Addressing the members of the Congress on the second day of the 42nd Session, on 23 March 2022, the President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Tiny Kox, welcomed the Congress Declaration on the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine. He deplored that Russian citizens will no longer be protected by the ECHR and underlined the need to support human rights defenders, democratic forces, free media and independent civil society in the Russian Federation. He also called for a 4th Summit of the Council of Europe with the input of the Congress. “I have always strongly believed that democracy begins at local and regional levels. It is implemented, defended and safeguarded by the essential work that you, the local and regional representatives, carry out on a daily basis and with the complex challenges that you face,” he said mentioning his previous functions as local representative. “Building and constructing democracy is not a top-down process, but the complete reverse – it has to come from the bases,” he concluded.
The presidents of the Chamber of Local Authorities and the Chamber of Regions, respectively Bernd Vöhringer and Harald Sonderegger, also expressed their support for Ukraine. They underlined the important consequences for all levels of governance, specifically for the level closest to the citizens and life in our towns, cities, and municipalities.
A point of view shared by the President of the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies (CALRE) and President of the Walloon Parliament, Belgium, Jean-Claude Marcourt. Adressing the Chamber of Regions, M. Marcourt stressed the importance of vigorously reaffirming the European values, embodied by the European Convention on Human Rights, and adopting strict sanctions. “We must not only condemn the invasion ordered by a ruthless Russian regime, but also show our solidarity to our partners and the people of Ukraine,” stated, President of the European Committee of the Regions Apostolos Tzitzikostas, as did, 3.000 regional and local leaders, from 240 regions and 90.000 municipalities across Europe, in the recent Marseille Summit of Regions and Cities . He also underlined that disinformation, "fake news", and "propaganda" is “one of the biggest threats against our democratic societies”.
In the context of a debate in the Chamber of Local Authorities on "Fake news, threats and violence – pressures on mayors in the current crises in Europee", Wilma Delissen Van Tongerlo, Co-Rapporteur (Netherlands, ILDG) presented a report being prepared by the Congress' Governance Committee. This report aims to take stock of the current situation, based on the experiences of local and regional politicians in the member states, in order to assess the real extent of the phenomenon and to identify tools and strategies to combat online hate speech and fake news. A study on the phenomenon entitled "COUNTERFAKE - A scientific basis for a policy against fake news and hate speech" has just been completed on the basis of a collaborative research project of five academic partners, supported by the Congress.
On the same day, the Congress adopted reports on local self-government in Luxembourg and Turkey. The report on Luxembourg was presented by co-rapporteurs Christine Chevalley (Switzerland, ILDG) and Marjorie Crovetto (Monaco), and was followed by an exchange with Taina Bofferding, Minister of the Interior and Minister of Equality between Women and Men, Luxembourg. The report on Turkey was presented by co-rapporteurs Vladimir Prebilic (Slovenia, SOC/G/PD) and David Eray (Switzerland, EPP/CCE). The Congress members also adopted the reports on the observation of the last local elections in Armenia and Georgia. They also held a debate on the use of deliberative methods in European municipalities and regions, in which the Mayor of the City of Mostar, Mario Kordić, participated.
In addition, a report on Rural youth and the role of local authorities was adopted in plenary. Underlining the geography specific challenges local youth face, the report calls local and regional authorities to address them in their policies. Furthermore, the adopted report urges authorities to improve services provided to rural youth and to support rural youth organisations in doing so. Lastly, authorities should promote youth participation, paying particular attention to youth from vulnerable and minority groups. This was followed by a vote of the Congress on amendments and a draft resolution on involving children in sustainable development in their cities.
Furthermore, the Chamber of Regions held a debate on democratic pluralism in regional governance: relations between the majority and the opposition. During this debate, the members of the Chamber of Regions opened a discussion on how to tackle the trend towards majoritarianism in regional governance. Underlining the complexities of balancing democratic pluralism and extreme fragmentation of the political landscape, the members insisted on avoiding overly strict restrictions on participation of independent and opposition candidates, especially at local and regional levels where they are an important alternative to established parties.
This debate was followed in Plenary by a debate on the situation of independent candidates and the opposition in local and regional elections. The debate and, subsequently, the adopted resolution underlined the importance of independent candidates and the opposition in political pluralism and condemned overly strict restrictions hindering participation of independent candidates.
The members also discussed the representation and integration of diaspora communities in the host countries and regions, in particular through diaspora associations, as well as their political representation in their regions of origin. Indeed, diaspora communities offer an opportunity to build constructive relations between European countries and their home countries which can be beneficial to many different topics. Consequently, the members explored the potentialities and challenges of diaspora representation, as well as the role of diaspora associations in engaging these communities.
Lastly, during a statement in Plenary Session, Stefano Bonaccini, President of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), presented the TERRI study (Territorial Governance, Powers and Reforms in Europe) which catalogues the changing nature and the quality of territorial and governance reforms in Europe over the past 10 years, as seen through the eyes of CEMR’s national associations. This publication, planned to be updated every 4 years, allows local and regional governments to compare and contrast their roles across frontiers, providing an important source of knowledge.
Agenda and documents: 42nd Session webpage
Webcast recording available on the session's web file
Interpretation: English, French, Italian, German, Russian and Turkish
Multimedia: photos and videos are available for download on the session's web file
Aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine | special page