Vol 1, No 18
25 October 1999

L E T T E R S:
On Czech Regionalisation

Vit Novotny

I have just read your article on the Czech Republic 1992 to 1999. I think the article is useful guide both to newcomers to Czech politics and economics, and it can refresh memory of those more involved.

Let me comment though on one detail under "The Social Democratic government" sub-heading, as there are some inaccuracies in the paragraph on regionalisation.

In Zeman's cabinet plan, the issue was not to amend the 1997 constitutional law. That law remains as it had been approved. It has not been seriously threatened so far, and is highly unlikely to be amended due to the three-fifth majority that is needed in both chambers to change the Constitution.

The new plan was to conform to the European Commission's (specifically Eurostat) demands for such division of the country into statistical units in which each statistical region - "NUTS II" - would have at least one million inhabitants. The division into eight NUTS II statistical regions has no impact on the existence of the current fourteen regions, in the future to be led by elected representations. There have been government-appointed Regional Co-ordination Groups in the future fourteen regions since Autumn 1998. These groups have worked out Regional Development Strategies for purposes of both the domestic and the EU regional policy.

This certainly adds to the confusion, but it is not Zeman's government fault. Indeed, in 1997, the Social Democrats preferred 9 regions over 14, and that variant would be simpler and conforming to the EU criteria.

In those EU member states that have some form of regional self-government in place, the regions usually do not conform to the EU statistical regions, not least because the EU structural funds came after the country decided on its internal structure. For example, in Austria, the NUTS II regions are identical with the Laender, smaller than one million in population. In England, NUTS II are composed of several existing counties - the same arrangement as in the Czech Republic. It is true that the new Polish regions conform to the EU statistical criteria, but compared with the current EU members, the Czech Republic is no exception in deciding its subdivision without regard to the EU's NUTS statistical regions. And the European Commission has no particular problem with that.

Vit Novotny, Department of Government, University of Strathclyde, Scotland



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