Decentralisation and division of competences in the EU Member States is one of the key aspects of the subsidiarity principle that the Committee of the Regions regularly monitors reviews and strongly defends. It plays an important role, especially now in times of economic turmoil, when citizens expect actions to be taken at the closest level possible.
In the opinion which evaluates the state of the devolution in the EU and place for local and regional self-government in the EU policy making and delivery, EPP rapporteur Franz Schausberger is pleased to assess that European integration has contributed in a decisive way to local and regional devolution. He notes that the growing trend towards centralisation is based on the mistaken assumption that transferring public services to the central government level will make them more cost-effective. Indeed, in the context of the sovereign debt crisis, the merger of municipalities is very often used as an economic argument to achieve cost savings but which Franz Schausberger considers not to be based on adequate studies or analyses.
The rapporteur reiterates that in accordance with the principles of good governance and better law-making, regional and local authorities, as well as the parties responsible for implementing EU policy at sub-national level, must be more actively and effectively involved as early as possible in designing and implementing EU policies and legislation. In this context, he additionally calls on all EU Member States to establish an appropriate legal framework for their sub-national authorities at the highest possible level - if possible in their constitution. He is convinced that functioning local and regional administration and effective devolution should be based on the principles of subsidiarity, proportionality and multilevel governance, conducted through democratically elected and fully representative bodies that are accountable to their people.
The opinion also encourages the Member States to replace transfer payments, as far as possible, with own financial resources i.e. independently raised sub-national taxes or charges. This draws from the findings of the recent European Commission report on Public Finances in the Economic and Monetary Union, which shows a growing trend towards fiscal decentralisation and a greater efficiency of own-resources versus transfers as a funding tool. The European Commission is encouraged to repeat this review of sub-national public finances every year.