Administrative-territorial reform. There should be no reasons for speculations

The administrative and territorial reform has been long discussed in Ukraine. But only now, it moved to the practical realm. In Transcarpathia, the office for reforms has been created, which should become a center providing methodological assistance, information, performing technical tasks for the preparation of the plan of association of communities, and so on. The "Novyny Zakarpattya" asked the director of the office Ivan Demyanchuk what exactly is planned be done.

Are there any concrete developments regarding the territorial reform and voluntary association of communities?

– Recall that the issue of administrative-territorial reform in Ukraine, and therefore in Transcarpathia, is not new. At one time, a group of experts and scholars was working on this. The goal defined in mid-2000s was consistent with the current one – to maximize the availability of services to people. In that regard, it is no different from the current task. Today, we are talking about key definition: voluntary association of communities. Therefore, based on the achievements of the regional administration developed in the year 2009, having analyzed them with regard to methods approved by the government, we have sent them to districts for review. All districts have sent their proposals. We will not analyze their compliance with the procedure now. Let’s say for comparison. While experts recommended functioning of 43 communities in Transcarpathia, we have received from districts a list of 111.

Which communities have expressed a desire to unite (examples)?

– I don’t think we can talk now about the desire of the communities to unite. Working groups have been formed at district state administrations to develop proposals.   We have an example, when heads of village councils from Velyky Berezny district came to the office. They brought their proposals about association of village communities around Volosyanka (Uzhok, Verhovyna Bystra, Tykhy, Husty, Sukhy, Luh) and Stavne (Lubnya, Zhornava, Zahorb, Stuzhytsya). They are now being reviewed for compliance with the methods. Instead, we already see that the proposition for the formation of Astey community does not meet not only the requirements but also the very feasibility of re-formatting. Because Astey is located a few kilometers from Beregovo, and the creation of the community center there, with related entities that provide services (social, administrative, educational, medical), is not just inappropriate, but makes no sense! Therefore, experts will suggest Beregovo district state administration to consider other options for their proposals.

Are there any plans for consolidations of districts?

– No. Can borders of districts change? Yes. Tell me, does it matter for a person how the district they live in is called, if they have to ride not 100 but only 20 kilometers to the doctor? I think the answer is obvious. You can build a school, move people to work in another building, but you obviously cannot change the distance between settlements, or remove mountain to make a shortcut.

How the problem of employment of consolidated public sector institution workers will be solved?

– I would not talk about consolidation here. On the contrary. It is about creation of the structural units in centers of capable communities. In fact, it should result in creation of centers with the powers of distrits, cities of regional subordination. And local authorities have right to use these powers as they think fit, involving the best experts, using the funds efficiently. I should add that these opportunities are significantly enhanced by the Law of Ukraine "On cooperation of local communities." And it provides for such cooperation in several areas: delegation of performance of certain tasks from a community with the transfer of resources; implementation of joint projects; co-financing (maintenance) of enterprises, institutions and organizations; creation of joint enterprises or public institutions; establishment of a joint management body to perform certain powers. I should add that the law was enacted last year.

There are rumors of unification of regions. Are there plans of accession of Transcarpathia to another region?

– Who can plan something like that? By European standards, an administrative unit (region, district) with the population of 800 thousand to 3 million people is considered the optimal. By these indicators, changing the territorial structure in this segment is not necessary, and not feasible. The territorial and administrative structure of Ukraine is region, district, city, town, village. I should add, after association of communities, the statuses of settlements defined by law will remain. Therefore, there are no reasons for speculations on changing taxes, tariffs, etc.

When the reform is planned to be completed?

– Time is short. With active and effective work, we must show Europe our willingness and ability to cooperate with them. In this sense, decentralization of power is the key, if you will – a starting point. You see, Poland and Lithuania, for example, did this very quickly. Are there any shortcomings? Without a doubt! For example, in our northern neighbors, the practice of formation of small, isolated associations around one center has proven to be ineffective. Now they are working to change it. We are preparing a promising model that would be sustainable in the light of experience and economic feasibility. Will it be implemented in such a way? Time will tell! 

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