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Local self-government: approaches to defining the essence. Abstract

Among the various approaches to defining the essence of local self-government, the closest to reflecting the content of the phenomenon is the political science approach to understanding the essence of local self-government, according to which local self-government is seen as a process of realization of territorial interests in interaction with the state and other territorial communities.

Formulation of the problem. The process of reforming the political system of Ukraine, which has significantly intensified in recent years, but has not yet reached the “finish line”, inevitably puts on the agenda the problem of optimizing the functioning of local government.

It is the most stable part of the Ukrainian system of power, which does not testify to its efficiency and perfection. On the contrary, the numerous problems in the functioning of self-governing institutions that cannot be solved indicate the extreme difficulty of building a model of local self-government close to the best world standards. At the same time, it is difficult to demand effective decision-making from the legislator if there is still no clear vision of the essence of local self-government in scientific circles.

Despite numerous differences in the understanding of the essence of local self-government, almost all researchers agree that the starting point in its definition is the concept of territorial community. As the luminary of Ukrainian science in the field of local self-government Yu. Paneiko rightly notes: “the main subject of the science of self-government … is the community” [1].

Until recently, this concept was not used in any of the social sciences [2]. Despite the fact that few people object to the definition of a territorial community as a subject of local self-government, the legislation of many countries of the world, not surprisingly, ignores this concept. Moreover, there is no definition of it as a subject of local self-government in developed democracies [3]. It is also absent in the legislation of Ukraine (although the very concept of territorial community is provided by the Constitution of Ukraine).

However, this almost complete disregard of the concept of territorial community by law did not lead to significant differences in the assessment of this phenomenon in scientific circles. In defining the nature and characteristics of the territorial community, most researchers focus on such unifying components as territory and social interaction. For example, we are impressed by the conciseness and clarity of the definition given by I. Butko at the dawn of Ukraine’s independence, defining a territorial community as people who live within certain territorial boundaries and are united by common interests [4].

With the development of domestic research in the field of local self-government, the author’s approaches become more complicated, more and more definitive accents are placed. M. Baimuratov and V. Grigoriev note that the territorial community (they use the term “territorial team”) is “a set of individuals who permanently live in a certain area and are connected by territorial-personal ties of a systemic nature” [5 ].

In the same vein, but much more detailed definition of the territorial community gives O. Batanov, describing it as “a territorial community consisting of individuals – residents who live, work in the village (or voluntary association in a common community of several villages) , settlements or cities, directly or through the municipal structures formed by them solve issues of local importance, have common communal property, own real estate in the territory, pay communal taxes and related territorial and personal ties of a systemic nature “[6].

As we can see, the author of this definition quite rightly emphasizes the process of realization of the community’s own interests. At the same time, the mention of “territorial-personal ties” seems somewhat debatable, which, in our opinion, needs further explanation. It should also be noted that the most detailed definition of O. Batanov is closely related to the realities of today’s Ukraine, and therefore has no universal character (which we will discuss below).

The last remark concerns the approach of the authors of a thorough collective monograph edited by M. Beschastny “Local self-government in Ukraine: problems and prospects” which consider the territorial community as “a community of inhabitants united by natural settlement and permanent residence within one or more settlements. the only administrative center under which the Constitution and laws of Ukraine recognize the right to resolve issues of local importance within the legislation of Ukraine “[7]. In comparison with the above definitions, the “highlight” of this is the insistence on the need to legislate the rights of the territorial community.

An important “niche” in the comprehensive disclosure of the essence of the territorial community is the position of M. Orzikh, who notes that members of the territorial community do not necessarily have to have citizenship or permanent residence in the area (as most researchers insist ) – they can work on it, own real estate or be a payer of utility taxes [8].

If we summarize the achievements of modern science in the field of research of the territorial community, the list of the main features of the latter will look, in our opinion, as follows:

common territory of existence (which may include residence, work, ownership of real estate); common interests in solving life issues; social interaction in the process of realization of these interests; psychological self-identification of each member with the community; common communal property; payment of utility taxes.

It is difficult to disagree with the fact that these features quite comprehensively characterize the territorial community in a modern state, and above all – a highly developed state. However, following the development of the community in the opposite direction, we will notice that some of the signs will be lost. And the further we go deeper into history, the less the self-governing territorial community will resemble its modern counterparts, although the key features will be preserved.

Consider the following example. Recently, attempts to derive the traditions of Ukrainian local self-government (as, incidentally, democracy) from ancient times, in particular – from the territorial communities of the Trypillia culture [9]. Disagreeing with this approach in general, we note that, in our opinion, there is a grain of truth in it – it does not concern local self-government, but its basis – the territorial community. Every Trypillia settlement has key features of a territorial community – both the territorial unifying component and the common interests that are realized.

So, can Trypillia settlements be called territorial communities? We believe so. And we propose to define a territorial community as a community united by a certain territory and common interests in solving life problems with the help of local resources. In this case, modern self-governing territorial communities are something else.

The starting point of qualitative changes in the territorial community is the emergence of the state. With the emergence and development of the latter in the territorial community there is a strong power competitor, who can be both an enemy and, as history has shown – a friend. And it is with the state that the phenomenon of local self-government is connected.

What is local self-government? As you know, there are two main camps of theorists of local self-government, which are conventionally assigned the names “citizens” and “statesmen”. The key issue that separates the two concepts is the nature of local self-government. It can be formulated as follows: is local self-government a natural right of a territorial community or a good will of the state, which gives the community the right to exercise it? Consider the problem of the essence of local self-government through the prism of these concepts.

All approaches to defining the essence of local self-government can be reduced to three main conceptual schemes, which, in our opinion, do not contradict each other, but are only a consideration of one phenomenon from different angles, based on different criteria.

According to the first scheme, local self-government is one of the foundations of the constitutional order, a democratic political regime, under which power should be divided both horizontally (principle of separation of powers) and vertically. Thus, democracy cannot exist without local self-government. This position is equally acceptable for representatives of both public and state concepts on the nature of local self-government, which reject the principle of deconcentration of power in favor of the principle of its decentralization.