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Decentralization in Ukraine and Bottom-Up European Integration

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Decentralization, Regional Diversity, and Conflict

Part of the book series: Federalism and Internal Conflicts ((FEINCO))


Decentralization is one of the most profound reforms undertaken in Ukraine. It includes the voluntary merging of previously independent villages and towns into larger Amalgamated Territorial Communities (ATCs). The European Union strongly supports the reform but does not make Ukraine’s further European integration conditional upon it. In order to study whether decentralization can, nevertheless, contribute to the country’s European integration, this chapter adopts a sociological perspective. It asks whether decentralization has led to an increase in community twinning and participation of Ukrainian communities in transnational municipal networks. It is based on a survey conducted among the leaders of the 159 ATCs founded in 2015, and on publicly available data. The chapter finds that although the respondents generally value international cooperation and new transnational twinning partnerships that emerged after amalgamation, the overall number of such partnerships is relatively low.

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  1. 1.

    While the EU has no common institutional model regarding the public administration of its member states, in 1995 it added an administrative criterion to the Copenhagen Criteria setting forth the conditions for accession. Furthermore, a regionalized system of administration is part of the EU’s Acquis Communautaire on regional and cohesion policy, which had and still has to be adopted and implemented by candidate countries. The EU, however, does not prescribe a particular model of regional governance (LePlant et al. <CitationRef CitationID="CR33" >2004</Citation Ref>).

  2. 2.

    In order to get a more comprehensive picture, the chapter will deal with informal twinning, too. In this case, cross-border cooperation between communities takes place in the absence of a formal agreement.

  3. 3.

    Number of local municipalities in 2012: Ukraine: 11,517; Poland 2012: 2,479; Slovakia: 2,930. Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), Members map,, 8 November 2019.

  4. 4.

    Among the 38 ATCs that are members of the network, ten were founded in 2015, 13 in 2016, 14 in 2017, and one in 2018 (Covenant of Mayors <CitationRef CitationID="CR12" >2019</Citation Ref>).

  5. 5.

    I thank Nataliia Larina for her help with the translations.

  6. 6.

    I thank Christiane Grill for many helpful recommendations with regard to this project.

  7. 7.

    I thank Timur Koroliuk for his help with the pre-test.

  8. 8.

    However, it is not possible to ascertain that it was the heads of the ATCs who filled in the questionnaires. Given the rather hierarchical administrative culture in Ukraine, it can yet be assumed that the heads were at least informed about the survey.

  9. 9.

  10. 10.

    It turned out, however, that calls were often not answered or only busy signals were reached.

  11. 11.

    Since the survey participants were assured of the anonymous presentation of results, only the oblasts in which the respective ATCs are located are mentioned here. To guarantee the anonymity of respondents in oblasts where only one ATC was founded in 2015, the results were aggregated.

  12. 12.

    U-LEAD with Europe: Ukraine Local Empowerment, Accountability and Development Programme,

  13. 13.

    Please note that this is not identical with the EU’s technical assistance twinning program:

  14. 14.

    Both the AUC and the CEMR already support communities in finding twinning partners, among others by collecting and publishing requests for partnerships under and

  15. 15.

    Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway are potentially participating countries.


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Pintsch, A. (2020). Decentralization in Ukraine and Bottom-Up European Integration. In: Shelest, H., Rabinovych, M. (eds) Decentralization, Regional Diversity, and Conflict. Federalism and Internal Conflicts. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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