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Monika Lamperth: “Convincing citizens of the importance of local and regional government”

Monika Lamperth, Interior Minister of the Republic of Hungary, who is hosting the Conference of Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government on 24 and 25 February, calls for increased democratic participation by citizens in local and regional life.

25.02.2005

Question: Ms Lamperth, you are Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Hungary and, in that capacity, you are hosting the Council of Europe’s Conference of Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government. Can you tell us what you are expecting this conference to achieve?

Monika Lamperth: I hope that the conference will contribute towards helping the Council of Europe to redefine its priorities. Foremost among these, in my view, is the strengthening of democracy in all member states. In the field of local and regional government, this process involves five priorities. First of all, we must do our utmost to ensure active citizen participation in the life of local authorities. We cannot allow the participation rate in local elections to drop. To succeed in this, we must make a greater effort to convince our fellow citizens of the importance of their vote in local and regional elections. Next, we need to increase the powers of local authorities to ensure full compliance with the principle of subsidiarity. For this, they must be guaranteed sufficient funding. In fourth place, we must improve the managerial capacity of local and regional authorities so that they can provide high-quality public services. Another priority is to ensure compliance with ethical rules. I am thinking in particular of the fight against corruption and the misuse of public money which are undermining public confidence in local and regional authorities. Lastly, we must strengthen transfrontier co-operation between local authorities.

Question: What message does Hungary want to put across at this conference?

Monika Lamperth: For us, it is very important that the Council of Europe should evolve in line with a changing world. The Organisation must adapt to change as all the major international organisations are doing, such as the United Nations or the European Union with its draft Constitutional Treaty. We feel that this is very important if the Council of Europe is to retain its leading role in such vital areas as democracy and the strengthening of human rights, where it has had some major achievements, such as the success of the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

Question: What is your personal position on the question of regional self-government?

Monika Lamperth: I am very much in favour of it. The Charter of Local Self-Government was of great help to us in our democratisation process. I believe that a strengthening of regional self-government would help to give a strong signal with regard to the principle of subsidiarity and the need to comply with it and strengthen it by bringing decision-making closer to the grassroots. The question is under discussion in Hungary and features in my government’s programme. We want to create seven regions in Hungary and organise regional elections. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you when we shall succeed in this because a reform of this kind requires a two-thirds majority in parliament. Our coalition government does not have that majority and the opposition is not in favour of this reform, but that is not preventing me from working on it.