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17 May 2005
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To be checked against delivered speech

Speech by Giovanni Di Stasi, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe

Warsaw, 17 May 2005

Mr President,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

In my address to you yesterday I stressed the importance of local and regional self-government for the democratic good health of our societies. You have devoted today’s session to the “European architecture”, European construction and the respective roles of the various organisations participating in it. I want to tell you how firmly resolved the Congress is to make its own contribution to this thought-process and to European construction as such.

The first reason is that one of the essential principles of local democracy is subsidiarity, which we have upheld through the Charter of Local Self-Government. We in the Congress consider that this principle must govern our approach to apportionment of the powers of each entity, whether at State level or at that of the different international organisations. Moreover, I observe that in its constitutional treaty the European Union has devoted one of the protocols to the necessary respect for the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.

The next reason is that for many years we have been convinced of the usefulness to our citizens of a strong and open partnership between our various organisations and especially between the Council of Europe and the European Union. In that regard, allow me to share with you the long experience of it which we have gained, particularly through our close co-operation with the Committees of the Regions instituted in 1994 as was the Congress. Just last month we signed a co-operation agreement which I solemnly place in the hands of the Chairmanship and of Jean-Claude Junker to whom you have assigned a crucial mission for the future of our institutions. To me, this co-operation with the Committee of the Regions is one of the finest examples of the good practices that must be established between our institutions.

It is a means of sharing our work on good governance, sustainable communities monitoring of local and regional democracy.Area of prime importance for the European Union, as it wants to know the state of democracy for the examination of the candidatures submitted to it.

The partnership does not stop there. Allow me to give a specific example of positive co-operation between the Congress and the European Union for the furtherance of local and regional democracy. With the help of the Union, we recently set up an association of Georgian municipalities playing an active part in the significant reforms which that country has undertaken, giving local democracy a firmer foothold at grassroots level.

I could also mention in the transfrontier co-operation context the planned Adriatic Euroregion allowing co-operation to take place between Union and non-Union countries around a semi-closed sea, whose management cannot end at the abstract borders of our States and our organisations. This original model for a Euroregion could very well be applied to other seas marked by the same territorial complexity for the purpose of common management; here I have in mind the Black Sea, where a few months from now the Romanian Presidency of our Organisation will be able to contribute effectively. I am also thinking of the Baltic Sea.

While partnership with the European Union is paramount, we have also worked with the United Nations, particularly with UNMIK in Kosovo, with the OSCE, ODHIR and NGOs. This helps to avoid duplications and to ensure that, as far as possible, the international community speaks with a single voice.

This Summit, Ladies and Gentlemen, is a precious opportunity to better define our respective tasks, to enable us together to develop the European project we are pursuing and determine the paths we need to take to this end. Sometimes when we meet, the Council of Europe speaks about the Council of Europe, the European Union about the European Union. Let us make sure that we all speak now about the Europe we want to achieve, and to which we all have a contribution to make.

Thank you very much for your attention.