Latest News (Site updated Thursday, March 26, 2015 | 16:30)

Local and regional democracy in Greece

[26/03/2015 13:00:00] On 25 March the Congress, holding its Session in Strasbourg (France), examined a report on local and regional democracy in Greece. The Congress rapporteurs, Artur Torres Pereira (Portugal, EPP/CCE) and Gudrun Mosler-Törnström (Austria, SOC), drew attention to the progress made by Greece since the Congress's last recommendation in 2008, in particular through the adoption of the 'New Architecture for Self-Governance and Decentralisation – the Kallikratis Programme'. 'This reform represents an important step towards a more decentralised territorial system, particularly as regards the status of the prefectures and of the thirteen administrative regions that were formerly regional branches of central government' said Gudrun Mosler-Törnström. 'Since 2010 Greece has had to contend with a very difficult economic situation and has faced major difficulties in restoring fiscal and budgetary discipline. This has had a very significant impact on local authorities. The Congress call on the Government to review the legislation so as to confer statutory powers on local authorities and to ensure that the transfer of competences is accompanied by adequate concomitant financial resources, which local authorities may dispose of freely within the framework of their powers' explained Artur Torres Pereira.
Press release
Vidéo of the Debate
Rapport CG/2015(28)8

Decentralisation in Ukraine: new laws to come into force this year

[26/03/2015 11:30:00] With support from the Congress, Ukraine has engaged on an ambitious decentralisation programme. Several laws have already been framed to strengthen its local and regional structures, despite the military situation in the east of the country, which hinders progress. A debate held on Wednesday 25 March 2015 in the Chamber of Regions on “the regional dimension of the process of decentralisation in Ukraine” took stock of developments.
Video of the debate [Youtube]
Interview with Oleksii Honcharenko, Vice-Chair of Odessa City Council and member of the Ukrainian parliament
Speech by Gianni Buquicchio, President of the Venice Commission
Speech by Natalya Romanova (Ukraine, ILDG), Vice-President of the Congress

Combating radicalisation in Europe: Congress proposes grassroots measures

[26/03/2015 08:30:00] The Congress adopted a resolution and a recommendation on 25 March 2015 focusing on the role of local and regional authorities in combating and preventing radicalisation. The Congress will draw up guidelines on preventing radicalisation and manifestations of hate at grassroots level, to be adopted at its 29th Session in October 2015 and create a pedagogical toolkit for use by local elected representatives when organising intercultural and inter-faith activities. It is also committed to developing training modules on human rights issues and holding a Human Rights Forum at local level on a regular basis, with the first of these taking place in Graz on 28-29 May 2015. 'The recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris, Copenhagen and Tunis have shown that this threat is more present than ever and calls for concerted action at all levels of government,' stressed Gunn Marit Helgesen, Norway (R, EPP/CCE), who presented the texts on behalf of the rapporteur Leen Verbeek, Netherlands (R, SOC). She also pointed to the necessity of allocating additional means and resources to the Congress for the local and regional implementation of the new Council of Europe Action Plan 2015-17 to combat extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism. Photo: Gunn Marit Helgesen, Norway (R, EPP/CCE)
Press release
Report CG/2015(28)14PROV
Presentation by Marit Helgesen, Norway (R, EPP/CCE)
Congress strategy to combat radicalisation at grass-roots level

Electoral lists and voters residing de facto abroad

[26/03/2015 12:30:00] On 26 March 2015, during its 28th Session, the Congress examined a report on electoral lists and voters residing de facto abroad. 'Congress observation missions have highlighted the problems of practical organisation, effective electoral management and transparency raised by this new category of voters' explained the Congress rapporteur, Jos Wienen (Netherlands, EPP/CCE). 'We wish to make local and regional authorities aware of their responsibilities in this matter, in particular to raise awareness of the importance of a “genuine link”, through predominant relations (permanent residence, central point of life interests etc.), between a voter and the country in which he/she casts the ballot at local level. ' The report studies sixteen Council of Europe member States. 'Legislation most often imposes residence requirements for eligibility to vote in local elections. The problem of voters included on electoral lists although they live de facto abroad is therefore principally due to a lack of implementation of existing laws' he concluded.
Report CG/2015(28)6PROV
Vidéo of the Debate

Criteria for standing in local and regional elections

[26/03/2015 12:00:00] On 26 March 2015, during its 28th Session, the Congress examined a report on criteria for standing in local and regional elections. The report, presented by Oleksii Honcharenko (Ukraine, SOC) and Viacheslav Rogov (Russian Federation, ILDG), points out that the health of local and regional democracy depends on the greatest possible proportion of the electorate being able to stand for election. 'There are still too many restrictions on standing in local and regional elections, which may be financial, linked to the minimum age or of a different nature. We invite governments to review their legislation so as to limit these restrictions, in particular by setting the age at which a person may be a candidate for elected office at the local and regional levels at not more than 18' the rapporteurs explained. The Congress also undertakes to work with the Venice Commission in drawing up a supplement to the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters to address this issue.
Report CG/2015(28)7
Video of the debate

Award « Diversity advantage challenge » granted to Spanish Project

[26/03/2015 09:00:00] The Award 'Diversity advantage challenge' was granted to the XEIX Project on fostering intercultural relations around local businesses (Spain) at a ceremony organised on 24 March, during the 28th session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe. The project aims to promote social cohesion through local retail (“0km” or next-door retail) organising retail merchants’ association into small cores of social and economic promotion. “When people get together to do things together, they meet each other and then lot of myths fall,” said the winner, Joan Rodríguez. The award was presented by Jean-Claude Frécon, President of the Congress and Snežana Samardžić-Marković, Council of Europe Director General of Democracy, President of the Jury.
Press release
Interview Laureate - Joan Rodriguez
Session speciel file

Adoption of the theme of the European Local democracy Week 2015

[25/03/2015 15:30:00] “Living together in multicultural societies: respect, dialogue, interaction” will be the theme for the 2015 Week of Local Democracy, as adopted by the Bureau of the Congress at its meeting held in Strasbourg, on 23 March 2015 – on the eve of the 28th Session of the Congress. “This topic echoes recent events, in particular the terrorist attacks of January 2015 in Paris and several other European cities and beyond, and the threat they pose to the common European values” – said Gaye Doganoglu (EPP/CCE, Turkey), Vice-President of the Congress and Political Coordinator of the ELDW.
Press release
Leaflet ELDW (for download)
Website of the ELDW

Jean-Claude Frécon: “Democracies must act urgently to combat terrorism”

[24/03/2015 20:30:00] In his communication at the opening of the 28th session, the President of the Congress, Jean-Claude Frécon, referred to the acts of terrorism committed recently in several cities by young extremists. “Cities and regions must implement effective preventive and law enforcement measures to ensure that the radicalisation of a few of their citizens does not become a permanent threat to the majority”, he stressed. During the session, two debates will be held, on Wednesday 25 March, on responses to radicalisation in Europe’s cities and regions, and cities and towns against terrorism. He said that, as part of an overall Council of Europe action plan, the Congress had drawn up a strategy proposing activities to be implemented with national governments, local authorities and regions in the short, medium and long term. He also stressed that one of the priorities of the Congress in 2015 will be to have more and more articles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government declared applicable by governments, in order to build a common European area of local democracy.
Communication by Jean-Claude Frécon (French)

Andreas Kiefer re-elected Secretary General of the Council of Europe Congress

[24/03/2015 16:30:00] Andreas Kiefer (Austria) was re-elected Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe for a 5-year term of office at the 28th Session of the Congress in Strasbourg on 24 March 2015. The term of office runs from 1st July 2015. Mr Kiefer had been elected for a first term of 5 years on 17 March 2010. In an address to the members of the Congress, he emphasised that this institution was now recognised as a political assembly, a monitoring and election observation body and a partner for operational projects in the Council of Europe's 47 member States.
Press release

Republic of Moldova: Congress concludes electoral assessment mission to Gagauzia

[24/03/2015 17:30:00] ''The elections of the Governor (Bashkan) and partial elections of the Popular Assembly of the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia, Republic of Moldova, were held in an overall calm and peaceful atmosphere, technically well prepared and without major incidents, except some individual complaints”, stated the Head of the delegation, Lars O. Molin (Sweden, EPP/CCE), at the Congress’ Monitoring Committee on 24 March 2015, after the observation of the vote on 22 March by a 10 member Congress’ delegation including two participants from the EU Committee of the Regions. However, according to the Rapporteur, three issues in the area of electoral law and management need to be mentioned: the inconsistency between the Republic of Moldova and the Gagauz region with regard to legal provisions, the considerably high number of voters on supplementary lists throughout the region and the question of campaign financing of candidates. A detailed information report is under preparation and will address, among other issues, the political future and co-operation with the central Government in Chisinau of the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia under the newly elected Bashkan Irina Vlah who won the elections in the first round and was during the campaign openly supported by high-ranking Russian officials.
Press release (announcement)

Isabelle Weykmans: 'Developing democratic representation and local governance is one of the priorities of the Belgian Chairmanship of the Council of Europe''

[24/03/2015 17:00:00] ''The European Charter of Local Self-Government, which has now been ratified by all member States, is a treaty of key importance. By preparing national reports on the state of local and regional democracy in the member States and on the implementation of the Charter principles, the Congress performs some very useful work' said Isabelle Weykmans, Deputy-Minister-President, speaking on behalf of the Belgian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers at the 28th Session of the Congress on 24 March. 'We were particularly interested to receive last year's report on local and regional democracy in Belgium, which attracted a lot of attention in our country. The Belgian authorities will continue to pay full heed to the recommendations contained in the report' she added. 'Developing democratic representation and local governance is one of the priorities of the Belgian Chairmanship of the Council of Europe.'
Speech (French)

Congress President condemns Russia-South Ossetia 'agreement'

[25/03/2015 10:00:00] Following the Russian Federation's signature of the so-called 'treaty on alliance and integration' with the South Ossetia region in Georgia, the President of the Congress, Jean-Claude Frécon, made the following statement on the fringes of the Congress session in Strasbourg (France): 'I deeply deplore this provocative initiative: one year after illegally annexing Crimea and Sevastopol and less than six months after signing a similar 'treaty' with Abkhazia, another Georgian region, the Russian Federation is committing a further transgression by signing a text which, once again, gravely violates the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a Council of Europe member State and all the international commitments entered into by Russia when joining the Council of Europe. This initiative threatens the stability of an entire region of Europe and is yet another example of Russian interference on the territory of its neighbours. We ask Russia to definitively desist from exerting this kind of pressure on its neighbours.' The Congress had already spoken out on 3 December 2014 to criticise the signing of a 'treaty' with Abkhazia, a region of Georgia.
Press release

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The agenda in brief

27 March - Seminar Gay and Lesbian lives in Europe during the Second World War / Paris, FRANCE
28 March - Women Mayors Summit / Istanbul, TURKEY

Calendar of events
Calendar of local and regional elections in COE member states
Drapeau européenYouth activities
Drapeau européenFocus on Ukraine
VIDEO CLIP - The Congress in brief YouTube

Drapeau européenPolitical dialogue with governments
Belgian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers