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«Phd Programme in Political Science Ph.D. THESIS Tamás Szabó Local government relations in Urban Areas Abstract Supervisor: Attila Ágh DSc ...»

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Phd Programme in

Political Science


Tamás Szabó

Local government relations in Urban




Attila Ágh DSc


Budapest, 2015

Institute for Political Science


Tamás Szabó

Local government relations in Urban




Attila Ágh DSc


Szabó Tamás

Table of contents

I. The premises of the research and the choice of topic

II. Methodology

III. Main research findings

III.1 Thesis no. 1 on the inadequate regulatory environment

III.2 Thesis no. 2 on the new institution at the agglomeration-level

III.3 Special governance model for urban areas in Hungary

IV. Main references

V. Author’s publications

I. The premises of the research and the choice of topic I chose the issue of urban governance for my dissertation thesis at the beginning of my PhD. studies. I worked as a public servant for four years in the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, from 2006 to 2010 (knows between 2008-2010 as the Ministry of Local Government). During that time I dealt with local authorities on a daily basis. Furthermore, my professional interest in local governments strengthened significantly over the last 5 years.

The focus of my attention for years has been effective good governance in metropolitan/urban areas. In 2010 I undertook the preparation of the local government specialization Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science at King Sigismund College, Budapest. Since then I have taught relevant subjects, for example public management and local public policy. The agglomeration policy is the main focus of research. Regarding policy interests, my decision has a personal aspect. I have lived in a young town neighboring Budapest for nearly a decade. Having officially become a town in 2000, nowadays my settlement occupies a good position in the south-east metropolitan area of Budapest. I have the suburban lifestyle, for instance commuting daily from my home to Budapest, or spatial spillover on the spreading of urban services in settlements undergoing suburbanization.

In general, significant legal and institutional conversion was introduced by Parliament and new government after 2010. The question is how this has affected the operations and attitudes of Hungarian municipalities.

Metropolitan / urban governance is an exciting issue in the global era. According to the reports of the UN, OECD, EU and many think-thanks, the world has permanently taken on an urban nature [State of the World’s Cities 2010/2011, 9-10. pp.; OECD2000; Leipzig Charta, 2007]. The 21st century is about cities and the functional urban area. The background of this process consists of migration from village to cities, geographic localization and infrastructure development in urban areas. More and more public and private actions concentrate on urban spaces in all continents. Today cities and their agglomeration zones coexist together. These are complex symbiotic relationships that have some dominant object, for example commuting from suburban settlements to downtowns, expanding urban public and private services (education, public and private health etc.) in full agglomeration zones and a high number of suburban dwellers working in cities. Perhaps the most exciting characteristic is the so-called spillover function as a postmodern economic phenomenon. This means that the influences of cities extend over their administrative borders. However, we face a wide swath of negative functional


­ Urban overpopulation;

­ Waste disposal and sewage management;

­ Poverty and the spread of slums;

­ Traffic chaos around cities.

The main difficult but essential policy issue in functional urban areas is the antagonism between the administrative self-government units and functional linkage of cities and other settlements.

Policy decision makers have tried to resolve this holistic conflict for nearly 200 years. Initially based on tested solutions, rude expansive methods were employed — for instance annexation or the fusion of cities and villages. In the 20th century the attitude of local political elites changed in some urban areas. After World War II, instead of previous conflict-oriented motivations, consensus-based solutions were applied for metropolitan/urban governance for circa half a century. Decision makers have created so-called two-tier metropolitan governments in urban areas since then. This kind of government structure is more sophisticated than one-tier government, thanks to the respecting of settlements’ local government autonomy around the city [OECD, 2014a; OECD, 2012b; Lefévre, 1998, 2010; Barlow1991]. I collected the most important policy papers (UN, OECD, the EU) and some North American and European theories in urban governance covering the past 15-20 years [OECD2000, OECD2014a, OECD2014b, Barlow, 1991; Walker, 1987; Hamilton, 1999; Kálmán, 2005; Lefévre, 1998, 2010].

I point out that Hungarian urbanization is very different from international experiences.

First, in Hungary the demographic growth of the urban area population is much slower than in North America or Western Europe. Second, only the Hungarian capital city (Budapest) and its metropolitan area belongs to the category of Functional Urban Areas, in accordance with international standards (500.000 inhabitants / urban area). According to some reports, the urbanization process in some neighborhoods in Budapest have turned to a de-urbanization phase. What’s more, in certain inner districts (VII. or XIII.) of Budapest there are visible signs of the phase of re-urbanization in this decade. However, this is taking place parallel to the phase of suburbanization in surrounding municipalities [KSH, 2014a; Filep, 2014, Beluszky-Győri, 2004; Szilágyi-Gerse, 2015].

II. Methodology

The dissertation has two determinate viewpoints: a geographic comparative dimension on the one hand and a temporal comparative dimension on the other. In the latter the historical archive of metropolitan / urban governance is visible. To find the roots of this topic we have to go back to the 19th century. Similar analogous pressures emerged in both North-America and Europe. However, the decision makers attempted to apply similar solutions. For nearly 200 years the main policy target was to mitigate fragmented administration space in urban areas.

The urban governance literature acknowledges different instruments as rude expansive or soft cooperative methods as a first classification [Barlow, 1991; Walker, 1987; Lefévre, 1998];

Horváth M. 2007b, 2005, 1995; Hoffmann, 2009]:

­ Annexation – rude expansive method ­ Fusion – rude expansion method ­ Partnership or association – soft cooperative method ­ Financial transfer – soft cooperative method ­ Privatization – soft operation method ­ Other public management instruments – soft operative method A number of experts use government and governance terminology for urban / agglomeration policy as a second classification. Hamilton combined this approach on a centralized versus

decentralized axis [Hamilton, 1999]:

­ Type of centralized and government instrument – annexation, fusion, other incorporate methods ­ Type of centralized and governance instrument – shared tax base in urban area ­ Type of decentralized and government instrument – partnership among local governments, special- or general-purpose metropolitan/agglomeration council ­ Type of decentralized and governance instrument – privatization, finance transfer from national state or regional level We can differentiate these methods pursuant to their simple and complex structures as a third

classification [Hamilton, 1999; Barlow 1991]:

­ Special-purpose metropolitan government structure – e.g., metropolitan transport authority; medical/hospital district ­ General-purpose metropolitan government structure – e.g., one-tier metropolitan/city council; two-tier metropolitan/agglomeration council I offer these three holistic classifications for the interpretation of metropolitan/agglomeration policy. Some researchers use them in a geographic comparative dimension and temporal comparative dimension. For example, we examine the history of Budapest over one and half centuries. This was a period of rude expansive methods, e.g.

annexation in 1873 and 1950, but attempts to utilize soft cooperative methods existed, for example the Development Council of the Budapest Agglomeration in the last decade. But we can summarize history of Budapest by two others dimensions: nature of government or governance, and general or special-purpose – e.g., the Budapest Public Works Department from 1870 to 1948.

Today the topic is especially discussed as policy issue around the world. I would like to highlight two international organizations — the OECD and the European Union — which often release policy papers about this issue. It is important to recognize some aspirations of the European Union, especially. Accepted for the European Spatial Development Perspectives, the topics of urban areas and polycentric spatial development have come to the fore in the EU (ESDP, Lille, Leipzig, Gödöllő) since 1999. The EU’s policy papers motivate national governments in domestic policies, specifically in terms of spatial development, economic policy or social cohesion in urban areas. When examining related decisions and initiations of central government or local governments we take into consideration these EU-related aspects.

To analyze approaching public policy, conflicts in metropolitan/agglomeration areas is multifaceted process. I identify the main reference points after reading and synthesizing international

and domestic local governance literature:

The structure of municipalities concerning the number of settlement for one local government –- i.e., the principle “one settlement one local government” — This guideline has been existent in Hungary since regime changing [Pálné, 2008a; Horváth M., 2007b].

The content of local public services –- This means we have to investigate what functions belong to the central or local level. This depends on state organization, because the type of local service can be wider when decentralized (federal or regional) but narrower in a centralized state [Horváth M. 2002; Hoffmann, 2008; Horváth M., 2002].

The shortage of the capacity of municipalities -– Regarding disparity of qualitative service. In general cities or towns have higher quality public service capacity than villages or smaller towns. This shortage is more likely to appear in the fragmented municipality system [Horváth M. 2013; Vigvári, 2007].

The dimension of legal status, methods on municipalities — For example the process of becoming a town; obligatory or optional local functions [Szigeti, 2002; Hoffmann, 2009;

Hegedűs, 2008].

Financed structure for agglomeration administrative and governance institutions — The main question for this reference point is the level of independence or dependence. The more independent local finance (particularly own income –- e.g., local business tax), the better the position for effective local policies and social projects [OECD, 2000].

Three elements of policy coordination in urban areas — According to researchers the first element is territorial coordination between international, national and subnational policy actors. The second element is functional coordination with supranational (EU, etc.), national as well as subnational or local political and economic, civic stakeholder representatives. The third element is so-called inter-sectoral coordination which is about partnership with international and internal business, media actors and ultimately local society [Salet-Thornley-Kreukels, 2003]. But the kind of cooperation evaluated in the dissertationis the partnership and cooperation among local governments in urban areas.

I took into consideration international experiences and theories in the dissertation chapters on internal aspects. I treat the regime change and original Act on local government as an intersection (Act 1990. No. LXV. – old Act about local governments). I tried to review the entirety of public administration literature about cities and types of cooperation in urban areas after 1990. Meanwhile, I focused on national politics, i.e., government modernization goals from 1990 to 2015 and the changes in the regulatory environment in all legislative cycles.

Furthermore, I compared legal institutions for partnership among local governments from the regime change. The spreading of the application of legal institutions was an important indicator in the dissertation. Apart from every settlement’s cooperation, I specifically concentrated on role of Budapest and cities with county rights. From the beginning I have had the intention to unearth direct empirical experiences about the topic. Therefore, I aimed to connect valid empirical research with the internal chapters of dissertation. I received operational and methodological aid for the preparation and interpretation of statistical data. Finally, during data collection, 241 mayor filled out the questionnaire about partnership and cooperation between cities and neighborhood settlements (towns, villages). I interpret this outcome as a success, even if only three mayors of cities (Budapest and cities with county rights) participated in the research.

III. Main research findings After reading and analyzing foreigner and domestic urban policy literature, I created two main theses and a special governance model for urban areas. My research aim is to analyze the governance and public administration of Hungarian agglomerations with a fresh approach.

III.1 Thesis no. 1 on the inadequate regulatory environment The first democratic Hungarian Parliament passed a law on local governments (Act

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