Prague district explores concrete steps to independence

Jižní Město, photo: Barbora Kmentová

Prague’s district of Jižní Město is mostly known for its endless blocks of prefabricated flats. Recently, however, the district, nicknamed Jižák, has made national headlines after the local mayor suggested separating it from the rest of the capital – arguing that the move would give it greater control and allow improvements to take place.

Jižní Město,  photo: Barbora Kmentová
The district of Prague 11, located on the southern outskirts of the capital, is mostly made up by the sprawling Jižní Město housing estate built in the 1970s and ‘80s. It is the country’s largest concrete jungle.

For over a year now, the local town hall has been governed by a coalition named Hnutí pro Prahu 11. Its head, mayor Jiří Štyler, has sparked a heated public debate with the suggestion the district break off from the rest of Prague.

After the media picked up on the story, Mr Štyler denied using the word “separation”. However, admitted he was working on a plan that would enable Jižní Město to become an independent municipality with massively increased local powers:

Jiří Štyler,  photo: Archives of the district of Prague 11
“The main problem is that all the power and decision-making is now centralised at City Hall. The cash allowance we get depends on the good will of the council members. We are given lots of tasks and duties by City Hall, but we are not sufficiently funded to carry them out and we are often forced to sell our property. We also cannot make any investment plans for the future.”

Apart from receiving more funds, Mr Štyler says he would also like to have a stronger say on local urban planning issues and be able to make regulations that would react to the immediate needs of their citizens, such as rules on dogs, regulation of gambling, and changes to the parking system.

The Prague 11 mayor dismisses the arguments of the local opposition, who have denounced his proposals as populist. They also argue that if Jižní město became a municipality, it would have to pay for all the services that are now for free, such as public transport and energy. For his part, Mr Štyler says he is not alone in wishing to exert more independence from City Hall, arguing that at least five or six similar studies have been carried out in different Prague districts. He has also taken inspiration abroad:

Jižní Město,  photo: Hynek Moravec,  CC BY 3.0
“Take the example of Paris. The city of Paris consists only of the city centre, which is surrounded by individual municipalities. Or take the Bratislava model, where the Town Hall has a status of a region and the districts function as municipalities.”

However, experts say there are legal obstacles to the plan being carried out. They argue that for a district to separate from the rest of Prague it would have to be located on the very edge of the city, which is not the case of Jižní Město.