Decentralization (politics)

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Decentralization refers to measures that are aimed at promoting subsidiarity within centralistically and hierarchically organized states . Decentralization processes can lead to federal state systems, as has happened in Belgium, for example .


Within Europe, decentralization efforts are triggered by the requirements of European integration . Since European Union funds are allocated and administered regionally, at least administrative structures must be created at this regional level.

Another cause is the need to react to regional identities and sensitivities. In this way, decentralization can have a peacekeeping function by counteracting nationalist movements by strengthening regional autonomy.

to form

see: Separation of powers, vertical level

Decentralization occurs in three stages. The administrative decentralization , and devolution , involves the transfer of administrative functions to regional level, while the decision-making power at the national level. At this stage, the regionally created levels are merely executive bodies of the responsible central ministries. An example of this are the départements in France established in 1789/1790 , which were not given administrative responsibility until 1981.

In the case of executive decentralization , parts of the administration are also transferred from the state to the sub-state level. In contrast to administrative decentralization, the regional authorities are not just the “extended arms” of a ministry, but also carry out their tasks independently.

In the third stage, legislative decentralization , the legislature at the state level transfers legislative powers to a regional parliament. While in federalism the presumption of jurisdiction - that is, the responsibility for legislation in principle - is generally subnational, it remains at the national level for states that are promoting decentralization.

See also


  • Roland Sturm and Petra Zimmermann-Steinhart: Federalism, An Introduction Nomos, Baden-Baden 2005, pp. 154–177
  • Winfried Böttcher (Ed.): Subsidiarity - Regionalism - Federalism. Munster 2004

Individual evidence

  1. See Schubert, Klaus; Klein, Martina: Political Dictionary ; 4th, updated edition; Bonn: Verlag JHW Dietz, 2006, p. 78.