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Activities

"2010"

Year 2010 was an important year especially due to the May parliamentary elections and the setting up of a new government, which, unlike the previous government of experts, immediately began to push through its political aims. In its everyday activities, the Union therefore concentrated primarily on eliminating the negative impacts, which the proposed legislation and other measures put forward by ministerial authorities or based on parliamentary initiative, had on the functioning of towns and municipalities. The Union strongly objected to the proposed reduction of the contribution towards covering expenses incurred by municipalities as a result of the execution of state administration delegated to them by the state and to the planned centralization of public administration. The Union continued pursuing its efforts to strengthen the regulatory role of municipalities in the area of gambling and defended the positions of member municipalities in debates on the Budgetary Determination of Taxes Act Amendment. It followed new issues emerging in connection with rural development financing from EU grants. It pressed for the needs and problems of municipalities to be taken into consideration more readily in drafting grant programs for the period after 2013 than was the case in debates on programs covering the years 2007-2013.

 A number of important meetings took place in 2010. One of the first was the meeting of the Board of the Chamber of Municipalities with representatives of Czech Post held on 9 February. Still before, at the end of 2009, the President of the Union and the General Director of Czech Post signed an agreement on the sustained availability of postal services on the entire territory of the state. After that, the Chamber of Municipalities continued inviting representatives of the Post to attend its meetings and worked so as to influence its plans concerning the transformation of the post office network and the changes in the provision of postal services in small communities.

In February, discussions opened on the property tax. The seminar organized by the Union in collaboration with Cevro Institute, a university-level college, held on 18 February, revealed unequivocally that there was room for boosting the role of the tax in community budgets, pointing out, however, that the state should retain the responsibility of adjusting the basic parameters of its calculation. After the May elections the discussion continued and gave an impulse to drawing up a completely new property tax act.

On 26 March, Michael Kocáb, outgoing minister for human rights and ethnic minorities, accepted the invitation to attend the meeting of the Union Board to discuss with the Board members the position of the Social Integration Agency in the framework of public administration. After a broad discussion the Board agreed to the establishment of the Agency as a central administration authority with effect from 1 January 2012, providing the proponent will reduce its basic competences, in particular that he will completely omit from the intended substance of the law its supervisory and control power over the execution of the independent jurisdiction of territorial administration units.

On the last day of March, after nearly a year’s intermission, the working group at the Ministry of Finance concerned with the preparation of the Act on the budgetary determination of taxes, resumed its agenda. By calling the meeting, the Minister of Finance, Eduard Janota, complied with the request of the mayors, and discussions opened on the future of self-government financing. From the very beginning, the main effort was focused on ensuring the transparency of the grant system and on the property tax act amendment.

In spring 2010, debates took place on the legislative regulation of gaming. On 23 April, the Union Council met to discuss the Lotteries Act Amendment intended to strengthen the role of municipalities in the regulation of gambling. The amendment, passed by the Chamber of Deputies at that time, although not providing for higher income to flow to the municipalities from gambling, at the moment seemed to be the most acceptable and responsible move with respect to the citizens. The Union Council addressed all the senators by letter asking them to also support the amendment. The Senate accepted the Union’s arguments and passed the amendment at its session in May. After that, however, the amendment was vetoed by the President.

In the week from 3 to 7 May, representatives of the Chamber of Municipalities made a study tour to find out how the interests of the self-governments were being asserted at EU level. The delegation first visited The Hague and then Brussels. Thanks to the Union President Oldřich Vlasák the mayors had an opportunity to hold discussions with important representatives of the Czech Republic in the EU, for example EU Commissioner Štefan Füle and Ambassador to the EU Milena Vicenová. Although the environment in Brussels made a rather impersonal impression on the participants, they all appreciated the possibility of being able to better learn and understand how the EU really works and what role the different EU institutions play.

On 20 May, the Safety Commission met in Prague for an extraordinary session. In response to the devastating floods that hit certain areas in the Czech Republic it was necessary to discuss measures to speed up the construction of anti-flood facilities and ensure its efficiency. Apart from obtaining financial resources for flood protection projects the Commission raised the problem of unresolved property rights to land on which the anti-flood facilities were to be built. The Safety Commission voiced its unequivocal demand for broadening the definition of public utility structures with the addition of structures protecting the property, health and lives of citizens against the negative consequences of floods and inundations. If accepted, the owner’s consent to the construction of anti-flood facilities would not be required and the property rights issues would be settled subsequently.

On 25 May, at the 17th Congress of Mayors in Brno, Jan Zikl, director of the territorial budget financing department of the Ministry of Finance, thanked the mayors for their exemplary economic management of towns and municipalities. At the same time he pointed out that the municipalities should continue to be circumspect in their deliberations, focus on financial prudence and avoid raising their debts. The mayors were told how to apply for grants from the Green Light to Saving program, they were acquainted with the situation in water management project financing and with the new provisions of the Water Act Amendment published in the Collection of Laws on 21 May.

Since the beginning of May, the Union has been taking an active part in all platforms created by the Ministry for Regional Development for debates on the future priorities to be financed by EU funds after 2013 in the Czech Republic. There, the Union’s representatives raised problems facing local governments in using EU funds.

On 10 June, local government representatives met experts at the 2nd road safety conference “BESIP in towns and communities as seen by the media”. They learned how to correctly communicate with journalists and how to participate in road safety programs for nursery schools.

In July, August and September, the Union took part in preparations for the approaching communal elections. Through its Information Service and web sites it gave replies to a number of related questions. Readers could learn how to correctly hand over the office, how remuneration is to be paid out at the end of the term of office and what should its amount be, who has the decision-making power in the community before the new body of deputies meets and when should the body have its first meeting. The Union has prepared the third edition of the Manual for Community Representatives, which has become the first useful guide for newly elected representatives.

Another project, which the Union completed during the summer months, was an Analysis of Community Needs, prepared upon the request of the Ministry for Regional Development. The analysis singled out the essential needs, summed up the requirements to be met for their financing and pointed out the main administrative and bureaucratic obstacles facing self-governments. The analysis has become a valuable basis for the municipalities’ arguments in their applications for funding after the year 2013.

On 11 June, another joint session of the Czech and the Slovak Unions took place in Bratislava. The most-widely discussed subject again was, regrettably, the still burning issue of flooding, draft measures aimed at reducing flood risks and assistance to the affected communities. The representatives of the two associations also discussed the impacts of the economic crisis on the towns and municipalities and the common approach of SMO CR and ZMOS to influencing EU legislation.

Flood-prevention measures were also on the agenda of the meeting of representatives of the Union and the Association of Regions in Olomouc on 25 June, where the Union voiced its support to the initiative of Moravian regions for the realization of flood-prevention measures called the “Olomouc Appeal”. At the joint session, the participants also discussed the regulation of gambling and the drawing of financial support from EU sources after 2013.

On 4 August, the new Czech Government published its program statement, which included a number of suggestions concerning self-government. The Union welcomed that the Government had accepted the Union’s requirement, which it was pressing for many years, to make the grant system more clear and transparent and strengthen shared tax sources. A positive move, according to the Union, is the Government’s commitment to settle the church property restitution issue, and its effort to ensure a standard taxation of gambling and the strengthening of the possibility of its regulation by municipalities. The Union valued negatively the lowering of the limit for small-size public contracts, which may cause complications, especially to small municipalities. Another risk is the intention to broaden the powers of the Supreme Control Office, which could lead to further overlapping of audits. Rather controversial are efforts to institute the direct election of mayors in “small” municipalities.

The forming of the new cabinet was immediately followed by meetings of the Union’s representatives with the ministers, with whom issues concerning municipalities and towns were discussed. The Union’s representatives thus met with the Minister of Agriculture Ivan Fuksa, the Health Minister Leoš Heger, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Jaromír Drábek, the Prime Minister Petr Nečas, the Minister of Industry and Trade Martin Kocourek, the Minister of Culture Jiří Besser, the Interior Minister Radek John and the Minister for Regional Development Karel Jankovský.

On 26 August, partners to the “Norwegian Project” met on the premises of Průhonice Castle to become acquainted with the project and the Union’s follow-up activities. The successful Czech-Norwegian project for the education of local government members was one of the corner stones of the comprehensive project for the support of elected members of local governments, entitled Well-educated Local Government Member, the realization of which started on 1 September. Besides education provided directly in the communities, the representatives will be able to take advantage of e-learning and the services of the information and consulting centre. For the realization of the three-year project, the Union obtained a grant to the amount of CZK 42.5 million, 85% of which is accounted for by co-financing from EU funds. This will make it possible for all the local government members to use the services concerned free.

Although the president vetoed the Lotteries Act Amendment, the Union continued to cooperate on the preparation of a new act, which, while respecting the interests of the operators, will in the first place defend the interests of the communities and the citizens. The deliberations resulted in a seminar held on 13 September and called “The irreplaceable role of towns and municipalities in the regulation of gaming”. The Union arranged the seminar in the Chamber of Deputies under the auspices of deputies Jana Černochová and Tomáš Chalupa. At the seminar, the mayors and the deputies and senators were all agreed on the basic principles of the future legislation and the necessity of common action. The Union once again reiterated the requirement for municipalities to be granted regulative powers in this area, the demand for the shortening of the duration of permissions already issued to video-lottery terminals to a maximum three years and the maintenance of conditions set out by the rules and regulations governing the territory, where the gambling activities are operated.

One of the most important events in 2010 was another meeting of the Union’s representatives with the Government of the Czech Republic, which took place on 22 September, again at the Government Office. Such meetings are held each year under the Mutual Cooperation Agreement signed in 2005. This time, the participants’ attention focused on municipality financing, gaming issues, transfer of state property into municipality ownership, social services financing, public order, etc. Although the Union and Government representatives did not reach agreement on all the issues discussed, the deliberations can be considered very valuable for both parties.

On the first day in October, the Union Council met in Prague, the last time in the set-up, in which it worked since the 2007 Congress. It discussed current legislative issues and expressed essential disagreement with the reduction by 17.6% in 2011 of the contribution towards covering expenses incurred by the communities as a result of the delegated execution of state administration to them. In view of the approaching communal elections, which were held on 14 and 15 October, it rendered its thanks to all mayors and local government members for their good work in the past election period.

During the whole of 2010 partial deliberations were held between the Chamber of Municipalities and Czech Post. One of the essential meetings was that of the President of the Chamber of Municipalities, Josef Bezdíček, with the Director of the Department of the Postal Network Architecture, Rastislav Horáček, held on 26 October. The main subject discussed was the terms of privatization of the Czech Post State Enterprise and the sustainability of the Partner project.

The conference “Towns of the Future”, organized by the Union, which took place in the Senate on 26 November, pointed out the essential obstacles hampering the development of our towns. The conference set out the challenges facing the self-governments and outlined possibilities of solving existing problems. Also discussed were EU funds and the future drawing terms and conditions, as they are one of the principal sources stimulating the development of our towns.

A meeting of the renewed inter-ministerial working group, attended by the Minister of Finance Miroslav Kalousek and his deputies, was held on 26 November to discuss issues concerning the budgetary determination of taxes. Here, the same as at the meeting with Eduard Janota in March 2010, the Union once again pushed forward positions based on the long-term requirements of member municipalities.

The autumn financial conference, the 13th in its history, was held in Prague on 2 and 3 December and was subtitled “Municipalities and the Government at the start of a new partnership”. The motto reflected the new situation created after the parliamentary and communal elections. New faces appeared both in the conference hall and at the chairman’s desk. One of the main subjects was again the envisaged reduction of the contribution to cover expenses incurred to them in connection with the delegation of the execution of state administration to them, which the speakers raised several times in the course of the conference. Jan Zikl, director of the territorial budget financing department of the Ministry of Finance, confirmed the Ministry’s effort to meet the Union’s long-term efforts and shift the grant titles to shared taxes. Considerable time was devoted to gaming issues, the reform of the accounting system and the excessive indebtedness of municipalities.

 At the end of the year 2010, on 13 December, the Union set up an endowment fund in support of local governments. The purpose of the fund is to create conditions for cooperation between entities and institutions engaged in public administration and the public sector, between public administration and the private sector, between the self-governments and specialized entities whose activities are related to the execution of public administration and its development, especially at the local level.

In the course of the whole year, the Union actively supported the establishment of international partnerships between towns and municipalities, i.e. twinning. Together with the Association of Towns and Communities of Slovakia it became engaged in the preparation of a joint project aimed at promoting international partnerships of Czech and Slovak towns to be realized in 2011. In 2010, the Union also participated in the preparation of two international seminars concerned with twinning, where discussions focused on the needs and expectations of citizens in relation to the partnership activities of their municipalities and towns.

Cooperation continued also with the other local government associations, as many of them receive foreign delegations on the Union’s ground. At these encounters they exchange experience and give examples of good practice in the work of the self-governments and the associations themselves. In 2010, the Union’s office was the welcoming scene for visiting representatives from Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus and Estonia. Bulgarian and Serbian representatives were also welcomed there.

Union members were kept informed continuously about all the Union’s activities on its web sites, in its Information Service monthly and its electronic bulletin.

 
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Calendar

24. October 2017

Výroční konference IROP „Kulturní dědictví ze strukturálních fondů"

1. November 2017

Konference "Kybernetická bezpečnost"

Praha
1. November 2017 15:00-17:00

Komora obcí

Praha 9, Clarion Congress Hotel Prague
 
2. November 2017

Národní informační den pro oblast ENERGY a EURATOM

Praha
2. - 3. November 2017

XX. celostátní finanční konference

Clarion Congress Hotel Prague

Address

Union of Towns and Municipalities of the Czech Republic 
Prague Congress Centre
5. května 1640/65
140 00 Prague 4
Czech Republic

tel.: +420 234 709 711
fax: +420 234 709 786
e-mail: smocr@smocr.cz