Latest News (Site updated Thursday, March 30, 2017 | 16:00)
The Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe addresses the members of the Congress
[30/03/2017 10:00:00] “Both your programmes and ours are aimed at promoting the Council of Europe’s values, bolstering inter-institutional co-operation and enhancning relations with our neighbouring countries” said Ioannis Kasoulides, Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and Cypriot Minister for Foreign Affairs, when addressing the members of the Congress on 29 March 2017. Cyprus was currently planning to reform its local government arrangements and he referred to the recommendation on local democracy in Cyprus, adopted by the Congress in October 2016. He also drew attention to the numerous areas in which both the Cypriot authorities and the Congress were working, in particular to prevent radicalisation, integrate refugees and migrants, and take action against Anti-Gypsyism. “The Congress” priority, which is to improve the quality of local and regional democracy, in particular by raising awareness of human rights at local and regional level and by promoting ethical conduct and transparency, is particularly important and necessary”, he said. He also mentioned the crisis in Turkey following the failed coup d’Etat in July 2016 and said that it was the Cypriot Chairmanship’s aim “to assist the Turkish authorities to overcome the difficulties the country is facing, while ensuring compliance with our common standards with regard to human rights, democracy and the rule of law”. A debate on the detention of elected mayors and their replacement by persons designated by the government is on the agenda of the 32nd Session, following a fact-finding visit to Turkey in 2016.
Local democracy in Estonia
[30/03/2017 11:30:00] The Congress adopted a recommendation on local democracy in Estonia on 29 March 2017, following a monitoring visit to the cities of Tallinn, Paide and Jõhvi by the rapporteurs, Henrik Hammar, (Sweden, EPP/CCE) and Leendert Verbeek, (Netherlands, SOC) from 6 to 8 September 2016.
The rapporteurs welcomed the initiatives of the Estonian institutions to start a territorial reform process on local and state level and revision of the revision of the State Budget Law that strengthens the interaction between the state and local authorities on budgetary items.
'We are optimistic about the perspectives of the continuation of the reform projects that may improve the situation of both local authorities and the citizens of Estonia,' Mr Hammar stated.
The Congress nevertheless recommends that the Estonian authorities clarify their legislation concerning the distribution of functions between local government and State and that they change the domestic legislation in order to give local authorities more financial autonomy
'We suggest transferring a maximum of competences to the local level with concomitant financial resources and we recommend that the Estonian authorities increase the local share in state taxes,' added Mr Verbeek.
“As county governments will cease to exist on first of January 2018, we will give all local tasks fulfilled now by current counties to local governments.' explained Mihhail Korb, Minister of public administration of Estonia, addressing the Session. 'New tasks come with sufficient funding. This is an important, key principle in our constitution and in Charter,' he added.
Press Release Recommendation CPL32(2017)04 Presentation by Leen Verbeek Presentation by Henrik Hammar Video - Speech Mihhail Korb Video Mediabox interview with Mr.Leendert VERBEEK
Local democracy in Malta
[30/03/2017 10:30:00] On 29 March 2017, the Congress’s Chamber of Local Authorities adopted a recommendation on local democracy in Malta following a monitoring visit from 22 to 24 November 2016. This is the third monitoring report since Malta ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1993. The report was prepared by the co-rapporteurs Stewart Dickson (United Kingdom, ILDG) and Risto Rautava (Finland, EPP-CCE).
The co-rapporteurs expressed satisfaction with certain amendments made to Malta’s legislation, improving local democracy, since the last official monitoring visit in 2010. Local governance in Malta faces numerous challenges, however, in terms of non-compliance with the provisions of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, said Stewart Dickson, presenting the report to the Chamber of local Authorities. The Congress is particularly concerned about the lack of explicit or direct recognition of the principle of local self-government in domestic legislation and in the Maltese Constitution. The report also mentions the excessive involvement of central government in local affairs. The overall situation with regard to local democracy in Malta is exacerbated by the lack of meaningful consultation between central government and local authorities, explained Stewart Dickson.
Press release Report CG32(2017)02 on Local democracy in Malta Statement by Stewart Dickson Statement by Dr Stefan Buontempo File: 32nd Session of the Congress Video of the debate Interview with Stewart Dickson
Local Democracy in Iceland
[30/03/2017 10:00:00] The Chamber of Local Authorities of the Congress adopted a recommendation, on 29 March 2017, on the state of local democracy in Iceland following a monitoring visit in June 2016. This is second monitoring report since the ratification of the European Charter of Local Self Government in 1991. This document, which was presented by the corapporteurs Mr. Jakob Wienen (Netherlands, EPP/CCE) et Mr. Zdenek Broz (Czech Republic, ECR), underlines the generally satisfactory level of local democracy in the country. The report praises recent developments fostering local self-government, including the promotion of the involvement of local authorities in national decision-making as well as increased inter-municipal co-operation and citizen participation in local authorities. “Iceland could be shared as an example of good practice among the members-states of the Council of Europe” stated Zdenek Broz. Nevertheless, the report draws attention to possible enhancements, in particular the clarification of the division of responsibilities between central government and local authorities and a direct applicability of the Charter in the domestic legal system.
Press release Report CPL32(2017)06 on local democracy in Iceland Statement by Jakob Wienen Statement by Zdenek Broz Statement by Jon Gunnarsson File : 32nd Session of the Congress Video of the debate Interview with Jakob Wienen
Council of Europe’s Congress adopts report on the situation of mayors in Turkey
[29/03/2017 18:30:00] On 29 March 2017, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation and resolution on the situation of mayors and councillors in Turkey, and, in particular, on the detention of elected mayors and their replacement by mayors appointed by the central authorities. The co-rapporteurs Anders Knape (Sweden, EPP/CCE) and Leen Verbeek (Netherlands, SOC) presented the report prepared following two fact-finding missions to the country in 2016.
In the adopted texts, the Congress asks the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to invite the Turkish authorities to rescind the legislative measures on “mayors appointed by the central authorities” and restore the capacity of municipal councils to choose a replacement mayor. It also points out that the arrest of a local elected representative must be a decision duly substantiated in domestic law, taken in conformity with the standards of the Council of Europe and, in particular, with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Congress also calls for Turkish legislation to be revised, in order to align its definition of terrorism with European standards, notably the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.
In addition, the Congress calls for a revision of the ministerial instructions of 11 November 2016 with a view to decriminalising the appointment of co-mayors. In this connection, it has agreed to put the review of the situation of Nurhayat Altun, member of the Turkish delegation of the Congress, on the agenda of its Bureau meetings until the end of legal proceedings. “Co-mayor” of Tunceli, Ms Altun was arrested on 17 November 2016 and is being held in Kocaeli F-type prison.
Press Release Report CG32(2017)13 Video of the debate
Thorbjørn Jagland: 'Local and regional authorities are an important part of the Council of Europe's work'
[29/03/2017 14:00:00] 'Local and regional authorities are a very important part of the Council of Europe's work to enhance human rights, rule of law and democracy across the continent' stated Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, addressing the 32nd Session of the Congress on 28 March 2017 in Strasbourg (France). 'The Congress has adopted a Human Rights Action Plan in order to pay attention to what authorities can do at the local level. I'm very glad you have put in place this action plan, because then we now mobilise forces to support the European Convention of Human Rights at local and regional level,' he added. 'The only way of strengthening the Convention is to share the responsibility for it with the domestic level.' he underlined. The Secretary General stressed out the key role of the Congress in providing concrete responses to issues facing Europe, in particular in addressing intercultural issues and promoting the integration of migrants. He emphasised the need to ensure voting rights for displaced persons and drew attention to the situation of unaccompanied refugee minors 'who have more than anybody else the right to protection and education.'
Moldova: Congress examines an information report on elections in the Popular Assembly of the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia
[30/03/2017 10:00:00] An information report was presented by Sevdia Ugrekhelidze, Georgia (EPP/CCE) on 29 March 2017, following a mission to assess elections in the Autonomous Territorial Unit (ATU) of Gagauzia on 20 November 2016. The report points out that the new legal framework, adopted in 2015, remedies major shortcomings identified in previous Congress election observation reports and was generally well implemented. The efforts by the authorities to improve the quality of voters’ lists and the level of preparation of the election administration are major factors in improving the electoral process. The Congress likewise welcomes the ban on foreign funds for campaign purposes as well as the establishment of the Central Election Commission of ATU Gagauzia as a permanent body. The report also mentions, however, allegations concerning recurring issues related to vote buying, the misuse of administrative resources and the lack of a real level playing field for all candidates, in particular in the media. Moreover, even though the new Electoral Code brought substantial improvements, there is still a need for further amendments in order to reconcile the respective legislation of ATU Gagauzia and the Republic of Moldova.
Report CPR32(2017)02 Video of the debate
Strengthening local government through direct applicability of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in domestic legal systems
[29/03/2017 12:00:00] In a debate held during the 32nd session, on 28 March 2017, the Congress spoke of the status of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in domestic legal systems. As an international treaty ratified by the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, the Charter has legal force and should be directly applied in domestic legal systems. Prepared by Stewart Dickson (United Kingdom, ILDG) and Leendert Verbeek (Netherlands, SOC), the report mentions recurring issues identified by the Congress during missions to assess implementation of the Charter between 2010 and 2016 and which are mainly due to the refusal to apply the Charter directly. Most of these recurring issues were also highlighted in the comparative analysis on the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Council of Europe member states, presented during the same debate by the co-rapporteurs Karim Van Overmeire (Belgium) and Xavier Cadoret (France, SOC).
More information Video of the debate Report CG32(2017)19 Report CG32(2017)22
10th anniversary of the European Local Democracy Week (ELDW)
[29/03/2017 11:00:00] In the context of its 32nd Session, the Congress held an exchange of views on European Local Democracy Week (ELDW). The Week celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2017 and the theme is: “Citizen participation, consultation and commitment for a thriving local democracy” – Since it was first launched in 2007, ELDW has helped to bring citizens and local elected representatives closer. “The ELDW has become a truly pan-European event that presents an opportunity to promote participatory democracy at the closest level to citizens”, stated Gaye Doganoglu (Turkey, EPP/CCE), Vice-President of the Congress and ELDW Spokesperson. She praised the ELDW partner cities’ commitment and in particular the cities of Katowice (Poland) and Stockton on Tees (United Kingdom,) which were at the session to share their experience. Katarzyna Borkowska, Director of the Administration Department of the City of Katowice, ELDW partner since 2009, said that the citizens of Katowice took a keen interest in the Week and a growing number of people took part from year to year.
Press release Statement by Gaye Doganoglu Statement by Ann McCoy Statement by Katarzyna Borkowska Photo Gallery ELDW website File 32nd Session Video of the debate Video clip '10 years of ELDW'
Gudrun Mosler-Törnström : « Local and regional authorities are essential to the democratic stability of Europe”
[28/03/2017 19:30:00] In her communication at the opening of the 32nd Session of the Congress of local and regional authorities, President Gudrun Mosler-Törnström recalled that “local and regional authorities are responsible for carrying out a considerable share of public action in their States”. She expressed concern upon the situation in member States and in particular the situation of local and regional democracy and underlined that “the Europe of democracy and the Europe of values are in danger”. “When I see elected mayors arrested and replaced by civil servants, when I see powers transferred to central governments, when the wind of recentralisation blows, I feel that the great ambition that is ours is undermined” she said, adding that there was no inescapable fate in these trends. She invited local and regional elected representatives and the Congress to mobilise against any form of retreat of local government. “We must invest ourselves in order to convince our capitals that the crises we are going through can be overcome by collective, concerted and concrete action to which we, elected representatives and the Congress, can and must contribute,” she concluded, stressing that progress towards local and regional self-government will represent an important contribution to the democratic stability of the continent.
Communication by the President of the Congress Video
Migration: Congress adopts report on the role of local authorities in reception and integration
South-Mediterranean Partnership: the Congress receives delegations from Morocco and Tunisia during the 32nd Session
[24/03/2017 13:00:00] In the context of its 32nd Session, the Congress has invited delegations from the Kingdom of Morocco and the Republic of Tunisia. They will be participating in the context of the Congress’ South-Mediterranean Partnership (Sud-Med), whose activities are designed to accompany local and regional democracy reforms in these countries.
Mohamed BOUDRA, President of the Moroccan Association of Presidents of Municipal Councils (AMPCC), and Mokhtar HAMMAMI, Director, Directorate General of Local Communities, Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment, Republic of Tunisia, will address the members of the Congress at the plenary session in the afternoon of Tuesday 28 March 2017. In the morning of Wednesday 29 March, Saloua DEMNATI, President of the Committee on Cooperation, Partnership and Moroccans Worldwide within the Regional Council of Tanger-Tetouan-Al Hoceima, will address the Chamber of Regions during the debate on “Border regions facing migration flows”.
Press release Partner for Local Democracy status Photos
Participation of youth delegates in the 32nd Congress session
[24/03/2017 15:00:00] On the occasion of the 32nd Session from 28 to 30 March 2017, the Congress will welcome 44 youth delegates between the ages of 16 and 30, from 44 countries and one observer from the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR). The youth delegates will take part in all the debates and meetings alongside Congress members. This is a continuation of an initiative started in 2014 that has proven to be a good practice in directly involving young people in local and regional decision making. The Congress seeks to continue to build on the success of this exercise by exploring how to implement Council of Europe and Congress youth policy on promoting the participation of young people in decision and policy making. To this end, in addition to their participation in the session, for the second year running the youth delegates will develop grassroots projects to be conducted in the period between the two 2017 sessions.
Youth Delegates List File 'Youth Activities' File '32nd Session'
32nd Session of the Congress to focus on migration, citizen participation and local and regional democracy in Europe
[26/03/2017 10:00:00] The 32nd session (28 to 30 March) includes several debates focusing on the role of local authorities facing migration, the reception of unaccompanied child migrants and border regions facing migration flows. The Congress will also examine the state of local and regional democracy in Finland, the state of local democracy in Malta, Estonia and Iceland, as well as a report on the observation of local elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina (October 2016). In addition, following a fact-finding mission to Turkey in October and December 2016, members of the Congress will adopt a report on the situation in that country and, in particular, regarding the detention of elected mayors and their replacement by persons appointed by the Government. Also on the agenda are the adoption of a checklist for preventing the misuse of administrative resources during electoral processes at local and regional level, as well as thematic debates on citizen participation, youth autonomy and access to employment, open data, human rights at local and regional level, and on the fight against anti-Gypsyism. Within the framework of the Southern Mediterranean Partnership, the Congress will host two delegations from Morocco and Tunisia. The 32nd Session will also mark the 10th anniversary of European Local Democracy Week (ELDW).
Press release 32nd Session Agenda Live webcast, videos and photos
Meeting of the Congress Governance Committee
[28/03/2017 13:00:00] The members of the Governance Committee of the Congress met in Strasbourg on Tuesday 28 March 2017, on the fringe of the 32nd Congress Session. They elected a 5th vice-chair, Robert Saunders, United Kingdom (L, ECR). The Committee approved a mandate concerning the 'Fair distribution of taxes in transfrontier areas' and debated on the draft report 'A better future for Europe’s rural regions'. In the framework of the Congress’ Roadmap of activities for preventing corruption at local and regional levels, the members looked at draft reports on 'Making public procurement transparent at local and regional level', 'Protecting whistleblowers', 'Nepotism (recruitment of staff)','Revision of the European code of conduct for the political integrity of Local and regional elected representatives' and on the report presented during this Session 'Open data for better public services'.
CV Robert Saunders
The World Forum for Democracy returns with a sixth edition! – Call for submissions
[23/02/2017 09:00:00] The 2017 World Forum for Democracy (WFD) will be held in Strasbourg on 8-10 November. This year, the role of political parties and the media in the context of rising populism will be at the centre of discussion, with themes such as “From democracy of parties to democracy of citizens?” and “Media - friend or foe of democracy?”. Debates will focus, among others, on how to counter populism and foster pluralism in online media rather than extremism and polarisation. Public and private organisations, as well as local and regional authorities worldwide are invited to express their interest in presenting their ideas by filling in the Submission of initiative in the Call for submissions document below and sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org by 30 April 2017.
Call for submissions Concept paper World forum for Democracy - website
Monitoring visit by the Congress to Italy
[22/03/2017 19:00:00] A delegation from the Congress carried out a monitoring visit to Italy from 21 to 23 March 2017. The delegation examined the situation on local and regional democracy in the light of the provisions of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, ratified by the country in 1990. Co-rapporteurs on local democracy Mr Jakob Wienen (the Netherlands, EPP-CCE) and Mr Stewart Dickson (United-Kingdom, ILDG), focused on the developments in the field of local democracy occurred since the adoption of the last Congress recommendation on local and regional democracy in Italy, on March 2013.
High level meetings were scheduled, in particular with the Minister for Regional Affairs and Autonomies, Mr Enrico Costa, the Undersecretary of Ministry of Interior, Hon. Gianpiero Bocci, as well as the Undersecretary of Economy and Finances, Mr Paolo Baretta.
Photo: Mr Enrico Costa, Italian Minister for Regional Affairs and Autonomies with Jakob Wienen and Stewart Dickson, the Congress co-rapporteurs on local and regional democracy Press release Programme Photo Galery - Flickr