ADMINISTRATIVE BOUNDARIES, TRANSPORT ACCESSIBILITY AND FUNCTIONAL RELATIONS: A CRITICAL REVIEW OF ADMINISTRATIVE REGIONS IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC FROM A SPATIAL PERSPECTIVE.

AuthorKraft, Stanislav
  1. Introduction

    The issue of public administration reforms has recently become so significant that it has become an individual branch of study (Torres, 2004). An increasing interest in public administration and administrative sciences can be observed specifically also in countries where modern administration has not developed until the recent years as a result of the past historical trend. Examples of such groups of countries include the former socialist countries of the Central and Eastern Europe; as a result of the Eastern bloc breakdown and their gradual European integration, these countries were newly confronted with the process of creating an effective system of public administration to replace the traditional centrally planned model of that time. The local public administration system, therefore, underwent the processes of decentralization, liberalization, democratization and Europeanization in the past three decades (Rice, 1992; Dostal and Hampl, 2007; Goete, 2001). These processes of modernization thus initiated a number of changes, the purpose of which was supposed to be a transition to the public administration system close to the public administration system applied in the Western Europe. The transition was also supported by extensive social, economic and political transformation processes. However, we can also state that due to insufficient experience with the public administration system, these countries still face a number of problems related to insufficient experience and little will to respond to new impulses and arrangement of the entire public administration system (Wollmann, 1997). The recently established administrative structure is, therefore, often an object of criticism by both professionals and the general public (e.g. Zhang and Wu, 2006).

    The main goal of this study is a critical revision of the current administrative structure in the Czech Republic, from a spatial perspective. We mainly focus on the issue of the present administrative organization of the Czech Republic in form of the 'districts of municipalities with extended competence' (hereinafter referred to as administrative regions or AR). They execute an essential part of the public administration in the regions (including delegated state competence, such as citizen registration, personal document issuing, trade licenses, payment of social benefits, transport and road management, etc.). Their arrangement, selection and specification of catchment regions are, however, often an object of criticism, mainly due to the lack of currency and conceptuality. Regarding the fact that our paper accepts the spatial consideration, we focus on: (a) an evaluation of transport accessibility of AR centers from their territorial districts and (b) a comparison of present ARs with current socio-economic relations expressed mainly by commuting to work and school. We consider this the key region-forming process that is used the most often as the basis for creating and revising administrative units (Andersen, 2002 or Corvers, Hensen and Bongaerts, 2009). Therefore, we first focus on analyzing the accessibility of the centers in terms of time in the analytical part, which we consider the key demonstration of the AR efficiency. The second part is focused on specification of catchment regions of daily commuting to work and schools in the Czech Republic based on the last population census of 2011. We then confront the specified commuting regions with the present system of ARs. We also try to identify the most problematic areas of the present administrative organization of the Czech Republic by evaluating both of the above-mentioned characteristics.

    The paper is structured as follows: the introductory part is followed by focus on theoretical grappling of the subject issue. We can see this in a brief description of the development of the administrative structure of the Czech Republic after 1989 and in the multiple-phase forming of the present administrative system. Key attention is mainly paid to methodical issues of AR specification in 2001. General resources of changes in the society's spatial organization in post-socialist countries form an integral part of the theoretical sections. Another part introduces the methodical procedure of the study focused on analyzing conformities and non-conformities in the system of districts of the municipalities with extended competence and current commuting relations in the territory of the Czech Republic. The analytical part then provides a comparative analysis of the issue. The final section reflects the whole issue and contains suggestions for further study of administrative reforms and related problems from a spatial perspective.

    The subject issue has great relevance not only in administrative sciences, but also in practice. Dynamic transformation processes after the downfall of socialism induced differing spatial patterns of the society organization in many cases. Processes, such as decentralization, rise of regional disparities, suburban development of metropolitan structures formation, were the concomitant circumstances of this process. Unfortunately, the emerging public administration system responded to such changes only to a limited extent or with delay. This resulted in currently frequent problems with ensuring its efficient operation. The above-mentioned study can, therefore, be also used by the affected institutes of state and public administration, spatial planners, regional economists, geographers, etc.

  2. Theoretical background --recent administrative reforms in the Czech Republic

    The present administration structure of the Czech Republic is the outcome of longterm historical and political development. The administrative structure of Czechoslovakia before 1989 was the outcome of extensive socialist reforms from the period of 1948-1989. The initiation of these reforms dates back to 1948 when 13 regional territorial units were created, pursuing to approximate the administrative structure of the regional disposition model of USSR (Liebert, Condrey and Goncharov, 2013). This model of people's committees was inspired by the USSR's administrative structure and resulted in factual suppression of self-governments, fulfilling only the function of politicized regional bodies of the state administration (Nunberg, 1999). Other significant changes occurred in 1960; in general, this reform resulted in strong integration of regional, district and municipal territorial units (Hampl, Gardavsky and Kuhnl, 1987). The performance of public administration continued to be managed by the people's committees. The regions became heterogeneous units in terms of both history and geography, while some significant centers were discriminated and forcibly integrated under others at the district level (Tonev, 2005). The politicized model of local authority organization of former Czechoslovakia has not noted major changes since 1989.

    Radical transformation of the political situation in 1989 generated the need to reorganize the public administration system and the primary task was to fulfil the principle of decentralization and de-concentration of the public administration performance (Dostal, 1998; Farmazand, 1999). Other targets set included making the public administration more efficient, fulfilling the administrative culture, and the principle of subsidiarity. In this context, the public administration reform split into two phases after 1990; the reforms were based on cancellation of the people's committees in 1990. In that year, the municipalities were denationalized and they were returned the public corporation statute. The hybrid public administration model deformed by communism, which included performance of own regional self-government and state administration at the level of delegated competence, was restored at the municipality level. This model was more or less typical for all former socialistic countries (Goete and Wollman, 2001). At the district level, the people's committees were substituted by district authorities in 1990 which, however, only concentrated on the state administration performance. The regional self-government as such was performed only to a limited extend, and therefore, the function of the above-mentioned hybrid model was not being fulfilled. The system of that time did not respect the principle of decentralization, and the need of a new regional authority was evident; however, it was postponed for a long time for a number of political reasons (Tonev, 2005). Higher-level regional administrative units (regions) were not determined until 1997. There were 14 regions established with effect as of the 1st of January 2000. Analogically to municipalities, the hybrid model was chosen for their public administration performance. The establishment of the higher-level territorial administrative units was the culmination of the public administration reform phase. Determination thereof reflected significant criticism from the professional public (e.g. Rehak, 2000).

    The second phase of the public administration reform mainly involves cancellation of district authorities and introduction of new territorial administrative units --the 'municipalities with extended competence' (Figure 1). Following cancellation of district authorities in 2002, the problem concerning assignment of their administrative competence appeared. Territorial determination of their administrative districts was contained in the decree of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. There were 205 municipalities with extended competence determined. The major part of the state administration performance in the competence of the cancelled district authorities was transferred to the newly established ARs. This reform was the last major change. What remains to be a problem is mainly the existing territorial organization of 1960 at interregional (regional) and micro-regional (district) level that has not been legally cancelled, thus causing...

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