Legal Foundations

  • Andreas Ladner
  • Nicolas Keuffer
  • Harald Baldersheim
  • Nikos Hlepas
  • Pawel Swianiewicz
  • Kristof Steyvers
  • Carmen Navarro
Part of the Governance and Public Management book series (GPM)


The legal status of local autonomies in modern states has been the subject of a long discourse. Constitutionalist movements, legal theory and the dialogue between high courts have been elaborating common understandings nowadays enshrined in provisions of the European Charter of Local Self-Government which were also used for the construction of local autonomy coding scheme and variables. In most legal aspects (institutional depth, administrative supervision and legal protection), cross-country deviations and changes over time were moderate, since the European Charter of Local Self-Government set minimum standards already met by the majority of consolidated democracies and soon reached by democratising countries. Reflecting decentralisation degrees and processes, an exception was thrown by the variable of effective policy discretion, which was also the only one correlated to another legal variable, institutional depth, as different statistical tests have shown. In each country, the mix of legal elements seems to follow distinct national contexts and path dependencies, since it was found to deviate across countries without following clear patterns or country groupings. In this chapter we also compared the scores of the country covered in legal variables to monitoring reports on the implementation of the European Charter. This revealed considerable inconsistencies, mostly in countries with rule of law deficits and/or centralist inertia. Future research should, therefore, further investigate the relation between the rule of law and the level of local autonomy.


Legal status Legal protection Legal discourse Institutional guarantee(s) Constitutionalism 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Ladner
    • 1
  • Nicolas Keuffer
    • 1
  • Harald Baldersheim
    • 2
  • Nikos Hlepas
    • 3
  • Pawel Swianiewicz
    • 4
  • Kristof Steyvers
    • 5
  • Carmen Navarro
    • 6
  1. 1.IDHEAPUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  3. 3.National and Kapodistrian University of AthensAthensGreece
  4. 4.Department of Local Development and Policy, Faculty of Geography and Regional StudiesUniversity of WarsawWarszawaPoland
  5. 5.Department of Political ScienceGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  6. 6.Department of Political ScienceUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain

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