On 13 September in Yerevan, Congress Secretary General Andreas Kiefer met Suren Papikyan, Minister of Territorial Administration and Development of Armenia. The Secretary General reaffirmed the Congress commitment to working with the Ministry and other relevant stakeholders in implementing the European Charter of Local Self-Government, strengthening democratic local governance in Armenia and sharing the experience of the Council of Europe’s other member states to help the country build its own model.
He underlined in this regard the importance of proceeding with decentralisation in parallel with capacity building at local level, in the context of the current territorial reform, and of establishing a consultation mechanism between central and local authorities, as recommended by the Congress during its monitoring of the Charter’s implementation. The Secretary General also pointed out that the local and regional dimension will remain a prominent feature of the new Council of Europe Action Plan for Armenia, 2019-2022.
The Minister stressed the importance attached by the new Government of Armenia to co-operation with the Council of Europe and its Congress, and the Government’s commitment to implementing the Charter, pointing out that the territorial reform was to be completed after the parliamentary elections scheduled for 2019, while the Ministry’s current plans included studying the results of the reform’s first phases as well of the local authorities’ capacities to assume new responsibilities, and preparing measures aimed at increasing the autonomy of local authorities and delegating more competences from regional governments to the local level.
He underscored that the public council operating under the Ministry’s authority could be regarded as the first step in creating a consultation mechanism, and pointed to the importance for local authorities to understand their responsibilities in a decentralised context, in order to have strong local governance as a real basis for democracy.
Preparations were also discussed for the Minister’s participation in the Congress 35th plenary session, on 7 November in Strasbourg. M. Kiefer also met the Ambassador of the EU to Armenia, Piotr Switalski, with whom he discussed activities planned to strengthen local democracy and citizen participation.