On 12 November 2019, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Government's draft law “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Voluntary Amalgamation of Territorial Hromadas" (On Simplification of the Procedure for Approving Perspective Plans for the Formation of Territories of Hromadas of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Oblasts)" No 2189 dated 30.09.2019.
The draft law stipulates that hromadas’ amalgamation should take place only according to the perspective plan of formation of hromadas in the oblast. And the process of perspective plans’ creation will no longer envisage intermediate stage of approval of these documents by oblast councils.
While debating the draft law, a number of myths were heard from the parliamentary rostrum, which, according to MinRegion, have nothing to do with the document.
Myth 1 “The oblast councils are deprived of their powers, defined by the Law “On Local Self-Government in Ukraine”
“No self-governing powers are taken away from the oblast councils with this draft law. The draft document applies only to the Law “On Voluntary Amalgamation of Territorial Hromadas”, which does not regulate the issue of powers of oblast councils. Moreover, the draft law does not deny the right and opportunity of oblast councils to consider draft perspective plans of hromadas and express their opinion,” explained Vyacheslav Nehoda, Deputy Minister of Development of Communities and Territories of Ukraine.
Myth 2 “The draft law centralises power”
“In fact, this bill empowers the hromadas that are directly involved in voluntary amalgamation to influence the future perspective plans of the oblasts, the future structure of hromadas, taking into account all their current needs,” said the Deputy Minister.
Myth 3: “The draft law destroys local self-government”
“Destruction of local self-government took place until 2014. Prior to this, since restoration of Ukraine's independence, there has been much talk of building strong, effective local self-government, but no real action. Therefore, the communities inherited many problems that had not been solved for years, because they had neither the powers nor the resources to solve them. With the reform of local self-government, the situation has changed dramatically. This is not seen only by those who do not want to see it,” MinRegion noted.
And the mythical proposal, “let's remove both oblast councils and oblast state administrations from the process of perspective plans’ preparation so that hromadas directly submit their proposals to the Government” was voiced by the faction of a political party that has long been spreading the myth of “decentralisation kills the village”. However, this did not prevent this political force from active participation in the first local election to the councils of amalgamated hromadas and winning in many of them.
“What's wrong with this proposal? A roadmap is a comprehensive vision of how each AH, including the region as a whole, will develop in future. There are more active hromadas that are aware of the benefits of the reform and are willing to take responsibility for the development of their territories, and there are those who, for various reasons, will not care for themselves. So, what, should they be left behind our attention? There are people living there who deserve decent living conditions. Formation of an administrative-territorial structure in a unitary state, which is Ukraine, is the prerogative of the state itself. On the ground, oblast state administrations represent its interests. Perspective plans will form the basis of the future administrative-territorial structure of the basic level – i.e. hromadas. Therefore, despite how much one may not want it, the oblast state administration, as well as the Government, cannot be removed from the process of preparation and approval of perspective plans,” the Ministry of Development of Communities and Territories explained.
“But, once again, we emphasise that the working groups of oblast state administrations should hold preliminary consultations to find out the opinions of the respective hromadas. In addition, MinRegion is interested in providing consultations in each oblast with MPs of Ukraine on hromadas’ perspective plans. In the end, the final decision on the approval of the territorial structure will be made in the Parliament,” the Ministry stressed.
MinRegion also remided that as a result of the decisions of the oblast councils or their absence, 82 AHs have not yet passed the approval procedure as part of perspective plans. To resolve this issue, MinRegion sent official letters to the Verkhovna Rada Committee on State Building, Local Governance, Regional and Urban Development (DOWNLOAD) and Budget Committee (DOWNLOAD) with a request to include all AHs, where the elections were held / will take place in 2019, in the state budget 2020.
“Oblast councils should have not allowed such situation. They also represent the common interests of the territorial hromadas of villages, settlements and cities. But the fact remains. Is the state supposed to leave everything as it is? Today's draft law is intended to remedy all these issues and prevent such situations from happening again,” Vyacheslav Nehoda summed up.
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