Covid-19: local and regional authorities at the frontline
In the face of the Covid-19 crisis, local and regional authorities have been at the forefront of the responses to contain the spread of the disease and mitigate the impact of the outbreak on their communities. To hear the stories of those who have been organising, coordinating and delivering responses to the crisis in towns and cities, provinces and Départements, regions and Länder, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe is holding an online event on Monday, 7 December 2020 from 14h30 to 17h00 CET. The results of the discussions will feed into the Congress’ cross-cutting report “Ensuring the respect of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in times of crisis” to be presented to the Congress Session in March 2021.
14h30 - Effectively responding to a public health crisis in full respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law: the Athens Declaration
Building on the 130th session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Athens, 4 November 2020 and the ensuing Athens Declaration, this online event will bring together the Council of Europe leaders, representatives of national governments and other personalities to discuss with Congress members the best ways to ensure effective responses to a public health crisis in full respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, through better coordination and interaction between the different levels of government within the multi-level governance system, including the European level.
Anders KNAPE, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
On 26 June 2019, Marija Pejčinović Burić was elected as the 14th Secretary General of the Council of Europe. She was Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia and Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia from 19 June 2017 to 19 July 2019, and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from May to November 2018. From 2008 to 2011, she served as a Member of the Croatian Parliament.
Michael ROTH | Video message, Minister of State of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany
Special Representative of the Federal Government for the German Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
Michael Roth is Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office since December 2013 and Commissioner for Franco-German Cooperation since 2014. He is a directly elected Member of the German Bundestag for Werra-Meißner – Hersfeld-Rotenburg since 1998. He has been Spokesperson of the SPD Members of the Bundestag from Land Hesse from 2009 to 2014 and again since 2017 and SPD parliamentary group spokesperson on Europe from 2010 to 2013.
15h30 - Responding to the crisis – the role of local and regional authorities
Participants will discuss the role of local and regional authorities in responding to the crisis, focusing on success stories in handling the crisis and the lessons learnt from shortcomings and failure. Congress members, youth delegates, Partners for Local Democracy and guest speakers will share their reflections on a number of the complex issues that the pandemic has brought to the fore.
Gunn Marit HELGESEN, President of the Chamber of Regions
Xavier CADORET, President of the Chamber of Local Authorities
Kostas BAKOYANNIS, Mayor of Athens
In June 2019, he was elected Mayor of Athens. Previously, he served as governor of central Greece from 2014 to 2019, and as mayor of Karpenissi from 2011 to 2014. He worked at the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as executive manager in an investor relations and corporate communications company. He also held positions in the European Parliament in Brussels and the World Bank in Kosovo. Mr. Bakoyannis is vice president of the Hellenic Agency for Local Development and Local Government, council member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, and a Greek Leadership Council member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
Gabriele NEFF, President of the Current Affairs Committee of the Congress
Some questions which will be addressed:
- How to avoid the “lockdown” of territorial democracy and maintain the legitimacy of elected councils and elected representatives when political processes in councils can only be held electronically, when means of consultations with citizens are reduced, and elections postponed.
- How to ensure effectiveness of their action when competences and financial resources are re- centralised.
- How to strike the right balance between centralised and decentralised action which must complement each other in the inter-active multi-level governance system.
- How to improve the role of local and regional authorities within national crisis management, and ensure the competences and means necessary for them to handle the crisis.
- How to ensure that restrictive measures are proportional to the requirements and are implemented under democratic control, to provide transparency and oversight of all aspects of governmental responses, and guard against the closing of civic space.
- How to guarantee the democratic link between mayors or executives and their local or regional assemblies, and the accountability of the executive to their assemblies in a time of crisis.
- How to communicate with citizens, address their needs and support them in times of crisis, and maintain the climate of trust, necessary to better respond to an emergency.
The Congress has developed an online hub which presents a set of resources deployed by local and regional authorities, by partner networks and by other organisations. An interactive module allows cities and regions to contribute directly and share their initiatives.
The Congress of the Council of Europe has launched several initiatives to support local and regional authorities which, because of their special responsibilities and their proximity to citizens, are in the front line.