Meeting of the State Duma Committee on Matters of Local Self-Government

Meeting of the State Duma Committee on matters of local self-government, taking place on December 10, 2009 was devoted to the development problems of intermunicipal collaboration institution.  


Such a system is comparatively new to Russia, but is widely applied in the world practice of self-government in very different forms: town agglomeration; union of several municipalities with the status of a public right subject or without such; formation of joint administration; formation of working groups for particular problems or general issues; creation of intermunicipal economic entities, including those in the forms of closed joint-stock companies, limited liability companies; conclusion of contracts when co-financing the expenses; other forms. The possibility for intermunicipal collaboration is envisaged by the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the Federal Law No 131-FZ.

This basic act contains, first, mandatory provisions concerning creation of municipal councils in each of the RF subjects, which form the single all-Russian municipal union (at present the RF Congress of Municipalities is formed in such a way). Thus, the intermunicipal hierarchy formed in Russia is aimed at solving organizational and political issues by interaction with regional and federal government bodies.

Such legislative regulation has led to the situation when some functioning intermunicipal unions turned out to be “second-rate” organizations since they do not participate in the RF Congress of Municipalities. Interregional associations (Union of Central and North-Western Towns of Russia, Association of Siberian and Far Eastern Towns etc), associations based on departmental characteristics (Association of mining towns, science towns, closed administrative and territorial entities etc.), as well as a number of associations formed before the current reform and operating at the moment simultaneously with the Municipal Councils established by the law and more effectively, it should be noted, than Councils. Such a situation evolved, for instance, in Kaluga and Chelyabinsk oblasts. It should be noted that there are but few “legally established” Councils that are working effectively, and they are mainly those that were grassroots initiatives of informal municipal leaders evolving before the current reform and managing to reorganize into such councils (associations). To the best of our knowledge, this happened only in Orenburg oblast, Ulyanovsk oblast and the Republic of Karelia.

Second, Federal Law No 131-FZ contains provisions concerning the right (possibility) to form economic entities (closed joint-stock companies, limited liability companies) and non-commercial organizations (autonomous non-commercial organizations, funds) to solve collectively the issues of local importance, i.e. for intermunicipal cooperation. The position of such organizations is even more difficult. Thus, according to the information of the RF Ministry for Regional Development, which was prepared for the meeting of the Committee on matters of local self-government, there are 55 such unions functioning in the country in 2009, which are found in 18 subjects of the Federation.

On December 10 at the meeting of the Committee on matters of local self-government it was noted that the development of intermunicipal economic cooperation is impeded by the inconsistency between the statements of the RF legislation concerning local self-government and the provisions of the Civil legislation, as well as by the lack of special legal regulations for forms of intermunicipal economic cooperation. One of the main obstacles for creation of intermunicipal economic cooperation, funds and autonomous non-commercial organizations envisaged by Federal Law No 131-FZ is the fact that the municipal entity loses the right for the property transferred to these organizations. Besides, the legal construction of economic entities is aimed at solving particular and not public problems connecter with the joint solution of issues of local importance.

It is the financial poverty of rural settlements that was listed among the reasons for a rare Russian practice for intermunicipal cooperation – they do not have funds to create municipal cooperation in any form. Besides, such reasons are connected to a large extent with the system of regional organization of the local self-government currently in effect, in particular, with the omnipresent two-level system, which results in the dependence of settlement municipalities on the district structures, and, as a consequence, to a widespread practice of transfer of authority to solve local issues to districts from settlements instead of voluntary cooperation in order to solve common problems.

As it was noted by V. L. Glazychev, who was a speaker at the meeting, “the principle of intermunicipal cooperation contradicts the dependence of one municipality on the other”. In this connection, at the meeting taking place on December 10, 2009 the problem of municipal cooperation is transforming to the nature of district management level: whether the district government should be formed as a territorial branch of regional authority or the system of district municipal government existing nowadays should be retained.

V. L. Glazychev has also suggested in his speech elaborating the issue on the new form of intermunicipal collaboration – conurbation, which is the union of strong cities with the common prospect for their future development. For this purpose he proposed a pilot project on the development of five-town conurbation in Chelyabinsk oblast – between the towns of Ozersk, Snezhinsk, Kasli, Niass and Zlatoust. In his opinion, the human capital of such a conurbation is comparable with that of a small European country.

In conclusion the participants of the expanded meeting of the Committee on Matters of Local Self-Government were informed about the development strategy of Krasnoyarsk agglomeration, which is a union on the contract basis of three towns (Krasnoyarsk, Divnogorsk, Sosnovoborsk) and four municipal districts, up to 2020. The supreme coordination body of such an agglomeration is the Council of seven heads of municipal districts.