Municipalities in Albania administer more residents compared to Europe and the Balkans
A unit of local government in Albania, in this case the Municipality, administers about 70 thousand inhabitants referring to the civil registry (4.2 million inhabitants).
The population that our municipalities administer is one of the highest in Europe and in the Balkan Region, says a comparative study of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The average size of local units varies considerably from country to country. In 2019-2020, the average size of municipalities among OECD member states was 10,254 inhabitants, 26% of them had fewer than 2,000 inhabitants and 41% had fewer than 5,000 inhabitants. In ten OECD countries, 80% of local units had fewer than 5,000 inhabitants.
In the Western Balkans, local units tend to have larger populations. In 2021, the average size of municipalities was about 27,500 inhabitants. In Bosnia, Montenegro and North Macedonia the municipalities administer less than 30 thousand inhabitants on average, while in Albania more than 70 thousand inhabitants.
The OECD recommends that the countries of the Western Balkans should have taken for reference in the governance of the local government France or Austria, where the units administer fewer inhabitants.
States often undertake territorial reforms to respond to demographic changes, socio-economic changes or fiscal consolidation pressures. Albania undertook one in 2015, where it concentrated local government governance in 61 municipalities, consolidating over 370 municipalities across the country.
Municipal merger processes have been developed in several European and OECD member countries. Mergers are often seen as a threat to local identity and historical legacies, which explains the resistance in many countries (eg France, Slovakia).
In the Western Balkans, Kosovo, Montenegro and North Macedonia have only the municipal level in local government. Albania, the Federation of B&H and Serbia have a second level between the municipalities and the central government, the prefectures. At the second level, Albania has 12 counties and Bosnia.
In the European context, the municipalities of the Western Balkans are generally large in terms of average population.
The OECD notes that the local governments of the Western Balkans resemble the large local government type of EU Member States, such as Ireland, Portugal or Sweden, rather than ranking among the small scale local government type, such as Austria or France./ MONITOR
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