the main problem of the Zakarpattia Oblast is that your oblast was until recently the only one that did not approve the vision of what the capable hromadas of the oblast should look like, and therefore, in fact, Zakarpattia is today the starting point: if we want to compare a decentralised country and want to remember, what the regions looked like before the reform, prior to 2014 – we should go to the Zakarpattia Oblast. You will see it all in terms of infrastructure – and evaluate what has been lost.
Actually, with the appointment of Ihor Bondarenko as the new head of the Zakarpattia Oblast State Administration and after the first meeting of the new government, we expect that a Perspective Plan will be approved in the oblast and at the governmental level.
- Well, but we see the process is delayed. After the appointment of the new head, it was said that there would be a session on 25 July, where the issue of the Perspective Plan would be considered, then there was information that it was postponed to August, and now they are talking about September. We see again some delay in the process – those six hromadas the conclusions of which were denied by the previous authorities do not receive these conclusions from the new ones. Did you notice this fact in the Central Reform Office and do you react to it somehow?
- Our recommendation for local self-government in the Zakarpattia Oblast is as follows: without waiting for the approval of the Perspective Plan, decide on hromadas’ amalgamation and to go to the elections.
- Only one AH – the Horondivska hromada – is in time for the October elections, right?
- Yes, the CEC has appointed elections only in the Horondivska AH of the Zakarpattia Oblast. Another six hromadas are awaiting OSA’s conclusions. The Central Reform Office has the following vision of the situation: hromadas formed around the perspective centres should receive the OSA's conclusions.
- So what should Uzhgorod do?
- There are two way-outs here: either to create one large hromada around the city, or otherwise – formed AHs will sign agreements with Uzhgorod to provide the same educational, medical, waste management and water supply services. These are municipal cooperation agreements. This is the case in many other cities in Ukraine.
- What would you call the stage on the decentralisation path the Zakarpattia Oblast is now at? We used to be outsiders until now, what about current situation?
- And now Zakarpattia has a huge potential at the stage of voluntary amalgamation. Many heads have been waiting for the political will of the oblast’s leadership, and now with its presence, it is possible to catch up with everything that has been lost in the last four years. I stress, it’s possible even in course of the remaining six months.
I would like to emphasise that today in Ukraine we already have oblasts with more than 90% (the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast), or 70% (the Khmelnytskyi Oblast) coverage by AHs. In the Zakarpattia Oblast, this figure is critically small.
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