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Dilemmas and challenges for local policy and local government in Hungary


Dilemmas and challenges for local  policy and local government in Hungary




In my paper I shall deal with the topical dilemmas of Hungarian local governments, which do not appear in theoretical materials nor in daily routine, whereas concern basic problems which cause impairment in practice. I pin up my theorems on the temple gate. Foremost, I shall impart some basic information referring to the system of the Hungarian local government and regional development, then analyse the topical issues on the connection of the two.


Before we reach on to the main issue, I feel it necessary to make some comment in general on some of the traits of Eastern European and including, the Hungarian transition. The time range of the transition cannot by any means be regarded as of historical, yet some specific correspondences can be summed.


The historical frame of this transition was determined by the following:


  1. In Eastern Europe, conceiving Hungary, the speed-up of political and social changes went under in an already strongly changing world political power field: the process took place in the course of detachment from the Soviet Union, becoming unstable and receding. The approximately 13-14 years of unstable geopolitical circumstances kept until joining the EU in 2004. The fact of joining the organization of the European Union (and the NATO) brought an exact geopolitical situation. A single but not underestimatable momentum was that in the initiation of the transition for instance, the presence of the Soviet army was decisive. It afflicted a very hard drawback, for while the great transitions and restructurings had already gone through in world politics, yet Eastern European historical experiences admonished the political elite in all respects.


  1. In the beginning of the transition, the whole of the political elite was at home, not imported back. Practically, the historical leading political elite prior to1945 disappeared and its decendants became marginalized also. The ‘old’ elite and the ‘new’, ambitious elite intrinsically came from the same social class with their educational and socialization experiences being identical. The prominent of the ‘old’ elite graduated in the same schools, as the ‘new’ ones, were each other’s neighbours, moreover, often worked at the same place. This is not a ‘six-step’ society, at most two. The aspirations and motivations of the ambitious political elite were also known. It was decisive that contrary to former Hungarian historical ‘traditions’, there was no external ‘dominant’ help force to which any side could have turned to (that is, people weren’t put into power by foreign governments or institutes).



  1. In the mentality of the forming political elite a deep mark was made by, aside with their equivalent education, the quality and effects of their training. In Hungary, while qualification produced on a traditionally high level, because of the odd social structure’s demands for educational material, for example the complete political elite did not have, and still does not have leading personalities who have vision for broader historical or geographical correspondences.


  1. Besides its rather provincial attitude of mind and vision, the political elite’s mentality and its applied inventory was determined by the traditions of pragmatical policy carried on from 1948 and especially 1956, which had such well-identifiable elements as fear from mass politics, the absolute superiority of daily short-term survival techniques, the lack of a consequent and well-grounded inner prospect, the strong habit and the functioning of centralization. All of these are showing their effects even till now, moreover, generations would assumable be needed for this to change.


  1. Civic society in Hungary is still weak and is not truly able to turn away from the centres of power. That is, though the two sides of political elite monitor each other, independent civic control is scarcely taking effect. Local policy is also in a special situation, for it is usually pendant of national policy, or an imprint of national policy, without having any ‘independent’, local control over national affairs.


  1. One consequence of the ‘peaceful’ transition was that the functionality of bureaucracy remained, the reform steps of the transition were executed in a manner accustomed to a different attitude, but with loyalty and profession, and with this the transition itself became in several years irreversible.
  2. I will give a brief review on the two-decade evolution of Hungarian regional and settlement development, with its main nodes and developmental dilemmas. Neither regional nor settlement development was independent from the political transition of the period in the country: significant institutional and legal transformations mark the milestones. A further effect was the economic transition of this period, which on several points affected the actual development processes, the quantitative, enumerable achievements. Along with reviewing the general picture and the main process-forming tendencies, I shall heighten some unique attributes also.


    In the following, getting closer in to the subject of the title, it must be emphasized that the political transition affected the local government sphere significantly, and the main elements of the transition were already laid down right at the start of reform process. The institutional forming and reforming of regional development in all, was based on the existent administrative and political structure and did not overwrite it. In the same time, virtually since the forming of the systems, the whole period is characterized by a need for rethought, advancements and the strive for new reforms. The implementation of these however are practically blocked, hardened by the frames given by the political structure created in 1989. Namely, the character of the voting system[1]is one of the most important factors concerning this. Another barrier set against advancement in the political and administrative sphere, is called ‘two-thirds laws’[2] codified in the constitution, e.g. such type of laws belong to this circle, like the laws determining the electoral system, etc. and as a consequence the politicians are involved close cooperation. Thus, for instance while the case of transforming public administration is almost continuously at issue and within it for example the relaying of the county system with regions, its actual transition process is advancing in small steps, in spite of that especially in relation with the European Union join, claims of trends such as these mean great pressure.


    In the focus of settlement and regional development or in other words the prime motivations of the reforms were as follows:


  3. Strengthening democracy (citizens’ right to deliverance, etc)
  4. Extending decentralization
  5. Modernization (on the level of means and institutes: institutional reshaping, e-administration, etc)
  6. Strengthening spatial and social cohesion (compensating among regions, decreasing differences deriving from differentiation of settlements, etc)

    Concerning the issues of democracy and decentralization, the relation between national and local policy in Hungary is still among the less shaped and less reasoned ones. This fact bears conflicts in itself, if not only because local policy’s independency and margins are not acknowledged, and it is rather frequent that local policy’s interests fall victim to national-level policy. In my paper I will give some viewpoints on the traits and the situation of this relation.


    The phases and the milestones of the transition process estimated from 1989 can be grouped around the following main principles:


  8. Legal framework
  9. Institutional restructuring
  10. Economical framework

    Firstly and more broadly I shall highlight settlement-level problems, giving a picture on and a brief review of the development since 1989, then for the sake of completeness I shall survey the transition process of regional planning. This order is confirmed by the chronological emphasizes mentioned before.



    I. Panorama of transitional process of local governments in Hungary


    1. Overwiev of transition process from th point of wiev of local democracy


    1.1. Basic information about the settlement and local government system


    The Hungarian structure of settlements determines the local government structure, and therefore is not equalized concerning the number of habitants. The population of more than half of the total of settlements (1673) is less than 1000. At the same time in Budapest and in the eight most populous cities altogether lives nearly the one-third of all population. (see  2. Table)


    Without detailing the differentiation among in the settlement system, I put only one small remark regarding the called small settlements problem. These small settlements concentrate all types of problems attributable to  the disadvantageous of social and economical transition. Older – usually retired – people with many unschooled constitute the great majority of the habitants of small settlements. More over sometimes the majority of inhabitants of these settlements belong to the roma/gipsy minorities. These factors jointly cause, that ‘small settlement problem’ almost equal with the problem of poverty, uneducation, unemployment and sometimes delinquency. Generally this problem can be revealed harder in the east or southeast part of the country, as in Budapest or in the west part, in the Transdanubium. (see 3. Table  )


    The system of Hungarian local authorities changed 18 years ago radically. Instead of the former councils, new local governments were established through democratic and fair elections in 1990. The constitution of the Republic of Hungary defines the right to have a local government as a fundamental right of eligible voters collectively.


    In Hungary there are the under-mentioned types of local governments:


  12. Settlement local governments
  13. · Village local governments /2908 units/

    · City/Town local governments /217 units; 22 of them are cities with county rank/

    · Capital district local governments /23 units/

    · Capital local government /1 unit/


    b. County (megye) /medium level/ local governments /19 units/


    In 1990 it was considered as a great result of the transition, that every settlement in our country became a unit of the local government. It was considered as a great step forward the deepening of democracy and self – government. This demand is perhaps surprising from a Western European point of view, but people wanted to get rid of forced unifications and only the principle ‘every settlement has an own local government’ seemed to guarantee the necessary autonomy. This is why the number of units had approximately doubled between 1990 and 1991. Some years later this fact is qualified as a burden of the effectiveness of settlement development.


    From the administrative point of view the system is not so divided. Only relatively great settlements have an independent authority office. Smaller settlements operate common district offices: ‘offices of district notary’. The number of these offices is nearly 500 and there are about 1400 settlements attached to them. Apart from this, the independence of these settlements is true, for every settlement has an own representative body. The Act of Local Government of these bodies, but decisions can be made - with some exceptions e.g. the assessment of local taxes - as a result of local referendum.


    The legal status and fundamental rights of village local governments and city/town local governments are generally the same, but their tasks can differ in adjusting to their possibilities. They shall provide as compulsory round of duties for providing safe drinking water, kindergarten education, primary school instruction and education, basic health and social welfare provisions, maintenance of local public roads, ensuring the enforcement of the rights of national and ethnical minorities, etc. The role and responsibility of cities/towns had been increased in this domain, because they are to solve many duties - for example secondary education or hospital provision - not only for their own habitants but also for the habitants of villages who are in their agglomeration zones.


    [1] See details later.

    Self-governments were established and are still functioning in the 19 territorial units of the country: the counties (megye), whom represent the medium level of local government. But, compared with the former regime, the diminution of this medium level can be observed. County (megyei) local government is not overordinated in villages and cities. Its money distribution function between settlement organs was terminated; it has lost its medium level functions within state public administration and its function has been limited to the maintenance of certain medical, educational, cultural and other public utilities. The town with county rank is not a part of the county; on its own territory it fulfils tasks of the ground level and medium level of local government in the same way.


    The organization and operation of the capital local government has special attributes. Almost one-fifth of the country’s population lives in the capital, where the central organs of legislation, government and jurisdiction can be found; along with other organizations of countrywide sphere of authority. District public affairs in the strict sense of the word, called primary provisions belong to the responsibility of the district local government, but in affairs concerning the whole capital, decisions are made on the capital level.


    1.2.Activities of Local Governments Providing Public Services



    One of the most important tasks of local governments is to improve public services for citizens. The minimal sphere of services – called the compulsory duties mentioned in our paper above – is determined by acts.[1]  Over and above, local governments may voluntarily - depending on the claims of citizens and on the size and capacity of the local government – undertake the solution of any other duties not prohibited by law.


    The decrease in the scope of voluntary tasks is a general tendency. Legal regulations have so far delegated approximately 3700 duties and powers to local authorities and municipal organizations.  In the field of voluntary task management, due to the lack of adequate resources, Municipalities often transfer regional tasks and institutions to county (megyei) authorities (e.g. institutions of secondary education, hospitals). These transfers scroll up a part of the shortage of operational resources of the local authorities of smaller settlements for the budget of the counties. Thus, lack of resources increases in county authorities. The shortcomings of the financial regulation system restrain the efficient provision of regional duties.


    The professional conditions determining the quality of task management become more and more severe.


    According to the Act on Local Authorities, Parliament has to secure the financial resources for the local government task provision and it is to decide the mode and proportion of the budgetary contribution. Thus, the Act guarantees the operational capacity of local authorities.


    County (megyei) local governments provide services with regional characteristics, covering a larger part of territory or the whole of the county. More over two or more local governments can provide services commonly as well. There is a possibility to maintain definite institutions (schools, hospitals etc.) in a common way or to make common investments (for solid waste or sewage collection and disposal etc.). It is to be hoped that behind the wake of the Local Government Associations Law passed in 2004 and of financial incitements of the governments, local governments will use to a larger extent the advantageous possibility given from the different methods of intermunicipial cooperation.


    The main problem is the lack of definition on the quality of services. Therefore prescription of law for providing services is a little ambiguous in practice. On the other hand, better-provided services are based on former traditions.


    From our paper’s point of view we have to emphasize that the promotion of the local economy does not belong directly to the duties of local government. Sometimes professionals have a vivid discussion on this matter, but in the end the concept of “entrepreneur local authority” is not accepted.


    1.3. Economic Management of Local Governments. The place and role of local authorities in the national economy


    Possibilities, freedom and limits of the economic management of local governments are based on the relevant Hungarian Constitution. Accordingly, the local representative body may exercise rights of ownership on the assets of local government, independently manage local government revenues and may function entrepreneurially at its own liability. It shall be entitled to its own revenues for attending to the duties of local government as prescribed by law. Local representative body shall determine the types and rates of local taxes in accordance with the framework established by law.


    The proportion of municipal expenditure within the GDP best characterizes the economic role and influence of local authorities in the management of public services.  The proportion of municipal expenditure in the gross expenditure of the national budget was 13,2% by 2004. (see 4. Table)


    The possibility of coming into existence of local government property was established by the modification of the Constitution at the end of 80’s. Approximately one- fourth of national property serves as the property of local governments and but unfortunately is distributed on nation -wide level very disproportionately. A major share of local government property is non- saleable. The handing over of some property groups -so of gas and electricity public utilities- into local government property makes during the last years little progress. It had haven as a result animated discussions between central executive power of state and local governments and had been often realised decidedly at the expense or in spite of local governments interests.


    In consequence of various elements - want of specialists and enterprising mentality, guarantee-groundlessness on the fields of propositions and in securities of public funds etc.- a major share of local governments having used enterprising possibilities was not able to augment its financial resources insomuch as called for. Moreover any local governments had got in its consequence in a very unfavourable financial situation. On the other hand, a part of settlements - particularly the great part of the above-mentioned small villages - are not able to ensure the fundamental supplies for their citizens.


    Special characteristic of local government financing system that on a country -wide average only about one-fourth of local government revenues comes from local government’s own revenues (local taxes assessed and levied by the settlement’s local government; profits, dividends, interest and rents resulting from its own activities, from undertaking, and from the yield of the property of the local government etc.)


    Three-fourth of revenues[2] are coming from allotments of state. The high (and increasing) weight of grants means that local governments are in a close connection with the central budget, and that fact determines their thinking about the democracy.



    [1] Duties of local authorities can be divided to two categories:

    Obligatory duties:

    The majority of local task provisions are under the exclusive authority of settlement local governments. The county local governments only cater for public services of larger volume and of regional character.

    The obligatory duties of local authorities are for example:

    • Cultural and educational tasks;
    • Health and social welfare tasks;
    • Communal provision tasks;
    • Water management tasks;
    • Traffic management;
    • Territorial development tasks;
    • Environment and nature protection,
    • Housing management tasks;
    • Local fire protection tasks;
    • Local duties of public security.

    Voluntary tasks:

    As stated above, apart from obligatory tasks (depending on local needs and the municipal economic capacities) local authorities may also take up voluntary tasks. Opportunities and the property situation of local authorities with the general aggravation of the conditions of economic management influences the number and the sphere of voluntary duties taken up by municipalities as well as their quality of management.


    [2] E.g. from central taxes assigned, from normative budgetary contribution, from target subsidies for socially priorised targets and claimed by local governments, for earmarked subsidies to selected local governments for the realization of certain investment projects with high costs etc.

    II. The process of the administrational reform


    1. The main motivations of reforms


    The Hungarian administrational reform is a permanent part of the programs by the different governments elected since 1989.


    The reasons of the reform are as follows:


    The consequences of the accession to the European Union, suitability to the 

    2.2. Dimensions and Options for Changes  of Local Policy


    The conventional prospects of local policy were based on the following.


    From the political factors emphasis must fall onto the characteristics of the Hungarian election system, for it affects the development of local policy.


    One characteristic comes from the peculiarity of the parliamentary poll system, namely for the Hungarian poll system is mixed, which means candidates gain mandates from votes in both local electoral districts and national or party lists. In the Hungarian Parliament, of the 386 obtainable seats 176 are filled up according to votes on individual candidates in local individual constituencies. The remaining seats are filled in virtue of votes given on party lists, less traceable to voters. This system maintains the weight of individual districts, the significance of territorial representation. Another peculiarity is the nearness between the parliamentary and the local governmental elections. Not more than half a year stands between them. In the five electoral periods all has occurred regarding the prognostication of party preferences. So thus local governmental and parliamentary majority could be in parallel in opposition of orientation; and thus could even be that difference in party preferences were rather small, and that it was significant.

    In my opinion the characteristics of the Hungarian poll map must be taken into consideration in the development of local policy, for it has clearly identifiable features and tendencies since before. (see 5. Table  )


    There are no regional parties, all parties are considered as statewide. The characteristic of party preferences is every settlement has rightists and leftists so there are no settlements with “one religion”, or “one-colour”, at best only proportions differ. Consequently there cannot be distinguishment between settlements by the mayor’s political confession. An additional peculiarity is that the local political elite and the state-wide political elite are implicated which is an outcome of both. Local political characters in a great proportion serve in the parliament also. There is a stream of persons ‘worn out’ in the field of central politics to continue their public activity on local levels of politics.


    2.3. Local referendum and popular initiative



    Local referendum and popular initiative are rarely applied forms in the exercise of local governmental rights. They should be used in the case of significant questions concerning the local community as a whole. The object of the popular initiative is that the body of representatives makes a decision in the initiated matter. The body of representatives may only begin the discussion of the initiated matter if it truly belongs to its sphere of power.



    a. Forums of public will


    Local authorities have to hold a public hearing every year. In the course of public audition, representatives of social and other organizations and the citizens turn directly to the body of representatives with their questions and proposals of common interest. The leading representatives of the local authority of settlements, especially of settlements with a larger population, hold town-district meetings to listen to the opinion of the citizens. In the communes, the body of representatives may present the key questions affecting the life of the communes before the village meeting in order to get to know the viewpoint of the citizens. The village meeting is not a decisive forum. However, based on the Act on Local Authorities, village meetings may exceptionally become decisive forums in the communities of a population less than 500 people.


    The course of popular initiatives and local referenda fluctuate year by year. It is peculiar of them to stall or in spite of ostensible „mass demand” became invalid because people not participate in voting.  In the 10-year period of 1999-2009 a total of 238 local popular initiatives reached the actual referendum status, which means 8 % of all Hungarian local governments.  40%  of these were legally valid and successful, meaning that an appropriate number of people participated and voted unitary for the same cause. (see 6. and 7. Table)


    Nevertheless it is quite the kind of local objectives popular initiatives are commenced for is quite typical. The most frequent cause is – and that is for one-third of successful referenda - the incitement for territory-organizing matters: citizen’s opinion is questioned about settlement contraction and partition or the belonging to another settlement or county.


    Greater and dramatic citizen emotions are not implicated directly by environmental protection matters, but by establishments serving environmental protection: landfills, sewage treatment plants and other similar facilities intending to place near residential areas are harshly protested against by citizens. The greatest social opposition is based upon either solving or withholding the placement of such facilities. Protests commence against industries considered to be pollutant.

    The quarter of referenda are initiated in these matters.


    The placement, establishment and cessation of public institutes trigger emotions and popular initiatives. Denizens resent especially the terminations of schools near residence.  In the mapping of citizen opinion about the establishment of communal utilities overtures are made by local governments. Citizen motion stand behind the protection of collective property and its detainment from privatization.


    The citizen estimation of settlement integration plans conventionally runs in order of prescriptions, thus all plans formally go through the filter of citizen before passed on to the delegate body of the local government. Nonetheless – probably because the contents and display of these plans are not clear enough to citizens and few people propose for the interpretation of them – often through formal conciliation and by chance way after the acceptance of the plans become their meaning clear. It is often required to modify an already accepted plan posterior, which evokes significant emotions.



    The possibility of popular initiative has a great impact on local governments’ local policy, for even in case it being unsuccessful, we must count with the opinion and adjudication of the citizens. All this has significant impact on the frames of partnership.





    • There is another problem, which keeps only professionals of administration, scholars and politicians of a narrow layer with widely open conflicts in excitement. Conceived or true pretensions run around two basic questions: first is the rational dimension of the local governmental level on which’s advantages and disadvantages could be argued pro and contra, while the second one is the question of the development of administrative levels. However because of multiple causes – of these in the first place must be mentioned the pretension of allocating Union sources, in the administration the rational increase of scale-economy – development of the regional system is constantly on the agenda. This development process is sometimes on the move, but sometimes languishes. Real inner demands do not give real dynamism and grounding to the process, for the economic advancement of the country is strongly diversificated, differences through the nineties have not reduced but instead increased, however this was not truly stressed by ethnical conflict. The replacement or partial replacement of county administration with regional administration (and self-governments of regions) is therefore always affected by current political factors.


    In 2007, the Parliament passed a bill, the Law on Multi-Purpose Micro-Regional Associations of Local Authorities that laid down detailed rules concerning the creation, the structure and the operation of the voluntary multi-purpose, micro-regional associations of local authorities. (LAU 1 level according to classification of European Union). The multi-purpose micro-regional associations have to be formed within the borders of pre-determined territory. In 2009 such consortia had been set up in 174 micro-regions. The number of them is changing year by year.


    The creation of the micro-region system may be imagined around three functions: municipal public services, territorial development function, and state administrative function. The association may participate in the harmonized development and territorial development of the micro-regions, may take up the provision, the development and the organization of public services, as well as the joint maintenance of institutions. The association undertakes the tasks and powers that were assigned to it by its members.


    In the succeeding, without a further detailed review on the functioning of the institutional system, I shall highlight some specific problems.


    2. Remarks on the forming of local policy in Hungary, with special regard to the local partnership: debates and the prospect of progress


    2.1.The main pillars of the debates


    The problems often mentioned in connection with the Hungarian local authority system have two fundamental sides. Partly these problems have rather long roots, one part of these problems can plainly be imputed to objective circumstances and partway to the principles of the reforms made. Strata network and former administrative conventions should be defined as objective circumstances. Among the reform’s principles the precept ‘one settlement, one local government’ was regarded as the fundamental value of democracy, though today many take it for a clamp.


    The other frequently sounded problem is the quantity of tasks and the their state subsidy. Multiple threads connect local governments and the state budget, the direct allocation from or money flow through the central budget is decisive in the management of local governments. The tasks and the number of the connecting normative subsidies are sometimes unreviewable, from time to time efforts are taken to reduce the number of so-called normative (per head subsidies), but these efforts all end in failure. So far local governments could only massively vindicate one method to increase their independent revenues, which is the privatization of its assets. This is why the proportion of local governmental assets has decreased and the process is slowly coming to an end.

    and local government system needs to become more efficient. This territorial

    reform is part of the reform in the administration. Presently, the seven statistical regions are mainly responsible for territorial development.  The creation of local authority regions is part of the administrational reform. The creation of regional local authorities presupposes extensive measures in decentralization such as transferring the tasks and powers of ministries and other central administrational bodies to regions.

    Finally, the administrational reform is also a financial question, for the reform would affect the central and the municipal budgets in order for tasks and costs to be in balance.

    Administrational system created following the political change in 1989 and the need to create a representative and administrative middle level.


    Recently the main areas of the administrational reform are:


    There is a need to create micro-regions in order for the quality of public services provided to citizens to become better. The principle characteristic of the Hungarian local government system is the existence of authorities of a low population and a poor level of economy. These settlements have a relatively great level of responsibilities; however, due to the non-differentiated nature of municipal powers they are unable to perform the majority of their tasks at an acceptable professional and efficient level. The strengthening of local authority co-operation is needed to improve the living standards of citizens and to prevent unreasonable social and territorial inequality. The possible solution for this problem is the promotion of regional relations and the creation of micro-regions. In order to increase the role of regions, the middle level of the administrational

    Principles of the European Administrational Area.

    The promotion of the human and citizens’ rights defined in the Constitution, the decreasing of the gaps in territorial development, the provision for the equality of access of citizens to the services of general interest. The making up for the political, legal and administrational deficiencies of the








    [2] These bills need the two-third part of the votes of the members of Parliament



In the further lines of my paper I will restrict to survey a narrower section, but their margins, events and factual achievements were and are still affected by the above-mentioned

III. Prospects of local policy


 1. New challenges after the joining to European Union


Non-obligatory tasks give a wide range of opportunities for local governments in the forming of local policy with regard to possibilities and local demand. Such specific “sector” local politics are local social policy and local economic policy. I count in local social policy e.g. the handling of sexual or other types of discrimination, the possibilities of advance in such, while by local economic policy I mean the helping of subsistence conditions, or more even the active participation in stepping forward: improving employment, orienting workplaces, bodying local tax policy etc.


As I have mentioned, the depth and often the set of means in forming the local economic policy is controversial. Practically much newer resorts or elements did not surface, for the already known set of means work.


There shows a sort of disorder in the interpretation of regional planning, probably not only in Hungary.


I would bring up as examples the following:


In the advisements in different levels of regional development, presently, tenders serving settlement aims are called for and evaluated, while true, traditionally meant objectives of regional development do not show in factual competencies.


I see the problem here: real economic advancement cannot be achieved by applications under the competency of local governments. Spatial differences in the painting and decorating of schools can indeed be decreased by small reconstructions. Via paintwork helps local employment and obviously local living conditions, by the same token the settlement itself becomes more competitive, but this in all does not try to affect the real root causes of the problem. Thus the small reconstruction program stimulates local income production capability, but with this surely does not have an effect on the foundation of the problems nor has an effect for long terms.


In my opinion, even this short train of thought underpins that the definition of regional and settlement development must be rethought. Can regional development be approached and operated amidst only the aspects and competency frames of settlement local governments? Do settlement level approximations add up to traditional regional policy’s system of objectives and set of means? In other words: can regional policy of national scale be assembled by means of settlement development?


The answer is evidently, no. The vital question is, which must be rethought on the basics: what do we mean on regional development policy, what is its objectives, what means does it have in the changing world? How can regional policy and settlement development policy be connected rationally?


An additional problem is, that with its present state of development and present problems, depleting seems local government’s opportunities to utilize the traditional settlement and local governmental roll of means, e.g. releasing local tax, granting free parcels to enterprises promoting to settle. The depletion of local governmental assets and releasing revenues narrows the opportunities of the local government. With the shortage of local incomes, even the decorating of a public nursery becomes problematic.


Besides the dilemmas on operating local economic policy, efforts made for the possibilities of operating social policy are neither aspectable. Here in Hungary, the fight against ethnical segregation should be by all means mentioned. It can have serious consequences in a settlement’s life too.


We must also mention the mental barriers.


Some typical stances of the directors of local governments are the following:


  • in favour of poll maximalization conflicts are not assumed in order to raise revenues of the local government


  • Solutions are awaited from ’above”, namely little money is given by the central government to solve local problems, normative are low etc.


It seems that these mental approach problems could only be changed in generations.



2. Currant frames of local policy and partnership to face



The most important factor in the forming of local policy is the connection between the central government and the local governments.  The representative tendency in their connection is decentralization. It can be indicated, that although the process is slow, progress still occurs.  This progress interspersed with detour and withdrawal has an affect on all points of local policy. In the relation of the central and local government till now the centrums function is dominant. Apart from probable self-restraint, the clinging to centralized governance traditional to East Europe draws decisively behind the drawling progress of decentralization. Slow progress in the case of financial decentralization is motivated by the strive for avoiding lavishment and comminution of recourses.


A conceivable field of local policy is settlement cooperation. Therein progress was made by the development of multi-purpose associations of micro-regions. However, a number of questions concerning the roles of micro-regions still stand open, for these constructs can in no way substitute the system of larger local governments, and as a mid-installed level would make the system unclear and overcomplicated.


Another important field of local policy is the network of connections within settlements, which run on multiple threads. These are partly centred on cooperation methods of enterprises, profit and non-profit oriented organizations working in the settlements. An ascending emphasis is placed on additionally the questions on dealing with residents as partners. The local referenda, which were primarily arranged in connection with questions on the autonomy of settlements and urban parts or matters of urban development, generally came through with meagre attendance. A single exception was civil protest against polluting objects and local or regional environmental contamination problems (sequential residential protest against refuse landfills, disposal areas).


These often showed however, that communication between the local government and citizens is failing and inadequate.


The lack of such however, may have a remarkably harmful effect on the operation of local control. From this aspect the local information system has extremely important role.


Local information flow lags way behind modern technical possibilities and true demands in every settlement, including Budapest. Local media is scant and powerless, in spite of that the toolkit of the local information flow is widely broadened with electronic media gaining ground. All forms of local information flow in Hungary are rather underdeveloped. Its role in public policy is still in deed small. The lack of local media causes impairment in the proper function of local society control, even in the cases of settlement or regional development programs.


Summing up the aboves, in the interpretation of local policy a paradigm shift is needed: a rational connection must be found to competitive aims and to innovative policy. It is indispensable for the local policy to appoint adequate socio-political goals e.g. the fight against segregation, objectives considering the equal opportunity of sexes also.