“No Countries for Municipalities?” – Old and New Faces of Centralisation in the Time of Crisis

  • István Hoffman Eötvös Loránd University
Keywords: centralisation, decentralisation, digitalisation, fiscal decentralisation, regional development, public service provision, concentration


It is a “cliché” in the administrative sciences that centralisation tendencies are
accelerated by crises. Public service provision and administration have been
transformed by the digitalisation and application of ICT. My article will focus
mainly on the impact of these changes on regulatory issues. New approaches
have evolved: centralisation and concentration have new “faces”, and a soft divergence
between different European countries can also be observed. “Soft power”
issues, like regulation and standards of public service provision and central
financial tools have become new elements of centralisation reforms, and the concentration
of local public services and local administration has become a new
issue, especially in Northern and Western Europe. Similarly, the “platformisation”
of local services can be interpreted as a new form of centralisation: the data
required for these activities are centrally managed, and the access to these data
is defined by the central governments. A “Northern” and “Southern/Eastern”
approach to centralisation can be distinguished. The Northern pattern is based
on new forms of centralisation, and the “traditional” forms of centralisation have
a more significant influence on the Southern approach (however, new forms of
centralisation can be observed as well).