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Concept and Design of Local Self-Government in Europe

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Chapter Summary

In the third Chapter, a definition of local self-government as a democratic institution (§ 3. I) will be provided. In Europe local self-government is in fact conceived as somewhere between an original freedom of local authorities and as a specific type of administrative discretion acknowledged by the State to its decentralised entities. At the same time, it is overwhelmingly coupled with the democratic nature of its governing bodies. From a theoretical point of view, local self-government is generally treated as a “bundle of sticks”, that is to say not as a single unitary thing, but as an assemblage of different powers, which ought to be constitutionally protected. A systematic reading of the nature and content of each of these guarantees will be provided (§ 3.II.). For each provision, the principle and right underlying it will be identified and isolated and it will be assessed whether and, if so, how it has embodied the common legal traditions of the signatory States as well as how the States which later ratified it have been influencing its interpretation. Special attention will be given to the theoretical influence of the German concept of local autonomy on the content of each guarantee. In fact, it will be submitted that the guarantees set out in the Charter mostly correspond to those enshrined under the German constitutional framework, at either federal or regional level. Furthermore, on the basis of the Council of Europe practice, it will be discussed as to what extent each principle and right applies equally in the member States and in which areas its application varies according to a State’s “margin of appreciation”, i.e. considering the different characteristics and traditions from country to country (e.g.: form of government, size of local authorities, local government model, etc.) or depending on financial, political or social circumstances.



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