Reform for a more political Congress
In the context of the overall reform of the Council of Europe and its general budgetary situation, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has initiated an in-depth reform process. The main aim is to focus the Congress's activities more effectively on its institutional and political role in the field of protecting and promoting local and regional democracy in Europe.
Five reports have been approved on various aspects of the functioning of the Congress: the reform of structures, activities and working methods; procedures for monitoring the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government; the strategy and rules on observing local and regional elections; priorities for 2011-2012; and resources and the 2011 budget.
Consultation has been initiated among all Congress members, who pronounced their decision at the October 2010 session, and national associations of local and regional authorities were also consulted. A set of proposals has been adopted.
In 2008, the Congress launched initial discussions on its working methods and political role, with Halvdan Skard (Norway, SOC), preparing a report which was debated at the Standing Committee Meeting in Brdo (Slovenia) on 10 June 2009.
The outcome of this work coincided with the wide-ranging reform strategy launched by Thorbjørn Jagland, the new Secretary General of the Council of Europe, in 2009, with the support of the Council's Committee of Ministers.
At the March 2010 Session, the Congress decided to continue this process and to appoint Halvdan Skard and Günther Krug (Germany, SOC) as co-rapporteurs on the reform. Furthermore, Ian Micallef, President of the Congress, was mandated to draw up two reports, one on the rules on monitoring the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, and the other on the regulations governing the Congress's observation of local and regional elections. In the light of the new budgetary restraints, the Congress has also instructed Jean-Claude Frécon (France, SOC) to prepare a report on the Congress's resources and budget for 2011.
This draft report was the subject of an extraordinary meeting of the Bureau of the Congress on 12 April 2010. The Bureau subsequently examined it at its meetings on 21 May and 17 June, as did the Standing Committee of the Congress at its meeting in Strasbourg on 18 June 2010.
Reform of structures and working methods
As part of the reform of the Council of Europe and the new budgetary constraints, the proposals concern refocusing activities on the Congress's statutory responsibilities such as monitoring and election observation. This might lead to a reform of the mode of operation of the statutory committees and the Standing Committee.
New regulations on monitoring
In order to improve the quality of its monitoring system, the Congress is proposing making the monitoring of member countries more regular and systematic and incorporating the human rights dimension into the procedure. Moreover, the new rules on monitoring missions will lay down a stricter framework concerning the mode of appointment and the guarantee of rapporteur impartiality.
Observing local elections beyond the actual election day
In order to intensify the impact and relevance of its election observation missions, the Congress has decided to adopt a policy of covering the whole electoral process. This will embrace the quality of the electoral campaign as well as the actual running of the elections. The observation procedure will also cover the post-electoral situation.
Congress priorities for 2011-2012
Unlike in previous years, when the Congress adopted various thematic priorities, for 2011-2012 the Bureau has decided to adopt a strategic guidance document. The aim is to concentrate, for example, on post-monitoring assistance or taking account of the local dimension of human rights.
Resources and budget tailored to priorities
The Congress's budget for 2011 fits in with the current context of financial downturn, which is forcing governments to make major cuts in resources. The Congress is planning to support the Council of Europe's efforts by reducing its 2011 budget by 2%.