WE'VE TRIED TO COMPARE OUR REGIONS WITH THE EU
Problems of local self-government have been discussed in Sofia by representatives of the National Centre for Regional Development, municipal governors, and experts from the Council of Europe. Each government alone decided the questions regarding the borders of individual regions. But while in Europe the regions are part of the democratic traditions, the financial deficit in Bulgaria cannot gurantee the municipalities' independence. The amendments to the Local Self-government Act, passed in 1995, were an attempt to describe in detail the rights of local authorities. Nowadays there are 263 municipalities in Bulgaria and 1,696 town councils whose mayors are directly nominated. But what difference does it make? Neither the services have improved, nor bureaucracy and corruption have diminished.While the experts were preparing the international forum for reginonal development, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Regional Development and Public Works Kostadin Paskalev already handed in his resignation. The principles of decentralization won't be applied, he said. Amidst the obvious lack of a state policy there are not many optimists who hope that in 2003 the municipalities will be able to follow an independent financial policy and have their own budgets, independent of the state budget. In order to achieve financial stability experts recommend us to set up a second level of self-government by a law, as in France. But the legislative acts should not be changed each three or four years, depending on the ruling government. It has also been recommended that the sectors which are crucial for all municipalities - healthcare, education, culture, social assistance, building and maintenance of infrastructure - should go to the municipal level. But under the current state of affairs, it is doubtful that Bulgaria will establish a system of strong regions (such that would be able to pass laws as well). According to the pessimistic prospects, at least 10-15 years will be necessary until the State, the regions, and the municipalities agree to share the taxes.