Municipalities that have had to deal with the effects of the pandemic and are not receiving much government assistance will likely face an even greater challenge this winter as they deal with the current energy crisis.
The pandemic and the recent refugee crisis caused by the war in Ukraine have taken a heavy toll on municipal budgets, even as local governments have continued to pass without serious effects on public services.
But the impact on municipalities depends on the help they receive from the state, Jana Červenáková from the Union of Cities of Slovakia told EURACTIV Slovakia. The poorer regions in eastern Slovakia, for example, were generally more affected.
In early spring, the most affected regions also had to deal with the refugee crisis caused by the Russian war in Ukraine. Červenáková explained that although most of the refugee-related expenses have been paid for by the government, it remains to be seen to what extent the state will contribute to the long-term assimilation of Ukrainians.
However, successive crises have resulted in extremely strained municipal budgets, confirmed Červenáková and many other mayors and local representatives.
“The consequences of the current financial and energy crisis can have devastating consequences for local government budgets,” Červenáková said.
“At the same time, cities and municipalities have limited options to deal with the situation as they depend on central government solutions. As the solutions are still not obvious, local governments are currently in a state of considerable uncertainty regarding their budgets,” Červenáková added.
Discontent among municipalities has grown in recent weeks, with the Association of Towns and Municipalities of Slovakia (ZMOS) already threatening a strike in June and staging several protests across the country since then.
“The state is violating the budgetary rules of local authorities with its measures; it does not respect the autonomous competences of councils. It eschews systemic solutions, only making populist decisions that ultimately do not help people in cities and municipalities,” ZMOS said.
(Michal Hudec | EURACTIV.sk)