Interplay Between the Tiers in Croatian Local Government: Who Is Winning the Interdependence Game
The paper examines, analyses, and evaluates the relations between the first and second tiers of the Croatian local government system and their longitudinal and cross-sectoral dynamics. Membership in the European Union has opened new relevant horizons for national territorial governance, primarily through the advocacy of multi-level cooperative governance arrangements and by providing opportunities for the acquisition of additional resources through European structural and investment funds. These issues are evaluated by analysing formal competence distribution between the tiers, by analysing the distribution of resources between tiers and through their cooperation in regional policy domain and service delivery. Furthermore, actors’ perceptions of their mutual relations are examined via the author’s own research and the research of other scholars. After the introductory chapter, the second chapter presents a theoretical framework and context for an analysis of vertical relations within the local government system; the third chapter provides a longitudinal overview of the main features and conceptual developments of the Croatian local government system. The fourth chapter is the central part of the paper that presents and analyses the available primary and secondary data. Preliminary findings suggest several conclusions: a) areas of contact between municipal and county levels have increased resulting in their more intensive interdependence; b) relations between
the levels have been differentiating and cannot be considered uniform: different kinds of relations have developed between counties and small municipalities and between counties and large towns; c) centralistic governance of the whole system stimulates the development of competition between the tiers, which endangers their collective and cooperative efforts in resolving local issues and stimulating local development; d) counties have solidified their position of an inevitable intersection of national sectoral policies and are of vital importance for their transmission to the local level.