REVIEW #9: Planning for Shrinkage? Battle Between the Slovenian State and the Municipalities

Slovenia is one of the most centralized countries in the European Union with a one-tier local government system. While the country ratified the European Charter on Local Government in 1996, the charter was never fully implemented – for example, the subsidiarity and connexity principles are still lacking full implementation and regions have not yet been established. This is the reason why the relations between the state on the one side and municipalities on the other have slowly deteriorated, especially over questions of local funding and the existence of small municipalities.

Every year we witness unpleasant (and certainly unfriendly) negotiations between the municipalities and state government over the funding, as the government unilaterally provides less money to municipalities as is guaranteed by the law. Furthermore, the government is quietly trying to force municipalities into consolidation. Both actions lead into even stronger centralization.

Time and again we read about the intentions of the Slovenian state to reduce the municipal financing, which in the system of local government ensures sufficient financing to the minimal legal framework of municipal mandatory tasks. At the same time, there are (sometimes hostile) calls for the total abolition or at least compulsory consolidation of municipalities, with the main argument of saving substantial public funds, solve the financial problems of the state and contribute to the greater financial autonomy of the large municipalities, which would be formed with such an action.

There are so many inaccuracies, distorted truths, half-truths, and misrepresentations here that it is very hard, if not impossible, to believe how much the state’s attitude towards local government has changed in the twenty years since the (re)establishment of the local government system in 1994. Since then, the issue of municipal financing has been one of the key factors in the functioning of local democracy.

In the Slovenian local government system, the municipality is defined as a basic local community, which independently regulates all local public affairs and independently disposes of its assets. The Slovenian state has – probably in the eagerness of the reintroduction of local government – ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government (MELLS)1 in 1996, which has the status of an above-constitutional document in the legal order, and which defines the basic principles of local government regulation in Europe.

Although the state has (deliberately) forgotten about the ratified charter, MELLS nevertheless clearly requires that:

a) the local communities have adequate and autonomous financial resources, with which they should freely dispose;

b) the financial resources of local communities must be in proportion to their tasks and competences;

c) at least a part of the financial resources must originate from autonomous taxes and fees, which local communities should determine themselves;

d) the financial resources of the local communities are sufficiently diverse and adaptable to follow – as closely as possible – the costs of carrying out the entrusted tasks;

e) the state needs to consult local communities about the allocation of redistributed financial resources;

f) the funds allocated by the state to local communities as subsidies and grants are not strictly dedicated, and;

g) the provision of such funds should not interfere with the fundamental freedom of local communities to freely decide within their own competences.

A quick overview of the above-mentioned elements of MELLS tells us that the Slovenian government and its ministries do not take MELLS into serious consideration and sometimes seem not even to realize what is written in MELLS.


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1European Charter on Local Self-Government (1985) Available [online]: