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Council of Europe Congress issues declaration on separatist tensions in Ukraine and neighbouring countries

[17/10/2014 10:30:00] The Congress adopted a declaration on separatist tensions in Ukraine and neighbouring countries on 16 October, at its 27th session held in Strasbourg (France). The Congress had already condemned the annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation in a declaration made at its previous session in March 2014. In the latest declaration 'condemns Russia’s military intervention in the east of Ukraine, and condemns all forms of pressure by Russia on its neighbours'. 'The security of this continent is seriously threatened by the Russian Federation’s repeated failure to comply with international rules and the principles and values of the Council of Europe that it signed up to when it joined the Organisation', states the text presented by Marc Cools (Belgium, ILDG) on behalf of the Congress Bureau. The declaration was adopted following a debate lasting some three hours, in which the speakers included: Vyacheslav Nehoda, First Deputy Minister of Regional Development of Ukraine, Valeriu Chiveri, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova, Oleksii Reznikov, Deputy Mayor, Chairman of Kyiv City Council, Tengiz Shergelashvili, Deputy Minister for Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia, and Fikrat Mammadov, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Session
Press release
Text of the Declaration
Video of the debate

Jean-Claude Frécon pays tribute to Herwig van Staa’s commitment to local and regional democracy

[21/10/2014 17:00:00] ''Herwig van Staa’s 25 years of political commitment in the service of local and regional democracy add up to an outstanding contribution at both national level in Austria and European level'' according to Jean-Claude Frécon, speaking on the occasion of the publication by the University of Innsbruck of a book about Mr van Staa’s political career. Mr Frécon paid tribute to the work done by Mr van Staa, particularly within the Congress, of which he has been a member since 1996. He has (twice) held the post of President of the Chamber of Local Authorities, and has also been President of the Chamber of Regions and a member of the Bureau. In addition, he has twice held the office of President of the Congress, from 2002 to 2004 and again from 2012 to October 2014. He is currently President of the Regional Parliament of Tyrol, Austria. Photo: Herwig van Staa and Pr. Kurt Ebert during the ceremony in Innsbruck

Youth Delegates participate in the Congress for the first time

[17/10/2014 16:00:00] 'Empowering youth: a shared responsibility for cities and regions”: was the theme of the 27th Session of the Congress held from 14 to 16 October in Strasbourg. For the first time young delegates, aged 16 to 30 years, from 34 different countries, took part in the Congress’ session and spoke at all the debates, sitting together with the members of the Congress in the hemicycle. They also participated in the meetings of the three Congress committees. On 15 October a special youth debate was on the agenda of the Session. The Youth Delegates decided on the two topics of the debate, namely “Youth (Un)employment” and “Co-management and the setting up of joint decision-making bodies”. Both topics were introduced by the Youth Delegates and debated together with members of the Congress. To ensure everyone’s voice was heard, including those who were not able to be there, comments on Twitter were screened live in the hemicycle with the hashtag #youthsession2014. On 16 October the Youth Delegates issued their recommendations to the elected representatives of the Congress, aimed at empowering young people in Europe to participate in the public debate and decision-making process.
Press release
Declaration of youth delegates
Video of the debate
Media Box Interviews of young delegates

The Council of Europe Congress adopts partner for local democracy status

[16/10/2014 12:00:00] The Congress adopted, on 16 October 2014, a resolution introducing 'partner for local democracy' status open to local elected representatives in neighbouring non-member states of the Council of Europe. 'This status commits the authorities to uphold, respect and promote at all levels of government the values and principles of the Council of Europe.' said Jean-Claude Frécon, (France , SOC), rapporteur and newly elected President of the Congress. Speaking on behalf of the Moroccan government, Hassan Bouhriz, deputy mayor of Tangiers and member of the House of Representatives and, underlined the importance of this co-operation. 'The democratic choice made by Morocco and by all of the country's political parties is an irreversible decision. It entails not only enjoyment of citizenship rights through properly conducted elections, but also the choice of the area in which these rights are exercised'. he said. The Moroccan authorities should make a formal request to be granted 'partner for local democracy' status in early 2015.Session
Press release
Report CG(27)9
Speech by Hassan Bouhriz
Video of the debate (original version)
MediaBox interview with Hassan Bouhriz [YouTube]
Video - Speech by Hassan Bouhriz [YouTube]

Monitoring of local and regional democracy in Belgium

[16/10/2014 16:30:00] The Congress examined, on 15 October 2014, a report on the situation of local and regional democracy in Belgium on 15 October 2014, compiled after two monitoring visits carried out by Congress rapporteurs Henrik HAMMAR (Sweden, EPP/CCE) and Urs WÜTHRICH-PELLOLI (Switzerland, SOC), the first to Brussels and Tervueren on 8 and 9 October 2013 and the second to Brussels from 4 to 6 February 2014. The recommendation adopted underlines that the constitutional and legislative foundations of self-government are fully complied with throughout the country and that the scope of local self-government is generally respected. The Belgian authorities are invited to improve the procedure for consulting the communities and regions, in particular in the case of local authorities in the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region. Session
Press release
Report CG(27)7
Video (English version)
Presentation by Henrik Hammar, Rapporteur
Presentation by Urs Wüthrich-Pelloli, rapporteur

Congress adopts a Recommendation on the local elections in Georgia

[15/10/2014 18:00:00] The Congress debated on 14 October, a report and a Recommendation on the local elections held in Georgia on 15 June 2014. Jos Wienen (Netherlands, EPP/CCE), Congress rapporteur, welcomed the generally calm and peaceful manner in which the vote had been conducted, which constitutes another important step in strengthening Georgia’s democracy, in particular, at the local level. “This was not to be taken for granted after a very controversial electoral campaign including harsh rhetoric and violent actions,” he underlined. “Georgia’s potential to organise future elections in a genuinely democratic manner stands and falls with the maturity and responsibility of the political actors. A zero-tolerance policy towards electoral violence and degrading or hateful discourse has to be conceived with a view to the next elections” Jos Wienen added. The Congress recommended further improvements concerning: a more balanced composition of electoral commissions; the nomination of independent candidates and counting procedures.
Press release
Report CPL(27)5
Media Box interview
Video of the debate

Promoting diversity through intercultural education and communication strategies

[15/10/2014 12:00:00] On 15 October 2015 the Congress held a debate on “Promoting diversity through intercultural education and communication strategies”. The report presented by Nawel Rafiik-Elmrini (France, SOC) offers examples of good practice and strategies for working with local populations. The texts adopted recommend the setting up of “local partnerships for diversity” with different stakeholders such as educational institutions, the media, civil society and the private sector. They stress the need to stop using the question of immigration as an instrument in political discussions and to formulate a strategy for intercultural education and communication. This also involves co-operation with schools and the promotion of language learning. 'Local authorities need the support of their national authorities, a very strong political support, of course, but also a very concrete support by helping local levels to meet the challenge of promoting diversity'' explained Mrs Rafik-Elmrini. ''To be builders of peace in Europe, first we must be builders of peace within our own territories,'' she concluded.
Report CG(27)6
Media Box interview (français)

Fikrat Mammadov, Minister of Justice, presents recent developments of local democracy in Azerbaijan

[15/10/2014 16:30:00] ''Congresss monitoring missions and recommendations have been helpful in terms of identification of areas which could be further improved regarding local governance in Azerbaijan'', stated Fikrat Mammadov, Minister of Justice of Azerbaijan, adressing the 27th Session. He underlined, in particular, the key role of the newly adopted law On Public Participation in development of democratic institutions. ''This very law provides for closer interaction between the public and municipalities as well as for ensuring openness and transparency of their activity,'' he explained. ''Moreover, taking into account the key role of municipal associations in terms of promotion of local democracy, coordination and organization of municipal activities we managed to create national associations of municipalities,'' he added. M. Mammadov also underlined as a positive trend the engagement of youth which increased significantly and reached almost 30% in the last elections. ''Local and regional authorities have a crucial role to play in supporting young people in becoming fulfilled and responsible citizens. This role is a vital task if we are to ensure the sustainability and quality of civic and professional life for future generations,'' he said.
Speech

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The agenda in brief 
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27th Session of the Congress

22 October - 1210th meeting of the Committee of Ministers - intervention by the President of the Congress / Strasbourg, FRANCE
23 October - Conference "Regional political parties after the European elections" Akademie für Politische Bildung) / Tutzing, GERMANY

Calendar of events
Calendar of local and regional elections in COE member states

Drapeau européenPolitical dialogue with governments
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Azerbaijani Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers
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Leyla GüvenLeyla Güven, former Congress member
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