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.
On 16 November 2009, an Additional Protocol was adopted to supplement the text of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. It relates to the right to participate in local authorities’ affairs.