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Year XII

Year XII. 2006

altera 30-31


Editorial- 3

decentralisation through regionalisation in western and eastern europe

Alistair Cole

         Decentralisation in France:

         Back to Grass Roots or Steering at a Distance?- 5

Even after the 2003 Constitutional reform, France appears to be the only one of the five major European nations determined to resist a form of polycentric state development on its mainland. Though a distinctive form of sub-national governance has evolved, it has been bounded by a powerful coalition of centralising institutions, state-centric professional interests and widely disseminated ideas, equating republican equality with uniformity. For many French citizens, decentralisation is synonymous with social regression, unequal provision, even a return to a pre-republican social order. Upstanding republicans equate territorial uniformity with ideas of progress, equal opportunity and citizenship. The building of France as a modern state-nation provides the key to understanding this equation of territorial identity and political reaction. Regional political formations are, almost by definition, suspected by a certain brand of republican of anti-republican intent. The French state building enterprise has, historically speaking, been remarkably successful in inculcating deeply rooted beliefs linking the national territory with social progress.

The paper here presents a historically informed overview of decentralisation in France. Section One presents the traditional model of French territorial administration, sometimes known as that of cross-regulation. Section Two explores France’s untidy decentralisation reforms of the early 1980s and their lasting consequences. Section Three examines the gradual evolution of a distinctive pattern of sub-national governance in France. In Section Four the paper considers the Constitutional reform of 2003. France remains very much a unitary system of government, at liberty (within limits) to increase or reduce the prerogatives of local and regional government according to the perceived interest of the centre. To this extent, it is quite possible to interpret the decentralisation reforms of the 1980s and 2002-3 as little more than a by-product of the perennial effort to reform the state, an enterprise with increased urgency in an era of globalisation and enhanced European (especially monetary) integration.

Silvio Gambino

         Italian Regionalism and Constitutional Reform- 30

The study here assesses the extent to which the present constitutional and administrative reforms in Italy allow the overcoming of the traditionally centralising arrangements of public authorities, it also strives to spot the water-parting point of the regional-local governance in view of the reforms now under way, and finally whether the reformed constitutional arrangements – with new competencies delegated to the regional tier and the recognised statutory autonomy of the regions -  allow for discerning potential inequalities between citizens according to their regional background.

The present constitutional reform of Italian regionalism could be considered a mere constitutional ”architrave”, more necessary than ever in order to harmonise a whole series of legal interventions which have influenced the structure of regional institutions and autonomies and which have piled up outside any comprehensive framework. The reform is a new reflection on the fabric of the regional and autonomist system, involving all the institutional levels of governance.

Apparently, the recent regional reform is rather symbolical than genuine. Once again, a great constitutional “movement” is meant to guarantee nothing else than the persistence of the present state of affairs.

Marius Suciu

         Intermediary Level Public Administration Reform

         and Prospects for Administrative Regionalisation in Romania- 52

Local public administration reform in the Central and Eastern Europe involved territorial and administrative organisation, institutional structures (of legislative and executive bodies), descentralisation of public services. Unlike other countries in the region, Romania has not proceeded to a new territorial organisation. There is no real will of the central state to strengthen the autonomy at the intermediary administrative level.

While local autonomy is one of the few achievements in the field, the counties (that are the intermediary level inherited from the communist regime) have very little power, being rather an extension of the central government. At the same time, the borders of the present regions for development have been set very carefully not to revive any regional identity sense and, finally, they have turned out to be of little use. The funding for the regions for development are almost exclu ively of European origin. On the whole, regionalisation initiatives, either from the civil society or from the government representatives, are ambiguous and inconsistent.

The prospects for a genuine regionalisation are dim no matter whether the extant counties should merge and form larger territorial units or a new tier should be added to those of the counties, as both solutions suppose a constitutional reform and the Constitution has recently been revised with no mention at all of regionalisation. The state is not yet ready to share its competencies and resources with other levels that could threaten its absolute monopoly in managing and controling territory. At the same time, the state no longer can afford to show its hostility to regionalisation as such an attitude is not acceptable for a would-be EU member.


Anton Bebler

         The Federalist Experience in South-Eastern Europe

         and post-Dayton Bosnia and Herzegovina - 89

The influence of federalist ideas, practical experience and elements of federalism have been present in South – Eastern Europe since the second half of XIX century, initially in a truncated form of the dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Federalism twice appeared briefly at the foundation and shortly prior to the demise of the “Kingdom of Yugoslavia”. A confederation of regional resistance movements during the Second World War developed later into a “socialist federation”, initially imitating the Soviet Union on a reduced scale. The collapse of this structure in 1991-1992 was accompanied by bloody armed conflicts and wars.

The idea of a still wider Balkan Federation was floated in 1947 but never got off the ground. In addition, a small part of SE Europe (Moldova) had been for decades a republic in the quasi-federal Soviet Union which broke down in 1991. To the string of unsuccessful federalist experiments one should also add the “Federal Republic of Yugoslavia” (1992-2003), which lost its province Kosova/Kosovo in 1999 and was transformed in 2003 into “The State Community of Serbia and Montenegro”. This loose confederation might in turn disintegrate in summer 2006. At present peculiar federalist arrangements are present within “Bosnia and Herzegovina” (with two “entities” - the “Federation B & H”, the “Serbian Republic” and the separate Brčko District). Moreover there have been proposals to resolve the “frozen conflicts” in Moldova and on Cyprus by creating confederal structures.

This paper looks into the present malfunctioning post-Dayton arrangements in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the dilemmas related to badly needed institutional reforms in that country. Finally it examines the reasons for numerous failures and into the federalist prospects for the future, including the slow expansion into the region of the European Union.


Alpár Zoltán Szász

         The Electoral Succes of the Parties Representing

         the Hungarian Minority (1990-2004)- 112

The cases analysed here are the political organisations in the postcommunist countries neighbouring Hungary – Croatia, Romania, Serbia–Montenegru, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine – that acknowledge themselves as representatives of the Hungarian minority.

The study assesses the impact of institutions that make up the political participation dimension of the democratic systems have on the electoral success of (Hungarian) ethoregionalist parties. The study consists of three parts. The first one deals with theoretical and methodological issues, outlines a definition of the ethnoregionalist parties and debates the system variables supposed to influence electoral outcomes of parties that represent ethnic/minority parties. The second part of the paper puts forward and processes empirical data, while the third part draws conclusions on the basis of the analysed data.

Two main conclusions rise that could take on a general character if a wider sample of ethno-regionalist parties is studied. Ethno-regionalist parties can turn into comparatively important actors – even more so within new democracies if the party system is dominated by small parties and the electorate is highly unstable – the minority groups being thus able to have control over significant resources of power. The second conclusion is that it is possible to build up a new theory on the relation between the electoral system and the electoral success of ethno-regionalist parties, a theory that should be tested by resorting to qualitative methodology of comparative politics and by conducting a broader analysis of the impact of this (emerging) political family.


Commission of the European Communities

         Communication from the Commission to the Council,

         the European Parliament, the European Economic and

         Social Committee of the Regions.

         A New Framework Strategy of Multilingualism- 166

The Communication reaffirms the Commission’s commitment to multilingualism and proposes specific actions. They note that the EU is founded on „unity in diversity” and that besides the 21 official languages of the EU there are around 60 indigenous languages plus migrant languages. This diversity is considered a source of wealth leading to greater solidarity and mutual understanding.

Referring to their definition of multilingualism which includes „the co-existence of different language communities in one geographical area” they propose policies which seek to „promote a climate that is conducive to the full expression of all languages, in which the teaching and learning of a variety of languages can flourish”.

Referring to lesser-used languages, the Commission notes that it has been the main financial support for the European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages and the Mercator network. It notes the study conducted for an Agency for Language Learning and Linguistic Diversity, this had the full support of the EP, but the Commission has opted for a Network of Language Diversity Centres for which it will, somewhat unconvincingly, „examine the possibility of financing on a multi-annual basis through the proposed Lifelong Learning programme”.

Amongst the proposals they outline that national plans will be needed to promote multilingualism and rather half-heartedly that the teaching of regional or minority languages should also be taken into account as appropriate.

In addition, they list a number of welcome measures including the use of new technologies, a new EU Indicator of Language competence, a best practice study, research, and the greater usage of Content and Language Integrated Learning .

Section III turns to the multilingual economy and how language skills make the EU more competitive and recognising that speaking your customer’s language is good for business. The text appears to be aimed at official languages only.

Section IV highlights multilingualism in the Commission’s relations with citizens. Because the EU adopts legislation that is directly binding on its citizens, it is therefore pre-requisite for the Unions’ legitimacy and transparency that citizens should be able to communicate with its institutions and read EU law in their own, what they term, „national” language, and be able to take part in the European project without encountering any language barriers. However, while commendable, this appears to only include official languages. It is mistake when they say that all citizens have universal access to the EU project when stateless and regional languages, some of which have more speakers than member state languages, are in fact excluded. It is incredible that when the EU is seeking to get closer to its citizens it excludes to exclude 10% of them at the outset because of the lack of an inclusive language policy.

Otherwise the proposals outlined are welcome, but only if they include regional or minority language.

Bernat Joan i Marí

         Report on a New Framework Strategy of Multilingualism-181

The Communication, while well meaning and with several welcome innovative proposals, remains ambiguous on the issue of non-official languages at best and at worst neglects the plight of several European languages that are endangered.  The actual rules to gain EU funding act to exclude smaller language groups, member state or otherwise.

If the EU believes in the slogans Unity in Diversity and that all languages are equal then there is a need for a coherent, meaningful EU language policy and legislation enshrined language rights to ensure all European languages are protected and are given the social linguistic space in which to thrive. While there are language rules and regulations there is to date no coherent legally binding language policy for the EU either at the level of the institutions or in member states.

For greater multilingualism is that there are proactive policies in favour of Europe’s less widely used languages. In addition, an endangered European language list needs to be established so that the languages most in need can be identified and, with proactive policies, receive the most help. There is a need for a EU Language Ombudsman to follow the Canadian Language Commissioner model. 

Despite the Commission’s dismissal of the Agency on Linguistic Diversity and Language Learning, it is worth insisting again in its creation, retitled as an Agency for Multilingualism. Part of its remit would include the setting up of a network on centres specialised in research and promotion of linguistic diversity.

All European languages should be made official in the EU. To achieve democratic legitimacy and transparency the EU must be accessible to its all of its citizens in all European languages.


Andrei Roth

         Language, that Brings Together and Separates- 191

Apart from a communication tool, language is also a tool of power and when it comes to minority/majority relations it can be used for dominating and finally assimilating the minority. It is power and not numerical size that shapes the linguistic relation, the role of bringing together or separating held by language. Ethnocracy under democratic disguise considers the state as an asset of the majority nation and not as an institution of all citizens. It ignores that democracy means acceptance of pluralism. In Transylvania everyday coexistence has resulted, especially in neighbourhood relationships, a certain willingness to learn and use the language of the others, but this spontaneous linguistic closeness has never had any bearing upon public life and has never defused linguistic borders between „high” cultures of the different communities. In a theoretically multicultural institution like the Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj, teaching languages shoud have genuinely equal rights not only at classes, but also in its management and leading bodies, similar to other multicultural universities in Europe and Canada.


Victor Neumann

         Federalism and Nationalism in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy:

         Aurel C. Popovici’s Theory- 203

The study puts forward a part of the intelectual history that generated the modern and present Romanian political ideologies. It focuses on Aurel C.Popovici’s work, on the way Romanian political doctrines assert themselves through the intelligentsia.

The study the history of the political ideas from the turn of the 20th century leads to a better knowledge of the small collective identities in the former Dual Monarchy as well as of the reasons why they did not find a common language necessary to cooperation in a federal entity. The civilisation created during the Monarchy lasted in the memory of its former dwellers as a model of regional stability. But nationalism prevailed over federalism not only by the emergence of new state after the I World War, but also by the tensions it generated in the 20th century. The turn diplomacy, politics and culture took after the emergence of the nation/states signal conflict as a dominant. Aurel C. Popovici, anxious to fiind political alternatives, understood the importance of reforming the administrative and political system in Central Europe. Even if his ideas have never become feasible, they are part of vast intellectual history where a challenging dealing with the project of state reform on supranational criteria has remained a worthy issue to reflect on.


         Postponed Reforms – Necessary Reforms:

         Decentralisation and Regionalisation in EU Member States- 238

The third session of the debate initiated by the Pro Europa League focused on the intermediary level of governance in the EU member states as possible models for a Romanian regionalisation.

The participants noted a worldwide return to deep regional structures, to regions historically validated as a tool to make state services more effective. Nevertheless, regionalisation is still mistrusted in Romania by the public opinion after half a century of communism that only strengthened the central state and after almost twenty years of transition when populist discourse constantly equated regionalisation with secession. Even from its very inception, the Romanian state was designed so as to serve political parties and its whole efficiency works to that end. It is a state that is not consistent with EU’s principles since the difference between the central and the local level is only of degree, not of nature. The state is the interface through which political parties can reach the citizens, the parties not being able to mobilise citizens directly.

When all the constitutions of Romania are considered, one can find only exceedingly brief references to the local level of governance, nowhere can one find a definition of local autonomy and, again, no reference to local communities, consequently the whole institutional scenery in Romania is conceived in one direction only: top down.

Leaving aside its territorial dimension, federalism means a different logics of sovereignty: instead of the present Constitution that declares that sovereignty resides in the Romanian people (in its ethnical meaning), a definition of sovereignty that would follow the German or American model, would share sovereignty between a federal state and citizens.


Daniel Hrenciuc

         Remarks on the Hungarian Community in Bukovina- 263

The study here briefly puts forward the main historical reference points of the five Hungarian communities in Bukovina (Andrásfalva/Măneuţi, Hadikfalva/Dorneşti, Istensegíts/Ţibeni, Józseffalva/Vornicenii Mari respectiv Fogadjisten/Iacobeşti). Resorting to archives, studies, newspaper articles, monographies, it strives to reconstitute the complex history of Hungarians in Bukovina, one of the twelve national minorities that gave birth to this multiethnic and multiconfesional area. Nowaday very few things in the former Hungarian colonies are still a reminder of the Hungarians of yore: the graveyard, the churches (now turned into Orthodox churches), some dwellings.


Ioan Marius Bucur

         Some Remarks and Comments on the Bill on Religious Freedom

         and the General Status of Confessions in Romania- 278

In spite of the diverse shapes the legal systems take in regulating the relationship between public authorities and religious life, three trends stand out in all Western countries: the full acknowledgement of the individual and collective right to religious freedom, recognition of self-determination of all confessional groups and the explicit assuming by the state of non-interference by public authorities in spiritual matters and establishing forms of co-operation between the state and confessions. In Romania there still persists a legal confusion regarding the status of religious life as some of the communist legislation in the field has never been abolished. The most recent bill on religious freedom was sent to the Venice Commission to be assessed, but the Commission’s recommendations have not been actually considered and included into the bill; the civil society has not been consulted; the remarks made by senatorial commissions have not been included in the bill either. Consequently the bill was passed in its initial form, the one proposed by the government in which the separation between state and churches is not clear-cut enough.


Ovidiu Pecican

         Transylvania – the Voice of Diversity- 284

The paper aims at discerning a set of general characteristics of Transylvania. Throughout history, the province has been subjected to many influencies, both cultural and political, that have led to a multiethnic, multicultural and multiconfessional enviroment, and consequently to a more tolerant and open minded mentality when compared to the other territories that are included in Romania. This historical conglomerate nevertheless lost a part of its richness in the 20th century as there is little left of two important communities – the Saxons and the Jews.


Lucian Nastasă

         Harald Roth:

         Mică istorie a Transilvaniei (A Brief History of Transylvania)- 288




(c) Fundaţia Jakabffy Elemér, Asociaţia Media Index 1999-2006