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Panel 3: Multi-level governance and participatory decision-making

Chair: Prof. Harald Wydra, University of Cambridge


Ms. Joanna Erbel, Leader of Local Government Club, CoopTech Hub, and President, Fundacja Blisko, Poland
Mr. Ondrej Lunter, Vice-President of Banska Bystrica Self-Governing Region, Slovakia

Ms. Tereza Vohryzková, Co-founder of Auto-mat, Czech Republic

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Panel 3

Multi-level governance and participatory decision-making play a key role in democratic systems by diffusing power, bringing decisions closer to the people affected and improving efficiency and accountability.  

Multi-level governance refers to the vertical and horizontal spread of power amongst government, NGOs, local and regional stakeholders, civil society etc. It is often seen as part of the “silent” revolution of decentralisation which has been underlying some of Europe’s most important governance reforms of the past 50 years. In the EU in general, almost 95 000 authorities on the local and regional level have significant powers, as well as a crucial role in implementing around 70% of EU legislation. The role of local and regional authorities was particularly strengthened by the Treaty of Lisbon which gave significant decision-making powers to regions as well as the Committee of the Regions.

However, large parts of Central Europe remain centralised. For instance, whilst the Czech Republic and Poland have been classified as Type 2 fiscally decentralised by the OECD (second highest), Hungary and Slovakia remain in the lowest category. Municipality sizes also differ significantly. Czechia, Slovakia and Hungary are amongst the four OECD states with the largest proportion of municipalities having fewer than 2000 inhabitants (cca 90%, 85% and 75% respectively), whilst in Poland, such small municipalities are practically non-existent..

Determining subsidiarity concerns and identifying the right level between EU, national,  regional and local levels can be challenging, but it is crucial to effective policy design and implementation. Various issues ranging from planning through climate adaptation to housing and land use can be addressed most effectively if the knowledge of the local communities is considered rather than being decided centrally in the capital far away from where the issues lie. This is where participatory decision-making plays an important role in giving people a voice.

However, for effective place-based and regional policy, it is necessary that functioning institutions which are well-funded and have sufficient powers are in place. But how much power should be given to regions and cities and which topics should be in their remits? Does multi-level governance create gaps and overlaps or is it crucial to efficient governance? Should we include citizens in participative decision-making, and if so – how?

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