From Zakarpattia Oblast as geographical centre of Europe to the centre of economic activity in this region – the distance between two conditional centres is being determined by the participants of the forum “Zakarpattia Oblast – the centre of Europe: way of development and realisation of potential”. The event in Uzhgorod gathered about two hundred representatives of local self-government of the oblast, executive authorities, experts, deputies and the public.
The problems of establishment of capable hromadas in the Zakarpattia Oblast went through the forum as a red line. This region has not yet approved the perspective plan for the formation of hromadas of the oblast, despite the fact that in April it will be 4 years since the launch of the reform of local self-government and territorial organisation of power in Ukraine.
“We do not hurry and do it right (...) We feel ashamed that the Zakarpattia Oblast still has no perspective plan of hromadas’ formation. But today the perspective plan is almost ready for submission,” said Viktor Mikulin, deputy head of the Zakarpattia Oblast State Administration.
While the Zakarpattia Oblast State Administration is in no hurry, the hromadas of the region are losing a lot of opportunities currently used by AHs. Expert Yuriy Hanushchak has provided data showing that if hromadas of the Zakarpattia Oblast had amalgamated, they could have received about UAH 1.5 billion only in the form of infrastructure subventions over three years, from 2016 to 2018. According to the calculations, in 2016, hromadas of the Zakarpattia Oblast, in fact, received only UAH 15 million out of UAH 694 million they could have received for their development. In 2017, they received only UAH 14.5 million out of UAH 466 million of possible state support. In 2018, this amount could have amounted to UAH 324 million, but the hromadas will receive only UAH 16 million. Though, the Zakarpattia Oblast, has lost not only finances as a result of its reluctance to implement the state policy of reforming local self-government and territorial organisation of power.
“Lost opportunities mean lost investment projects. Business and investor go to AH. Noone wants to deal with areas where there are several hosts. Lost opportunities mean a sense of competition, which naturally leads to growth. Land outside settlements is now being transferred into communal ownership of exactly AHs,” said Yuriy Hanushchak.
“What else does the Government need to do, what other development tools should be created to enable the Zakarpattia Oblast to develop and create capable hromadas? We have gathered here to listen to the viewpoint of the oblast representatives. The essence of the governmental reform of local self-government is the creation of an effective local government capable of solving local issues. And for this purpose, the Government transfers the powers, resources for exercising these powers and responsibility for the decisions made, to the basic level of local self-government, i.e. to amalgamated hromadas. Almost 3,5 thousand of hromadas have already taken this path in Ukraine, having established more than seven hundred AHs. Their budgets, their opportunities have massively grown. It’s easy to check. But if the Zakarpattia Oblast considers that it is not necessary to transfer the authority to hromadas, that all powers should be transferred to rayon state administrations, thus impeding the process of establishment of capable hromadas in the region, the Government has to be informed about that,” Vyacheslav Nehoda, First Deputy Minister of Regional Development, Construction, Housing and Communal Services, addressed the participants of the event.
He emphasised that the stronger the local self-government in the country is, the stronger is the state. Therefore, the reform of local self-government and territorial organisation of power is fundamental. The quality of its implementation depends on positive changes in most areas of life of the citizens.
“Local self-government, currently operating in the rural areas, is the weakest link. If we look at the Zakarpattia Oblast, we’ll see that rural areas prevail here and make up 63%. But the Zakarpattia Oblast is the centre of Europe and should become the leader of reforms and positive changes in the country,” said Vyacheslav Nehoda.
He urged the oblast authorities to approve the perspective plan for the formation of hromadas and to actively engage in the implementation of the state policy of reforming local self-government.
“Do not mind that the Zakarpattia Oblast is the last in the ranking of areas for the formation of capable hromadas. Everything can change fast, as it is in football, for example, - two victories in a row make the team win.”
The First Deputy Minister also answered the questions of those hromadas in the Zakarpattia Oblast, which had a complicated process of public discussion and decision-making on amalgamation into hromada, but received a refusal from the oblast state administration or did not receive a conclusion about their decisions, as envisaged by the legislation.
“First of all, such misunderstandings between hromadas and the oblast state administration should be made public, so that the public can give their assessment. There should be a public response on each appeal to the oblast state administration regarding amalgamation, substantiating why hromadas are not able to amalgamate. We must jointly address the situation in this region. I propose to send official address to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine with appeals from hromadas of the Zakarpattia Oblast, which did not receive an opinion from the OSA on their decisions to amalgamate. Obviously then the Government will instruct MinRegion and the Ministry of Justice to find another solution in the legal field,” said Vyacheslav Nehoda.
He expressed his hope that the forum in the Zakarpattya Oblast will help to establish better interaction between local self-government and executive authorities of the Zakarpattia Oblast, adding that MinRegion will apply every effort for the Zakarpattia Oblast to become not only the economic, but also the geographical centre of Europe.
The forum was organised by the Zakarpattia Local Government Development Centre and the Ministry of Regional Development, Construction, Housing and Communal Services of Ukraine, with the support of the U-LEAD with Europe Programme.
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