Latest News (Site updated Friday, October 21, 2016 | 17:00)

Local and regional democracy in Croatia

[21/10/2016 08:30:00] On 20 October 2016, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation on the state of local and regional democracy in Croatia following a monitoring visit to Zagreb, Rijeka, Omisalj and Krk in March 2016. This is third monitoring report since the ratification of the European Charter of Local Self Government by Croatia in 1997. It was drafted by the co-rapporteurs Luzette Kroon (Netherlands, EPP/ECC) and Ole Haabeth (Norway, SOC), and presented by Luzette Kroon. The co-rapporteurs noted with satisfaction that the Charter had been fully incorporated into Croatian national legislation, thereby complying with the Congress’ wishes that all provisions of the Charter be applied. They also welcomed the introduction since the last monitoring visit in 2007 of direct elections for mayors and prefects and a financial equalisation policy. In September 2015 the local authorities had enacted legislation on voluntary mergers of local authorities to simplify territorial divisions and the provision of public services.
Press Release
Report on Local and regional democracy in Croatia
Presentation by Luzette Kroon

Jean-Louis Testud: “Metropolitan governance structures should be democratically accountable and not involve any erosion of local democracy”

[21/10/2016 16:00:00] In the framework of its 31st Session (19-21 October 2016), the Congress adopted a resolution and recommendation on Good governance in metropolitan areas. The report provides an overview of the complex and multi-layered nature of the governance of metropolitan areas and the associated challenges in terms of representative democracy, emphasizing the need to maintain democratic legitimacy and accountability in metropolitan areas. “For metropolitan areas to function effectively, they need appropriate governance structures and a large degree of autonomy” stated Jean-Louis Testud (France, EPP-CCE), the new chair of the Governance Committee of the Congress. He underlined the key role of the citizen participation to improving the democratic accountability and legitimacy of decision-making. The report called on territorial authorities in metropolitan areas to ensure a clear division of tasks and responsibilities and to establish partnerships with the different tiers of government, civil society and the business sector.
Speech by Jean-Louis Testud
Report - Good governance in metropolitan areas
File - 31st Session

Congress adopts Information Report on local and provincial elections in Serbia

[21/10/2016 10:30:00] A debate on the assessment of a vote at grassroots’ level held in Serbia this spring was organised in the framework of the 31st Session of the Congress. The local elections conducted in the whole country and provincial elections carried out in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina were held on the same day as early Parliamentary elections, namely on 24 April 2016. Congress Rapporteur Karim Van Overmeire (Belgium), underlined that “apart from isolated irregularities observed by the Congress delegation, the vote was organised in a calm and orderly manner, generally in line with the according legislation.” However, he made clear that “the crucial moment of vote counting proved to be difficult and a lack of clear regulations and instructions resulted in technical errors and procedural irregularities”. The Congress’ Information Report highlights several areas for improvement which should be addressed by the Serbian authorities, for example: to revise legislation with regard to voters’ and candidates’ registration, including measures to improve the accuracy of voters’ lists and clear criteria for the registration of candidates’ lists representing national minorities.
Press release
Presentation by Karim Van Overmeire
Information report on the observation of local and provincial elections in Serbia
File ''31st Session''

Jean-Louis Testud: 'Gender budgeting is a key mechanism for equality between women and men'

[21/10/2016 09:00:00] The Congress debated a report on gender budgeting on 20 October 2016. The report, presented by Jean-Louis Testud, Chair of the Governance Committee, pointed out that this approach comprises a gender-based assessment of budgets, incorporating a gender perspective at all levels of the budgetary process and restructuring revenues and expenditures to promote gender equality. Where the use of transport is concerned, for example, research shows that men and women have differing habits and needs. Women tend to make shorter and more frequent journeys and are the main users of public transport and yet, in many countries and cities, transport policies are devised by men and based solely on their own needs. Mr Testud stressed that 'gender budgeting has proven to be an important mechanism for ensuring greater consistency between economic goals and social commitments at local and regional levels'.
More information
Report on Gender budgeting
Presentation by Jean-Louis Testud (French)

Hanno Pevkur : “Only constitutionally-guaranteed decentralisation will anchor democracy at the regional and local levels”

[20/10/2016 17:30:00] Interior Minister of Estonia Hanno Pevkur addressed Congress members at their 31st Session, on 20 October 2016, in Strasbourg, France. Apart from an overview of the initatives undertaken by the Estonian Chairmanship of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers regarding the political situation in Turkey and Ukraine, the Minister detailed Estonia as a European model for e-democracy. Mentioning the democratic reforms in Ukraine, M. Pevkur stated that “Only constitutionally-guaranteed decentralisation will anchor democracy at the regional and local levels”. He also stressed the role of local and regional authorities in combating radicalisation and extreme violence which requires a concerted response from all levels of governance: local, national and international. “Another welcomed example is the theme of the European Local Democracy Week 2016 which is “Living together in culturally diverse societies: respect, dialogue, interaction”. Identifying ways to promote cultural diversity as richness and not a threat is crucial”, he added. “Much responsibility falls on the shoulders of local and regional authorities, who have to deal directly with the difficult consequences of social fragmentation and mistrust between citizens,” said M. Pevkur mentioning other issues in which local and regional authorities can play a key role, in particular, children’s rights and gender equality.

Congress presents an Information Report on local by-elections in Armenia

[20/10/2016 12:30:00] The Chamber of Local Authorities of the Congress debated on Thursday 20 October 2016 an Information Report on the assessment of local by-elections held on 18 September 2016 in Armenia. This vote was the first one organised after the July 2016 hostage crises at a police station in Yerevan and after the Prime Minister resigned in early September. Despite the adoption of a new Electoral Code in 2016 further to the 2015 Constitutional reform in Armenia, the local by-elections held on 18 September 2016 were governed by the 2011 Electoral Code. This has led to some uncertainties with regard to the legal framework and “had inevitable repercussions related to the general atmosphere in which these elections took place”, stated the Congress’ Rapporteur Liisa Ansala (Finland, ILDG). In general, the teams deployed on Election Day found that the elections were technically well-prepared and overall in line with international standards. At the same time, Mrs Ansala underlined a very low level of political competition for these elections with many candidates withdrawing in the course of the campaign. “As a consequence, there was low public interest”, the Rapporteur regretted.
Press release
Interview with Liisa Ansala
Presentation by Liisa Ansala
Information report on the assessment of local by-elections in Armenia
File - 31st Session

Debate on the situation of mayors in Turkey

[20/10/2016 09:30:00] On Thursday 20 October 2016 at about 2.50 p.m. the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe will be holding a debate on the situation of mayors in Turkey in the context of its 31st Session, in Strasbourg, France. The debate, which will be presented by the co-rapporteurs Anders Knape, (Sweden, EPP/CCE) and Leen Verbeek, (Netherlands, SOC), will consider the situation in Turkey following a wave of arrests and the detention of mayors who have been removed from office. The debate is part of a fact-finding mission which began in October and will continue until December 2016 and whose conclusions will be discussed at the 32nd Session of the Congress in March 2017. It will be live webcast and interpreted in English, French, Italian, Russian and Turkish.
Live webcast
Agenda of the 31st Session
File ''31st Session''

Local democracy in Cyprus

[20/10/2016 15:00:00] The Congress adopted a report on the state of local democracy Cyprus following a monitoring visit to Nicosia, Kokkinotrimithia, Ayios Dhometios and Paphos in April 2016. This document, which was presented by the rapporteur Bernd Vöhringer (Germany, EPP/ECC), underlines the Cypriot government’s political commitment to citizens’ participation in local public affairs. Nevertheless, the Congress expresses its concern with regard to the financial autonomy of local authorities, the weakness and imprecision of the legislative basis for the powers and responsibilities of local authorities and for the conditions under which they are exercised as well as the absence of constitutional safeguards for the principle of local self-government and the status of local authorities. “Only minimal responsibilities are conferred by the relevant law to local authorities and these authorities clearly lack genuine functions” said Mr Vöhringer.
Press release
Presentation by Bernd Vöhringer
Report on Local democracy in Cyprus
File 31st Session of the Congress

Combating anti Gypsyism: Congress calls for better access to social rights and legislative measures

[20/10/2016 16:00:00] The Congress adopted a report on the situation of Roma and Travellers, presented by John Warmisham (United Kingdom, SOC) and highlighting the context of rising extremism, xenophobia and the refugee crisis, which is worsening discrimination against them and stirring anti-Gypsyism. « Anti-Gypsyism is the one of the most disruptive reasons that hinder the improvement of the situation of Roma and Travellers in Europe,” explained John Warmisham insisting on the importance of a real awareness of the seriousness of the situation at European level. The Congress reminded local and regional authorities of their responsibility to create the conditions for access to economic and social rights for Roma and Travellers. At national level, the Congress recommendation stresses the need to adopt anti-discrimination policies to ensure that Roma and Travellers enjoy legal and social equality. It calls on the governments to develop the legislative framework to overcome institutional anti-Gypsyism and its manifestations.
Press release
Report CPL31(2016)03
Presentation by John Warmisham

31st Session: Elections to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities

[17/10/2016 10:30:00] The 31st Session of the Congress was marked by the renewal of the delegations and the election of new Presidents of the Congress, its Chambers and Committees. On 19 October 2016, Gudrun Mosler-Törnström (Austria, SOC) was the first woman elected as President of the Congress. The Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the two Chambers of the Congress were elected on 20 October 2016. Anders Knape (Sweden, EPP-CCE) was re-elected as the Chair of the Chamber of Local Authorities, and Gunn Marit Helgesen (Norway, EPP-CCE), was elected as Chair of the Chamber of Regions. Finally, the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the Congress Statutory Committees were also elected on 19 October. Leen Verbeek (Netherlands, SOC) was elected as Chair of the Monitoring Committee, Jean-Louis Testud (France, EPP-CCE), was elected as Chair of the Governance Committee, and Gabriele Neff (Germany, ILDG), was elected as Chair of the Current Affairs Committee.
CV/Motivation Gudrun Mosler-Törsntröm
List of Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the Chambers
List of Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the Committees
File ''31st Session - Elections''
Who’s who - National delegations

Thorbjørn Jagland: 'Congress' thematics are in line with the Council of Europe's priorities'

[20/10/2016 10:30:00] 'It is very important for the Council of Europe to work with the Congress which represents the grassroots level closest to the people of our member countries', said Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland in his address to the 31st Session of the Congress on 19 October 2016. He congratulated Gudrun Mosler-Törnström (Austria) on her election to the Presidency of the Congress and thanked the outgoing President, Jean-Claude Frécon (France), for the excellent cooperation during his term of office. The Secretary General emphasised the relevance of the Congress session agenda which was very much in line with the Council of Europe's priorities. 'Corruption is a huge issue at both local and national level which threatens the integrity of our democracies', he said, before adding that ethics and transparency at local level, the participation of women and governance of metropolitan areas are all issues of great importance for the Council of Europe as the guardian of democracy and human rights. Thorbjørn Jagland went on to praise the great contribution of the Congress to the decentralisation process in Ukraine and to the Council of Europe's projects in this context.
Statement by Thorbjørn Jagland

Young people to the Congress: “Let us create partnerships”

[20/10/2016 10:00:00] What can be done to engage more young people at local and regional level? What is causing the decrease in the participation of young people that currently stands at only 13% at local level? These were some of the questions raised during today's presentation of youth delegates' work between the 30th and 31st sessions of the Congress. Thirty-six youth delegates carried out projects over six months that involved more than 3 000 young people from around Europe and reached 120 000 more through different communication channels. The youth delegates did not just list problems: together with the Congress members, they put forward constructive recommendations stressing the need for more civic education, better participation structures and more direct dialogue between young people and local authorities in order to strengthen their inclusion in decision-making processes. Using youth-friendly language and new channels of communication would be important steps forward, they underscored. The young people called on the Congress to use them in its activities in order to spread the word farther to their peers and help Congress members reach out to them. “Let us create partnerships”, they concluded.
More information
List of participants to the 31st Session
List of projects
Photo Gallery – Youth delegates

Preventing radicalisation in towns, cities and regions: the Congress consolidates its strategy

[19/10/2016 17:30:00] The Congress committees on current affairs and governance have held joint discussions on the Congress’ strategy to prevent radicalisation in towns, cities and regions. The report and resolution presented by Josef Neumann (Germany, SOC) and Bert Bouwmeester (Netherlands, ILDG) urge the Congress to consolidate its activities in this field by adopting methods to foster pluralist, inclusive and culturally diverse societies in Europe, and by incorporating the concept of “interconvictional dialogue” in its initiatives to foster intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. The adopted resolution calls on local and regional elected representatives to contribute to these initiatives by using the resources set out in the “Organising intercultural and interreligious activities” toolkit. It also invites them to become members of the “Alliance of European Cities and Regions against Violent Extremism” for which the Congress, the European Forum for Urban Security and the Municipality of Rotterdam are organising a Summit of Mayors in Rotterdam on 9 November 2016 .
Report CG31(2016)15
Video of the debate
Presentation by Joseph Neumann
Presentation by Bert Bouwmeester

Gudrun Mosler-Törnström, the first woman to be elected President of the Congress

[19/10/2016 12:30:00] The members of the Congress, meeting for the 31st Session in Strasbourg (France), elected Gudrun Mosler-Törnström (Austria, SOC) as President for a two-year term of office. Ms Mosler-Törnström is the first woman being elected to the Presidency of the Congress. “The strengthening of democracy, human rights and the rule of law at local and regional level are the core objectives of the Congress. Without these values, our societies would face a decrease in solidarity and an increase in radicalisation, extremism, xenophobia and recentralisation,” she stated addressing the Congress members. Underlining that the democratic structure of the European continent is at risk, she stressed that decentralisation is one answer to these challenges. “Decentralisation is an evolving process which needs our full involvement. The work of the Council of Europe Congress is, therefore, clearly more important than ever,” she said.
Press release
Presentation and biography

The Congress organises on training seminar on Elections observation on the eve of its 31st Session

[18/10/2016 18:00:00] In order to give local and regional elected representatives the opportunity to acquire specific skills and competences on election observation, a training seminar was organised by the Congress on the eve of the 31st Session. Hosted by Armin Rabitsch, senior election expert, the training offered information on the history, legal background and methodology of election observation with a special focus on elections for local and regional bodies. Special attention was paid to the appropriate conduct of international election observers. Members of Congress who participated in previous missions took the floor to share concrete experiences made in the field. In the course of the session week, the Congress will debate three reports related to election observation as part of its activities to evaluate the situation of local and regional democracy in Council of Europe member states. A transversal report on ' The misuse of administrative resources during electoral processes: the role of local and regional elected representatives and public officials' will be presented by Stewart Dickson (United Kingdom, ILDG). Two information reports on the local and provincial elections held on 24 April 2016 in Serbia and on local by-elections organised on 18 September 2016 in Armenia will be submitted by Karim Van Overmeire (Belgium) and Liisa Ansala (Finland, ILDG) respectively.
Photo gallery - Training seminar on Elections observation
Video - Training seminar on Elections observation

31st Session: Congress showcases youth projects as part of its initiative “rejuvenating politics”

[18/10/2016 17:30:00] Since October 2014, the Congress has implemented a yearly initiative aimed at rejuvenating political life by inviting young people to take part in its sessions as youth delegates, to have their say in the debates and to exchange with Congress members on the issues on the agenda. At its 31st session, from 19 to 21 October 2016, the Congress will host 36 youth delegates, aged 16 to 30 years, from 36 different delegations. This year, for the first time, the Congress has invited a group of youth delegates to participate in both its annual sessions (March and October) with a view to heightening the relevance of their participation. During the 30th Congress Session (22-24 March 2016), youth delegates had the opportunity to start planning local and regional actions to be developed over the summer in the framework of the initiative “rejuvenating politics”. During the 31st Congress Session, youth delegates will present these diverse and wide-ranging projects to Congress members.
List of projects
List of participants to the 31st Session
File - 31st Session
Photo gallery (Flickr)

Jean-Claude Frécon : “The European Charter of Local Self-government, a unique legal instrument for good local and regional governance”

[19/10/2016 11:30:00] The outgoing President of the Congress, Jean-Claude Frécon (France, SOC), presented a review of the activities and achievements of term of office from 2014 to 2016, when opening the 31st session in Strasbourg (France). Reiterating the Congress objective of 100% application of the Charter to 100% of European territory, he emphasised the central role of the European Charter for Local Self-Government as a flexible and effective tool serving democracy in our societies. 'We must continue to engage in dialogue with member states’ governments and urge them to honour the commitments they entered into when ratifying the Charter, which is a unique legal instrument for upholding and promoting local and regional democracy in Europe. The Charter is also a source of good practices for national authorities and an opportunity to improve local and regional management and governance', he said. During his Presidency, five post-monitoring roadmaps have been signed with national authorities committed to implementing the recommendations made by the Congress on decentralisation.
More information
Speech (French)

Launching of a website and video clip to promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue at local and regional level

[18/10/2016 17:30:00] As the fight against radicalisation requires preventive measures that include the promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue, the Congress has prepared a toolkit to guide local authorities and associations and NGOs in their efforts to organise intercultural and interreligious activities. The toolkit includes digital resource info-sheets, the 12 principles of interreligious dialogue at local level and the guidelines adopted by the Congress. It has been translated into 36 languages of the Council of Europe member states and is downloadable online in PDF format. It is also available in print in the working languages of the Congress (English, French, German, Italian, Russian and Turkish). The toolkit is available on a new website and presented in a video clip.
Toolkit website

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Organising intercultural and interreligious activities - File

Organising intercultural and interreligious activities
Drapeau européenCo-operation activities

Drapeau européenYouth activities
Drapeau européenFocus on Ukraine
VIDEO CLIP - The Congress in brief YouTube

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