European Charter of Local Self-Government, the international recognition to the right to autonomy
The spectacular advance of local and regional democracy was the main innovation of 20th century democracy.
Council of Europe member states thus elaborated the European Charter of Local Self-Government – the first internationally binding treaty that guarantees the rights of communities and their elected authorities.
The Charter requires compliance with a minimum number of principles that form a European foundation of local democracy. The Congress makes sure that the
these principles are observed.
A system of guarantees
The Charter requires that the principle of local self-government be embedded in domestic law or in the Constitution in order to guarantee its effective implementation. It lays down the principles of the democratic functioning of communities, and is the first treaty to establish the principle of the transfer of competences to local communities, which must be accompanied by a transfer of financial resources. This principle, known as the principle of subsidiarity, allows for the decentralisation of power towards the level closest to the citizen.
The Charter guarantees the conditions of office of local elected representatives, and their ability to exercise their functions freely. It establishes a number of safeguards to protect the rights of local communities: boundaries cannot be changed without community agreement, and the supervision of local authorities’ activities must be defined by law, with the possibility of judicial recourse.
How it works?
States undertake to respect a core of basic principles to which no reservation is possible, such as: the right of citizens to participate in managing public affairs; the key rights of communities to enjoy autonomy and self-government, elect their local bodies and to have their own competences, administrative structures and financial resources; or the right to judicial recourse in case of interference from other levels. Through these core principles, the Charter seeks to ensure the compatibility of the diverse structures of local communities in the Council of Europe member states. However, the final aim remains the respect of all of the Charter’s provisions.
Opened for signature on 15 October
1985, the European Charter of Local Self-Government
entered into force in 1988. On 10 January 2013 the
Charter has been ratified by 46 out of the 47 Member
States of the Council of Europe.