Bratislava as the capital city of Slovakia and Bucharest as the capital city of Romania have not many common characteristics at first glance. Slovakia is in Central Europe and Romania is a part of Balkan Peninsula. On the other hand, I try to focus in my contribution just on mutual features of both mentioned cities. The basis will be a specific law on the capital city. Bratislava and Bucharest too have this legal norm. Another aim of this paper will be the definition of interesting differences and identification of position within the administrative division of the state.
In the administrative division of Slovakia and Romania are several connections. One of them is for example the number of municipalities (communes). In Slovak conditions, we recognize 2933 of these units, in Romania 2827. The self-government operates in both countries at a similar level and municipalities have their own powers. Territorial self-administration of Slovakia shall be composed of a municipality and a higher territorial unit. The territory is divided except mentioned municipalities into eight regions and 79 districts. There is a dual system of deconcentrated state administration and autonomous regional and local self-government. A dual system of decentralisation and deconcentration of public administration has been enacted in order to ensure the independent functioning of regional and local state administration and self-government on the basis of mutual cooperation. The framework of self-government is organised into two main levels – the regional level represented by eight autonomous regions (higher territorial units) and the local level represented by municipalities. Since 2002, the eight Slovakian regions have been responsible for specific competences in several areas, and also for carrying out competences delegated by the central level of government. Within 2933 municipalities, 140 of them have status of the city (“mesto”). This status is granted by the Slovak parliament to municipalities which are an administrative, economic and cultural centre and provide public services to neighbouring cities. Moreover, the country has two main municipalities, Bratislava and Košice. They have special status and are sub-divided into city districts.1 This fact is interesting and important in terms of my article. Territorial self-administration is carried out at meetings of municipal residents, through local referendums, referendums within the territory of a superior territorial unit, and by the municipal bodies or the bodies of superior territorial units. Central government is in charge of any responsibility that is not expressly attributed to municipalities or regions. The process of decentralisation consists of three main aspects – the political decentralisation and the decentralisation and deconcentration of powers and fiscal decentralisation.
Regions may issue generally binding regulations applicable to all natural and legal persons within their jurisdiction. Competences have been transferred from State administration bodies to self- governing regions. This six-phase process was launched on January, 1 2002. The regional and district offices of the State administration were phased out, and their residual powers were transferred to the regional self-governments, the local State administration in the centres of regions, and to the specialised field offices of certain ministries. On the other hand, Romania has 314 towns, 103 municipalities and 2827 communes that are grouped into 41 counties and the capital city of Bucharest - it makes up the region at NUTS III level. In 1998, eight regions were created for a better orientation in regional planning. These regions correspond to NUTS II units but do not fall within the administrative units of Romania. Their institutional framework, subjects and powers of the regional policy were established in 2004. The regional disparities within Romania were at the low level in transitional phase before the accession to EU. On the other hand, the differences have gradually emerged, mainly as a result of the growth of the Bucharest-Ilfov region. In relative terms, the differences may be comparable to those in the Czech Republic or Slovakia. Among the least developed regions are included the frontier ones, especially at the border with the former socialist states. Economic and social analysis revealed, after 1990, a process of increasing economic and social development disparities between regions. Development differences between the most developed region (Bucuresti-Ilfov) and the least developed (North-East), in terms of GDP per capita increased almost threefold.
Bucharest metropolitan area as the most important region in Romania
The municipality of Bucharest, the capital of Romania, together with the surrounding Ilfov county (NUTS 3 territorial unit) are the two constituents of the Bucharest-Ilfov NUTS 2 region. This region has the smallest surface - 1821 sq km, of which 13.1% represents the surface of Bucharest and 86.9% the surface of the Ilfov county. In terms of population, it ranks second in decreasing order among the eight NUTS 2 Romanian regions, with approximately 2,260,000 people, out of which Bucharest accounted for 86%, with 2,106,144 inhabitants. The share of urban population in Bucharest Ilfov region’s total population is 91.6%, which is by far the highest in Romania, of an overall urbanisation degree of only 54.9%. This is due to the very large number of inhabitants residing in the Bucharest municipality, i.e. 93% of the urban population of the Bucharest-Ilfov region. The other eight towns counted a total population of 150,000 people . In 2003, the proposal aiming to create the Bucharest metropolitan area (BMA) was launched. It started from a series of needs and opportunities determined by historical, economic, social, territorial evolutions, entailing the development of economic and demographic relationship between Bucharest and surrounding localities. As a result, its purpose is to embed in it the entire Ilfov county, as well as localities from other four counties (1 from Ialomita county, 5 from Dambovita county, 5 from Calarasi county and 16 from Giurgiu county), which would lead to a total area of approximately 1800 sq km and a stable population of 2.4 million people (i.e. 11% of Romania’s total stable population). As regards the Ilfov county, even if the entire county is conventionally included in the metropolitan area, it should be mentioned that, besides the eight towns and some wealthy communes, there are also several poor localities which are not functionally integrated with Bucharest city . In a broader view, it is considered that the Bucharest metropolitan area also influences the seven surrounding counties belonging to the South-Muntenia region (NUTS 2). This region as a whole (apart from the localities of the Ialomita, Dambovita, Calarasi and Giurgiu that are to be incorporated in the metropolitan area) plus Bucharest metropolitan area are viewed as the Bucharest metropolitan region. The most important links between the metropolis and the surrounding region consist of the dense road and rail network, facilitating good connections not only within the region but also between the region and many important destinations from Romania and from abroad as well. There are good perspectives for water transportation too, the navigable canal Bucharest – Danube along the Arges river being envisaged as a potential future axis. The most important positive influence of Bucharest on the surrounding region can be identified in education and health care services provided by the capital, whereas the negative impact comes, in an important degree, from the strong attraction exerted by the capital and the whole metropolitan area over the human resources and investments, which leaves especially the South part of the metropolitan region in a stage of underdevelopment, preserving its rural/agricultural profile. For the development in the next few years it will be important to know strengths and weaknesses of the region. We can highlight these strengths of Bucharest metropolitan area:
- Macroeconomic stability of the region;
- High number of workforce with good initial education;
- High level of skilled IT workers;
- Natural resources, energy sources;
- Selected successful primary and manufacturing
On the contrary, in this region, but also throughout Romania, the weaknesses still dominate. We can mention some of them:
- Excessive concentration of the low-value-added sectors;
- Low level of research, development and innovation and their weak links with market needs;
- Poor access to business finance;
- Low level of sophistication of consumer markets;
- High energy intensity;
- Old technology and high cost of non-working inputs;
- Poor environmental management;
- Poor infrastructure of tourism and
There is also an increased chance to drawing the European money and creating of new projects with the entry of the country into the European Union. It is related to the development of new opportunities for whole country and for Bucharest’s region too. To this group, we can include new sources of investments; new tourist destinations; distribution of gas, oil or renewable resources; implementation of new public procurement legislation; privatization of markets and modernization of business models; development of business infrastructure; agricultural rationalization and modernization; modernization of key urban centres or quick adoption of changes. However, it does not have to miss even the threats. There are several obstacles that could slow down the positive direction. For example – increased exposure on globalized markets; a long period of stagnation or a possible economic downturn at European and global level; migration of existing industries abroad to reduce costs; strengthening the position and image of a low-value economy; migration of more educated workers or climate change and degradation of the natural environment.
Bratislava – administrative, political and civic centre of Slovakia
Bratislava is the most dynamic sub-region in the Slovak Republic accounting for most of its economic success. Together with the neighbouring Austrian regions and the capital city of Vienna, they represent a gradually evolving competitive transnational region. Since 1993, the institutional framework of the Slovak Republic has been dynamically developing. The new territorial reform started only in January 2002 and the transfer of responsibilities and financial power from the state to local and regional governments still continues. According to this law, the capital city of Bratislava also became a region. With the new status, Bratislava is at the same level with Vienna or Prague, making thus governance structures more similar and facilitating trans-border cooperation. Bratislava Metropolitan Area is the region with the highest economic potential within the country and the only one where the level of GDP exceeds the average value of the EU´s GDP. Whereas the labour market in Bratislava region has an absorption capacity above the national average, districts outside Bratislava are quite problematic. Though they still have a comparatively low level of unemployment, the rate of unemployment for the young people (under the age of 24) is very high. The localization of new firms in districts outside Bratislava does not contribute to an improvement of the situation or to balance the gap between labour demand and supply . Moreover, the spatial structure affects the daily commuting patterns with Bratislava. About 150,000 commuters travel daily for work or education purposes to city from the hinterland and from remote regions of the Slovak Republic. Over the years, commuting to work abroad has substantially increased, mostly to Czech Republic, Austria or Germany, usually related to lower paid jobs like housekeeping or nursing. Another interesting issue is the status of Bratislava in relation to neighbouring towns and villages. Bratislava in current borders also ensued gradually by the integration of the surrounding villages. Therefore, Bratislava consists of 17 city districts (and 20 cadastral areas) now. However, in recent decades it did not carry out the process of spatial expansion (accession of surrounding villages) or merging the boroughs (leading to a lower number of city districts), but neither the process of disintegration (separation). Joining or merging of dwellings is the possibility which is exactly defined in Slovak legislation. Separation of some city parts is also not unusual within the spatial organization of the local In fact, this alternative was not carried out in the case of Bratislava after 1989. This is a significant difference compared to the smaller Slovak cities. They faced quite extensive detachment process of prescriptive associated municipalities in the past (e.g. Banská Bystrica, Žilina).
The social capital of the Bratislava region has quite substantially developed over the past decades. This is due to several reasons. More and more data can be drawn from them and together with our own experience we can create a certain image of both the region and the state . Traditionally, there had been for decades an open environment for communication within the multi-lingual community (Slovak, Austrian, Hungarian, Jewish). After a period of isolation from foreign impact between 1948 and 1989, this positive feature reappears especially in Bratislava. However, the first decade of the transition period had eroded trust among citizens due to processes as privatization, restitution of property or political divides. Today, as a centre of many universities, corporate headquarters and the Slovak government, Bratislava has gradually become a catalyst for innovation, production and international operations. The existence of social norms promoting collective action and the degree of trust in public institutions is visible. Especially it is trust and social cohesion which make it possible to create an environment characterized by intensive interactions among various actors, to generate innovative ideas and to share common values, knowledge and networks. Social capital is embedded in a locality and represents the sources, which emerge because of maintaining a permanent network of institutionalized relations of mutual familiarity and respect . However, it is difficult to define a direct link between the improvement of cohesion on a city level and the increase of competitiveness, in a way that can form the basis for a consistent policy approach.
Regional disparities in Slovakia and Romania has experienced since the interwar period. It should be noted, however, that the degree of their influence on the final result (structure and operation) is vary from state to state . But the common is that after the Second World War, the communist leadership has opted for a unique solution of economic development, industrial sector development. Communist Party and its governments have pursued the policy implementation process of industrialization a number of major principles for the location of new industrial facilities. Throughout its history, various provinces and parts of countries have had different degrees of economic development. On the other hand, capital cities were already well developed and had a specific status within the administrative division of the state. Mentioned trend continues to this day. Because Bratislava and Bucharest Metropolitan Areas belong to the most advanced areas of the countries and they are at the same time the seat of the government which makes important decisions about the entire country, the opposition against pro capital city decisions in structural policy is always firm. Both local governments have to solve the similar issues to gain positive effects. Conflicts may occur in the future and new governance frameworks need to cope with conflicting situations. Both sub-regions might want to improve integration, but for different reasons and in different ways. To achieve its ambitious goals Metropolitan Areas of Bucharest and Bratislava need to develop further an effective and efficient institutional and governance framework to support competitiveness and cohesion. It is possible that these two regions will cooperate in the future. They have a lot of predictions to it. One of the options is to extend the organization of Visegrad Group and the accession of the Balkan states together with Romania and Bulgaria. Moreover, they have very similar economic and trade parameters. As they show the struggle is not only to become competitive in a larger market, but also to complete the institutional transformations that would provide sustainable approaches to the economy to further develop.
Fig. 1 Average GDP per capita growth rate by regions in Romania; Source: Intechopen.com
Fig. 2 Regional GDP per capita in Slovakia (year 2014); Source: Europa.eu
Finally, I present some common weaknesses and strengths of both metropolitan areas:
- Location – its geographical position at the crossroad of main roadways in
- Its capital status implies that here are located the main institutions of central public. administration (Government, Parliament, Central Bank, headquarters of political parties, NGOs, )
- Large variety of economic activities: industry, agriculture, construction, trade, services, so that all main economic activities are conducted here; the service sector is more developed than in any other regions of the
- Underdeveloped road infrastructure, traffic congestion, overcrowding in the capital city; decreasing employment opportunities, especially for young
- Lack of water, sewage, gas in some districts of the capital and lack of social
- Transport is a big problem, due to outdated infrastructure; some areas are disadvantaged in terms of access to public.
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