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Development of local self-governance should be priority

By Messenger Staff
Friday, June 15
The EU Eastern Partnership project – of which Georgia is a member – envisages the development of local self-governance as a priority of participant countries. Such an initiative should be welcomed, as it facilitates the creation of democratic institutions. In Georgia, local self-governance institutions have always been weak. Everywhere in the world democratic development is based on strong local governance; therefore, Georgia needs to pay extra attention to building functional self-governance systems.

Some eight years ago, on October 24, 2004, the Georgian Parliament ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Governance, thus affirming the country’s commitment to developing such a system according to European standards. However, just two years later, Parliament adopted a new law on local self-governance that is still in place today, and that has been assessed by some political analysts as a step backwards. Instead of decentralization, it promotes a centralized system in which regional voices are excluded from national politics. All municipalities and the five self-governing towns are financed from the central budget, and thus depend upon the national government, limiting the possibilities of decentralization.

In 2010, amendments were introduced to reform the system, but this plan exists only on paper. Today, self-governance institutions lack the technical, human, or financial resources necessary to implement the law. The central government regularly flexes its muscles, in order to influence local self-governing bodies – particularly during election campaigns. Furthermore, most Georgians are unaware of what local self-governance is, and how it is supposed to work.

The government needs to re-align with the EU in order to strengthen self-governance structures and to allow democracy to develop independently at all levels.