In a new report approved today by the Statutory Forum of the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, two rapporteurs express concern about a clear trend towards recentralisation in the country, a lack of effective consultation and significant interference by the central government in municipal functions.
Other shortcomings in local self-government that the report highlights include a lack of financial resources available to local authorities and their inability to recruit quality staff.
“We are concerned that a genuine regional level of self-government does not exist in Hungary, since counties have almost no significant competences and do not enjoy any financial autonomy”, remarks co-rapporteur Marc Cools, Belgium (L, ILDG).
On the other hand, the report expresses satisfaction over positive aspects in the “special status” of Budapest. Local authorities also benefit from freedom of association to defend their interests, and national minorities seeking to safeguard and promote their cultural identity may establish self-governing local authorities. “Given this liberty, national minorities thus can represent their cultural interests at both local and national levels,” adds co-rapporteur Jean-Pierre Liouville, France (R, SOC/G/PD).
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities calls on national Hungarian authorities to reverse the “centralisation trend”, to ensure a fair and effective consultation process in line with article 4.6 of the Charter, while limiting central government interference. The rapporteurs also recommend that the national authorities allocate enough financial resources to local authorities while allowing them to set local taxes and determine their rate.
Monitoring local and regional democracy is an essential activity for the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. Embodying the voice of municipalities and regions, the Congress is a unique assembly in Europe responsible for ensuring the proper application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. This international convention lays down standards for protecting the rights of local authorities and requires the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, which have all ratified it, to comply with its principles.