Asset Publisher Asset Publisher

The President of the Council of Europe Congress meets with the Greek authorities

Presidency Athens, Greece 2 December 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
The President of the Council of Europe Congress meets with the Greek authorities

Whilst in Athens for the 2022 Summit of Mayors against Antisemitism the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Leendert Verbeek, conducted a series of meetings with the Greek authorities. The President met with Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Kostas Bakoyannis, the Mayor of Athens, as well as with Georgios Patoulis, the Vice-President of the Association of Greek Regions and governor of the Attica region and Dimitrios Papastergiou, the President of the Central Union of Greek Municipalities.

Leendert Verbeek was accompanied by the Head of the Greek delegation, Konstantinos Koukas, Vice-president of the Chamber of Local Authorities and thematic spokesperson for the South Mediterranean Partnership.

In these dialogues, the President and the various Greek authorities discussed the importance of the local and regional dimension of the work of the Council of Europe in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in order to obtain tangible results closer to the citizens. They also referred to the 4th Summit of Heads of State and Government on the future of the Council of Europe, to be held in May 2023 in Reykjavik, as an historic opportunity to renew democracy and strengthen human rights on the European continent.

President Verbeek welcomed the active participation of the members of the Greek delegation in the work of the Congress. He called on the Greek authorities to extend the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and, in particular, to ratify its Additional Protocol on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority.

As part of the 2022 Summit of Mayors Against Antisemitism, President Verbeek also held meetings with Robert Singer, President of the Centre for Jewish Impact and several mayors attending the Summit including the mayors of Athens and New York. In these meetings, participants shared their experiences in combating antisemitism and other forms of hatred and discussed the development of new approaches to dealing with these issues.

 Flickr gallery


2022 Mayors Summit against Antisemitism: “Mayors have a particular role in creating inclusive societies”, says Congress President Verbeek

Presidency Athens, Greece 2 December 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
2022 Mayors Summit against Antisemitism: “Mayors have a particular role in creating inclusive societies”, says Congress President Verbeek

Creating inclusive societies takes work and commitment from all levels of government and civil society. However, as Europe’s cities become increasingly diverse places, there is a particularly special role for local authorities, stated Congress President, Leendert Verbeek, at the 2022 Mayors Summit against Antisemitism, on 1 December 2022 in Athens, Greece.

"It is up to mayors and local authorities to create the sense of security by tackling discrimination, antisemitism and xenophobia and by instead creating spaces for respectful and constructive dialogue", underlined President Verbeek, recalling that citizen’s trust is essential in strengthening democracy and can only be achieved when all groups feel free and safe to participate in public life.

“In the context of rising hostility, the Congress has been working hard to look at how local politicians can build inclusive towns and cities where citizens of all backgrounds can feel safe and welcome”, said Verbeek, presenting the tools and work developed by the Congress. Among them is a toolkit to promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue at the local level, a report exploring the role for local authorities in the protection of Jewish cemeteries as well as human rights handbooks.  More recently, during its October 2022 session, the Congress adopted a report on the impact of hate speech and fake news on the working conditions of local elected representatives.

Furthermore, the Congress President stressed the responsibility of mayors, city councillors and regional representatives in the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and, in particular, SDG11 “Sustainable cities and communities” which calls for inclusive and sustainable urbanization, with a focus on citizen’s participation. “We can all contribute our share in making our cities more inclusive, safe and sustainable for all by continuing to work together and share innovative ways of working,”, he concluded.

On the occasion of his presence in Athens, President Verbeek had a a series of meetings with Greek authorities.


Europe needs more solidarity to help subnational governments face a 'perfect storm'

Committee of the Regions Brussels, Belgium 29 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Europe needs more solidarity to help subnational governments face a 'perfect storm'

War, the pandemic, the climate crisis, and economic and financial crises are undermining local self-government across Europe

The Presidents of the European Committee of the Regions and of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe have warned that local and regional governments are struggling to cope with the series of crises that have rocked the continent since 2020.

The statements came at a meeting in Brussels of the political leadership of the European Committee of the Regions, the voice of subnational governments in the 27-member European Union, and of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, which has 46 member states and the mandate to strengthen local and regional democracy and to assess the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

Vasco Alves Cordeiro, President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: "Advancing cooperation and unity between our two institutions is even more important in the context of growing threats to European democracy, human rights, or the rule of law. Russia's war against Ukraine but also long existing dangers like disinformation, populism and hate speech call on all local and regional authorities to come forward and defend democracy and solidarity."

"Our cities and regions are under increasing pressure from multiple crises which are having a significant and lasting impact on local and regional governance. Cooperation is essential to increase the resilience of our communities," added Leendert Verbeek, President of the Congress, referring to the challenges faced by local and regional authorities including health, environmental, migratory, economic and financial crises and armed conflicts – the war in Ukraine in particular. 

The Congress President stressed the importance of addressing these challenges against the background of re-centralisation, lack of financial means, and increasing attacks on local and regional elected representatives. He warned that “this ‘perfect storm’ undermines the foundations of genuine local self-government and makes the work of the Congress even more essential, through its regular monitoring of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the promotion of human rights at the grassroots level".

Both Presidents warned of the dangers of hate speech and disinformation and considered critical aspects of local democracy in Europe, including the efforts to promote deliberative democracy, with the Committee of the Regions' President presenting the findings of its 2022 Annual Report on the State of Regions and Cities presented in his address last October and the Charter on Youth and Democracy to be launched this Thursday.

President Cordeiro emphasised the potential benefits that could emerge from the Conference on the Future of Europe, that ended in May 2022 and whose conclusions are helping to shape the agenda and functioning of the EU.

President Verbeek outlined findings from their monitoring of the state of local and regional democracy, and stressed the need for joint efforts in responding to the crises and in defending the role and position of local and regional authorities vis-a-vis national governments and European institutions. Harald Sonderegger, President of the Congress Chamber of Regions, and Bernd Vöhringer, President of the Chamber of Local Authorities presented the work on human rights at local and regional level, and in particular the “green reading” of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, localisation of SDGs and deliberative democracy.

The two institutions discussed the efforts to support cities and regions in Ukraine through the Alliance of Cities and Regions for the Reconstruction of Ukraine, building on, for example, the Cities4Cities initiative by the Congress, which is an institutional partner of the Alliance.

More information:


Congress members engage with local authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina on transparent and accountable public procurement

Online 28 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Congress members engage with local authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina on transparent and accountable public procurement

On 22 and 24 November 2022, local authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina met to discuss the new legislative environment in the area of public procurement , during a two-part online event on “Transparent and accountable public procurement: legislation, trends and good practices“.  

“Transparent and accountable public procurement may not gain votes, but it contributes to positive image of citizens towards local elected representatives,“ stated Congress member James Moloney (Ireland, ILDG) in the exchange of views with members of the Platform of Exchange on open local governance.  

Participants discussed the importance of an ethical and accountable approach in the public procurement cycle, and the technology driving reforms in these areas, including open data platforms and portals that contribute to transparency and prevention of corruption at local level, in the context Bosnia and Herzegovina's progress towards the European Union membership.

“As local authorities, we have a duty to give our citizens the data and the information that they need, to be sure that democracy is safe in our hands“, concluded Congress member Andrew Boff (United Kingdom, ECR).

This event is part of the capacity development path offered to members of the Platform of Exchange on open local governance. It is organised within the project “Innovating democratic participation at local level in Bosnia and Herzegovina” implemented by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities as part of the Council of Europe Action Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina 2022-2025. The project aims to enhance the quality of local democracy and create opportunities for citizens to engage in innovative participatory processes in Mostar and elsewhere in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It promotes new democratic approaches, open government, public ethics, and transparent and inclusive local policy making in the country.


Annika Vaikla: “Local and regional authorities are the first line of defence against human trafficking”

Strasbourg, France 25 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Annika Vaikla: “Local and regional authorities are the first line of defence against human trafficking”

“Cooperation across all levels of government is vital in ensuring a comprehensive approach to trafficking,” stressed Congress rapporteur on women and child refugees Annika Vaikla (Estonia, ILDG), during the 31st Meeting of the Committee of the Parties of the Council of Europe Convention in Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings on 25 November 2022, reminding that “countries often develop their strategies at the national level, but local and regional authorities are the closest to ensuring their effective implementation as the first line of defence against human trafficking”.

“Our closeness to communities and our role as providers of key services means that we are well-placed to prevent trafficking and support victims. Involving us and incorporating our experience is crucial at every stage of the fight against human trafficking”, she continued.

She emphasised the support Congress provides for cities and regions in this fight, particularly in the context of the arrival of refugees. The Congress report on ‘Reception of women and children refugees in Europe’s cities and regions’, adopted in October 2022, includes best practices from a variety of countries about how cities and regions can help combat human trafficking and protect vulnerable persons.

The Congress Rapporteur urged national authorities to consult with their country’s mayors, city councillors and regional representatives. “We need to all work together towards the elimination of exploitation and trafficking of vulnerable refugees, in particular women and children,” Annika Vaikla concluded.


“There is no place for violence against women in democratic cities and regions”, says Council of Europe Congress Spokesperson on Gender Equality

Strasbourg, France 24 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
“There is no place for violence against women in democratic cities and regions”, says Council of Europe Congress Spokesperson on Gender Equality

On the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, held every year on 25 November, the spokesperson for the Council of Europe Congress on Gender Equality, Ms Eirini Dourou (SOC, Greece), made the following statement:

“Inclusive societies start with inclusivity at decision-making levels. However, women still remain under-represented in politics. All too often, sexist attitudes and violence against women discourage them from making their voices heard and participating in political life. The Congress is therefore convinced that ending violence against women is key for the fulfillment of women rights and for promoting women’s involvement in local and regional public life.

The Congress has developed the instruments needed to help local and regional authorities, the governance level closest to the citizens, combat sexist violence and facilitate women’s participation in public life. We were also the first body of the Council of Europe to put in place quotas for balanced representation amongst our members.

We now need to make sure local and regional authorities take action, for example by setting up complaint mechanisms within their administrations, developing confidential counselling mechanisms and introducing codes of conduct prohibiting sexist speech or harassment in local and regional councils.

The local level is the first level of entry for many women in politics and it is unacceptable that many of them decide to leave because of sexism or violence. Day after day, we have to work towards systematically eliminating violence against women in local governance. Today's International Day is just a reminder of the road ahead and of the urgency to do so.

As Congress Spokesperson on Gender Equality, today, I want to remind all mayors, city councilors and regional representatives that there is no just society without strong women rights, because women rights are human rights.

So today, let’s hold up a mirror to all local and regional authorities and ask ourselves: “What more can I do to make my city or region a place where women can safely stand for office?”

The Congress has long been committed to preventing and combating sexist violence against women in politics at local and regional levels and has worked on women’s political participation, on gender equality in politics and on fighting sexist violence against women in politics at local and regional level. It has also developed practical tools in the context of its cooperation activities, such as its guides on Preventing and Combatting Sexism at the local level in Georgia and in Ukraine, in line with the Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2023 of the Council of Europe.


World for Ukraine Summit: developing partnerships between Ukrainian and European cities

Co-operation Strasbourg, France 23 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
World for Ukraine Summit: developing partnerships between Ukrainian and European cities

The World for Ukraine Summit will be held in Rzeszow, Poland, from 7 to 9 December 2022, under the patronage of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, and with the participation of the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Leendert Verbeek.

The Summit will address key aspects of international humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and aims to strengthen cooperation between non-governmental organisations, local authorities, businesses and government institutions. It will bring together more than 70 NGOs, representatives of national authorities, as well as mayors of small and medium-sized Ukrainian cities willing to establish partnerships with European cities in order to develop reconstruction and capacity building projects.

The Congress of the Council of Europe encourages its members to participate in this event and engage in partnerships with Ukrainian cities.

More information: https://w4ua.com/

See also:


Local elections in Slovenia: Congress delegation welcomes an orderly ballot, but calls for more coherent regulations and a reduction of consecutive terms of office for mayors

Ljubljana, Slovenia 21 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Local elections in Slovenia: Congress delegation welcomes an orderly ballot, but calls for more coherent regulations and a reduction of consecutive terms of office for mayors

A delegation from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, made up of 18 participants, carried out an observation mission of the local elections held on 20 November 2022 in Slovenia. The observers were deployed to different regions of the country, in order to follow the electoral procedures in 120 polling stations, including the counting in 7 polling places.

"Overall, we witnessed a calm and orderly Election Day, without major incidents or anomalies," said the Head of the delegation, David Eray (Switzerland, EPP/CCE), at a press conference in Ljubljana, on 21 November. He highlighted the high level of confidence in the Slovenian electoral system, both on the part of voters and candidates, as well as the existence of special voting rights for the country's three ethnic minorities, "which is an important feature of a truly democratic and inclusive environment”.

The Congress delegation, however, insisted on the need for more coherent regulations, in particular, regarding the sealing of the ballot boxes, the secrecy of the vote and the set-up of polling stations. By giving the National Electoral Commission certain powers of coordination or control and clear instructions on the practical arrangements for the Election Day, the professionalisation of the electoral management could be further enhanced, said Mr Eray.

“We also believe that reflection should be undertaken in Slovenia to reconsider the terms of mayors and reduce the number of consecutive terms to two, as is also the case in some other European countries. The fact that Slovenian mayors, once elected, are very difficult to be challenged by new competitors, is not conducive to democratic change," stressed the Head of delegation, underlining a risk of accumulation of power, lack of transparency and disengagement of the younger generation from politics.

On campaign finance, Mr Eray called for a review of regulations regarding the existing low spending limits for campaigns to prevent candidates from turning to creative ways to raise donations for their campaigns. Furthermore, he welcomed the election of a woman to the presidency of Slovenia for the first time, while recalling that progress remains to be made with regard to the involvement of women at local level, as women only make up around 10% of elected mayors.

The report on the observation mission will be presented for adoption at the 44th Session of the Congress of the Council of Europe, in March 2023.

See also: Congress webpage on the observation of local and regional elections

Contact: Renate Zikmund, [email protected]


“Regional assemblies must take the lead in responding to today’s crises in their regions”, says Harald Sonderegger at CALRE Plenary Assembly

Co-operation 18 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
“Regional assemblies must take the lead in responding to today’s crises in their regions”, says Harald Sonderegger at CALRE Plenary Assembly

“The Congress and the CALRE share a long-standing relationship and co-operation with many areas of common interest,” stated President of the Congress Chamber of Regions Harald Sonderegger (Austria, EPP/CCE), at the Plenary Assembly of the Conference of Regional Legislative Assemblies of Europe (CALRE), held in Namur (Belgium), on 18 November 2022.

Speaking on the occasion of CALRE’s 25th anniversary, he underlined the current priorities shared by both organisations, such as improving the quality of regional democracy, engaging citizens in regional governance, reducing inequalities, fighting discrimination as well as promoting inclusion of vulnerable groups, fostering gender equality, and reducing the urban/rural divide.

Stressing that current multiple crises faced by regions call for urgent responses, Harald Sonderegger pointed out that regional legislative assemblies were well positioned to lead in framing such regional response measures. In this regard, he referred to the Congress work on climate change and highlighted, in particular, the recent report on a “green reading” of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, adopted in October 2022, aimed at recognising the local and regional responsibilities in protecting the environment

Harald Sonderegger also recalled the commitment of regional parliaments and governments to align their objectives with the need to address climate change, accelerate the ecological transition and build sustainable and more resilient regional communities for the benefit of citizens. "The Congress is convinced that the implementation of the Agenda 2030 and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals at local and regional levels require the full application of the principle of subsidiarity, including with regard to SDG 13 on climate action," he concluded.


“Hate speech and fake news damage the very fabric and processes of local and regional democracy”, says Wilma Delissen Van Tongerlo

Strasbourg, France 17 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
“Hate speech and fake news damage the very fabric and processes of local and regional democracy”, says Wilma Delissen Van Tongerlo

The Congress rapporteur on hate speech and fake news Wilma Delissen Van Tongerlo, Netherlands (L, ILDG) spoke at the 19th European Conference of Electoral Management Bodies, organised by the Venice Commission, on the topic “Artificial Intelligence and Electoral Integrity” on 15 November 2022 in Strasbourg, France.

Addressing the participants of the session on artificial intelligence and harmful content, she highlighted the impact on local and regional electoral processes, referring to the Congress report on ‘Hate speech and fake news: the impact on working conditions of local and regional elected representatives’, adopted in October 2022.

“Artificial intelligence is used, in particular bots and trolls, for disinformation campaigns in relation to elections, spreading fake news and propaganda at an impressive speed and scale”, she said. Ms Delissen Van Tongerlo underlined that such a toxic environment pushes some local and regional elected representatives to resign from office or to decide not to run for re-election. Political representatives of underrepresented groups and the opposition politicians are particularly vulnerable. Consequently, hate speech and fake news “damage the very fabric and processes of local and regional democracy and citizen engagement and participation is weakened”, underlined Ms Delissen. She mentioned the practical remedies against hate speech and fake news recommended in the Congress report, such as pursuing a comprehensive national strategy including relevant internet intermediaries which relies on legal remedies and preventative measures in light of relevant European standards and revising the efficiency of criminal law measures to counter threats and attacks against elected representatives, and highlighted further Congress recommendations on this topic, such as its report on independent candidates and the opposition.

The conference pointed in particular to the need for a “sound design and a well-founded assessment of possible negative side effects of technological innovations” and adequate transparency, data protection and oversight mechanisms.


Youth delegates: Call for applications to participate in the 2023 edition of the "Rejuvenating Politics" initiative

Youth delegates Strasbourg, France 17 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Youth delegates: Call for applications to participate in the 2023 edition of the

As part of its "Rejuvenating Politics" initiative, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe is calling for applications from young people from Council of Europe member States, aged between 18 to 30.

One young person from each of the 46 member States of the Council of Europe will be invited by the Congress to:

  •  to take an active part, as a youth delegate, in its 44th (21-23 March 2023) and 45th (24-26 October 2023) Congress sessions.
  •  to develop their own grass-roots project back home (under the Congress’ aegis).

Selected youth delegates must commit to taking part in the whole of the two 2023 sessions.

The deadline for applications for young people from the countries concerned is 6 January 2023 at the latest.

To apply:

Contact: Dolores Ríos Turón, Head of Table Service, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
 [email protected]

Read more about youth delegate participation in the Congress.

The Congress' "Rejuvenating Politics" initiative, founded in 2014, aims to promote the participation of young people in public life and in the decision-making process at local and regional level.


Transatlantic Mayoral Dialogue: Congress President calls for strengthened dialogue between citizens, civil society and territorial governments to combat hatred and intolerance

The Hague, Netherlands 16 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Transatlantic Mayoral Dialogue: Congress President calls for strengthened dialogue between citizens, civil society and territorial governments to combat hatred and intolerance

“At the Congress, we are absolutely convinced that inclusive societies, with no place for hate or intolerance, are a must if we want to strengthen local democracy and rebuild citizens’ trust at all levels”, stated Congress President Leendert Verbeek, at the Transatlantic Mayoral Dialogue on preventing hate, extremism and polarization, and safeguarding local democracy, on 15 November 2022 in the Hague, Netherlands.

"The prevention of hate, the fight against disinformation, the strengthening of resilience and the protection of vulnerable refugees are at the centre of the Congress’s concerns", underlined President Verbeek, recalling that despite their differences, local and regional authorities across Europe face similar threats that erode social cohesion and democratic values, but that they are also best placed to counter these threats.

This requires “dialogue and building trust among and between citizens, civil society and local government, but also the responsibility of political leaders,” said Verbeek, presenting the tools and work developed by the Congress. Among them is a toolkit to promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue at the local level. More recently, during its October 2022 session, the Congress adopted a report on the reception of refugee women and children, based in particular on a field mission carried out in Poland, as well as a report on the impact of hate speech and fake news on the working conditions of local elected representatives.


Council of Europe Congress observed local elections in Slovenia

Elections Strasbourg, France 16 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Council of Europe Congress observed local elections in Slovenia

A 13 member-delegation from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe carried out a mission from 18 to 21 November and observed the local elections on 20 November. On Election Day, eight Congress teams were deployed in the capital Ljubljana and other municipalities throughout the country to observe the voting procedures at the polling stations.

Prior to the Election Day, the delegation, led by David Eray (Switzerland, EPP/CCE), met with representatives of the diplomatic corps, the Ministry of Public Administration of Slovenia, the State Election Commission, and the Office of the Government for National Minorities. Meetings were also scheduled with the Secretary General of the Association of Municipalities and Towns of Slovenia and domestic NGOs active in the field of elections and media representatives.  

The programme also included meetings with Zoran Jankovic, Mayor of Ljubljana, Vladimir Prebilic, Mayor of Kocevje and Head of the Slovenian delegation to the Congress, Ales Bržan, Mayor of Koper, Jasna Softic, Deputy-Mayor of Koper and member of the Slovenian delegation to the Congress and Stojan Auer, municipal councillor of Maribor and Deputy-Head of the Slovenian delegation to the Congress. Finally, the delegation held an exchange of views with representatives and candidates of political parties running in the local elections.

The preliminary conclusions were presented by the Head of the delegation at a press briefing in Ljubljana on Monday, 21 November, at 11:00 CETS (Venue: City Hotel, Ljubljana, Room CI).

Congress members:

Mr David ERAY (R, EPP/CCE), Switzerland, Head of delegation
Mr Joris BENGEVOORD (L, SOC/G/PD), Netherlands
Ms Majlinda BUFI (R, SOC/G/PD), Albania
Ms Carla DEJONGHE (R, ILDG), Belgium
Ms Jana FISCHEROVA (L, ECR), Czech Republic
Ms Samira HUSEYNOVA (L, SOC/G/PD), Azerbaijan
Mr Jani KOKKO (SOC/G/PD), Finland
Mr Matija KOVAC (R, EPP/CCE), Serbia
Ms Gobnait NI MHUIMHNEACAIN (L, ILDG), Ireland
Ms Véronique PACAUT (L, EPP/CCE), France
Mr Carlo RIVA VERCELLOTTI (R, ECR), Italy
Ms Bryony RUDKIN (L, SOC/G/PD), United Kingdom
Ms Hanna ZAMAZIEIEVA (R, ILDG), Ukraine

Expert: Ms Christina BINDER, Member of the Group of Independent Experts of the Congress (Austria)

See also: Congress webpage on the observation of local and regional elections

Contact: Renate Zikmund, [email protected]


“It is our responsibility to build strong, resilient communities where hatred or intolerance cannot find root” says Thomas Andersson at the 4th European Policy Dialogue Forum

Current Affairs Committee Barcelona, Spain 14 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
“It is our responsibility to build strong, resilient communities where hatred or intolerance cannot find root” says Thomas Andersson at the 4th European Policy Dialogue Forum

“We are at a crossroad when it comes to the polarisation in our society, and cities and regions will be key in making sure we take the right path”, warned Thomas Andersson, Chair of the Current Affairs Committee (Sweden, ILDG), at the 4th European Policy Dialogue Forum, under the theme ‘Social inclusion in cities: Strengthening multi-stakeholder partnerships to bring communities into dialogue’, on 9-10 November 2022 in Barcelona, Spain.

Speaking during a plenary session on “Cities: key challenges and trends of creating integrated communities: where should we be investing?”, the Chair recognised that over the past two decades, there has been a stark increase in hate speech towards migrants and refugees, expressions of radicalisation and terrorism and movements questioning the rights of women and LGBTI persons. “We all have our responsibility to act for better social inclusion and integration in our European societies. This demands strong cooperation between civil society, faith communities and local authorities”, he stressed.

“The Congress is devoted to be a part of this work towards more inclusive societies and is convinced that cities and regions, given the right tools, are crucial in realising this”, Mr Andersson concluded, highlighting existing Congress work related to inclusion and social cohesion notably the toolkit for interfaith dialogue at local level, the report on the reception of women and children refugees, adopted during its recent 43rd session, and the its 2020 report threats to the rights of LGBTI persons.

Council of Europe Special Representative on Antisemitic and Anti-Muslin Hatred and Hate Crimes, Dr. Daniel Höltgen, also participated in this plenary session. A further plenary session was held on multi-stakeholder partnerships on migration in the context of current European migration initiatives, which brought together various national experts, academics and the Executive Director of the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe, Mr Afonso Malheiro.


Call for applications: Congress is looking for a trainer for youth delegates in 2023

Youth delegates Strasbourg, France 14 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Call for applications: Congress is looking for a trainer for youth delegates in 2023

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe is looking for a trainer, capable of mentoring the youth delegates who take part in the work of the Congress within the framework of the “Rejuvenating Politics” initiative. The tasks of the trainer consist in participating in the selection of one young person from each of the 46 Council of Europe member States to participate in the two annual sessions of the Congress, in the meetings of its committees and possibly in other events, in preparing their participation in those events as well as helping them design develop and implement grass-roots projects, in co-operation with their local and/or regional authorities, aimed at promoting the Council of Europe, the Congress and the concept of youth participation in general.

The trainer will be responsible, together with a fellow trainer, for providing advice and pedagogical support to the youth delegates, individually or in groups, throughout the year, so that they can contribute as best as possible to the work of the Congress while gaining experience that they can multiply back home.

This work represents approximately 30 days per year. The contract will cover one year (2023) renewable for 2024 and 2025.

Candidates must send a curriculum vitae and a cover letter, detailing their experience and skills to carry out this activity, by 27 November 2022 at the latest.


New publications: Vol. 3 of the Human Rights Handbook "Environment" | "Democratic Elections" Series

Publications Strasbourg, France 14 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
New publications: Vol. 3 of the Human Rights Handbook

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has just released two new publications.

The third volume of the Human Rights Handbook is dedicated to the environment and sustainable development. It presents the international legal framework for human rights and environmental protection, explains how sub-national authorities contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and covers the main challenges in this respect. This volume addresses transport, housing, sustainable economy, education, public procurement, and local strategies for sustainable development.

The "Democratic Elections" series presents the analysis and recommendations of the Congress on recurrent and transversal issues relating to local and regional elections: independent candidates and the opposition, deliberative methods, referendums at a local level, elections in major crisis situations, voting rights for the integration of migrants and displaced persons, the use of administrative resources, voters residing abroad and voting at 16.

The publications can be downloaded for free online and are available in paper format on request.

  • Volume 3 of the Human Rights Handbook – Environment and sustainable development: FREN
  • "Democratic Elections" series / "Local and Regional Elections" section: FREN

Contact: Institutional Communication Unit - Saida THEOPHILE


World Forum for Democracy 2022: Tackling polarisation, a key challenge for local and regional democracy

Strasbourg, France 10 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
World Forum for Democracy 2022: Tackling polarisation, a key challenge for local and regional democracy

As its contribution to the 10th World Forum for Democracy, held in Strasbourg from 7 to 9 November 2022 under the theme "Democracy: a new hope?", the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities – the body in charge of strengthening local and regional democracy in the 46 member States of the Council of Europe – organised a working session (Lab7) on 8 November to address polarisation of society and greater democratic engagement as a way of countering it. Six initiatives presented at the Lab sought to respond, each in its own way, to the challenges of polarisation and to promote citizen engagement in the democratic process.

The challenges of today’s multiple crises – climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, repercussions of the war in Ukraine – have exacerbated social and economic problems around the world, significantly reducing confidence in representative democracy. Extremism of all kinds is fragmenting societies and threatening constructive dialogue and social peace. "Listening, learning quickly and doing: these are the key phases of any strategy to combat polarisation," summarised Thomas Andersson, Chair of the Congress Current Affairs Committee and Lab7 moderator.

Innovative solutions to counteract forces of polarisation

The Strategic Forecasting Toolkit presented by the International Republican Institute (IRI) in the United States is the result of three stages of project development. Born out of the observation of deliberative experiences in Colombia, Guinea and Sudan, the tool was primarily designed for countries in transition. First, it identifies the political and civil society actors who should be involved in the deliberative process, then maps out potential conflicts between different political groups and fractions, then sketches out potential transition scenarios and finally builds a consensus between stakeholders. Posted on the institute's website www.iri.org, "this analytical and practical tool can be adapted for other political contexts, including Europe", stressed Lauren Mooney and Louis Metcalfe, IRI experts. Mr Metcalfe’s presentation was welcomed by Andrew Boff, member of the Congress Monitoring Committee, stressing that this experiment could enable mayors to "better anticipate and prevent problems that aggravate polarisation in their municipalities", including through a "face-to-face relationship with their constituents".

The initiative undertaken by the city of Mostar in co-operation with the Congress responds to the need to rebuild democratic trust after a period of war, in a municipality where different ethnic and religious communities co-exist. According to Marin Culjak, Director of the Office of the Mayor of the City of Mostar, the holding of a deliberative citizens' assembly in July 2021, with participants selected at random to represent the overall population, was a great success. As part of the Council of Europe's action plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina 2018-2021, the project could inspire similar initiatives in other Balkan or European cities, especially as the Conference of INGOs, the Congress and the Council of Europe's Elections and Participatory Democracy Division have just launched an online tool for sharing experiences of this nature – the BePART platform. The platform allows civil society activists and representatives of local and regional authorities to draw inspiration from good practices in the field of civil participation, but also to share their own experiences and analyses. All interested parties can find projects in their region or area of interest and contribute to BePART.

Sharing and conceptualising experiences in different national contexts is also one of the objectives of the BRIDGE initiative, co-funded by the EU and carried out by the European Forum for Urban Security (Efus). Bringing together 13 European cities, the initiative seeks to assess the risk factors that aggravate polarisation and fuel the rise of extremism, but also the protective factors that strengthen social cohesion. Increasing cognitive complexity to prevent Manichean thinking and changing the mutual perception of "enemy groups" through informal encounters are some of the avenues that can be taken to fight polarisation, according to Julia Rettig, programme manager at Efus.

Engaging young people through deliberative democracy

Young people are a key group in all the initiatives presented, but the experience of Valongo, a city of 100,000 inhabitants in Portugal, is unique in many aspects. For the past nine years, the local government has been implementing innovative deliberative procedures that include young people, sometimes even as young as six years old. “I will never forget the enthusiasm in the eyes of the 9–10-year-olds we involved in our discussions on urban planning," recalled Mayor of Valongo Jose Ribeiro. “It takes boldness and a sincere willingness to open up a dialogue with citizens and young people and encourage them to express themselves freely, without censoring them,” he continued, adding that “it is particularly through intergenerational dialogue that we can best fight against polarisation”.

Intergenerational dialogue is also one of the key objectives of the Assembly of European Regions' (AER) annual Summer Academy, which has been held since 1996 and acts as a "project incubator for inter-regional cooperation in Europe", according to the AER which invites regional representatives to the Summer Academy to work with young people who have been nominated by their regional authorities. Congress Youth Delegate Prodromos Tzounopoulos suggested that the Academy should be "better known among young Europeans" as an important tool for forming sustainable cooperation networks between regions, but also for creating spaces for deliberation that are vital for regenerating the democratic process. "Democracy is not a given, it withers if we forget to renew it," concluded Nina Björby, Regional Councillor of Västerbotten (Sweden) and AER Vice-President for Democracy, speaking at the close of the Lab.


"Only by building local self-reliance can we increase resilience and inclusiveness at the local level”, says Xavier Cadoret at ARLEM plenary session

Izmir, Türkiye 9 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF

“We at the Congress are convinced that it is essential to build resilience and inclusiveness in a sustainable way. In order to achieve this goal, local authorities must be equipped with the relevant competences, adequate finances to fulfil their tasks and the necessary autonomy in decision-making”, stated Congress Vice-President Xavier Cadoret (France, SOC/G/PD), at the 13th Plenary Session of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM), on 7-8 November in Izmir, Türkiye.

“Only by strengthening local autonomy through decentralisation of power and equitable distribution of resources between different levels of governance can we increase resilience and inclusiveness at local level”, stressed Mr Cadoret during a roundtable discussion on ‘Inclusive and resilient cities in the Mediterranean’.

Addressing the topic of climate action in the region, the Vice-President highlighted the Congress report on ‘A fundamental right to the environment: a matter for local and regional authorities’, adopted at its 43rd session in October, and the Congress’ proposed revision of the Urban Charter II.

He pointed out that "the challenges faced today by the Council of Europe member States are interconnected with the challenges of the Southern Mediterranean and their complexity requires a global approach”. Vice-President Cadoret underlined that the Congress is committed to making communities more resilient and sustainable on both shores of the Mediterranean, as evidenced by peer exchanges and experience sharing between European territorial authorities and their counterparts from Morocco and Tunisia who have the status of Partner for Local Democracy with the Congress.


2022 World Forum for Democracy: Congress sponsors Lab7 on polarization and democratic engagement

Strasbourg, France 7 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
2022 World Forum for Democracy: Congress sponsors Lab7 on polarization and democratic engagement

The 10th Council of Europe World Forum for Democracy took place from 7 to 9 November 2022 in Strasbourg, France, under the theme "Democracy: a new hope?". It brought together intellectuals, politicians, activists, experts and young people from all over the world to discuss the causes of the decline of democracy in the world and to provide answers. The Forum programme included working sessions (Labs), plenary sessions and round table discussions (Forum Talks), with the most popular initiative awarded the Council of Europe Prize for Democratic Innovation at the end of the three-day event.

On this occasion, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities sponsored Lab 7 on “Polarization and democratic engagement” which was held on 8 November from 2.30 to 4.30 pm in Room 5 of the Palais de l'Europe and webcast live. Moderated by Thomas Andersson (Sweden, ILDG), Chair of the Congress Current Affairs Committee, Lab7 examined processes to reduce polarization in society by involving citizens, through examples of initiatives carried out in the United States, in France, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or supported by European organisations such as the Council of Europe and the Assembly of European Regions. Speakers included Andrew Boff (United Kingdom, CRE), member of the Congress Monitoring Committee, and Prodromos Tzounopoulos, Congress Youth Delegate.

See also:

Contact:

Irina SAHAKYAN-VETTER, tel. +33 3 90 21 54 93; Erdem Guney tel. +33 3 90 21 56 17

Launched in 2012, the Forum is organized by the Council of Europe, in partnership with the City of Strasbourg, the European Community of Alsace, the Grand Est Region and the French Government.


Call for proposals for a deliberative process at the local level in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Co-operation Strasbourg, France 7 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Call for proposals for a deliberative process at the local level in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe is launching a call to co-fund a local project/action aimed at enhancing citizen participation and fostering innovative co-creation in local decision-making through the organisation of a tailored deliberative process in a selected local authority in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Council of Europe intends to award one grant of a maximum amount of EUR 40.000,00 (forty thousand Euros).

The deadline for submitting applications is 28 November 2022.
For more details about the timeline, please consult the indicative timetable (Chapter VIII – Call for Proposals).

The Call for Proposals and accompanying appendices are available at the following links:

The list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) will be routinely updated with new questions sent by the applicants.

An online information session has been set for 14 November 2022, starting at 10.00am. Details to join the meeting on Teams are below:

Click here to join the meeting

Meeting ID: 344 800 317 133
Passcode: W87Cv7

This call for proposals is launched in the framework of the project “Innovating democratic participation at local level in Bosnia and Herzegovina” implemented by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities within the Council of Europe Action Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina 2022-2025.  The project aims to enhance the quality of local democracy and create opportunities for citizens to engage in innovative participatory processes in Mostar and elsewhere in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It promotes new democratic approaches, open government, public ethics, transparent and inclusive local policy making in the country.


“Local and regional authorities have a key role in contributing to the dynamic potential of history education”, says Barbara Toce

Belgrade, Serbia 4 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
“Local and regional authorities have a key role in contributing to the dynamic potential of history education”, says Barbara Toce

“At the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, we believe that cultural heritage can be an educational tool in upholding our democratic values. Without protecting these values at a local level, peace and stability are impossible”, declared Congress Rapporteur on Cultural Heritage Management, Barbara Toce, (Italy, SOC/G/PD), at the First Annual Forum for History Education “Sites of Memories: Learning spaces for democracy”, in Belgrade, Serbia, on 4 November 2022.

“Local and regional authorities have a key role in contributing to the dynamic potential of history”, stated the Congress spokesperson, emphasising their unique position in proximity to citizens which can be utilised to listen to concerns and lead discussions about how to best manage cultural heritage. “Our democracies are not established once and for all, but we need to strive to uphold them each and every day, continuously, in all parts of Europe and at all levels of government”, she added.

Congress Rapporteur referred to the 2021 Congress report “Culture without borders”, which focuses on cultural heritage management for local and regional development and recognises cultural heritage as a tool to strengthen democratic values amongst the younger generations. The report also highlights the need for partnership and cross-border cooperation. The Congress rapporteur urged local authorities to “think beyond the confines of their territories” when developing cultural heritage strategies, as culture goes beyond borders.

The Forum brought together seventy participants from all over Europe, including public authorities, teachers, curriculum developers and academics, with the aim of developing recommendations for improvement of History Education. It was organised with the joint co-operation of the European Union and the Council of Europe action “Quality education for all”.


Future of the EU Eastern Partnership: Call for “a larger scope for decentralisation, more intense consultation of local authorities and enhanced co-creation of local policies”

Liberec, Czech Republic 4 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Future of the EU Eastern Partnership: Call for “a larger scope for decentralisation, more intense consultation of local authorities and enhanced co-creation of local policies”

At the 11th Annual meeting of the Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) held on 3 November 2022 in Liberec, Czech Republic, to discuss the future of the Eastern Partnership, Congress Rapporteur on local democracy in the Republic of Moldova Marc Cools (Belgium, ILDG) called for further strengthening synergies and cooperation between the Congress and the European Committee of the Regions in the Eastern Partnership region.

“The reforms in all EU Eastern Partnership countries should include a larger scope for decentralisation, more intense consultation of local authorities through their associations, and enhanced co-creation of local policies”, he stated. The Rapporteur emphasised the importance of the principle of subsidiarity and the Congress’ commitment to the countries in the region, referring to the roadmaps signed for the implementation of Congress recommendations in Armenia, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

“Local autonomy is the best antidote against the return to autocratic regimes and there is a need now more than ever to discuss the role of local authorities in reversing democratic backsliding”, he underlined. The Congress Rapporteur also highlighted as exemplary the Ukrainian resistance and resilience to the Russian aggression. “It is grounded on the long-lasting work for embedding fundamental democratic values in local communities and empowering local authorities as fully fledged partners of a strong multilevel governance”, he added.

Discussions focused on the voice of cities and regions in new geopolitical circumstances, as well as the role of local democracy and the integration of environmental concerns into national, regional and local political processes.  In addition, two CORLEAP reports were adopted at the meeting, on “The role and place of local democracy and decentralisation in the modernization and consolidation of democratic processes in the EaP” and on “Localising the green agenda of the EaP”.

See more:


Call for proposals for local initiatives on mainstreaming equality, diversity, and inclusion in local public life in Georgia

Co-operation Strasbourg, France 3 November 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Call for proposals for local initiatives on mainstreaming equality, diversity, and inclusion in local public life in Georgia

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe is launching a call for proposals to co-fund local initiatives developed by local authorities1 in Georgia which have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Congress in December 2021 in the framework of the project “Strengthening participatory democracy and human rights at local level in Georgia”.

The local initiatives will mainstream equality and diversity in local public life as well as enhance inclusion of underrepresented communities with the special focus on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), persons with disabilities (PwD), minorities, and other vulnerable groups. Proposals should aim at strengthening human rights protection and democratic public participation at local level, ensuring that both civil society and citizens have a meaningful impact on decision making processes.

The deadline for application is 24 November 2022.

An information meeting has been set for 8 November 2022. The list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) will be routinely updated with new questions sent by the applicants.

The call is launched in the framework of the project “Strengthening Participatory Democracy and Human Rights at Local Level in Georgia”, implemented by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the Directorate General of Democracy, Division of Elections and Participatory Democracy, within the Council of Europe Action Plan for Georgia 2020-2023 with the financial contribution of the Austrian Development Cooperation. The project aims to strengthen institutional frameworks for citizen participation, support local authorities and their national association in their efforts to protect and promote human rights and ensure that civil society organisations have real impact on local decision making.

1Thirteen (13) local authorities from seven (7) target regions of Georgia (Guria, Imereti, Kvemo Kartli, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Tbilisi and Kakheti), namely: Bolnisi, Borjomi, Chokhatauri, Dedoplistskaro, Dmanisi, Marneuli, Oni, Ozurgeti, Tbilisi, Tetritskaro, Tsalka, Tskaltubo, Zestaponi.


“The World Cities’ Day has never resonated so prominently in Europe”, says Bernd Vöhringer

Strasbourg, France 31 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
“The World Cities’ Day has never resonated so prominently in Europe”, says Bernd Vöhringer

On the occasion of the World Cities’ Day, celebrated each year on 31 October, the President of the Congress Chamber of Local Authorities Bernd Vöhringer (Germany, EPP/CCE) made the following statement:

“The World Cities’ Day instituted in 2014 has never resonated so prominently in Europe, in view of crises we currently go through, including the accelerated climate change, pandemics and the war. I think more particularly about Ukrainian cities which face unimaginable suffering and destruction. Since the Second World War has never such a level of resilience been required to face urban challenges and to ensure local governance.

The 2022 theme of the Day "Act local to go global" highlights the importance of local and regional authorities in providing responses at the grassroots. The last Congress session, which ended yesterday, focused precisely on the challenges which face our democracies such as hate speech and fake news, environmental concerns and of course the military aggression of Russia against Ukraine. A special Local Chamber debate was dedicated to the ongoing revision of the European Urban Charter to integrate the current major challenges of the European urban living.

I am confident that the revision of the European Urban Charter is a notable development to be welcomed on the occasion of the World Cities’ Day.”


Co-operation: concrete programmes to promote local democracy across Europe

Co-operation Strasbourg, France 27 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Co-operation: concrete programmes to promote local democracy across Europe

Strengthening local authorities and their associations, implementing the European Charter of Local Self-Government, political dialogue, exchanges between local and regional elected officials and awareness raising of young people: the Congress has been involved since 2011 in bilateral and multilateral co-operation programmes with 6 Council of Europe member States and 2 neighbouring states, as well as with Kosovo*. During a debate on 27 October 2022, Congress members held a dialogue with representatives of associations of local authorities or governments from Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, and, for neighbouring states, Morocco and Tunisia. They were all able to express their expectations for the future and testify to the contributions of these programmes, whether bilateral, in the framework of the Council of Europe's action plans for certain member States or the Council of Europe's neighbourhood policy, or multilateral in the framework of specific partnerships.

Exchanges in the field to promote democracy and human rights

Vesna Travljanin, Executive Director of the Association of Municipalities and Cities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, speaking on behalf of the two associations of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Sprska, presented the achievements of her association, in the frawework of its co-operation with the Congress, and which has become "an indispensable partner in decentralisation" in the country. It contributes to the promotion of European standards, including innovation and democratic participation and the defence of human rights.

Mzia Giorgobiani, Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia, recalled the importance of the decentralisation strategy conducted since 2020, which increases the competences of local authorities, including fiscal competences, as well as citizen participation. Levan Zhorzholiani, member of the National Association of Local Authorities of Georgia, and current vice-Chair of the Georgian delegation to the Congress, spoke about some recent activities with the Congress, including workshops on human rights at local level, gender equality and non-discrimination. He calls for further strengthening of the links between the associations and the Congress, "essential for local democracy but also for global development", as a "facilitator of the enlargement towards the European Union".

"The Congress has saved local democracy in Moldova"

Dumitru Udrea, Secretary General of the Government of the Republic of Moldova, paid tribute to Moldova's local authorities for their mobilisation to help refugees affected by the war in Ukraine. Despite these difficult times, we continue our reform of public administration, both central and local, by strengthening the powers of the latter, he said. Viorel Furdui, Executive Director of the Congress of Local Authorities of Moldova (CALM) and a member of the Congress, believes that the co-operation projects have yielded many results, especially in the field of governance and dialogue. Moreover, "the Council of Europe has supported Moldovan local authorities when the country seemed to be drifting towards authoritarianism", and the Congress "has saved local democracy there on several occasions". He nevertheless calls on the Council of Europe to be even more active in the field of local democracy in the country.

Speaking from Kyiv, the Ukrainian Deputy Minister for Communities and Territorial Development on European Integration, Ihor Korkhovyi, said that despite the war, no issue in the country was being dealt with without reference to the local level. "Today, our local governments are fighting on the front line, or are already participating in the reconstruction of the liberated areas, but tomorrow we will build an even stronger local self-government, and we are counting on the Congress for that," he continued. Oleksandr Senkevych, Mayor of Mykolaiv and member of the Governing Board of the Association of Ukrainian Cities, considered that the support of the Congress had enabled "municipal voices to be heard in Ukraine", and he too called for local democracy to be strengthened. In the immediate future, however, it must be ensured that the Martial Law complies with the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. Mr Senkevych also welcomed the launch of partnerships between Ukrainian cities and those of other European countries, "Cities4Cities", and expressed his gratitude to Congress Secretary General Andreas Kiefer for his commitment to the country since the beginning of the war.

"In Tunisia, all decentralisation is at a standstill"

Morocco and Tunisia were the first states to join the "Partnership for Local Democracy" drawn up by the Congress. Abdelaziz Derouiche, Prefect of Rabat and President of the Moroccan Association of Presidents of Prefectural and Provincial Councils, recalled his country's long-standing commitment to decentralisation and the development of local self-government, before stressing that this partnership further strengthens the links between Morocco and the Council of Europe.

Adnen Bouassida, Mayor of Raoued and President of the National Federation of Tunisian Municipalities, recalled the decisive role of the Congress in promoting local democracy in his country, which is now being undermined by the current government. "All decentralisation processes have come to a halt, local elected representatives are being unjustly condemned, and we are asking for strong support from the Congress in the face of this situation, because the country will have no future without territorial development," he warned.

Lastly, Georgia's former youth delegate for 2017, Diana Endeladze, recalled the importance of the Congress’ "rejuvenating politics" initiative, of which she herself is an example - her year with the organisation having inspired her to later manage a programme for displaced youth. This initiative allows young delegates from the 46 member States to sit alongside Congress members and take part in debates.

Increasing partnerships and activities to support local authorities

Following these speeches, some 15 Congress members and youth delegates went into more detail on certain points, while agreeing on the importance of developing co-operation actions on the ground beyond the mere exchange of ideas, as Bernd Vöhringer (Germany, EPP/CCE) summarised. José Blanco Moreno (Spain, SOC/V/DP) hoped for greater involvement of national associations of local authorities in co-operation programmes, while Oksana Derkach (Ukraine, EPP/CCE) wanted to see more partnerships with Ukrainian citizens, following the example of the Cities4Cities platform, a networking platform launched by the Congress to support Ukrainian local and regional authorities.

Xavier Cadoret (France, SOC/V/ DP) was pleased to see that Morocco was also promoting multi-level governance. "We have common challenges on both sides of the Mediterranean, and our partners can, moreover, transmit the values of local democracy to the rest of Africa, in the framework of South-South exchanges", he explained. Martine Dieschburg-Nickels (Luxembourg, ILDG) praised the quality of the exchange of experiences that North-South co-operation offers. Eirini Dourou (Greece, SOC/V/DP) welcomed the fact that gender issues and the fight against sexism could also be addressed in the framework of co-operation programmes.

Finally, while several youth delegates welcomed the usefulness of co-operation programmes, some, like Sharon Amadi, would like their programmes to be more inclusive, especially with regard to the perspectives and priorities of young people.

 Video of the debate: Original - English - French

 Speech by D.Endeladze

 Speech by M. Giorgobiani

 Speech by L. Zhorzholiani

 Speech by V. Travljanin

 Speech by D. Urdea

 Speech by A. Bouassida

****
43rd Session

AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


The war against Ukraine; local and regional democracy in Belgium, Denmark, Czech Republic and Sweden; human rights and the environment; women and children refugees among the themes of the 43rd Congress session

43rd session Strasbourg, France 19 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
The war against Ukraine; local and regional democracy in Belgium, Denmark, Czech Republic and Sweden; human rights and the environment; women and children refugees among the themes of the 43rd Congress session

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe held its 43rd Session from 25 to 27 October 2022, in Strasbourg, France.

The Minister for Communities and Territories Development, Oleksiy Chernyshov, and the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, addressed members of Congress in a debate on the Russian Federation's war on Ukraine on the afternoon of Tuesday 25 October.

Also on the agenda were reports on the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Sweden. Congress members will examine reports on the observation of the latest local by-elections in Belgrade and several other municipalities in Serbia, as well as in Albania, and a report on the observation of local elections in the Netherlands. In addition, a draft resolution endorsing the Revised Code of Good Practice on Referendums, adopted by the Venice Commission and the Council for Democratic Elections, was presented for adoption.

A report on “A fundamental right to the environment: a matter for local and regional authorities” was debated in order to encourage an environmental reading of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and to adapt local governance to environmental challenges. The report proposes the drafting of an additional Protocol to the Charter. On this occasion, the third volume of the Human Rights Handbook for local and regional elected representatives on the environment and sustainable development was presented. Members also considered for adoption reports on regional identities, the impact of hate speech and fake news on the working conditions of local and regional elected representatives, smart cities and regions for a human rights-based governance approach, as well as on the reception of women and children refugees.

A debate on the Congress' co-operation activities were held with the participation of the Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia, Mzia Giorgobiani. Members also discussed the future of the Council of Europe and the role of the Congress in this framework, with the contribution of the Parliamentary Assembly rapporteur, Fiona O'Loughlin, on "A fourth Summit for a renewed, improved and reinforced Council of Europe". Other topics of the session included debates on the revision of the European Urban Charter II - Manifesto for a New Urbanity in the context of current crisis situations, and on regional finances. In addition, as at every session under the Congress' "Rejuvenate Politics" initiative, youth delegates participated in the debates and presented their own grassroots projects.

Among the invited guests were Peter Burke, Minister of State for Planning and Local Government, on behalf of the Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers, David Sláma, Acting Deputy Minister of the Interior, Czech Republic, Caroline Conroy, Mayor of Dublin, Ireland, and Leyla Kayacik, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees.

At the session, Congress members elected their Secretary General.


"We are defending not only Ukraine, but also European democratic values," Kyiv Mayor Klitschko and Minister Chernyshov tell Council of Europe Congress

43rd session Strasbourg, France 25 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe held a debate today on the Russian Federation's war against Ukraine, with the (online) participation of the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, and the Ukrainian Minister for Community and Territorial Development, Oleksiy Chernyshov. Organised within the framework of its 43rd Session in Strasbourg, France, the debate followed the Congress' statements deploring the loss of life and destruction caused by Russian aggression and calling on the Russian Federation to immediately and unconditionally stop its war in Ukraine.

"Since the beginning of the war, thousands of civilians have been killed and nearly 8 million refugees have found themselves in Europe," said the Mayor of Kyiv. "This war does not follow any rules of international law. Russian missiles are hitting our cities without any military objective and targeting our power plants and essential infrastructure," he explained. He also recalled that more than 50 local government representatives have been kidnapped since the beginning of the war, calling on the Congress to continue to support Ukrainian local governments. As President of the Association of Ukrainian Cities, he spoke of future reconstruction, saying that Ukraine was ready to work with the Council of Europe and the Congress in the framework of a "Marshall Plan".

"Our administration continues to function despite the bombings and the imposition of martial law," said Minister Chernyshov, outlining Ukraine's needs for the emergency and the medium- and long-term recovery plan. "We have our eyes on this prospect, bearing in mind the reforms needed within the framework of a state governed by the rule of law, even if for the moment the main thing is to survive," he added.

During the debate, Congress members reiterated their support for Ukraine and their solidarity with its people. They underlined the means available to local and regional authorities in member states to take concrete action, such as creating partnerships with cities and regions in Ukraine. This is the objective of the Cities4cities! platform launched, with the support of the Congress, to help Ukrainian cities. "As Europeans, we share the same values and we must demonstrate our solidarity with Ukraine, both politically and materially," Congress members concluded.

 Congress calls on all its networks of towns, cities and regions to co-operate with Ukraine

 Speech by V. Klitschko

 Speech by O. Chernyshov

 Video of the debate: Original - English - French

 Agenda and documents: 43rd session webpage

****
43rd Session

AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


Mathieu Mori elected Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe

Secretary General Strasbourg, France 25 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Mathieu Mori elected Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe

Mathieu Mori (France) was elected today as Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe for a five-year term of office, on the occasion of the 43rd Session of the Congress in Strasbourg.

Addressing the Congress members, Mr Mori highlighted the current unprecedented context in Europe, marked by the aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation. "The emergence of a new imperialism in Europe poses an existential threat to Ukraine and to each of our democracies," he said, pledging to continue the dialogue for a peaceful Europe.

The new Secretary General also recalled the variety of local and regional issues facing European societies, which are all areas of action for the Congress. "Many countries have high expectations of the Congress, and we will need an ever more efficient administration to meet the historic challenges ahead," he concluded.

The mandate of the new Secretary General of the Congress will take effect in January 2023.

 Presentation document: English - French - German - Italian - Ukrainian

 Speech by M. Mori

 Video of the election

 Mediabox interview with Mathieu Mori

****
43rd Session
AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


Refugee women and children: Council of Europe Congress calls for more coordination for a reception respecting human rights in towns and regions

43rd session Strasbourg, France 26 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Refugee women and children: Council of Europe Congress calls for more coordination for a reception respecting human rights in towns and regions

The number of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons throughout the world has never been so high as in 2022, and women and children face heightened vulnerabilities and violence in the course of migration. That is the finding of the report on the reception of women and child refugees in Europe’s cities and regions, adopted by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe on 25 October 2022.

Presented by the co-rapporteurs, Annika Vaikla (Estonia, ILDG) and Bernd Vöhringer (Germany, EPP/CEE), the report underlines the limits of mass reception facilities, which are often unsuitable, and proposes good practices for local authorities regarding housing, healthcare and education, with a view to ensuring safe reception and respect for the human rights of women and children fleeing their own countries.

“It is estimated that women and children have made up 90% of Ukrainians who have fled abroad since the start of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine. Our report notably takes into account the results of a visit made to Poland in July to gather the experiences of Polish towns and cities that are taking in thousands of Ukrainian women and children,” explained Ms Vaikla, emphasizing that all refugee women and children, whatever their origin, should have access to a safe reception.

To ensure the long-term protection of women and child refugees and asylum seekers, the Congress encourages local and regional authorities to co-operate with the other levels of governance and civil society organisations and to develop gender-sensitive and child-friendly reception policies. “We noted that close co-operation among local governments themselves, with civil society and also between the various tiers of government really makes a difference,” said Mr Vöhringer.

The Congress urges national authorities to set up clear and transparent funding mechanisms so that local and regional authorities can provide high-quality reception facilities for women and child refugees and also to facilitate the collection and sharing of relevant data regarding arriving refugees.

Addressing the members of the Congress, the Special Representative of the Council of Europe Secretary General on migration and refugees, Leyla Kayacik, shared the results of her fact-finding missions to several countries in Europe. She called for local and regional authorities in Europe not to be left alone in ensuring the protection of refugee women and children. “The involvement of all relevant stakeholders is necessary,” she concluded.

 Address by Annika Vaikla

 Address by Bernd Vöhringer

 Video of the debate

 Mediabox interview with B. Vöhringer and A. Vaikla

****
43rd Session

AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


43rd Session, Day 2: Human rights and the environment, local democracy in Serbia, Albania, Sweden and the Czech Republic, regional identities and finances, and the Urban Charter III

Strasbourg, France 28 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
43rd Session, Day 2: Human rights and the environment, local democracy in Serbia, Albania, Sweden and the Czech Republic, regional identities and finances, and the Urban Charter III

On the second day of the 43rd session, the presidents of the Chamber of Local Authorities, Bernd Vöhringer, and the Chamber of Regions, Harald Sonderegger, opened the Chambers by expressing their support and solidarity with the people of Ukraine and highlighted the unique challenges the Congress faces with the Covid 19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and climate change. “The regions of Europe, alongside the national governments, are showing a remarkable solidarity and political will to stand united and act together in responding to these challenges”, said Mr Sonderegger. “It is evident and crystal clear to everybody that – beyond these three pillars of the Council of Europe - namely democracy, human rights and rule of law – peace and prosperity are at stake in Europe,” stated Mr Vöhringer.

During a thematic debate in the Chamber of Local Authorities on the revision of the European Urban Charter II, Congress rapporteur Anne Colgan (Ireland, ILDG) underlined that “European cities and towns must be strong and resilient enough to face the current crises. All these emergencies require risk prevention and mitigation strategy and require leaders at all levels of the management and governance of our cities and towns to work well together”. The debate was then followed by a detailed explanation of the draft report by Christina Binder.

The Chamber of Local Authorities also adopted reports on local self-government in Serbia and Albania. The report on Serbia was presented by rapporteur Carla Dejohnghe (Belgium, ILDG) and highlights several areas for improvement regarding voter registration, misuse of administrative resources and announcement of results, and recommends that presidential, parliamentary and local elections are not held on the same day. The information report on Albania, presented by rapporteur Stewart Dickson (United Kingdom, ILDG), expresses general satisfaction with the orderly and well-administered elections, but draws attention to previous recommendations by the Venice Commission which remain to be addressed.

Meanwhile, in the Chamber of Regions, debates were held on regional identities and finances. Members debated the reportRegional identities: promoting dialogue and diversity in unity”, prepared by rapporteur Karl-Heinz Lambertz, Belgium (SOC/G/PD). "Successful regions are those that value their specificities while being open to others”, said Karl-Heinz Lambertz. The report proposes a "toolbox" of mechanisms to "ensure diversity and manage tensions peacefully". 

Congress members also held a thematic debate on regional finances in response to crises, in which Senior Advisor and Head of Secretariat at the OECD Network on Fiscal Relations, Sean M. Dougherty, and Director General for Co-operation with the State and the European Union of Madrid, José Francisco Herrera Antonaya, participated. Lastly, the Chamber of Regions elected their new Vice President, Mr Teuvo Hatva.

 

During plenary session that afternoon, Congress members debated the report on “A fundamental right to the environment: a matter for local and regional authorities”, which aims to encourage an environmental reading of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and proposes an additional Protocol to the Charter that would enshrine the right of local authorities to participate in decision making on environmental matters. “Local authorities should have a fair share of competences to tackle environmental issues at local level, necessary funding and some leeway to perform those competences effectively”, declared co-rapporteur Belinda Gottardi, Italy (SOC/G/PD). Her co-rapporteur Levan Zhorzholiani, Georgia (EPP/CCE) also stressed that combating climate change is a shared responsibility of all levels of government. On this occasion, the third volume of the Human Rights Handbook for local and regional elected representatives on the environment and sustainable development was presented by Harald Bergmann (the Netherlands, ILDG).

In plenary, the Congress also adopted reports on the application of the European Charter of Local Self Government in Sweden and the Czech Republic. The co-rapporteurs of the report on Sweden, Harald Bergmann, (the Netherlands, GILD) and Matija Kovac, (Serbia, PPE/CCE) welcome high levels of election turnout and women elected at local level, but express concern that in some cases, new obligations were imposed by the state on municipalities and regions without sufficient discretion. The report on the Czech Republic was presented by Viorel Furdui (Moldova, ILDG) and Jani Kokko (Finland, SOC/G/PD) and was followed by a statement by David Sláma, Acting Deputy Minister of the Interior, Czech Republic.

****
43rd Session

AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


States should boost regions’ financial capacity to deal with crises

Chamber of Regions Strasbourg, France 27 october 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
States should boost regions’ financial capacity to deal with crises

Having been hard-hit by the Covid 19 crisis and then by the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine, do European regions have the financial capacity to prepare to take off again once the situation improves, when other threats, foreseeable or otherwise, are looming ahead?  If they have the powers to carry out policies best suited to their needs, the answer is yes, according to the participants in a debate on “Regional finances in response to crises” held by the Congress Chamber of Regions on 26 October 2022, with the participation of the OECD.

Having been asked by its 38 member countries to study the way in which regions coped with the financial consequences of the lockdowns imposed during the Covid‑19 pandemic, the OECD found that the regions best equipped to deal with economic crises were those with their own fiscal capacity and also clearly defined responsibilities.  “We recommend that governments increase the financial capacity of regions, in particular so that they can run the services under their authority more effectively,” said Sean M. Dougherty, Senior Adviser and Head of Secretariat at the OECD Network on Fiscal Relations.  The apportionment of responsibilities between central governments and regions needed to be better defined, and overly vertical approaches had to be avoided, as local and regional authorities were on the front line when it came to the operation of services, he added.  He advocated “flexible” responses to crises, as well as the establishment of stable fiscal policies that were better suited to combating tax avoidance and evasion.  Lastly, he highlighted the financial challenges which would stem from increased ageing of the population, which was an issue that should be addressed not only centrally but also at regional level.

From Madrid to Helsinki, regions are reviving their economic growth

On the ground, several large regions with extensive powers have initiated crisis recovery strategies which are now beginning to bear fruit, such as the 30 economic measures introduced by the region of Madrid (Spain) in 2021.  “We have taken steps to ensure the funding of healthcare and also placed a moratorium on regional levies and taxes, while encouraging co-operation between the public and private sectors and facilitating business start-ups,” said José Francisco Herrera Antonaya, Director General for Co-operation with the State and the European Union of Madrid Region. Cultural and tourist institutions had received support and had been able to reopen very quickly, while shops had been allowed to open around the clock.  At the same time, the region had increased its education budget by 16% and expanded support for the self-employed, as well as for young mothers to boost the birth rate.  As a result, Madrid’s GDP was now back to 99% of its pre-Covid level and unemployment had fallen 25% in six months.

Similarly, the region of Uusimaa, Finland’s “economic lung”, had managed to transform the support provided to it by central government during the crisis into investments for the future: “The aid was also used to promote research concerning sustainability, recycling and the reuse of materials, including timber, and to foster immigration, which is vital to our economic activity,” said Atte Kaleva, member of the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Assembly.

Environment, education and ageing: regional finances must prepare for the future

Many regions are redirecting their budgets towards activities which they regard as priorities.  Günther Bergmann (Germany, EPP/CCE) presented the recent budgetary decisions taken by the regional parliament of North Rhine Westphalia, which had decided to increase teachers’ pay, step up the fight against cybercrime and improve protection against natural disasters and flooding.  According to Aida Jalilzade (Azerbaijan, ECR), the difficulties regions faced were not the result of economic or political factors alone but also of institutional factors.  “Budgetary decentralisation is essential for regions, and it could be asked whether low levels of decentralisation are not themselves an obstacle to recovery,” she said in conclusion.

The President of the Regional Parliament of Carinthia, Reinhart Rohr (Austria, SOC/G/PD), pointed out that his region had spent an additional amount of over €200 million in fighting Covid and had just released €125 million to help people cope with inflation and the energy crisis: “We are increasing benefits for families with young children and are reducing social security contributions.”  Nevertheless, he stressed that taxes in Austria were mainly collected by central government and redistributed through a system of equalisation at national, regional and municipal level: greater fiscal freedom for regions could lead to a risk of competition between them, which he did not believe to be desirable.

Lastly, Kevin Bentley (United Kingdom, ECR) called on local and regional elected representatives to start thinking now about the consequences of ageing for their economies: in 2050, 50% of the British population would be elderly or retired, he said, which would be a major financial challenge.

 Video of the debate

****
43rd Session

AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


Rejuvenating politics: youth delegates' projects praised by Congress members

Youth delegates Strasbourg, France 27 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Rejuvenating politics: youth delegates' projects praised by Congress members

With 1,300 participants in various European countries and more than 10,000 people indirectly involved, the youth delegates' projects made an impression due to the maturity and seriousness of their approaches, but also by the enthusiasm and spirit of innovation that contaminated their elders. Marc Cools (Belgium, ILDG), who urged his colleagues to seriously consider integrating young people into the official bodies of their municipalities on the same principle as at the Congress, was delighted. Whether in the form of research, presentations of Congress and Council of Europe activities, workshops or various events, all the projects have popularised the work of the Congress in an unprecedented way and inspired future political, educational or communication vocations in the field of human rights and participatory democracy. 

It is hard not to identify with the sensitive and humanistic approach of the project presented by youth delegate Ioana Livadariu (Romania) who created an experimental programme teaching kindergarten children the joy of choice. "Education starts on day one, not at 18," she said, explaining that her three-day project, carried out in kindergarten in Bucharest, could serve as an example for other schools that would like to get children used to voting, making decisions by consensus and working in teams. Introducing children at an early age to a wide range of values that underpin democracy, such as freedom of expression, equality and cooperation, inclusion and solidarity, could yield amazing results and significantly increase the participation of young people in local and regional democratic bodies in the future.

For this to happen, as youth delegate Andžela Rudzīte (Latvia) reminded us, progress should be made in the allocation of specific budgets. Her research on Youth Participation in Municipalities in her country showed that only 23% of Latvian municipalities have an explicit budget for youth participation in local democracy. Sent to the Ministry of Education, her work can help national authorities to improve the implementation of the revised European Charter which provides for the participation of young people in decision-making at local and regional level.

For this to happen, as youth delegate Andžela Rudzīte (Latvia) reminded us, progress must be made in the allocation of specific budgets. Her research on Youth Participation in Municipalities in her country showed that only 23% of Latvian municipalities have an explicit budget for youth participation in local democracy. Her work, which was sent to the Ministry of Education, can help national authorities to improve the implementation of the revised European Charter which provides for the participation of young people in decision-making at local and regional level.

Elena Manso Palao's (Spain) Voice & Vote project impressed delegates precisely because of its determination to explore three different ways of involving young people in Madrid and European politics: the institutional route, where it took "a lot of tenacity" to get the go-ahead from Madrid City Council; the media route, which very quickly generated the enthusiasm of a radio station; and finally, the presentation of the activities of the Congress and its youth delegates to the students of Juan Carlos University.  The weekly broadcast of a programme on the regional branch of one of Spain's most listened-to radio stations - Cadena SER, inviting young people to share their experiences of participation in local politics, was a great success for Voice & Vote. Not to mention the fact that its participants stayed in touch and will continue to collaborate. This was also the case for the 130 participants of the Conference on Good Governance, Human Rights Protection and Youth Participation in Europe, held in Thessaloniki on 23 September 2022. Organised by youth delegate Prodromos Tzounopoulos in co-operation with the University of Macedonia, the UN, Unesco and the Youth Club of Thessaloniki, it reached hundreds of people who became familiar with the work of the Council of Europe and the Congress. Indeed, one of the recommendations made by the youth delegates during the debate was to improve the visibility of the Congress and its programme with youth delegates, which is much less known to the general public than the similar UN programme.

"If you are the leaders of tomorrow, I feel reassured", concluded Jose Benlloch Fernandez (Spain, SOC/G/PD), echoing the words of many of his colleagues who expressed their admiration and unconditional support for the impressive work of the Congress' youth delegates.

Since 2014, the Congress has invited young people aged 18 to 30 from different backgrounds to participate in its sessions, with each of the 46 national delegations hosting a youth delegate for one calendar year. During the 43rd Congress session, the 2022 generation of young delegates presented in the hemicycle the 21 projects carried out in the field at the end of their mandate. This was a very successful outcome which is a testament to the success of the youth integration policy implemented by the Congress.

 Video of the debate

 Summary of youth delegates projects

****
43rd Session

AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


The Charter effectively applied in the Czech Republic but local and regional financing needs further improvement

Monitoring Strasbourg, France 27 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
The Charter effectively applied in the Czech Republic but local and regional financing needs further improvement

In a Recommendation adopted during its 25-27 October plenary session, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe welcomes the effective application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government by the Czech Republic. It underscores however the need to reduce the high dependence on central financing, particularly by the regions, and to address the frequent mismatch between the funding provided and the actual cost of implementing tasks transferred to local and regional authorities.

The Congress notes with satisfaction that in the Czech Republic the system of local democracy is functioning well, and the principles of the Charter are reflected in the political and administrative processes. The Czech legal order protects the rights of self-governing authorities and facilitates citizens to participate in local affairs.

Many positive developments have taken place since 2012, when the Congress last monitored the implementation of the Charter in the country. These include simplification of the system of territorial division in 2020; strategic development of the public administration system; an increase in the share of taxes for municipalities and regions; effective use of technology and clarification of the system for remunerating local elected officials.

The Congress notes that the Czech authorities should pay particular attention to the fragmented nature of the local government structures characterised by many small municipalities with limited administrative capacity and financial resources. It points also out the limited options municipalities have for new sources of funding and for establishing and increasing local taxes and consider that the authorities should enhance the involvement of the local and regional authorities in decision-making processes for all matters that concern them directly.

The Czech authorities are invited notably to ensure adequate financial resources to local and regional level and strengthen consultation and inter-municipal co-operation. The Czech Republic is also called on to sign and ratify the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority (ETS No. 207), also highlighted in an exchange of views with David SLÁMA, Acting Deputy Minister of the Interior for Public Administration and eGovernment, Czech Republic that followed the adoption of the Recommendation.

The Recommendation was adopted on the basis of a report on the implementation of the Charter in the Czech Republic prepared by Mr Viorel Furdui (Republic of Moldova, ILDG) and Mr Jani Kokko, Finland (SOC/G/PD) following a monitoring visit to Prague, Brno, Jilhava and Velký Beranov from 2 to 4 March 2022.

Czech Republic ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1999. Countries that have ratified the Charter are bound by its provisions. The Charter requires the implementation of a minimum set of rights which form the essential basis of local self-government in Europe. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe ensures that these principles are respected in the 46 Council of Europe member states.

 Report CG(2022)43

 Speech by Viorel Furdui, Co-rapporteur

 Speech by Jani Kokko, Co-rapporteur

 Video of the debate

 Mediabox interview with Jani Kokko

****
43rd Session

AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


Belgium: Council of Europe Congress welcomes the functioning of local self-government, but calls for progress on the issue of the appointment of burgomasters in Flanders

Monitoring Strasbourg, France 27 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Belgium: Council of Europe Congress welcomes the functioning of local self-government, but calls for progress on the issue of the appointment of burgomasters in Flanders

In a monitoring report on the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government adopted today, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities welcomes the functioning of the Belgian system, which generally respects the provisions of the Charter. However, the rapporteurs raise several points of concern, in particular with regard to the appointment of burgomasters by the regional government in Flanders.

Prepared by Matthias Gysin (Switzerland, ILDG) and Magnus Berntsson (Sweden, PPEC/CCE), the report notes with satisfaction that the devolution of the matter of local authorities to the regions has not produced any negative results for the local authorities and that the regions have enhanced local autonomy.

Nevertheless, the Congress regrets the lack of progress concerning the appointment of burgomasters by the regional government in Flanders, which remains contrary to the Charter. In a previous Recommendation (409) of 2017, the Congress pointed out that the validation by the Flemish Government of the election of a burgomaster proposed by the local council - even when the proposed burgomaster is a member of the local council previously elected by direct suffrage - constitutes a disproportionate control of local authorities by the regional government. With regard to municipalities with language facilities (faciliteitengemeenten*), the Congress asks the Belgian authorities to translate into a memorandum the case law of the Council of State relating to the right of French-speaking residents to have access to local official documents in the language of their choice.

Furthermore, the Congress requests that the Committee of Ministers invites Belgium to take advantage of the incoming 7th Reform of the State in order to introduce into the Constitution the principle of local self-government in a more explicit and clear manner or alternatively to amend the existing regional legislation on local government. At regional level, the country is requested to clarify the question of the future of provinces and to make local referenda compulsory.

In the Brussels-Capital Region, Congress recommends setting up a bilateral body consisting of representatives of regions and local authorities for a permanent and stable institutional dialogue and consultation. In Wallonia and the German-speaking community, Congress advises clarifying the allocation of the respective responsibilities of the Walloon Region and those of the German-speaking community as regards their municipalities.

(*) The six “communes with facilities” (faciliteitengemeenten) are municipalities located in the territory of the Flemish Region, around the Brussels-Capital Region. They are: Drogenbos, Kraainem, Linkebeek, Sint-Genesius-Rode, Wemmel and Wezembeek-Oppem. Following the 1970 constitutional revision, these municipalities (with a majority of French-speaking residents) were added to the territory of the Flemish Region, and the 1988 state reform enacted the legal scheme governing these local authorities.

 Report CG(2022)43-16final

 Speech by M. Berntsson

 Speech by M. Gysin

 Video of the debate

****
43rd Session

AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


Sweden: efficient system of local self-government, but consultation with subnational authorities still to be formalised

Strasbourg, France 27 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Sweden: efficient system of local self-government, but consultation with subnational authorities still to be formalised

A report by the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities notes with satisfaction that local and regional self-governments in Sweden manage the highest shares of public affairs in Europe and have a high degree of financial autonomy. It also welcomes the comparatively high percentage of women in elected positions and a high level of citizens’ trust to democratic institutions.

However, the Congress expresses concerns that in some cases, new obligations are imposed by the state on municipalities and regions without granting sufficient space for discretion. There is also a lack of systematic formal consultation procedures on all matters that concern subnational authorities, that would be in line with the requirements of the Charter and relevant Congress resolutions and recommendations.

The rapporteurs Harald Bergmann, Netherlands (ILDG) and Matija Kovac, Serbia (EPP/CCE) pointed out that there is a shift in the division of roles between state governance and local/regional self-government, at the cost of the latter, due to new rules and guidelines, methods and instruments of governance launched by the state. They also noted the non-Indexation of grants in times of rising inflation, climate and societal change.

The Congress calls on the Swedish authorities to grant local and regional authorities more freedom of action, whenever new obligations are imposed on them and establish formal consultation procedures on all matters of concern to subnational authorities in line with the Charter. The authorities should also refrain from by-passing the local authorities through the implementation of new methods and instruments of governance and policy arrangements and find, instead, ways for their inclusion. The rapporteurs also call for the introduction of an elaborated system of indexation for state grants, following appropriate consultation procedures.  

The Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments conducted a monitoring visit to examine the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Sweden on 5-7 April 2022. During the visit, the Congress delegation met the representatives of various institutions at all levels of government.

 Report CG(2022)43

 Speech by Harald Bergmann, Co-rapporteur

 Speech by Matija Kovac, Co-rapporteur

 Video of the debate

 Mediabox interview with Matija Kovac

****
43rd Session

AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


Towards a new Urban Charter of the Congress:  How to build participative, inclusive and sustainable cities and towns

43rd Session Strasbourg, France 26 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Towards a new Urban Charter of the Congress:  How to build participative, inclusive and sustainable cities and towns

In recent years, urban life has undergone a series of rapid transformations linked to the accelerated climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic, the worsening of social divide and the introduction of new technologies. In addition, democracy issues and citizen involvement came into focus and new ways of political participation gained importance, not only, but also in the urban environment.

Faced with the challenges this entails, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe proposes a revision of the European Urban Charter II (2008) in order to support local and regional authorities in building more democratic, cohesive, sustainable and digital societies. During a debate in the sitting of the Chamber of Local Authorities on 26 October 2022, at the 43rd Congress Session, members examined the different aspects of this work which also reflect the priorities of the Congress for 2021-2026.

“It is in our cities and towns, on a daily basis, that citizens see the extent to which fundamental freedoms and citizens' human rights are respected. The Charter is a kind of Urban Constitution of local authorities containing a corpus of urban rights and principles,” underlined the rapporteur Anne Colgan (Ireland, ILDG), presenting the Urban Charter as a practical tool focusing on quality-of-life issues and good urban management.

The Urban Charter III project aims to offer innovative solutions to current challenges and universal principles of ethical governance, fair future, sustainable development and solidarity. The structure of the draft report was presented by Christina Binder, Bundeswehr University of Munich, Germany, and member of the Congress Group of Independent Experts on the European Charter of Local Self-Government, through concrete examples.

Taking account of the Congress’ acquis, the new Urban Charter will bring under one umbrella the work carried out in the different committees, in particular, to promote a healthy environment, the reduction of social inequalities, the strengthening of the urban-rural interplay as well as smart and human-centred cities. Against the backdrop of current threats to liberal democracy, the Urban Charter III will highlight the importance of safeguarding democracy at the local level by improving the quality of representative democracy and citizen participation, notably of young people, in cities and towns.

The draft Urban Charter III will be presented for adoption to the Congress during its October 2023 Session.

 Speech by Anne Colgan

 Speech by Cristina Binder

 Video of the debate

****
43rd Session

AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


First day of the session: Ukraine, hate speech, smart cities and regions, women and children refugees, and local democracy in Denmark

Strasbourg, France 26 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
First day of the session: Ukraine, hate speech, smart cities and regions, women and children refugees, and local democracy in Denmark

On the first day of the 43rd Session, on 25 October 2022, the Congress held a debate on the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine, with the (online) participation of the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, and the Ukrainian Minister for Community and Territorial Development, Oleksiy Chernyshov. "We are defending Ukraine, but we are also defending European democratic values," they told the Congress. In his communication, the Congress President, Leendert Verbeek declared that the Congress is unfailingly committed to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognised borders and we will continue to extend our unwavering support to Ukraine and its people.

Addressing the Congress members on the same day, on behalf of the Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Peter Burke, Minister of State for Planning and Local Government stated that “the Committee of Ministers shares the strong position of the Congress which stands in solidarity and support for the Ukrainian nation, its people and its authorities”. The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ms Caroline Conway, drew attention to the critical and unique role of local and regional governments in “providing leadership in our uncertain times, in assisting those fleeing war and strife, in fighting climate change and biodiversity loss, in standing up for democracy". She also highlighted a number of initiatives undertaken by her city to support Ukrainian refugees, and expressed the solidarity of Dublin, Ireland and the European continent as a whole with the people of Ukraine.

Among the other themes debated was the report on “Hate speech and fake news: the impact on working conditions of local and regional elected representatives”, prepared by co-rapporteurs Wilma Delissen Van Tongerlo (Netherlands, ILDG) and Kristoffer Tamsons (Sweden, EPP/CCE). The report called for strengthened inter-institutional coordination, the training of elected officials, and the development of guidelines for the prevention of disinformation and hate speech. The report on “Smart cities and regions - prospects for a human rights-based governance approach”, prepared by Tony Buchanan (United Kingdom) and Jan Markink (Netherlands, ILDG), underlined the importance of ensuring the compliance of new technologies and artificial intelligence tools with human rights, democracy and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, the Congress adopted a report on the reception of women and child refugees in Europe’s cities and regions prepared by co-rapporteurs Annika Vaikla (Estonia, ILDG) and Bernd Vöhringer (Germany, EPP/CEE), which underlined the limits of mass reception facilities and proposes good practices for local authorities regarding housing, healthcare and education. The Special Representative of the Secretary General on migration and refugees, Leyla Kayacik, called for local and regional authorities in Europe not to be left alone to in ensuring the protection of refugee women and children. “The involvement of all relevant stakeholders is necessary,” she said.

Furthermore, the Congress adopted a report on the situation of local democracy in Denmark. Co-rapporteurs Xavier Cadoret (France, SOC/G/PD) and Carla Dejonghe (Belgium, ILDG) expressed great satisfaction with the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Denmark, citing it as an exemplary model for other member States, but call on the Danish authorities to ratify the Additional Protocol to the Charter as soon as possible. Additionally, the Congress adopted the draft resolution on the Revised Code of Good Practice on Referendums, presented by rapporteur Vladimir Prebilic (Slovenia, SOC/G/PD), which updates the guidelines for ensuring fair referendums.

The same day, the Congress members elected Mathieu Mori as new Secretary General of the Congress, for a 5-year term as from January 2023.

 Congress calls on all its networks of towns, cities and regions to co-operate with Ukraine

 Speech by V. Klitschko

 Speech by O. Chernyshov

 Video of the debate: Original - English - French

 Speech by M. Mori

 Video of the election

 Mediabox interview with Mathieu Mori

 See also: Russian Federation's war against Ukraine | dedicated page

****
43rd Session

AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


Karl-Heinz Lambertz: "Successful regions are those that value their specificities while being open to others”

Strasbourg, France 26 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Karl-Heinz Lambertz:

While the highly sensitive issue of regional identities sometimes gives rise to passionate or even conflicting polemics, the enhancement of these identities can, on the contrary, become an asset for the regions, as long as it is done in a spirit of respect for dialogue and diversity. This is the conclusion of a report on "Regional identities: promoting dialogue and diversity in unity" presented by Karl-Heinz Lambertz (Belgium, SOC/V/DP) and debated on 26 October by the Chamber of Regions, which adopted a resolution and a recommendation contained in the report. "I know there is no more sensitive subject than the issue of regional identity, but we need to debate it to help regions turn their identity into an asset", said the rapporteur.

This document, adopted by the Congress, aims to help the regions to develop their own identity, but from a perspective of openness towards their neighbours, and not of withdrawal into themselves. The report proposes a "toolbox" of mechanisms to "ensure diversity and manage tensions peacefully". "Within regions, as within each of us, there is not one identity, but multiple identities, often based on emotions and memory", stressed Mr Lambertz, before recalling that European identity itself, far from being imposed in a single way on citizens or regions, is itself the fruit of the recognition of the diversity of identities that make it up. However, these identities are sometimes experienced or presented as an "opposition" to neighbouring regions or to the states of which they are part, whereas they could, on the contrary, promote exchanges, dialogue and mutual understanding. His report addresses the notion of identity in many European regions and shows how to improve the dialogue around regional identities, both within regions themselves, between neighbouring regions, and between regions and central governments.

Providing regions with legitimate representatives and involving them in the decision-making process, taking into account cultural and linguistic diversity and involving citizens in debates on possible changes to territorial boundaries are the main ways in which the paper argues that regional identities can be harmoniously articulated and tensions prevented. "Based on the experiences gathered throughout Europe, it can be said that the regions that succeed are those that value their specificities while opening up to others," added Mr Lambertz.

Regional identities are also social and economic

German youth delegate Marius Wallstein illustrated the theme of regional identity, drawing on his own experience: "I am 21 years old, and I was born in the former East Germany, more than 10 years after the disappearance of the GDR, but like many people there, even the youngest, I still feel our differences with West Germany, 33 years after reunification. He recalled that although regional identities are social and imaginary constructions, they also include economic realities, such as salaries which, in the former GDR, are still much lower than those in Western Germany. Turning to the importance of institutions representing regional minorities within states, he said that it was not enough to engage in dialogue with them, but that it was essential to integrate them concretely into political processes.

Respect for identity includes regional languages and cultures

During the debate, several members of the Chamber presented the relations between their regions and their neighbours, such as Günther Bergmann (Germany, EPP/CCE) who recalled that North Rhine-Westphalia shares 400 kilometres of border with the Netherlands, and encourages not only the learning of the Dutch language, but also the Westphalian regional dialect. In Serbia, the Vojvodina region has 26 different ethnic groups and six official languages, said Aleksandra Maletic (Serbia, EPP/CCE), arguing that this diversity, which is also enhanced by fair representation in regional institutions, provides the whole country with a real gateway to Europe.

Thomas Andersson (Sweden, ILDG) welcomed the fact that northern Sweden, which had long been Norwegian, had been able to build a positive regional identity integrating its multiple influences, and was now encouraging dialogue with indigenous peoples. Gunn Marit Helgesen (Norway, EPP/CCE), welcomed the quality of the report, but expressed concern about the increasing aggressiveness in political dialogues, arguing for more tolerance and respect: "this document presents tools to calm down the exchanges and to guarantee the expression of each one, that's why it is also important".

Responding to the comments, Karl-Heinz Lambertz noted that all speakers expressed their own emotions when talking about their regional identities: this shows, if any further proof was needed, the complex and multifaceted nature of regional identities. "Regional identities are expressed in harmonious diversity in some countries, but in others, citizens feel stifled by majority identities, and I think that the implementation of the tools advocated by this report will help to change these situations", he concluded.

 Report CPR(2022)43-02final

 Speech by Karl-Heinz Lambertz ( in French)

 Video of the debate

 Mediabox interview with Karl-Heinz Lambertz

****
43rd Session

AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


Partial local elections in Albania: Congress welcomes uncontested results and encourages all parties to participate in next years’ general local vote

Strasbourg, France 26 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Partial local elections in Albania: Congress welcomes uncontested results and encourages all parties to participate in next years’ general local vote

At its 43rd Plenary Session, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe today discussed an information report on partial local elections in Albania held on 6 March 2022 following a hybrid election observation mission carried out on 24 and 25 February and 8 March.

The Congress expressed satisfaction with the orderly and well-administered elections and with the campaign in which pertinent rules were generally respected by all stakeholders. “The Congress delegation strongly welcomed the fact that the election results were accepted by all contestants and were not contested, for the first time in thirty years in Albania”, highlighted the Rapporteur Stewart Dickson (United Kingdom, ILDG).

However, the Congress report also identified several areas where there is still room for improvement, notably regarding the implementation of previous recommendations by the Venice Commission which remain to be addressed, including measures to depoliticise lower-level election commissions and still existing criminal liability for defamation. The report invites the Albanian authorities to address these long-standing recommendations and increase efforts to promote the participation of women candidates in mayoral elections.

Furthermore, the Rapporteur suggested measures to ensure free conditions for media reporting and safeguards to prevent the misuse of administrative resources, to provide a level playing field for all contestants.  

The Rapporteur concluded that he hopes “that positive change achieved during these partial elections will be continued in 2023, such as for instance all parties participating in the elections and the acceptation by all contestants of the final results”.

 Report CPL(2022)4303

 Statement by Stewart Dickson

 Video of the debate

 Mediabox interview with Stewart Dickson

See also: Congress to carry out a remote mission to observe partial local elections in Albania

****
43rd Session

AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


Environment : The Congress calls for the drafting of an Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government

Monitoring Strasbourg, France 26 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Environment : The Congress calls for the drafting of an Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government

Given worsening climate change, environmental challenges are increasingly being viewed from the angle of human rights – the right to life, health or private and family life – and international law.  In a report adopted today, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe called for a green reading of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, the benchmark treaty for local democracy, and for consideration to be given to drafting an additional protocol to ensure proper recognition for local and regional authorities’ role in the environmental field.

“This entails empowering local and regional authorities to take a more active role in fighting climate change.  For instance, local authorities should have a fair share of the powers for tackling environmental issues at local level, along with the necessary funding and some room for manoeuvre,” said co-rapporteur Belinda Gottardi (Italy, SOC/G/PD).

The Congress also called for increased citizen participation regarding environmental issues, intermunicipal and inter-regional co-operation and environmental protection networks and associations. As youth delegate Zoé Elkær Nicot (Denmark) pointed out, it is essential to guarantee citizens adequate procedural rights.

“As local and regional authorities, we provide many services related to the environment such as regulation of air pollution, noise abatement, waste disposal, transport, drinking water supply and spatial planning.  We are willing to take on our share of responsibility.  However, we also believe that our crucial role in protecting a safe and healthy environment must be legally recognised,” said co-rapporteur Levan Zhorzholiani (Georgia) in conclusion.

On the same day, the Congress adopted a resolution on the third volume of the Human Rights Handbook for Local and Regional Authorities on environment and sustainable development.  Described by Harald Bergmann (Netherlands, ILDG) as “an outstanding example of how we – as local and regional elected representatives – can and must think globally and act locally,” this volume, which presents good practices, addresses the issues of transport, housing, sustainable economies, education, public procurement and local strategies for sustainable development.

 Report CG(2022)43-15 

 Statement by Belinda Gottardi

 Statement by Levan Zhorzholiani

 Statement by Harald Bergmann

 Statement by Zoé Elkær Nicot

 Video of the debate on a fundamental right to the environment: a matter for local and regional authorities - Towards a green reading of the European Charter of Local Self-government

 Video of the debate on Human rights handbook for local and regional authorities - Volume III: environment and sustainable development

 Mediabox interview with Belinda Gottardi and Levan Zhorzholiani

****
43rd Session

AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


Partial local elections in Serbia: An orderly ballot despite polarisation and elections overshadowed by simultaneous parliamentary and presidential votes

Elections Strasbourg, France 26 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Partial local elections in Serbia: An orderly ballot despite polarisation and elections overshadowed by simultaneous parliamentary and presidential votes

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe today adopted a report following a mission carried out by a 15-member delegation to observe the partial local elections held on 3 April 2022 in Belgrade and several other municipalities in Serbia. On the Election Day, seven Congress teams were deployed to Belgrade, Arandelovac, Smederevska Palanka, Kula and Secanj to monitor the election procedures in about one hundred polling stations.

Rapporteur Carla Dejonghe (Belgium, IDLG) underlined that the delegation observed “an overall calm Election Day with the polling procedures conducted mostly in accordance with the according legal framework”. She welcomed, as a positive sign, the fact that “further to the inter-party dialogue facilitated by the European Parliament last year, the opposition, at all levels of government, participated in these elections”.

However, the Congress report mentions some notable procedural inconsistencies and incidents and highlights several areas for improvement which should be addressed by the Serbian authorities. This includes in particular:  voter registration, regulation of campaign and party finance, misuse of administrative resources, issues pertaining to breaches of the secrecy of the vote, announcement of results, layout and accessibility of polling stations to support the participation of voters with impaired mobility and composition as well as training and professionalisation of polling boards.

“In addition, protecting media freedom and limiting the spread of disinformation and hate speech should be at the focus of the attention in Serbia, in order to enable voters to make an informed choice”, the Rapporteur added.  

Furthermore, the Rapporteur reiterated, yet again, the Congress recommendation not to hold the presidential, parliamentary and local elections on the same day: “We believe that the conduct of concurrent elections for different levels of government should be avoided in the future, not least because national elections overshadow local issues – as it was unfortunately also the case for the April elections in Serbia.”

 Report CPL(2022)43-02

 Presentation by Carla Dejonghe, Rapporteur

 Video of the debate

 Mediabox interview with Carla Dejonghe

****
43rd Session

AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


Council of Europe Congress adopts recommendations to develop smart cities and regions and to fight hate speech and fake news

43rd session Strasbourg, France 26 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Council of Europe Congress adopts recommendations to develop smart cities and regions and to fight hate speech and fake news

The evolution of digital technologies over the past twenty years has had a considerable impact on local and regional authorities, whether in terms of the "smart" transformation of cities and regions or the spread of hate speech and fake news. During its 43rd Session on 25 October 2022, in Strasbourg, France, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe adopted two reports on prospects and challenges for local and regional governance.

“Smart” cities and regions cover multiple facets: applications, sensors, software, algorithms, platforms or cameras. In the report prepared by Tony Buchanan (United Kingdom) and Jan Markink (Netherlands, ILDG), the Congress recommends deploying these technologies within the framework of proactive policies to optimise the administration and management of public affairs by developing inclusive initiatives for sustainable and human-centred cities and regions. This requires ensuring the compliance of new technologies and artificial intelligence tools with human rights, democracy and the Sustainable Development Goals. In particular the focus should be on reducing the digital divide, protecting personal data and improving cybersecurity. In addition, the national authorities must provide local authorities with the necessary support for their implementation.

While new technologies can contribute to the quality of territorial democracy, they sometimes have a deleterious effect on public life, particularly via social networks. Prepared by co-rapporteurs Wilma Delissen Van Tongerlo (Netherlands, ILDG) and Kristoffer Tamsons (Sweden, EPP/CCE), the report on hate speech and fake news highlights the toxic impact of these phenomena, online and offline, on the working conditions of local and regional elected representatives and on democracy. Furthermore, the report helps with identifying the right tools and strategies to tackle hate speech and fake news. In particular the Congress calls inter alia for guidance, training and support to local politicians as well as for adequate communication, transparency and openness. It recommends the implementation at the national level of a comprehensive strategy containing legal remedies and preventive measures, involving the relevant stakeholders. There should be no impunity for online and offline threats and attacks against local and regional politicians.

Debate on smart cities and regions:

 Speech by Tony Buchanan

 Speech by Jan Markink

 Video of the debate on Smart cities and regions - prospects for a human rights-based governance approach

 Mediabox interview with Tony Buchanan and Jan Markink

Debate on hate speech and fake news:

 Speech by Wilma Delissen Van Tongerlo

 Speech by Kristoffer Tamsons

 Video of the debate on Hate speech and fake news: the impact on working conditions of local and regional elected representatives

 Mediabox interview with Kristoffer Tamsons

****
43rd Session

AgendaWeb file Multimedia (Live webcasts, interviews, videos and photo)


Denmark: Good implementation of European Charter of Local Self-Government, but need better coordination between municipalities and regions

Strasbourg, France 26 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Denmark: Good implementation of European Charter of Local Self-Government, but need better coordination between municipalities and regions

The Danish’ government system being one of the most decentralised in Europe, the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities notes in a report, with satisfaction the positive, and in some ways exemplary, implementation of the principles enshrined in the European Charter of Local Self-Government. It also notes the wide range of responsibilities of the municipalities and the role they play in the Danish welfare system and the culture of consultation and loyal collaboration between central government and local authorites.

With regard to the right to participate in public affairs at local level in Denmark, the rapporteurs Xavier Cadoret, France (SOC/G/PD) and Carla Dejonghe, Belgium (ILDG) note, exactly as the previous rapporteurs did in 2013, that Denmark has good practices in this respect. However, Denmark, has not yet signed the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority (CETS No. 207) despite those positive examples of participation in public affairs and the absence of legal obstacles that would prevent its signature. Therefore, the rapporteurs encourage national authorities to sign and ratify the Additional Protocol in the near future.

Fifteen years after the reform of the extensive administrative territorial structure in 2007, the Danish’ local government system faces some significant challenges. In the report, the rapporteurs note that the division of competences between regions and municipalities as regards the delivery of health services has become increasingly challenging in recent years and requires specific consideration by all levels of government. The Congress recommend that Denmark revisit the framework of collaboration and the distribution of tasks between municipalities and regions on the delivery of health services, in consultation with associations of local and regional authorities, with the aim of improving cooperation and increasing the robustness of the healthcare system.

The Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments conducted a monitoring visit to examine the situation of local and regional democracy in Denmark on 3-5 May 2022 in the light of the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

See also:

For further information:

Contact: Päivi SUHONEN, Media Officer, tel.+ 33 (0) 3 90 21 53 70


“The international crisis has had strong local effects and local solutions must be found,” says Irish Minister Peter Burke

Strasbourg, France 25 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
“The international crisis has had strong local effects and local solutions must be found,” says Irish Minister Peter Burke

“Today we enter the eighth month of war in Ukraine, of war in Europe, war on our shared continent. This international crisis has strong local repercussions. Local solutions must be found” said the Irish Minister of State for Planning and Local Government, Peter Burke, addressing the 43rd Congress Session on behalf of the Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers, on 25 October 2022.

The Minister praised the "key role of the Congress in helping the cities and regions of Ukraine suffering the hardships of war". Mentioning the plan to hold a 4th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the 46 member states of the Council of Europe, supported by the Irish Presidency, he underlined the substantial contribution of the Congress to the work of the High-Level Reflection Group set up to make recommendations on the future of the Council of Europe.

"The work of the Congress has also been a key element of our Presidency's priorities which have focused on the promotion of human rights, participatory democracy, youth engagement and inclusion," he added, emphasizing the need to involve the younger generations in the democratic processes that affect their present and their future.

Human rights and environmental issues were also high on the Irish Presidency's agenda for which equal access to a healthy environment in all Member States is fundamental, said the Minister, mentioning the work undertaken by the Council of Europe and the Congress with a view to drawing up a legal instrument.

“Inclusiveness, a healthy environment and a next generation of engaged citizens, these are all goals that can only be achieved together, at all levels of government and as one continent,” he concluded.


“Democratic institutions need to be reinvented with citizens’ involvement and with youth involvement in particular,” says Bryony Rudkin at launch of ELDW events In Malta

Senglea, Malta 24 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
“Democratic institutions need to be reinvented with citizens’ involvement and with youth involvement in particular,” says Bryony Rudkin at launch of ELDW events In Malta

On 22 October 2022, Congress Thematic Spokesperson on the European Local Democracy Week (ELDW) Bryony Rudkin (United Kingdom, SOC/G/PD) participated in the launch of the ELDW in Malta, including a place-making workshop and a series of events and presentations, organised by the Malta Local Councils’ Association, in collaboration with NGOs, regional councils, the Senglea Local Council and academics.

“Democratic institutions need to be reinvented with citizens’ involvement – with youth involvement in particular – to make sure that citizens have constant access to governance and that no one feels excluded from decision-making”, stressed the Congress Spokesperson.

Ms Rudkin drew attention to challenges facing democratic participation, such as the polarisation of society and extremism, emphasising the need to “re-engage dialogue and civic debate within society to make sure that the extreme stops being the mainstream”. She also highlighted the need for a grassroots response to the climate crisis, in line with this year's ELDW theme, "Protecting the environment: local communities take action", underlining the role of cities and citizens as the “front line” in the face of the climate emergency. Ms Rudkin also emphasized the importance of ensuring that local authorities and regions are better equipped with the necessary competences and resources and are more resilient in order to prevent, resist, adapt and recover quickly from multiple crises.

The Spokesperson reaffirmed the Congress’ commitment to supporting local and regional authorities in organising ELDW events and raising awareness of local democracy in their own countries. ELDW flagship events are held every year during the week of 15 October – a date chosen as a tribute to the European Charter of Local Self-Government, which opened for signature on this date in 1985.

The European Local Democracy Week (ELDW) is a pan-European initiative co-ordinated by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe since 2007. Throughout the year, municipalities and their national associations are invited to organise initiatives all over Europe aimed at promoting citizen participation, fostering dialogue between the community and public authorities, strengthening trust in elected representatives and institutions and providing a European dimension to local initiatives.


Congress President: “Multi-level governance ensures decisions tailored to specific needs in crisis situations”

Rabat, Morocco 19 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Congress President: “Multi-level governance ensures decisions tailored to specific needs in crisis situations”

“We are facing multiple crises today and the need for shared, multi-level governance to find adequate responses to these challenges is more critical than ever”, stressed the President of the Congress, Leendert Verbeek, at the opening of the 4th Parliamentary Forum of Regions in Rabat, Morocco, on 19 October 2022.

“The Congress has been promoting governance where each level is strong with its own competences, resources and decision-making autonomy, and where all levels work together to address common challenges, on both sides of the Mediterranean,” Mr Verbeek underlined, adding that the Congress was providing its support to strengthening local and regional self-government and promoting citizen participation at local and regional level in the Kingdom of Morocco, which was the first country to be granted the status of Partner for Local Democracy with the Congress in 2019.

Stressing the importance of cooperation between the Congress and Morocco, the Congress President highlighted the Council of Europe’s 2022-2025 Neighbourhood Partnership with Morocco, and reaffirmed the Congress’ commitment to sharing experiences and lessons learned from the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in European countries with Moroccan partners. “The Congress will continue to strengthen its partnership with Morocco, both through peer dialogue with the Moroccan delegation and through our activities here on the ground, to ensure the success of advanced regionalisation in the country”, he concluded.

Organised by the House of Councillors of the Moroccan Parliament under the theme “The institutionalization of the Contractual Approach: Fundamental pillar for the acceleration of advanced regionalization implementation”, the Forum aimed to strengthen contractual relations between the State and regions as well as between regions, provinces and local authorities in Morocco.

On the occasion of the Forum, the Congress President held bilateral meetings with Enaam Mayara, Speaker of the House of Councillors of Morocco, Mbarka Bouaida, President of the Association of Regions of Morocco and Head of the Moroccan Delegation to the Congress; Abdelaziz Derouiche, President of the Moroccan Association of Presidents of Councils of Prefectures and Provinces and Mounir Laymouri, President of the Moroccan Association of Presidents of Local Councils,  who are also members of the Moroccan delegation.


“Effective engagement across all levels of government is essential to achieve full social inclusion and stability,” says Bernd Vöhringer

Strasbourg, France 18 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
“Effective engagement across all levels of government is essential to achieve full social inclusion and stability,” says Bernd Vöhringer

“The emphasis of today’s event on the non-take-up of rights is a reminder of the obstacles which still prevent our citizens from enjoying fundamental rights, from housing to education,” stated Bernd Vöhringer (Germany, EPP/CCE), President of the Chamber of Local Authorities at the CINGO event on International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, in Strasbourg, on 17 October 2022. “Local and regional authorities’ proximity to citizens makes them uniquely well-placed to understand the barriers to accessing rights and services,” he underlined.

The Chamber President highlighted the efforts of the Congress to bolster the position of social rights within its work, in particular through the 2nd volume of its human rights handbook which focuses on social rights and provides concrete examples of best practices of service delivery from across the continent.

“Our role in bringing together a diverse range of experiences makes the Congress a useful forum for raising awareness of the non-take-up of rights. Of course, local and regional authorities cannot do this alone. They need to be involved, consulted, and integrated into the implementation of national policies,” he stated.

Mr. Vöhringer underlined the importance of the Congress to remain fully committed and making of social rights a reality for citizens throughout Europe’s cities and regions. “The Congress will continue fighting poverty and contributing to a cohesive society where no one is left behind”, he concluded.


“Municipalities are at the forefront of meeting the challenges facing our societies”, says President of the Chamber of Local Authorities, Bernd Vöhringer

Chamber of Local Authorities Munich, Germany 17 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
“Municipalities are at the forefront of meeting the challenges facing our societies”, says President of the Chamber of Local Authorities, Bernd Vöhringer

“Municipalities – both urban and rural are at the forefront of meeting the challenges facing our societies over the coming years”, stated President of the Chamber of Local Authorities of the Congress, Bernd Vöhringer (Germany, EPP/CCE) during the Round table discussion on “Current Challenges for Urban and Rural Municipalities: The COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond”, organised by LoGov – Local Government and the Changing Urban-Rural Interplay on 13-14 October 2022 in Munich (Germany).

President Vöhringer presented the longstanding commitment by Congress to promote and support sustainable urban development through the European Urban Charter II – Manifesto for a new urbanity adopted in 2008. Speaking about the importance of the revision of the European Urban Charter II in line with the Congress priorities for 2021-2026, he underlined 4 key areas of societies which will be in the focus of this revision: democratic; resilient and cohesive; sustainable and digital. “The revised Urban Charter III will be adopted by the Congress during its 45th Plenary Session in October 2023. “, he added.

President Vöhringer also stressed the monitoring on the implementation of the provisions of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the observation of local and regional elections as regular activities of the Congress to strengthen democracy in Europe‘s urban and rural municipalities.


“Congress and Assembly of European Regions share common values for European territorial governance”, says Andreas Kiefer

Remote 17 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
“Congress and Assembly of European Regions share common values for European territorial governance”, says Andreas Kiefer

“The Assembly of European Regions (AER) is an important strategic partner of the Congress, with common values and principles,” said the Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Andreas Kiefer, at the AER General Assembly, 14 October 2022. “At the Congress, we recognise the regions as key partners in the European project, a bridge between the State and the citizens within their local communities. For us, stronger regions with stronger competences and financial autonomy are a crucial part of the multi-level governance system. This is what unites our two institutions,” he added.

Mr. Kiefer stressed the crucial role of the two institutions in the face of current challenges such as Russia's war against Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, migration, economic and social problems, the polarization of society, and declining public trust. He called for continuing the strategic partnership between the two institutions with the aim of “reinventing Europe and working together on common priorities” – such as the contribution to the implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals at regional level.


Multi-level governance: Promoting consultation and dialogue-building in the Republic of Moldova

Chisinau, Moldova 14 October 2022
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page
  • Imprimer en PDF
Multi-level governance: Promoting consultation and dialogue-building in the Republic of Moldova

On 13 October 2022, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in partnership with the Congress of Local Authorities from Moldova (CALM) organised a roundtable to strengthen dialogue-building and promote effective consultation in Moldova. The event was opened by Congress Director, Rafael Benitez, President of CALM, Tatiana Badan, and Deputy Secretary General of the Government, Svetlana Turcanu, and brought together representatives of local authorities, the government and the Parliament, as well as national and international experts.

CALM President and mayor of Selement, Cișmilia, Tatiana Badan, underlined the importance of institutionalised dialogue as a key to implementing the reforms committed to by the Government of the Republic of Moldova both in the Council of Europe and in the context of the EU accession. "Institutionalised dialogue between local and central powers will help us to advance. We are the partners of the central authorities; we have the necessary experience and expertise to offer viable solutions to the multiple challenges in public administration. This is why we want this mechanism to be institutionalised and not make-believe" she said.

Congress member Stewart Dickson (United Kingdom, ILDG) called for a grassroots approach to consultation which also involves citizens. "Local and regional authorities need to engage with the citizens, as the level closest to them, to ensure an effective consultation process’" he underlined.

The Congress encourages strengthening the political dialogue between local authorities and central government in Moldova as part of the Council of Europe Action Plan for the Republic of Moldova (2021-2024). It is also highlighted in Congress Recommendation 436 (2019) and the Post-Monitoring Roadmap for Local and Regional Democracy, signed in April 2021.

The event was organised as part of the Congress cooperation project “Reinforcing the culture of dialogue and ethical open local governance in the Republic of Moldova”. This is a two-year project running from March 2022 to March 2024 which aims to strengthen the dialogue between local and central authorities and support the improvement of the quality of local governance through integrity, corruption prevention, open government, public ethics, and gender equality at local level.