CoR-Working Group Western Balkans in Tirana:
The Albanian territorial reform was the focus of deliberations of the Working Group Western Balkans of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), which met on 13th of November 2018 in the Albanian capital Tirana. Under the chairmanship of Franz Schausberger, representative of the state of Salzburg in the CoR and IRE board of directors, the CoR members discussed with numerous national and local representatives of Albania the effects of the reform and its implementation.
The Government of Albania since September 2013 started the process of an administrative and territorial reform aiming the reorganization of local governments units, to empower local and regional governments by decentralizing more functions and competencies and allocating more public funds to them. In July 2014, the Parliament approved the law “On the territorial and administrative division of local government units” reducing the number of Local Government Units from 384 to 61 municipalities. This law entered into force after local elections held in June 2015, and since then the local government in Albania operates through 61 municipalities. The 61 new municipalities should have more opportunities to take part in international cooperation projects; absorb more funds from EU and other donors; and enjoy larger bargaining power vis-à-vis the central government, as well as a greater scope for inter-municipal cooperation.
For the first time in Albania the central government should be obliged to consult local government representatives regarding decentralization, local finances and municipal functions. Through the newly established Consultative Council of Central Government and Local Self-Government both levels of authorities will be able to exchange and discuss any policies, laws or initiatives that affects local government and communities.
Territorial and administrative reform in Albania, is proceeding slowly and has created confusion, a mission of Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe that visited Albania in 2016, said. The budget of the Albanian government does not correspond to a net increase in the local authorities’ resources. An Italian study comes to the conclusion that the territorial and administrative reform has not generated the expected results. Almost 90 percent of the revenues still come from the central government’s unconditional transfers. Therefore, the Albanian Government should build capacities and skills, and train the employees of each level of government that currently benefit from international assistance.
In another session experiences with examples of municipal reform in other countries (Ukraine, Denmark and Austria) were presented.