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The representatives of the Macedonian and European local authorities discuss for the accession of our country to the European Union and the challenges of the fiscal decentralization in Skopje
13 септември 2018

 

“- The overall activities of the Republic of Macedonia are focused on the opening date of the accession negotiations with the European Union. I am convinced that on September 30th, citizens will opt for the Union, which will lead to more intensive reforms, including and those at local level. One of the key priorities of all local government units, respectively ZELS is providing greater financial independence of the municipalities. In fact, one of the topics of this meeting is dedicated precisely to this important issue. The efforts of ZELS are directed towards a serious revision of the thirteen-year implementation of the local governance and fiscal decentralization, acceleration of the process for providing more funds for municipalities to implement transferred responsibilities, creation of mechanisms for maximizing their own revenue sources, as well as creation of several new policies of local taxes. It is particularly unacceptable that we have municipalities with minimum balance of collected funds from their own taxes at the end of the year, or municipalities that have not re – assessed the value of the properties on their territories since 2005, which is the basis for determining one of the most significant taxes of the local government. Throughout this process, your experiences in this field will be of special interest to us.”

The aforementioned was emphasized by the President of ZELS and the mayor of the City of Skopje, Petre Shilegov, at the fifteenth meeting of the Joint Consultative Committee between the Republic of Macedonia and the Committee of the Regions of the European Union (JCC) held on September 11th, 2018, at the hotel “Alexander Palace” in Skopje. The meeting was attended by mayors and advisers from our country and the member states of the European Union, who are delegates of this body, meanwhile they were addressed by: the Minister of Local Self-Government of the Republic of Macedonia, Suhejl Fazliu; the Minister without Portfolio in the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, in charge of improving the investment climate for domestic companies, Zoran Sapuric; the President of ZELS and Mayor of the City of Skopje, Petre Shilegov; the Head of the political sector in the Delegation of the European Union in our country, Lukas Holub; UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton, as well as the Rapporteur of the Committee of the Regions for EU Enlargement and President of the Regional Council of Autonomous Region in Italy, Franco Iacop.

The Committee of the Regions was established in 2008, with aim to prepare the basis for enlargement of the European Union, by promoting political dialogue and cooperation between local and regional authorities. The sessions of this body are chaired by two co – chairs. After the local elections held in the last year, the Mayor of the Municipality of Stip, Blagoj Bocvarski, was elected co - chair of this body by the Republic of Macedonia, meanwhile Jasna Gabric, Mayor of the municipality of Trbovlje (Slovenia) was elected co – chair of this body by the Committee of the Regions. The mayor Bocvarski welcomed his European counterparts and highlighted that their experiences in dealing with local government challenges will be precious for our municipalities, especially those related to the further development of the fiscal decentralization process.

The Mayor of the Municipality of Trbovlje congratulated our country about the undertaken steps to the road to EU, as well as the intensive development of good neighborly relations. She also wished a successful referendum as one of the main conditions to start the EU membership negotiations. She informed that IPA 3 is being prepared and should be adopted by the end of this year. In this document includes funds for the local authorities.

The Minister of Local Self-Government, Suhejl Fazliu pointed out that the main commitment of the when the Government of the Republic of Macedonia in this period is the implementation of the activities related with the EU membership. He expressed his confidence that the referendum will be a democratic act of the citizens, which will confirm their will for the Euro – Atlantic perspective of our country. The main priority of the Government is strengthening of the regional cooperation, as well as further development of the decentralization process in our country, where the emphasis is placed on thefiscal decentralization and the provision of balanced regional development. Fazliu expressed his expectation that municipalities will focus on the full utilization of the European funds, in particular the IPA programs’ funds in the area of ​​cross-border cooperation, intended for the local authorities.

-“The partnership and cooperation of the central government with the local government are crucial for providing good results, of interest to the citizens” stated the Minister Sapuric. He stressed out that our country will deal more quickly and easily with all the challenges on the path towards the the membership in the European family with the support of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, the European funds and the experiences of the Union members. The Minister Sapuric considers that it is of particular importance not only the implementation of the European regulations, but above all the implementation of the European standards, which should represent everyday routine in the work of each individual and all institutions in the country.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in our country, Louisa Vinton stressed out that this organization, as before, will continue to provide significant support to the central and local governments. –“I think that this is a very exciting period for the country and I believe that the referendum will pave the way towards the Union and will contribute to improve the quality of the living conditions for all citizens” stated Louisa Vinton, afterwards pointing out the five most important directions to which should be focused on the activities of the local authorities in the next period.

The Head of the political sector in the Delegation of the European Union in our country, Lukas Holub highlighted the crucial moment of decision-making that should be made by the citizens of the country on September 30th. He pointed out that around 70% of the European regulation is being implemented locall and in that direction will be very significant the offered support to the local authorities. Through the pre-accession funds, the European Union supported infrastructure projects, as well as rule-of-law programs, local government activities and other important activities for the country and the citizens.

-“The change of the so-called static position of the European Union, regarding the issue of its enlargement, represents a bright spot for the Western Balkan countries,, stated the Rapporteur of the Committee of the Regions for EU Enlargement and President of the Regional Council of Autonomous Region in Italy, Franco Iacop. He informed that the analysis results of the Committee of the Regions' Report show positive changes and inclinations for the EU enlargement, therefore it is expected in June, next year, our country and the Republic of Albania to receive a start date the negotiations process to became EU member countries.

In the second part of the meeting, dedicated to the topic “Fiscal Decentralization and Policies of Local Taxes” the mayor of the Municipality of Veles, Ace Kocevski presented the positions of ZELS for urgent deepened fiscal decentralization. He pointed out that most of the municipal revenues, respectively more than 60% derive from the central government transfers, so it represents a basis for endangering the independence and autonomy of the municipalities, therefore this should be urgently changed. Kocevski considers that the decentralization process in the country is neglected and forgotten for a long period, therefore it has caused many negativities as twenty blocked municipalities which can’t function properly, municipal debts amounting nearly 250 million euros, major difficulties in the implementation process of their basic competencies, especially in the area of ​​education, low collection level of the own taxes, inadequate tax policy at local level, weak administrative capacities, inadequate system of financial equalization, inappropriate balanced regional development, inefficient public utilities which serve for recruiting party cadres and many other challenges. In his presentation, Kocevski briefly presented the efforts of ZELS for ensuring efficient fiscal decentralization, by significant increase of the block grants’ funds for the implementation of the competences, increasing the VAT collection from 4.5% to 10% in favor of the municipalities, as well as the personal tax from the current 3% to 50%. Furthermore, he highlighted the efforts to create adequate local tax policies and introduce mechanisms for ensuring high collection of own revenues, introducing a fair equalization system, greater cooperation of the central government in creating the budget, in order to inspect and influence at the determination of the funds amount for the local governments and provision of quarterly reports and meetings. It must be unflinchingly punished each local authority for any mismanagement and wasteful spending of the citizens' money and instead of spending money on salaries for bulky and ineffective administration, it will be better to hire small, expert administration in the municipalities and public enterprises.

During this session, the representatives of the European local authorities, including here Sweden, Ireland, Scotland, Italy and Greece, presented their experiences related to the implementation and creation of fiscal decentralization in their countries, while at the same time they expressed their support for our country to become EU member state.

After the extensive discussions, the co – chairs: Bocvarski and Gabric concluded the fifteenth JCC meeting with sincere wishes for sooner membership of our country in the European family.

                     



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