- to promote local and regional self-government, to pool experience and develop policies on local and regional authorities’ administrative and legal structures and finances;
- to promote transfrontier co-operation between local and regional authorities and to highlight the cultural and linguistic diversity of Europe’s regions.
The Council of Europe aims to protect and strengthen local and regional democracy and to encourage devolution and citizen participation in local and regional government. The European Charter of Local Self-Government was drawn up with these aims in mind. The Council of Europe's work therefore covers all issues relating to the legal framework, structures, duties, resources and functioning of local and regional authorities.
The co-operation programme is particularly concerned with legislative assistance, with the division of responsibilities between the various levels of government and relations between those levels. It also gives legislative and technical assistance on the planning of local and regional finance systems and the management of municipal public services, on training local and regional government staff and elected representatives and setting up and running local and regional authorities’ associations.
Strengthening Transfrontier co-operation
Border regions have become increasingly outward-looking and this has opened up new prospects for transfrontier partnerships (for example, the setting-up of the Euro regions). The European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities provides the legal basis for transfrontier co-operation.
The Council of Europe's policy has two objectives: to build trust and good-neighbourly relations and to remove any obstacles (especially legal obstacles) to co-operation between local or regional authorities.
Regional or Minority Languages
Regional and minority languages are an integral part of Europe's cultural heritage and must be protected and promoted. Since 1992 European states have been able to confirm their commitment to protecting this heritage by signing the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of the Council of Europe.
The Council of Europe's legal instruments
There are two forms of legal instruments resulting from the Council of Europe's work: conventions and recommendations.
Council of Europe conventions - setting legal standards in member states
- A convention is an international legally binding instrument created by a process of debate and agreement involving the key bodies of the Council of Europe, particularly the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly.
- Council of Europe conventions aim primarily at promoting international co-operation and common legal standards in its areas of activity.
- Each state which signs and ratifies a convention is obliged to comply with its terms and incorporate it into domestic law.
- There are several mechanisms for following up and monitoring Council of Europe conventions.
To date, the Council of Europe has drawn up more then 200 conventions, many of which are open to non-member states.
On subjects which are not suited for the drawing up of conventions, the Committee of Ministers may take recommendations to member states on matters for which it has agreed “a common policy”. Recommendations are not binding on member states, although the Statute empowers the Committee of Ministers to ask member governments “to inform it of the action taken by them” on recommendations.