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Session of the Committee of Ministers - Congress President stresses the need for reflecting upon our future collectively at all levels of governance

Committee of Ministers Turin, Italy 20 May 2022
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Session of the Committee of Ministers - Congress President stresses the need for reflecting upon our future collectively at all levels of governance

Addressing the 132nd Session of the Committee of Ministers, in Turin, Italy, on 20 May 2020, Leendert Verbeek, President of the Congress of Local and Regional authorities of the Council of Europe, underlined that in light of the multiple crises which the European continent is facing  it is crucial to “maintain unity in defending our common values: democracy, human rights and the rule of law”.

President Verbeek underlined the unique role of the grassroots level of territorial communities in defending, reviving, and reinvigorating democratic processes. “Resilient cities and regions, which are more sustainable, inclusive and participative, are an essential part in building a future of peace, security and cohesion in Europe”, he stated.

The President reiterated the Congress support for the Ukrainian people and communities and referred to the initiative Cities4cities as a concrete example of local and regional authorities’ inter-solidarity. The President called upon the Committee of Ministers to collectively reflect upon the future of the continent and the Council of Europe and to involve all levels of governance in this reflection, noting the unique role of the Congress in the institutional architecture of the Council of Europe. In this respect, he supported the holding a Summit of the Council of Europe Heads of State and Government and expressed the Congress commitment to contribute to its success.

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Bernd Vöhringer at CEPLI: “Local and regional effort will help build resilient societies in response to today’s crises”

Cooperation Strasbourg, France 17 May 2022
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Bernd Vöhringer at CEPLI: “Local and regional effort will help build resilient societies in response to today’s crises”

War in Ukraine, Covid 19 pandemic, climate change, polarisation of societies – “all these crises strain the democratic foundations of our societies,” stressed Bernd Vöhringer, President of the Congress Chamber of Local Authorities, at the Political Conference of the European Confederation of Local Intermediate authorities (CEPLI) on 17 May 2022. Speaking online in a panel on “Managing fundamental societal transformations - Building resilient local communities”, he underlined that the ability to prevent, resist and adapt to the consequences of crises in territorial communities, and to bounce back quickly, should be at the very core of democratic governance today.

To achieve resilient societies, it is essential to strengthen multi-level governance and restore citizens trust in institutions and in politics, continued President Vöhringer. “Every level of governance should be equipped with proper competences, means and resources to respond to the citizens’ concerns, as enshrined in the European Charter of Local Self- Government. Multi-level governance is a better suited way to provide solutions tailored to specific needs”, he stated, adding that multi-level governance has the potential to increase the quality of decisions and allow greater flexibility in coping with emergencies.

According to him, restoring people’s confidence in decisions made by public authorities calls for new ways of involving citizens in decision-making and governing processes, particularly at local and regional levels. In this regard, “the use of deliberative methods as a valuable complement to the representative democracy in the preparatory phase of the decision-making process has been recognised in a Congress report on deliberative democracy, adopted last March”, pointed out President Vöhringer.

“The war in Ukraine shows that, perhaps, we have taken democracy for granted for too long, prompting us to reassess the situation and reflect on the future of democracy in Europe. The efforts of local and regional authorities, their networks, and their partnerships, to protect our democratic heritage and safeguard citizens' rights, will enable us to better manage the exit from the fundamental and multiple crises we are facing today”, he concluded.

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Congress Rapporteur urges cities and regions to be safe havens for LGBTI civil society under pressure

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia Strasbourg, France 17 May 2022
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Congress Rapporteur urges cities and regions to be safe havens for LGBTI civil society under pressure

On the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), Congress Rapporteur on LGBTI issues, Andrew Boff (United Kingdom, ECR), warned that LGBTI organisations are increasingly under threat, stressing the role of local and regional authorities in supporting them.

“Even in 2022, we continue to see the rights and identity of LGBTI persons being challenged. This is unacceptable. We must remain vigilant and remember that hate speech and discrimination against any group, including LGBTI persons, undermine the social cohesion and inclusion in our communities”, the Rapporteur warned.

“It is in our cities and regions, our communities, that we first feel the effects of hate speech and violence, but it is also at our level that we can turn the tide,” the Rapporteur said, calling on local and regional elected officials to support LGBTI persons, in particular by working with LGBTI organisations.

He stressed that “Strong civil society organisations keep elected officials accountable and help us understand and address the challenges LGBTI citizens living in our societies face” and warned about the fact that “civil society space is shrinking and LGBTI organisations are especially targeted in several Council of Europe member States, by limiting funding or branding them as a threat to society”.

The Rapporteur recalled the Congress report "Protecting LGBTI persons in the context of rising hate speech and anti-LGBTI discrimination: the role of local and regional authorities", and stressed the need to go beyond declarations and take concrete action to support and involve LGBTI organisations, for example by appointing local experts on diversity and equality to establish structural consultations with LGBTI.

“By involving and recognising LGBTI organisations as valuable allies, cities and regions can be safe havens for civil society under pressure and for LGBTI communities” stated Andrew Boff who called on the Congress, and the Council of Europe as a whole, to continue its work against discrimination and inequality in line with the Council of Europe Secretary General’s Report “Moving Forward 2022”.

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has been working on LGBTI issues since 2007, including freedom of assembly and guaranteeing their fundamental rights. In June 2021, the Congress adopted the report "Protecting LGBTI persons in the context of rising hate speech and anti-LGBTI discrimination: the role of local and regional authorities". In addition, the Current Affairs Committee conducted a fact-finding mission to Poland in 2020, the findings of which were approved on 10 February 2021. The Congress subsequently adopted the report “The role of local and regional authorities with regard to the situation and rights of LGBTI people in Poland” in June 2021.


Brandenburg example should be followed: reporting back to local and regional councils and parliaments plays an essential role in highlighting Congress work

Secretary General Brandenbourg, Germany 16 May 2022
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Brandenburg example should be followed: reporting back to local and regional councils and parliaments plays an essential role in highlighting Congress work

On 12 May 2022, Heiner Klemp (Germany, SOC/G/DP), member of the Brandenburg Landtag and member of the German delegation to the Congress, updated the regional parliament about the decisions of the last Congress session, his participation in the local election observation mission to Serbia and the work of the Congress committees.

"Reporting back to the regional parliament, city council or national association of local authorities is the best way to reach out to local and regional decision makers and highlight the work as Congress member. The Brandenburg example is outstanding and a model for many others." said the Secretary General of the Congress of local and regional authorities of the Council of Europe, Andreas Kiefer.

During his presentation, the Secretary General presented the role and mission of the Congress in the institutional architecture of the Council of Europe and detailed its monitoring work. Furthermore, he thanked Bettina Fortunato, chairperson of the commission for European affairs and development cooperation, for her invitation to this event and Ms Ulrike Liedtke, the President of the Brandenburg Landtag, for the invitation to hold a meeting of the Congress Monitoring Committee in Potsdam mid-2023.

Following the adoption by the Congress of the monitoring report on Germany in March 2022, the Brandenburg Parliament will discuss a supporting message for the ratification of the Additional protocol on the right to participate in the affairs of local authority by Germany.

Andreas Kiefer and Heiner Klemp also discussed the implementation of Human Rights as an often-undervalued dimension of local and regional self-governments with students at the University of Potsdam in Babelsberg. Hosted by Prof. Dr. Normann Weiß, Permanent Senior Fellow at the Human Rights Centre of the University of Potsdam, the presentations focused on the Congress reports and data collections and good practice examples of human rights applications at local and regional levels of government.

“The aim of the Congress’ human rights activities is to promote awareness among elected representatives of their responsibilities in dealing with human rights issues that affect people’s everyday lives at the local level, to encourage the national, as well as local, authorities to be trained in the field of human rights and to disseminate reliable information among citizens about their rights” said the Secretary General.

“Local and regional good governance entails a full compliance with fundamental freedoms and human rights. Local governments, with a political leadership accountable to citizens, are key players in guaranteeing human rights”, Mr. Kiefer concluded.


Council of Europe Congress provides grant support to the National Association of Local Authorities of Georgia 

Cooperation Strasbourg, France 16 May 2022
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Council of Europe Congress provides grant support to the National Association of Local Authorities of Georgia 

On 16 May 2022, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe and the National Association of Local Authorities of Georgia (NALAG) signed a grant agreement as part of their joint project on “Strengthening participatory democracy and human rights at local level in Georgia”.

Through the grant, the Congress aims to assist NALAG and its secretariat with the tools and expertise necessary to strengthen its advocacy capacities to promote dialogue and consultations between local and central authorities in the field of human rights.

The grant will also support NALAG in its efforts to mainstream human rights standards in national and local policies and actions, and will assist the Association in establishing peer-to-peer exchanges among member municipalities to improve their understanding of human rights principles and their delivery at local level.

NALAG plays a vital role in strengthening the Georgian institutional frameworks for local governance through capacity development of local authorities in the areas of good governance, transparency, accountability, and combatting corruption. The Associations also fosters an inclusive approach toward citizens’ participation in local decision making processes, and is a central actor in promotong decentralistaion and supporting consultations and dialogue between central and local authorities on all areas of concern for municipalities.

The grant will be implemented from 16 May 2022 to 30 June 2023 and amounts to 49,745 Euros.

The project “Strengthening Participatory Democracy and Human Rights at Local Level in Georgia” is 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.


Vice-President Maletic at NALAS: “In these challenging times, it is more important than ever to focus on building resilient communities”

Cooperation Belgrade, Serbia 13 May 2022
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Vice-President Maletic at NALAS: “In these challenging times, it is more important than ever to focus on building resilient communities”

“We are living in a specific moment, characterised by multiple crisis which put the exercise of local democracy under growing constraints and pressure,” stated Congress Vice-President Aleksandra Maletic (Serbia, EPP/CCE) at the opening of the XVII General Assembly of the Network of Associations of Local Authorities from South-East Europe (NALAS) in Belgrade (Serbia) on 12 May 2022.

“After overcoming the critical point of pandemic, we found ourselves in great tribulation. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe stands with Ukrainian people,” stressed the Vice-President. “Recent developments have highlighted the importance of safeguarding peace and protecting European fundamental values. The values of the Council of Europe are our common values as Europeans, and they must be preserved more than ever,” she continued

The Vice-President pointed to the crucial need for strengthening the resilience and sustainability of municipalities and cities to respond better to crises, referring in this regard to the work undertaken by the Congress and networks such as NALAS, particularly regarding decentralisation and the strengthening of local democracy, within the system of multi-level governance.

Strong multi-level governance, she continued, entails strong local authorities, with proper competences and level of autonomy of decisions, including the sufficient financial resources to implement these decisions. An inclusive and transparent dialogue of national governments with local authorities and their national associations is key to achieving this, stressed the Vice-President.

“We must pursue and persevere with our work of building democracy and delivering good governance, for the benefit of our citizens and their trust in regional and local authorities. However, local authorities cannot act alone, but in co-operation and with shared responsibility with other levels of government. United we shall overcome the hardships of today and build a peaceful future”, concluded Vice-President Maletic.

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"Strengthening local democracy and citizen engagement serve to increase the resilience of our cities and regions" says Martine Dieschburg at the ALDA General Assembly

Cooperation Strasbourg, France 9 May 2022
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The Vice-President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Martine Dieschburg (Luxembourg, GILD) spoke on the topic of supporting local democracy, peace and community resilience. "We are currently living in a very special moment, characterised by multiple crises on the European continent and worldwide," she stressed at the opening of the General Assembly of the European Association for Local Democracy (ALDA) on 6 May 2022.

Referring to the Covid-19 pandemic, Russia's war against Ukraine, but also to climate change threatening the planet and the increasing polarisation of societies, she stressed that these crises we are facing today bring to the forefront the resilience of our communities, both to prevent the consequences of the crisis, to resist or adapt to them, but also to bounce back quickly after their impact.

The Vice-President recalled that, in the face of these many crises, the work of the Congress, like that of ALDA, in strengthening local democracy and citizen engagement, serves to increase the resilience of cities and regions. She also highlighted the crucial importance of promoting and defending the Council of Europe's democratic values at every level of governance. "The work of our institutions contributes to strengthening the foundations of our democratic societies. This is fundamental because a society built on solid foundations will withstand any crisis," concluded Vice-President Dieschburg.

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Congress assesses the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Belgium

Monitoring Committee Belgium 6 May 2022
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Congress assesses the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Belgium

A delegation of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, composed of the rapporteurs Matthias Gysin (Switzerland, ILDG) and Magnus Berntsson (Sweden, EPP/CCE) carried out a monitoring visit to Brussels, Eupen, Genk and Liège from 10 to 12 May 2022 to assess the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government since the previous monitoring report adopted by the Congress in 2014.

The rapporteurs held exchanges of views on the latest developments in the field of local and regional self-government in Belgium with Rudi Vervoort, Minister-President of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, Bart Somers, Vice-Minister-President of the Government of Flanders, as well as with Christophe Collignon, Walloon Minister for Housing, Local Authorities and the City and Oliver Paasch, Minister-President of the German-speaking Community, Minister for Local Authorities and Finance.

Meetings were also planned with Rachid Madrane, President of the Brussels Parliament, Jean-Claude Marcourt, President of the Walloon Parliament and Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the Parliament of the German-speaking Community.

The Congress delegation further met Claudia Niessen, Mayor of Eupen, Willy Demeyer, Mayor of Liège and Wim Dries, Mayor of Genk.

Belgium ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 2004. 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.

Contact:
Stéphanie POIREL, Secretary of the Monitoring Committee
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe
+33 (0) 3 90 21 51 84
[email protected]

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Europe Day: Congress Vice-President stresses the importance of human rights protection at local level

Presidency Kristiansand, Norway 5 May 2022
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Europe Day: Congress Vice-President stresses the importance of human rights protection at local level

At the 3rd European Conference on Democracy and Human Rights, organised in Kristiansand, Norway, on 5 May 2022, which is the day to mark the 73rd anniversary of the foundation of the Council of Europe, Congress Vice-President Gunn Marit Helgesen (Norway, EPP/CCE) underlined the importance of defending human rights, in particular against the backdrop of Russia’s war against Ukraine shaking Europe’s order. Ms Helgesen, who is also President of the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS), pointed to the specific role of local authorities in this respect.

“In their different functions, mayors and councillors are responsible for a variety of public services related to education, health, housing, infrastructure, among other things. This entails their obligations to comply with a variety of human rights. They must ensure the respect of principles of non-discrimination, equality, and democratic participation” she said.

The specific contribution of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe is to equip local governments and their administrations with tools to adopt a human rights-based approach to local policies, the Vice-President explained, highlighting the series of "Human Rights Handbooks for local and regional authorities" published by the Congress. “This is a concrete tool to encourage municipalities and regions to take advantage of their proximity to citizens through best practice examples and practical recommendations”.

So far, two volumes of the Congress Human Rights Handbooks have been published, focusing on non-discrimination and social rights. A third volume, set to be published in October 2022, will address the role of local authorities in tackling climate change. The impact of new technologies and artificial intelligence on human rights at local level will be at the centre of a fourth volume planned for 2023.

Lastly, she underlined the importance of defending Human Rights in Europe and standing firmly in solidarity with Ukraine and its people. “Our European order - based on peace, unity, human rights and democracy - has never been challenged more profoundly than through the Russian war waged against Ukraine” she stressed. “The major crises we are going through, in particular the current pandemic and Putin’s war in Ukraine, have emphasised the prominent role of mayors, city councillors and regional governors in Europe”, the Congress Vice-President concluded.

The third European Conference on Democracy and Human Rights is hosted by the City of Kristiansand on 5 May 2022. The conference is organized jointly with the Council of Europe, the University of Agder, Kilden Performing Arts Centre, Sørlandets Kunstmuseum (SKMU), Arkivet Peace and Human Rights Centre, Cultiva Foundation, and Agder County Council. The conference venue is Kilden Performing Arts Centre.

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Statement by the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities Leen Verbeek on Europe Day 2022

Presidency Strasbourg, France 5 May 2022
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Statement by the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities Leen Verbeek on Europe Day 2022

On this Europe day, it is even more crucial to defend the fundamental principles of the Council of Europe.

Europe was built on the ruins of the Second World War, a war that caused millions of deaths and terrible suffering for tens of millions of civilians. The European construction has enabled us to reconcile and make peace with the past.

Since its creation in 1949, the Council of Europe has been the major architect of post-war democratic developments in Europe and the herald of fundamental rights, democracy, and the rule of law in the continent and beyond.

In recent years, these common values are under strain and challenged too often.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the social, economic and political challenges thus amplifying the divide within our societies. Recent developments have further threatened the unity and peace of the European continent and highlighted the importance of safeguarding peace and protecting European fundamental values.

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe stands with Ukraine and its people, as we stand united against any attacks on peace and on the values of the Council of Europe.

We will continue to help and support communities now and in the aftermath of the crises, to make societies stronger, more inclusive and more resilient.

The values of the Council of Europe are our common values as Europeans, and they must be preserved more than ever. United we shall overcome the hardships of today and build a peaceful future.

The Council of Europe counts 46 member States and celebrates Europe Day on the 5 May, date of the adoption of the Statute of the Council of Europe creating the Organisation. The European Union counts 27 member States and celebrates Europe Day on 9 May, date of the Schumann Declaration.


Official visit to Switzerland: Council of Europe Congress President holds exchanges on challenges faced by local democracy

Presidency Strasbourg, France 3 May 2022
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Official visit to Switzerland: Council of Europe Congress President holds exchanges on challenges faced by local democracy

During an official visit to Switzerland from 30 April to 3 May 2022, the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Leendert Verbeek, discussed with State Secretary at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Livia Leu the work of the Congress, the situation in Ukrainian cities, the budget and the co-operation programmes implemented by the Council of Europe and the Congress. "Our co-operation programmes have helped to develop a new generation of politicians, who take ownership of their responsibilities and new ways of exercising them. This is particularly visible in Ukraine at present," the President stressed.

With the mayor of Bern, Alec von Graffenried, the discussion focused on the specific problems of running a large city and the particular status of capital cities. The President recalled that in its particularly positive report on the monitoring of the situation of local and regional democracy in Switzerland in 2017, the Congress noted however "the importance of determining, through legislation, a framework, and arrangements regarding financing for the city of Bern, taking due account of its specific situation". The mayor stressed the importance of citizen participation in the projects and development of his city, underlining that his aim was to "change simple citizens into concerned citizens". The President confirmed that participatory democracy is a cross-cutting priority of the Congress, which has been implementing the additional protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in public affairs for the past ten years. "This year we are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of this Protocol, which responds to the growing aspiration of citizens to be consulted on issues that concern them directly," the President stressed.

“I am convinced that it is at the grassroots level, the level of our communities, that we can contribute to reviving and reinvigorating democratic processes," stated Congress President Leendert Verbeek at a meeting with the Union of Swiss Cities (UVS) and the Association of Swiss Municipalities (ACS) in Bern on 2 May. "For the Congress, national associations of local and regional authorities are our main interlocutors in the national setting of the member states," he added, praising Switzerland's exemplary democratic governance system. President Verbeek stressed, in particular, the role of national associations in implementing Congress resolutions, promoting the principles of the Charter and maintaining dialogue with national governments to defend the interests of local and regional authorities.

At the Institute of Federalism of the University of Fribourg, the President discussed with Didier Castella, State Councillor of Fribourg and member of the Swiss delegation to the Congress, the development of Fribourg and the other municipalities of the Canton. M. Verbeek underlined that in the current challenges faced by local and regional democracy federalism is a system that particularly suits to meet the demands of modern democracy such as citizen participation, inclusion and multi-level decision-making and accountability.

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Supporting Ukraine: Council of Europe Congress President meets representatives of Kyiv City Council

Presidency Strasbourg, France 29 April 2022
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Supporting Ukraine: Council of Europe Congress President meets representatives of Kyiv City Council

The President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Leendert Verbeek, accompanied by the Secretary General of the Congress, Andreas Kiefer, met a delegation of representatives of the Kyiv City Council on 28 April 2022 in Strasbourg. They held an exchange of views on the situation of Ukrainian cities and local authorities.

The members of the Kyiv City Council stressed the importance of the Congress' contribution to the post-war period and to the reconstruction of the functioning of democratic institutions, in particular at the territorial level. They also welcomed the initiative of the Cities4cities platform launched, with the support of the Congress, to help Ukrainian cities.

President Verbeek recalled the position of the Congress expressed in several statements since the beginning of the war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine and strongly condemning the crimes against citizens and the kidnapping of Ukrainian mayors. He stressed the crucial role played by mayors during the war, as elected representatives closest to the citizens and on the front line to meet their needs. "You have the support of the whole of Europe and, in particular, of the Congress," President Verbeek reaffirmed, praising the courage of the Ukrainian people.

See also :

Delegation of the Kyiv City Council :

  • Bondarenko Volodymyr Volodymyrovych - Deputy Kyiv Mayor - Secretary of the Kyiv City Council, Deputy of the Kyiv City Council, NR;
  • Vitrenko Andriy Oleksandrovych - Member  of the Kyiv City Council, chairman of the Servant of the People faction;
  • Yemets Leonid Oleksandrovych - Member of the Kyiv City Council, European Solidarity Faction;
  • Bilоtserkovets Dmytro Oleksandrovych - Member of the Kyiv City Council, co-chairman of the UDAR faction;
  • Moskal Denys Denysovych - Member of the Kyiv City Council, Chairman of the All-Ukrainian Batkivshchyna faction;
  • Malenko Hryhoriy Serhiiovych - Member of the Kyiv City Council, Faction Holos

Council of Europe Congress assesses the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Denmark

Monitoring Committee Denmark 29 April 2022
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Council of Europe Congress assesses the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Denmark

A delegation of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, composed of rapporteurs Xavier Cadoret (France, SOC/G/PD) and Carla Dejonghe (Belgium, ILDG) conducted a monitoring visit to Copenhagen, Vejle and Nyborg from 3 to 5 May 2022 to assess the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Denmark since the previous monitoring report adopted by the Congress in 2013.

The rapporteurs exchanged views on the latest developments in the field of local and regional self-government in Denmark with the Minister of the Interior and Housing, Christian Rabjerg Madsen, the President of the Supreme Court, Thomas Rørdam, members of Parliament, representatives of the Ministry of Finance and representatives of the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

Meetings were also held with local authorities in Nyborg and Vejle, and with representatives of the region of Southern Denmark and from Greenland and the Faroe Islands, as well as with representatives of the national associations Local Government Denmark (LGDK) and Danish Regions, and with members of the Danish national delegation to the Congress.

Denmark ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1988. Countries that have ratified the Charter are bound by its provisions. The Charter requires the implementation of a minimum set of rights that form the essential basis for 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.

Contact:
Svitlana Pereverten, Co-Secretary to the Monitoring Committee
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe
 +33 (0)3 90 21 64 27
  [email protected]

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Congress work contributes to good democratic governance in Council of Europe Member States

Governance Committee Strasbourg, France 22 March 2022
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Congress work contributes to good democratic governance in Council of Europe Member States

“The current Congress priorities for 2021-2026 put an emphasis on environmental and social sustainability, digital revolution, as well as citizen engagement,” stressed Jelena Drenjanin (EPP/CCE), Chair of the Congress Governance Committee, at the 15th plenary meeting of the European Committee on Democracy and Governance (CDDG) on 22 April 2022. She mentioned, in particular, the report on the use of deliberative methods in European municipalities and regions, adopted by the Congress in March 2022, which provides practical guidance and concrete examples to municipalities and regions and could serve as a useful contribution to the CDDG's current reflection on deliberative democracy. “Deliberative methods complement local representative democracy making it more resilient by enhancing citizens’ impact on policy-making. They contribute to increase transparency in policy decisions and trust in democracy at the local and regional level,” she said.

Ms Drenjanin highlighted other potential areas for cooperation between the Congress and the CDDG such as good democratic governance, multi-level governance, green public administration, cross-border cooperation, and Covid-19 crisis. She also mentioned three thematic reports being prepared by the Governance Committee in view of their adoption by the Congress in October 2022, which could be of interest to the CDDG: “Regional identities: improving dialogue to reduce regional tensions”, “The impact of hate speech and fake news on the working conditions of local and regional elected representatives”, and “Smart cities and smart regions”.

See also :

The European Committee on Democracy and Governance (CDDG) is the Council of Europe intergovernmental structure where high-level officials from the 46 member States meet to share information about policy and best practice, as well as to develop or update standards, in the fields of modernisation of democratic institutions, public administration reform, citizens’ participation and democratic governance at all levels.


Official visit of the President of the Congress of the Council of Europe to Switzerland

Presidency Bern, Switzerland 25 April 2022
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Official visit of the President of the Congress of the Council of Europe to Switzerland

The President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Leendert Verbeek, made an official visit to Switzerland from 30 April to 3 May 2022, accompanied by the Secretary General of the Congress, Andreas Kiefer.

In Bern, the Congress President held talks with Livia Leu, Secretary of State at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), in the presence of David Eray, Minister of Environment of the Canton of Jura and President of the Swiss delegation to the Congress. He also met the Mayor of Bern, Alec von Graffenried.

Furthermore, President Verbeek took part in the meeting of the Landsgemeinde of the Canton of Glaris, in Glaris, during which he met federal parliamentarians, state councillors and former presidents of cantonal parliaments.

He also addressed the Institute of Federalism in Fribourg, in the presence of Didier Castella, State Councillor of the Canton of Fribourg in charge of Institutions and member of the Swiss delegation to the Congress. Discussions focused on the LoGov project with a panel of elected officials on the Grand Fribourg project aimed at merging several Swiss municipalities.


Promoting gender equality for effective human rights-based local governance in Georgia

Current Affairs Committee Strasbourg, France 13 April 2022
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Promoting gender equality for effective human rights-based local governance in Georgia

“Gender equality is a prerequisite condition for modern democracies, because ultimately, women’s rights are human rights,” stressed Congress Spokesperson on Gender Equality Eirini Dourou (Greece, SOC/G/PD) during the workshop on “Gender equality for effective human rights-based local governance”, held on 4-5 April 2022 in Imereti Region of Georgia, and which was followed by a similar workshop on 11-12 April 2022 in Kakheti Region.

These workshops, organised by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in collaboration with the National Association of Local Authorities of Georgia (NALAG), brought together thirteen selected municipalities to address challenges for mainstreaming gender equality in local policies and actions.  Together with representatives of municipalities from the United Kingdom and Spain, participants discussed good practices in implementing the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in local life and shared experiences.

The workshops provided a practical overview of how addressing gender equality at local level is essential for human rights and good governance.  As a result, a network of peer support was established to assist local municipalities in delivering actions on gender equality, discuss challenges and achievements, and develop inclusive Gender Equality Action Plans.

“We know that effective, inclusive, human-rights based governance necessarily mainstreams gender equality at all levels, as it fights discrimination and gender-based violence, and strives to eliminate sexism,“ concluded Ms Dourou, encouraging the participants to take further steps in developing relevant legislation and practice for gender equality.

This event was organised 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.


Young people as defenders of human rights and democracy in times of war

Youth Delegates Online, Fastiv, Ukraine 14 April 2022
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Young people as defenders of human rights and democracy in times of war

“Even in times of crisis and war, not only that youth can play a role in upholding the democratic values of the Council of Europe and defending human rights, but their role is vital and unquestionable.”, said Thomas Anderson (Sweden, ILDG), Chair of the Current Affairs Committee of the Congress when addressing youth from the City of Fastiv and more than 20 Congress youth delegates, during the International youth online conference “Save Ukraine – save Europe” organised by the City of Fastiv, Ukraine on 8 April 2022.

“Youth can play a very important role within in fragile and conflict settings, especially when their engagement is co-ordinated by their local elected representatives, who at this moment find themselves literally at the frontline to protect citizens and ensure their basic needs,” said Congress Secretary General Andreas Kiefer when opening the conference.

Participants have concluded that youth participation is crucial in defending and rebuilding democracy, especially in times of war when they are witnessing unspeakable atrocities that can indeed shake their faith in humanity. They have all strongly condemned the brutal war waged by Russia against Ukraine in which youth represent the population disproportionately affected by war.

Exchanges between young people from Fastiv and Congress youth delegates continued throughout the conference, focusing on psychosocial impact of conflict on youth, as well as on possible support which will meet the immediate, practical needs of Ukrainian youth while laying groundwork for post-war reconstruction and peace.

See also :

The Congress initiative “Rejuvenating Politics” aims to promote the participation of young people in public life and in the decision-making process at local and regional levels. Since 2014, this “Youth Delegates” project has allowed young people from the 46 Council of Europe member States to take part in the Congress sessions and in the meetings of its committees, contributing to the discussions on the topics on the agenda.


ELoGE conference: “We must guarantee the highest possible level of local democracy in our Member States,” says Gunn-Marit Helgesen

ELoGE label Venice, Italy 13 April 2022
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ELoGE conference: “We must guarantee the highest possible level of local democracy in our Member States,” says Gunn-Marit Helgesen

“Regular monitoring, by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, of the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and its additional protocol, as well as the observation of local and regional elections, help to ensure that the 12 principles of Good Democratic Governance are respected at local level”, said Gunn-Marit Helgesen (Norway, EPP/CCE), Congress vice-president, at a conference on the “Importance of Governance for Local Authorities” held on 11 April 2022, in Venice, Italy, to promote the European Label of Governance Excellence (ELoGE).

“The recommendations addressed to the member states contribute to improving the principles further through an essential political dialogue”, stated Mrs Helgesen.  She also underlined the importance of the principles of human rights and rule of law as pillars of the Council of Europe’s activity to achieve greater unity between our states. “The successive crises we have experienced in recent years show that we must never take for granted what we consider to be good democratic governance. Effective adherence to these principles is of paramount importance to guarantee security and peace in Europe, and this means monitoring compliance with them, including the monitoring of the European Charter of Local Self-Government which has been ratified by all Member States”, she concluded

The conference, “Importance of Governance for Local Authorities”, was organised in the framework of the National Conference for the promotion of the ELoGE Italy Project and co-hosted by the Italian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the Italian Association for the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (AICCRE).


Observation of elections - Call for secondments to the Congress

CALL FOR SECONDMENTS Strasbourg, France 12 April 2022
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Observation of elections - Call for secondments to the Congress

The Secretariat of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is looking for secondee from Council of Europe member States to work as Election Observation Officer

Deadline for application: 20 May 2022

Applications, must be submitted in English or French via the Council of Europe's online application system:

Further information is available here


Congress President addresses Council of Europe Committee of Ministers: "We must stand united to defend the values on which our Organisation is built"

Presidency Strasbourg, France 8 April 2022
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Congress President addresses Council of Europe Committee of Ministers:

During his exchange of views with the Deputies on 6 April 2022, the President of the Congress Leendert Verbeek recalled the crucial importance of the values on which the Council of Europe is built : human rights, democracy and the rule of law and underlined that the Congress will continue to promote and defend these values at each level of governance, to make communities resilient and make the European model of society stronger.

He highlighted the work done by Congress members who engage in concrete action, working directly with each other, with central governments, with citizens and civil society and address crucial challenges for democratic societies.

He mentioned in particular the debates held during the 42nd session in March 2022 on fake news, disinformation, threats and violence on elected representatives, the implication of children in the development of sustainable cities and the monitoring the situation of local democracy in Member States as well as the launching of the online “Cities4Cities” platform aimed at helping local and regional authorities throughout Europe match the material and logistical needs of Ukrainian local authorities during the war and prepare to the post-war reconstruction. Many Ambassadors expressed their support for this platform and said they would encourage their own local communities to use it.

The Congress President also underlined the Council of Europe and Congress cooperation activities in Member States which contribute to promote and strengthen democracy, good governance, citizen participation, transparency and gender equality in the field. He said he was convinced that the cooperation activities implemented in Ukraine since 2011 to strengthen local democracy and self-government have “contributed to the admirable resistance we can see today and have helped to cement the bonds between citizens and public authorities, who stand together today in the defence of their country.”

He stressed that the Council of Europe had taken the only possible and right decision by excluding the Russian Federation but warned that the Council of Europe family must not be weakened by this decision. “The Organisation’s budget must be preserved in order to be relevant and achieve our objectives”, he said, insisting that “The women, men and children living in European countries need the Council of Europe more than ever.”


“If we create the right tools, children can positively contribute to building their future”, says Congress rapporteur Brigitte van den Berg

SDGs - Agenda 2030 Rome, Italy 8 april 2022
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“If we create the right tools, children can positively contribute to building their future”, says Congress rapporteur Brigitte van den Berg

“I am convinced that young children have a lot to say, and that they can shape our public policy. If we create the right tools, children can have a valuable contribution to their future,” stated Brigitte van den Berg (Netherlands, ILDG), Congress rapporteur on Children and Sustainable Cities, in a video message on the occasion of the High-level Launching Conference for the new Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2022-2027), held in Rome, on 7-8 April 2022.

This is the aim of the Congress booklet “How to make your town a better place”, aimed at children aged 6 to 11 and developed by the Congress, together with children. The booklet is a tool to help children understand the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  “With this booklet, we want to encourage local and regional authorities to involve children – to give them a say on how to defend their future, the environment, and their human rights. Children already think about these issues. It is up to us, mayors, city councillors, ‘adults’, to give them the chance to express these ideas, and most importantly, it is up to us to actually listen and take their proposals into account,” she stressed addressing the participants of the “Deep dive conversation” on “Understanding the challenges faced by children as defenders of human rights”.

The Congress rapporteur also highlighted the importance of the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority. “In June, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of this key text which also concerns children and not only adults, because children should also have a say, in particular on public local affairs,” she concluded.

The High-Level Conference, “Beyond the horizon: a new era for the rights of the child”, was organised in the framework of and hosted by the Italian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, to launch the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2022-2027) as a European instrument guiding the Council of Europe and its member states in protecting and promoting the rights of the child

 Brigitte van den Berg (Netherlands, ILDG), Congress rapporteur on Children and Sustainable Cities 


2022 World Forum for Democracy: call for initiatives

World Forum for Democracy Strasbourg, France 8 April 2022
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2022 World Forum for Democracy: call for initiatives

The 10th World Forum for Democracy, “Democracy: A new hope?” will take place from 7-9 November 2022 in Strasbourg. Participants will debate the main factors contributing to the decline of democracy, examine how to remedy it, and consider what kind of democratic future is desirable - and possible - for the benefit of people around the world. The World Forum for Democracy launches a call for initiatives and invites NGOs, think tanks, educational and civil society organisations to present innovative proposals aimed at strengthening democracy and providing solutions to reverse democratic decline. Presentations of initiatives should be sent to [email protected] before 15 June 2022.

Each year, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities contributes to the World Forum for Democracy and participates in plenary sessions, Forum Talks and Forum Labs, with a focus on local and regional democracy.


Eirini Dourou : “Gender equality must be mainstreamed into all Sustainable Development Goals as a cross-cutting issue”

SDGs - Agenda 2030 Geneva, Switzerland 7 April 2022
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Eirini Dourou : “Gender equality must be mainstreamed into all Sustainable Development Goals as a cross-cutting issue”

“The Congress recommendation of 2016 placed emphasis on several key factors to accelerate women’s political participation and representation at local and regional levels”, said Eirini Dourou (Greece, SOC/G/PD), Congress Spokesperson on Gender Equality during the round table on SDG 5: “Accelerators of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic”, held on 7 April 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland. The participants of the round table, organised as part of the UN ECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, exchanged on how governments can promote gender equality and women’s empowerment as part of the COVID-19 recovery process, considering gender-differentiated impacts of the pandemic.

The Congress Spokesperson presented Congress recommendations in promoting gender equality: adoption of electoral laws requiring the parity of women and men on candidate lists, introduction of the system of “pairing” women and men appointed to elected seats from party lists following the elections, and implementation of quotas for candidates in elections, to guarantee the minimum representation. “In the Congress itself, for example, we introduced since 2007 a 30% minimum requirement of women in national delegations, which has led in practice to the actual representation of 42% today – from 12% back in 1994 when the Congress was established,” she stated.

Ms Dourou underlined that the local level was a springboard for women’s participation at all levels of decision-making, serving as a school for building capacities, experience and self-confidence. “Women’s empowerment should not be limited to one Sustainable Development Goal, SDG 5, however crucial it is. We strongly believe that all SDGs must benefit from the input of women – the more diverse perspectives are taken into account, the better our policies will benefit all of our citizens,” she concluded.  

The Congress actively supports efforts to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls at the local and regional level through both the adoption of texts and participation by its members in events/conferences. To strengthen gender equality, the Congress has developed activities and encourages local authorities to provide political efforts to: increase the decision-making power of women, guarantee women’s rights, and ensure the integration of women from religious and cultural minorities.

See also:


Council of Europe Congress President condemns the crimes against Ukrainian citizens and elected local leaders

Presidency Strasbourg, France 6 April 2022
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Council of Europe Congress President condemns the crimes against Ukrainian citizens and elected local leaders

On the occasion of his exchange of views with the Deputies in the Committee of Ministers on 6 April, the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Leendert Verbeek made the following statement:

“The war in Ukraine has entered a new phase of atrocities. While Russian troops are retreating from villages and towns around the capital city of Kyiv, in Boucha, Irpyn, Vorzel or Motyzhyn, they are leaving behind evidence of what appears to be deliberate killings of civilians.

On 2 April, the bodies of the mayor of the small village of Motyzhyn, Olga Sukhenko, her husband Igor and their son Alexander, reportedly kidnapped on 23 March, were found in a grave. Similar atrocities have been reported in Hostomel and other towns in the Kyiv oblast: mayors being killed for having refused to cooperate with the Russian troops and to provide full support to the war.

In Mariupol, Kherson, Zaporizhya, Mykolaiv and Luhansk oblasts, so-called “mayors” were appointed in replacement of the elected mayors; these appointments cannot be seen as legitimate. I demand the release of the mayors democratically elected by the Ukrainian citizens and the restauration of the conditions for them to fully resume their functions.

I condemn in the strongest possible terms the brutal murders, as I condemn the abduction or intimidation of mayors and local councillors who stand by their fellow citizens and refuse to submit to the invader.

These crimes must not go unpunished. They are an affront to our humanity, and flagrant violations of all the rules of democracy, of international law, rules governing armed conflict and simply of the fundamental human rights we stand for.

I am confident that international justice will be carried out and those responsible for the crimes committed in Ukraine will be held accountable.

I once again wish to pay tribute to democratically elected local leaders in Ukraine who play a key role in addressing the daily challenges of citizens in their martyr cities, towns, and villages.  And this is exactly why they are being targeted by the aggressor.

I deplore the loss of lives and the terrible consequences of this unjustified aggression and wish to reiterate our full solidarity with Ukraine and its people. “


Serbia: Council of Europe Congress delegation recommends to conduct local elections separately from elections at the national level

Elections Strasbourg, France 4 April 2022
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Serbia: Council of Europe Congress delegation recommends to conduct local elections separately from elections at the national level

A 15-member delegation from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, led by Carla Dejonghe (Belgium, ILDG), carried out a mission to observe the partial local elections held on 3 April 2022, in Belgrade and several other municipalities.

On Election Day, seven Congress teams were deployed to Belgrade, Arandelovac, Smederevska Palanka, Kula and Secanj to monitor the procedures, from opening to closing, in about hundred polling stations. Except some inconsistencies and irregularities, overall, voting was calm and conducted by the boards in the polling stations based on a legal framework considered as generally in line with international standards.

However, at a press conference held in Belgrade on 4 April, Ms. Dejonghe raised several recurring issues, already highlighted in the 2016 Congress report. Polling stations were often overcrowded due to the permanent and extended composition of the polling boards, while the minimum presence of permanent members was not always ensured. The Serbian authorities should optimise the management of polling stations, ensuring, at the same time, transparent monitoring of the elections by party observers, she said.

The Head of delegation also called to further develop the training of poll workers with the aim of professionalising them. In order to strengthen the secrecy of the vote, proper polling booths should be introduced instead of cardboard separations. It is also urgent to improve the accessibility of the polling stations for people with disabilities, Ms Dejonghe stressed.

Furthermore, the Congress delegation witnessed, on several occasions, situations where voters came to the polling stations with invitations addressed to deceased people. "The existence of so-called phantom voters on the voters’ lists continues to undermine public trust and confidence in elections and in democracy," warned Ms Dejonghe, calling for an independent audit of the voters’ lists and better coordination between the authorities responsible for updating civil status.

Due to the simultaneous holding of three elections in Belgrade and 12 other municipalities on the same day, voter turnout was high in some places and led to long queues, especially before the polls closed. “The conduct of concurrent elections for different levels of government should be avoided in the future, and a separate Election Day should be dedicated for local and regional self-government to avoid that Presidential or Parliamentary elections overshadow local issues,” Ms Dejonghe stressed.

"The fact that - following cross-party dialogue facilitated by the European Parliament last year - the opposition, at all levels of government, took part in yesterday's elections, is a positive sign and gives us confidence that Serbia can achieve greater democracy – the local government level is the ideal starting point to do so,” concluded the Head of the Congress delegation.

The deployment on polling day was preceded by preparatory meetings on 1 and 2 April with representatives of the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, the Republic Electoral Commission, members of the Serbian delegation to the Congress, the Secretary General of the Standing Conference of Cities and Municipalities, the diplomatic corps, NGOs, the media and the IEOM as well as with candidates and representatives of parties/lists running in the Belgrade election.

Upon request of the competent authorities, the Congress observes local and regional elections in Council of Europe member States and sometimes beyond. The observation of local elections is complementary to the political monitoring process of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, which is the cornerstone of local democracy in Europe.

 Photo gallery


Barbara Toce: "Cultural heritage can contribute to post-crisis and post-conflict reconstruction”

Current Affairs Committee Strasbourg, France 1 April 2022
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Barbara Toce:

"Sustainable management of cultural heritage can bring Europeans together, while celebrating their diversity," said Barbara Toce (Italy, SOC/G/PD), Rapporteur of the Congress on Cultural Heritage Management, at the opening of the Conference of Ministers of Culture in Strasbourg, France, on 1 April 2022.

Ms Toce mentioned the recent Congress report, entitled "Culture without borders", which highlights the role of cultural heritage as a bridge between peoples and communities. This report highlights that municipalities and regions can use cultural heritage as a means to promote the values that are essential for democracy: solidarity, dialogue, mutual acceptance and respect for human rights and the rule of law.  It also gives them tools for developing sustainable cultural heritage management, for example by protecting intangible cultural heritage and combating over-tourism.

However, the Congress rapporteur stressed the fragility of cultural heritage, especially in times of crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic or more recently in the context of the war in Ukraine: destruction of cultural sites, drop in the number of visitors and lack of resources are all challenges that require measures to preserve cultural heritage. "As a large part of the population has to flee and is separated from their communities, war is also a threat to intangible heritage such as local customs and minority languages," she warned.

According to the Congress rapporteur, cultural heritage can contribute to post-crisis and post-conflict reconstruction, through sustainable and inclusive management at all levels and from the bottom up, with the support of central governments.

The Conference was organised in the framework of the Italian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe under the theme "Creating our future: creativity and cultural heritage as strategic resources for a diverse and democratic Europe".

 Speech


The Congress assesses the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Sweden

Monitoring committee Sweden 1 April 2022
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The Congress assesses the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Sweden

A delegation of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, composed of rapporteurs Harald Bergmann (Netherlands, ILDG) and Matija Kovac (Serbia, EPP/CCE) conducted a monitoring visit to Stockholm, Uppsala and Östhammar from 5 to 7 April 2022 to assess the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Sweden since the previous monitoring report adopted by the Congress in 2014.

The rapporteurs exchanged views on the latest developments in the field of local and regional self-government in Sweden with Ms Ida Karkiainen, Minister for Public Administration, Mr Per Lennerbrant, Parliamentary Ombudsman, as well as with Henrik Jermsten, Deputy President of the Supreme Court. In Parliament, the delegation met with Mr Andreas Norlén, President of the Riksdag.

Meetings were also held with the Mayor of Stockholm and representatives of the municipalities of Uppsala and Östhammar. Furthermore, the Congress delegation met the members of the Swedish national delegation to the Congress as well as Anders Knape, President of the national delegation and President of the Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), and Dr Anders Lidström, independent expert.

Sweden ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1988. Countries that have ratified the Charter are bound by its provisions. The Charter requires the implementation of a minimum set of rights that form the essential basis for 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.

Contact: Stéphanie POIREL, Head of the Statutory Committee Division and Secretary of the Monitoring Committee
 +33 (0) 3 90 21 51 84
 [email protected]

 Photo gallery


Congress President in the Committee of the Regions: European cities can help Ukrainian counterparts through a new online platform

Committee of regions Strasbourg, France 31 March 2022
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Congress President in the Committee of the Regions: European cities can help Ukrainian counterparts through a new online platform

“In the face of the brutal war waged by Russia against Ukraine, cities and regions of Europe stand united in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and authorities, and we salute their courage and fortitude in the battle against the invasion,” Congress President Leendert Verbeek stressed at the meeting of the European Committee of the Regions’ Working Group on Ukraine, in Brussels on 30 March 2022.

“We in the Congress are also proud of the immediate response by numerous local and regional authorities and their associations in other European countries providing aid to their Ukrainian counterparts and hosting refugees from Ukraine,” he continued. To coordinate these efforts, the Congress supported the launch of a Cities4Cities platform to match the demands and needs of Ukrainian cities with the capacity, know-how and supply from other European cities. Through this platform, local and regional leaders in Ukraine will be supported in addressing the daily challenges of citizens in their cities, towns and villages. By its design, the platform will also be able to integrate other support initiatives in Europe.

The President also referred to the Declaration adopted unanimously by the Congress during its session on 22 March 2022. “In one voice, Congress members condemned in the strongest terms the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine as a blatant breach of international law and called on Russia to cease the war immediately and unconditionally,” he said. “Recognising the key role of local and regional authorities in addressing the disastrous humanitarian consequences faced by citizens, the Congress also condemns the intimidation, abduction and killing of local and regional elected representatives in Ukraine”, pointed out the President, underlining that the firm commitment by the Ukrainian people to the values of freedom and democracy is the source of their strength today.

Deputy Minister of Communities and Territorial Development of Ukraine Viacheslav Nehoda, Mayor of Kyiv Vitaly Klitshcko and Mayor of Lviv Andriy Sadovyi took part in this meeting, which brought together representatives of local and regional authorities and their national associations, members of the Committee of the Regions and international stakeholders.

See also :


Congress of the Council of Europe to observe local elections in Belgrade

Elections observation Belgrade, Serbia 31 March 2022
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Congress of the Council of Europe to observe local elections in Belgrade

At the invitation of the Serbian authorities, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe deployed a mission, led by Congress member Carla Dejonghe (Belgium, ILDG), to observe the local elections on 3 April 2022 in Belgrade and several other municipalities.

The deployment on Election Day was preceded by preparatory meetings on 1 and 2 April with representatives of the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, the Republic Electoral Commission, members of the Serbian Delegation to the Congress and the Secretary General of the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities.

Meetings were also scheduled with the diplomatic corps based in Belgrade, candidates for the Mayor of Belgrade, representatives of NGOs and media as well as the IEOM observing the polls to elect both the President and members of the National Assembly to be held in Serbia on the same day.

A press conference was organised on Monday, 4 April at 12:00 (Crowne Plaza Hotel, Mediterranean & Adriatic room, Vladimira Popovica 10, Belgrade).

Delegation of the Congress:

  • Ms Carla DEJONGHE, Head of Delegation, Belgium (ILDG, R)
  • Ms Aikatherini ADAMOPOULOU, Greece (EPP/CCE, R)
  • Mr Zdenek BROZ, Czech Republic (ILDG, L)
  • Mr Xavier CADORET, France (SOC/G/PD, L)
  • Ms Belinda GOTTARDI, Italy (SOC/G/PD, L)
  • Ms Tanja JOONA, Finland (ILDG, L)
  • Mr Heiner KLEMP, Germany (SOC/G/PD, R)
  • Mr Shabir PANDOR, United Kingdom (SOC/G/PD, R)
  • Ms Sevdia UGREKHELIDZE, Georgia (EPP/CCE, L)
  • Mr Emin YERITSYAN, Armenia (EPP/CCE, L)
  • Ms Brid QUINN, Member of the Congress Group of Independent Experts on the European Charter of Local Self-Government

Contact:

See also:

 Observation of local and regional elections


Congress President strongly condemns abductions of Ukrainian mayors and elected representatives

Presidency Strasbourg, France 30 March 2022
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Congress President strongly condemns abductions of Ukrainian mayors and elected representatives

Further to his statement of 15 March 2022 concerning the abduction of the mayors of Melitopol and Dniprorudne, Zaporizhya oblast, and the Congress Declaration adopted on 24 March 2022, the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Leendert Verbeek, made the following statement regarding the war in Ukraine:

“I strongly condemn the abduction of the Mayors of Mangush, Nikolske, Dniprorudne, Ivankiv, Belovodsk, Tsyrkuniv, Berislav, Nyzhni Sirogozy, Chulakivka, Snovsk, Hola Prystan and Prymorsk, and the increasing pressure on local elected representatives in occupied territories, and I call for their immediate release.

I pay tribute to local leaders for their key role in addressing the daily challenges of citizens in their cities, towns, and villages.

I urge the Russian authorities to immediately cease the hostilities, withdraw their troops and stop the abuse of human rights and violations of international law. Existing infrastructure must be preserved, and humanitarian corridors must be maintained for safe evacuation of all settlements under siege.

I wish to reiterate our full solidarity with Ukraine and its people and deplore the loss of lives and the damaging consequences of this unjustified aggression which has caused an unprecedented number of refugees and internally displaced persons not seen on the European continent since the second World War.”

Following the statement made on 29 March 2022 by Vitaliy Klitchko, Chair of the Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC) and Mayor of Kyiv, Congress President Verbeek reiterated that the Congress stands in solidarity with AUC and will continue to support Ukrainian local and regional authorities and the elected women and men serving their populations as mayors and councillors.

See also:


Georgia: Human rights at local level

Monitoring Committee Strasbourg, France 30 March 2022
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Georgia: Human rights at local level

“To best implement human rights at local level, it is fundamental that local authorities are aware of international standards; this awareness also allows us to advocate more effectively for human rights delivery within multilevel dialogue structures, and to voice our needs and priorities from a strengthened position,” stressed Congress Spokesperson on Human Rights Harald Bergmann (Netherlands, ILDG) at the opening of the Forum on “Localising human rights in Georgia: strengthening capacities of local authorities” on 25 March 2022.

The first meeting of the Forum of exchange on human rights at local level, organised by the Congress project in collaboration with the National Association of Local Authorities of Georgia (NALAG), brought together thirteen selected municipalities to address challenges for improving social inclusion, promoting equal opportunities, and incorporate a gender perspective in local political action.

The Forum saw the active participation of mayors and local councillors from both majority and minority political groups, as well as municipal staff, who engaged in peer exchange on best practices.  A baseline assessment process was launched on this occasion to identify local authorities’ own capacities for human rights implementation. The participants agreed on follow-up steps and identified their capacity development needs for implementing human rights-based policies.

“Raising awareness has always been one of the fundamental pillars of our human rights work at the Congress,” concluded Mr Bergmann, introducing the Congress Handbook on human rights at local level. The third volume of the Handbook will focus on environment and human rights, one of the priorities promoted by Georgia during its 2019-2020 Presidency of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.

This event is organised 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.

 Speech by Harald Bergmann

 Agenda of the Forum meeting

 Human rights at local and regional levels - vol.1

 Human rights handbook for Local and Regional Authorities - vol.2 - Social Rights


Cities4Cities: new matchmaking platform launched to support Ukrainian local and regional authorities

Strasbourg, France 29 March 2022
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Cities4Cities: new matchmaking platform launched to support Ukrainian local and regional authorities

A new matchmaking online platform, Cities4Cities, developed to help Ukrainian cities was launched in Strasbourg today. The platform is a free online exchange tool; it allows local authorities in Ukraine and in the rest of Europe to share their needs and offers related to local infrastructure and get in direct contact to receive practical help.

The platform was launched at the initiative of Bernd Vöhringer (Germany, EPP/CCE), President of the Chamber of Local Authorities of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and Mayor of the city of Sindelfingen, with the support of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

Bernd Vöhringer explained that the need for co-ordination of support action coming from the local level became very clear to him after the visit in the end of March to the Polish twin city of Sindelfingen, Chełm, situated near the Ukrainian border where he saw first-hand the “urgent need for material, financial and human resources support”. “The platform will be a place to match the demands/needs of Ukrainian cities with the capacity, know-how and supply of other European cities,” he noted, “It will enable faster and more efficient support to our Ukrainian friends and partners”.

Secretary General of the Congress, Andreas Kiefer, said that the Congress “welcomes the efforts of local and regional authorities of the member States of the Council of Europe and their associations in support for their Ukrainian counterparts and citizens”, and the Cities4Cities initiative is an example of such result-oriented solidarity action at the local level. “In the recently adopted Declaration the Congress stressed that democracy, multilevel governance and human rights are stronger than war, and reiterated its firm stand by Ukraine and its people”, Kiefer concluded.

Ambassador Borys Tarasyuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the Council of Europe, stressed that the initiative will serve well the purpose of providing practical assistance to the most vulnerable, amidst the immense human tragedy and challenges, and will complement the political support and solidarity expressed by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the Council of Europe as a whole.

The platform Cities4Cities was developed and is maintained by the IT Company STAR co-operation. 

See more:
 Cities4cities  - A matching platform for Ukrainian and other European Cities, sponsored by the Congress
 help.gov.ua - Ukrainian website for humanitarian aid
 Speech of Bernd Vöhringer


Council of Europe Congress condemns war against Ukraine and calls on Russian Federation to meet its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law

42nd Session Strasbourg, France 22 March 2022
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Council of Europe Congress condemns war against Ukraine and calls on Russian Federation to meet its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe on 22 March 2022 unanimously adopted a Declaration condemning the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine as a blatant breach of international law.

The debate was preceded by a remote exchange of views with the Ukrainian Minister for the Development of Communities and Territories, Oleksiy Chernyshov, who called for increased pressure to be put on the Russian Federation, including in terms of combating disinformation about the reality of the conflict.  The Minister called for direct partnerships to be established with local authorities in Ukraine, while expressing his belief that municipalities’ desire to build a democratic Europe could help to put an end to the war in Ukraine.  This call was supported by the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, and the Mayor of Mykolaiv, Oleksandr Senkevych, who also addressed Congress members and unanimously expressed the urgency of defending Ukraine, but also the democratic values of Europe.

Deploring the loss of human life and the destruction caused by the Russian aggression, which has led to an unprecedent number of refugees and displaced persons in Europe, the Congress calls on the Russian Federation to immediately and unconditionally cease its war in Ukraine and provide humanitarian corridors for the safe evacuation of civilians.  It expresses its support to Ukraine and its solidarity with its people who are displaying admirable resolve and courage in defending their country.

The Congress calls for the Russian Federation to meet its obligations under international law and international humanitarian law.  It also condemns the illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and the Russian Federation’s recognition of the Ukrainian oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent entities, while reiterating its unwavering commitment to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.

“The Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine is an attack on the principles and values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law which the Council of Europe stands for, promotes and defends”, said Leendert Verbeek (Netherlands, SOC/G/PD), Congress rapporteur.  He praised the key role played by local and regional authorities in Ukraine and in the countries taking in refugees in terms of tackling the disastrous humanitarian consequences faced by citizens as a result of the Russian aggression.  “With this declaration, we show the aggressor that we are united and that its actions are condemned by the international community.  We show Ukrainian citizens and our Ukrainian friends, colleagues and counterparts – the mayors and regional governors – that we will do everything in our power to support them”, he said in conclusion.

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42nd Session

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Youth delegates participated in all the debates of the 42nd session of the Congress

42nd Session Strasbourg, France 24 March 2022
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Youth delegates participated in all the debates of the 42nd session of the Congress

A new promotion of young delegates took part in the work of the Congress, during its 42nd session, in Strasbourg (22-24 March 2022.  Contributing to all the debates, the young representatives of 38 member countries transmitted a sensitive and critical look at the representation of youth, women, minorities and diasporas in the institutions of local and regional democracy. They drew attention to the valuable contribution of young people in the fight against fake news and hate speech, but also in the design of policies to support rural youth.

Participating in the work of the Congress since 2014 as part of the “Rejuvenating politics” initiative, youth delegates have acquired a full place within the institution. The members of the Congress attach ever-increasing importance to the opinion and expertise of these young people from different backgrounds – youth activists, youth workers, students, young politicians etc.

According to trainer Carly Walker-Dawson, who assisted the new class of youth delegates, "three thematic groups have been set up to work on issues of local and regional democracy, the Council of Europe and human rights. 'Man.” All the debates on the agenda were covered by the participation of the young delegates who also presented three contributions at the opening of the debates on the fight against fake news and hate speech, on the support for the rural youth and on the representation of the diasporas in the host regions and their relations with the regions of origin.

The participation of youth delegates was particularly strong in the debate on the support of rural youth, which also brought strong interest from all members of Congress on 23 and 24 March. Sharing her personal experience as a child raised in the countryside, Norwegian youth delegate Ingebjørg Flyum Bjørlo brought attention to both the transport, education, employment and health challenges that young people face to stay in the countryside, but also on their desire to return there as soon as new living conditions allow it.

The problems of discrimination of minorities: women, homosexuals and migrants who promote a lack of consideration and sometimes even violent speeches and practices to their license in rural municipalities were raised by the youth delegate from Germany Marius Wallstein who recommended linking young people from the LGBTI community in the countryside with organizations for the protection of sexual minorities in urban centres. Her colleague, the youth delegate from Ukraine Oleksandra Petrakova, for her part, underlined the need to integrate refugees into rural communities through education programs in their native language or in English, which also give them access to local governance structures.

On the occasion of the "Regions and Diaspora" debate, Sharon Amadi, a young Afro-Italian delegate who lives in Great Britain, drew attention to the fact that the number of people living outside their places of birth has tripled in the past 45 years. The social and political role of the youth of the diaspora must therefore be taken into account by the institutions of local and regional democracy. According to her, the youth of the diaspora is not yet considered at its true value as a factor of sustainable development of the host regions, but also of the regions of origin. However, it could be a true link in the intercultural dialogue of which it is the living incarnation.

The energy and expertise of young people could be harnessed more by local and regional authorities to tackle disinformation and hate speech online. This is the opinion of Michael Bryan, a young delegate from the United Kingdom who went to the Hemicycle sporting his stethoscope as a young intern doctor. A desired effect to support the effect of his tragic story with the young Amina who died of the coronavirus following the refusal to be treated in the hospital for fear of being poisoned there. “How many Amina will still be victims of disinformation? he was indignant, calling on local and regional elected officials to take concrete measures, in particular through greater transparency in public life.

In a series of debates, the youth delegates criticized the lack of consideration of youth as full players in local democracy. During the debate on how to strengthen citizen participation through deliberative methods, the young Spanish delegate Elena Manso Palao recalled that while the "Citizens' Climate Convention", organized by France, made it possible to retain 149 proposals, some of them tween them, although essential, were not taken up in the end, which was a disappointment for many young people.

Finally, on the first day of the session, 22 March 2022, the members of Congress unanimously adopted a Declaration condemning the war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. A subject often discussed by young people who expressed their support for the Ukrainian people and youth. The youth delegate from Ukraine Oleksandra Petrakova, much applauded by the members of the Congress, spoke of the dramatic situation in her country following the aggression of the Russian Federation. She also alerted the representatives of local and regional authorities, inviting them to ensure that there are shelters, in their own communities, available to the civilian population and to prepare teams of volunteers capable of managing a humanitarian crisis. in times of war. “I am not here to scare you, but to warn you! It is better to be prepared and never use it than to be surprised as we were. »

For further information :

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Congress looks at the situation of independent candidates and the opposition in local and regional elections

42e Session Strasbourg, France 24 mars 2022
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Congress looks at the situation of independent candidates and the opposition in local and regional elections

At its 42 Plenary Session, the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities debated and voted a thematic report on the situation of independent candidates and the opposition. In this report adopted on 23 March 2022, the Congress calls on local, regional and state authorities to address undue obstacles to the participation of independent and opposition candidates in elections at different stages of the electoral process.

Presented by Vladimir PREBILIC (Slovenia, SOC/V/DP), the report stresses that although some proportionate measures to limit the number of candidates are admissible in order to prevent extreme fragmentation, national legislations should avoid overly restrictive requirements to safeguard the right of every citizen to run for public office without discrimination. “Overly strict restrictions on the participation of independent candidates limit political pluralism as independents represent an important alternative in view of the growing disenchantment with political parties", stressed the rapporteur.

In the Resolution and Recommendation of this report, the Congress encourages national authorities to create the conditions for independents to stand in local and regional elections on an equal footing with political party candidates by putting legislation in line with international standards and best practices. It calls for the promotion of political pluralism in local and regional elections by encouraging and facilitating the participation of independent candidates and opposition in general. Finally, local and regional authorities are called upon, where it is within their competence, to facilitate the registration of independent candidates and to help create a level playing field for campaigning, including freedom of assembly for all election participants.

See also :

 Mediabox interview with Vladimir PREBILIĆ

 Statement by Vladimir PREBILIC

 Video of the debate

 Report CG(2022)42-13

 Recommendation REC 476(2022)

 Resolution RES 482 (2022) 

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The Congress participates in the observation of local and regional elections in the 46 Council of Europe member states and sometimes beyond, upon official request of the national authorities concerned. This activity complements the political monitoring of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. In addition to country observations, the Congress regularly examines more general and recurrent issues related to local and regional elections through transversal reports.


Debates on local democracy in the United Kingdom, election observation in Denmark and Morocco, and the role of local and regional authorities in the future of rural youth

42nd Session Strasbourg, France 24 March 2022
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Debates on local democracy in the United Kingdom, election observation in Denmark and Morocco, and the role of local and regional authorities in the future of rural youth

On the third day of the 42nd Session, on 24 March 2022, the Congress adopted its second report on the United Kingdom’s application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. The report welcomes the UK’s adoption of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016, allowing for the introduction of directly elected mayors in some English regions. It also welcomes the government’s Levelling Up White Paper and initiatives by the Scottish Parliament to incorporate the European Charter into Scottish law. However, the Congress notes that several shortcomings identified in 2014 have yet to be addressed and expresses concern over a number of issues. In particular, the capacity of the United Kingdom local authorities to perform their tasks effectively is limited by over-regulation, “rather heavy” supervision by higher-level authorities and issues related to funding. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State of the United Kingdom, Neil O’Brien addressed the Congress members and had an exchange of views with them.

Additionally, the Congress adopted report on the observation of local and regional elections in Denmark. Presented by rapporteur Gunn Marit helgesen (Norway, EPP/CCE), the report expressed “high degree of confidence in the management of local and regional elections in Denmark” but recommends Danish authorities strengthen the regulatory framework ensuring transparency and accountability of campaign.  The Congress also adopted an information report on municipal and regional elections in Morocco. The report, presented by rapporteur Vladimir prebilic (Slovenia, SOC/G/PD), commended the calm and transparent way the Election Day unfolded, as well as the general competitive political climate and encourages Moroccan authorities to further improve the process by, among other things, pursuing the efforts to facilitate the exercise of the right to vote.

Furthermore, the members debated on the role of local and regional authorities in providing a better future for rural youth. Rural youth faces geography specific challenges. The Congress recognises these challenges and adopted a report encouraging local and regional authorities, especially in rural areas, to implement specific policies regarding these challenges and promote youth participation in local democracy.

 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 will be available for download on the session's web file

 Aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine | special page

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42nd Session 

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Local and regional elections in Denmark: High-level of public trust despite under-regulated campaign finances

42nd Session Strasbourg, France 24 March 2022
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Local and regional elections in Denmark: High-level of public trust despite under-regulated campaign finances

At its 42nd Plenary Session, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation on local and regional elections in Denmark (16 November 2021) following an election observation mission carried out, for the first time ever in this country, from 13 to 17 November 2021.

The Congress expressed satisfaction with orderly Election Day procedures and noted that, despite the backdrop of rising cases of Covid-19 infections in the country, the preparations for the local and regional elections were conducted efficiently by a highly decentralised election administration. The rapporteur Gunn Marit Helgesen (Norway, EPP/CCE) welcomed the high-level of public trust in the electoral administration and the high turnout which is the prime feature of the vivid democracy in Denmark.

However, the report also identified several areas where there is still room for improvement, notably the regulation of campaign finances, combatting hate speech and fake news online, professionalisation of the election administration and the creation of an institutional framework for election observation.

“Our delegation was concerned about the overall under-regulation of the campaign finances resulting in weak transparency and lacking accountability, in particular with regard to non-anonymous party donations which are currently unlimited”, highlighted the rapporteur.

Among other recommendations, the Congress invites the Danish authorities to implement measures to strengthen the regulatory framework ensuring transparency and accountability of campaign finances, and to introduce legislative provisions for the accreditation of international election observers, in order to formally acknowledge the role of independent election observation.

Finally, the report encourages national authorities to consider introducing effective measures to fight online fake news and hate speech to tackle polarisation in the society as well as to consider revising regulations regarding the involvement of incumbents or candidates running in elections as poll workers on the Election Day.

See also: Council of Europe Congress concluded electoral mission to Denmark

Contact: Renate ZIKMUND, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, [email protected]

Upon invitation by national associations of Danish regions and municipalities, the Congress deployed, for the first time ever in this country, an observation mission to assess the local and regional elections held on 16 November 2021. On the Election Day, four Congress teams involving eight observers visited about 50 polling stations to observe polling and counting procedures in the Copenhagen metropolitan area as well as in other regions of Denmark.

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United Kingdom local authorities limited by over-regulation and funding issues, says Council of Europe Congress

42nd session Strasbourg, France 24 March 2022
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United Kingdom local authorities limited by over-regulation and funding issues, says Council of Europe Congress

The capacity of the United Kingdom local authorities to perform their tasks effectively is limited by over-regulation, “rather heavy” supervision by higher-level authorities and issues related to funding, according to the 46-nation Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.

The Congress adopted its second report on the United Kingdom’s application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, a binding international treaty ratified by the UK in 1998.

The report welcomes the UK’s adoption of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016, allowing for the introduction of directly elected mayors in some English regions. It also welcomes the government’s Levelling Up White Paper and initiatives by the Scottish Parliament to incorporate the European Charter into Scottish law.

At the same time, the Congress notes that several shortcomings identified in 2014 have yet to be addressed and expresses concern over a number of issues.

Although local authorities have general competences set out in law, says the report, in practice over-regulation narrows their scope for action and there is significant dependence on national funding.

Local authorities are also limited in their ability to raise and spend financial resources freely, according to the Congress. They lack adequate and commensurate funding, and the “financial equalisation mechanism” is not sufficiently transparent and predictable.

The Congress recommends a reform of local government funding to bring the situation in line with the European Charter. The UK should also extend the application of the Charter to include the Greater London Authority and local authorities in Northern Ireland.

In addition, the Congress considers that the UK should ratify the Additional Protocol to the Charter – signed in 2009 – on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority.

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Levelling Up, The Union and Constitution of the United Kingdom, Neil O’Brien, addressed the Congress and had an exchange of views with its members.

See also :

 Mediabox interview

 Speech of Vladimir Prebilic

 Speech of Magnus Berntsson

 Video of the debate

 Statement by Neil O’BRIEN MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Minister for Levelling Up, The Union and Constitution), United Kingdom

 Report CG(2022)42-18

For further information :

Contact: Andrew Cutting, Spokesperson/Media Officer, Directorate of Communications, Council of Europe, tel. +32 485 21 72 02

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Deliberative methods: Council of Europe Congress calls for greater citizen participation beyond elections

42nd Session Strasbourg, France 24 March 2022
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Deliberative methods: Council of Europe Congress calls for greater citizen participation beyond elections

Deliberative methods have become one of the most innovative ways of deepening citizens' participation in political decision-making and contribute to strengthening public trust in the political process, argued Karl-Heinz Lambertz (Belgium, SOC/V/DP), presenting a report adopted by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities at its 42nd Session on 23 March 2022.

"Deliberative processes increase transparency and citizens' confidence in the decisions that are taken," the rapporteur stressed. Indeed, these forms of non-electoral citizen participation allow a randomly selected group of citizens to formulate proposals to the authorities. They correspond to the principles outlined in the 2009 Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in local affairs, which will mark its 10th anniversary of entry into effect on June 1.

The report offers guidelines for municipalities and regions, illustrated by case studies at the local and regional levels: Mostar (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Oud-Heverlee (Belgium), Scottish Climate Assembly (UK) and Ostbelgien (Belgium). "Thanks to the participation of citizens, the action plan of the City of Mostar was adopted unanimously, taking into account their recommendations in the spending plans of public services," said the Mayor of Mostar, referring to the Citizens' Assembly organised within the framework of the project "Building Democratic Participation in the City of Mostar" implemented by the Congress.

The Congress calls for the further implementation of deliberative methods at all levels of governance, identifying specific issues where these mechanisms could contribute to the decision-making process. It stresses the need to plan the whole process, to allocate the necessary time for citizen deliberation, and specifically, to define fair criteria for the selection of participants. The deliberative process could be institutionalized by ensuring that local governments are provided with the necessary financial means.

See also :

 Video of the debate

 Report CG(2022)42-12

For further information :

42nd Session
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Municipal and regional elections in Morocco: Congress welcomes calm and transparent elections and highlights areas of improvement

42nd Session Strasbourg, France 24 March 2022
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Municipal and regional elections in Morocco: Congress welcomes calm and transparent elections and highlights areas of improvement

Meeting at the 42nd Plenary Session, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe adopted today a report on municipal and regional elections held in Morocco on 8 September 2021. The observation was conducted on-site in several regions of the country, following online preliminary meetings with various interlocutors. This was the first election observation mission of the Congress in the country, which obtained the “Partner for Local Democracy” status in 2019.

The rapporteur, Vladimir Prebilic (Slovenia, SOC/G/PD), welcomed an overall calm and transparent Election Day, as well as the general competitive political climate. “Despite three elections being organised on the same day, all levels of the electoral administration managed to provide an environment free of violence and intimidation for voters, in keeping with the strict application of health measures”, he highlighted.

At the same time, the rapporteur suggested considering measures to ensure the campaign provided enough time and focus on municipal and regional issues for voters to become more familiar with programmes of a wide range of political actors. The report invites the authorities to pursue the efforts made to increase the participation of women in politics at municipal level, as well as reinforce the measures to regulate campaign finances, including online campaigns.

Lastly, the report encourages the authorities to continue working towards facilitating the exercise of the right to vote, in particular for persons still excluded from the electoral register, and improving accessibility of polling stations and readability of ballot papers.

See also:

 Video of the debate

 Statement by Vladimir PREBILIC

 Report CG(2022)42-19

For further information :

Contact:

Ms Renate ZIKMUND
Head of the Department of Statutory Activities, External Relations and Cooperation, SAERC
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
Tel: +33 (0)6 59 78 64 55 - [email protected]

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42nd Session 

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Council of Europe Congress calls on local and regional authorities to provide a better future for rural youth

42nd Session Strasbourg, France 24 March 2022
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Council of Europe Congress calls on local and regional authorities to provide a better future for rural youth

At its 42nd Session, the Congress adopted a report outlining the role of local and regional authorities in building a better future for rural youth, presented by co-rapporteurs Aida Jalilzade (Azerbaijan, ECR) and James Moloney (Ireland, ILDG).

“All young people are facing challenges right now, especially in this post-pandemic reality, but rural young people have a few extra battles to fight,” said Mr Moloney. Limited access to education, employment and affordable housing, but also to digital connectivity and public services result in young people moving away from rural areas. Rural youth also have less opportunities than their urban peers to participate in public and political life.

“Rural youth contribute to shaping our societies. They should be able to voice their opinion and be active members of our societies. It is our responsibility to give them the opportunity to do so,” Ms Jalilzade stressed, encouraging rural authorities to promote youth participation via structures such as youth councils, in order to ensure the vitality and future of local democracy.

In its resolution, the Congress calls on local and regional authorities to develop policies addressing the challenges faced by rural youth, to provide support, financial and other, to rural youth organisations, and to acknowledge the contribution of rural youth in safeguarding cultural heritage and rural traditions.

See also :

 Video of the debate

 Speech of Aida Jalilzade

 Speech of James Moloney

 Report CG(2022)42-15

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42nd Session 

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Democratic pluralism in regional governance: relations between the majority and the opposition

42nd Session Strasbourg, France 23 March 2022
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Democratic pluralism in regional governance: relations between the majority and the opposition

If all democratic life implies a majority and an opposition, the rapport between the two groups must be based on a constructive dialogue rather than on a permanent confrontation: through several examples, the Chamber of Regions reminded, on Wednesday 23 March 2022, that the debate between the majority and the opposition constitutes, in itself, an indicator of the quality of democracy and pluralism.

Rapporteur of a resolution and a recommendation on "the situation of independent and opposition candidates in local and regional elections", Vladimir Prebilic (Slovenia, SOC/V/DP) focused on the particular situation of independent candidates of all political parties. In most countries their number has risen significantly in recent years. In Slovenia, for example, 60% of candidates in the last local elections were independents, twice as many as in 2010. But some candidates may face administrative or legal obstacles, or even outright discrimination: "local authorities must instead intervene to facilitate their inclusion on candidate lists, because respect for independents strengthens local and regional pluralism," said Prebilic.

Restoring balance in the relationship between majority and opposition

In an opinion published in 2019 on the relationship between the parliamentary majority and the opposition in a democracy, the Council of Europe's European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) established a series of criteria aimed at optimizing relations between the two groups.  Pierre Garrone, head of the division of elections and political parties of this body, reiterated the main lines, with first of all the importance of respecting the values and freedom of the opposition: "democracy is not the domination of the majority over the opposition, but the loyal and constructive cooperation, with shared responsibilities", he stressed. He also recalled that both the majority and the opposition must be able to enjoy the same rights, and that the former must not "change the rules of the game" during their term of office, to their sole benefit.

Some countries have developed original approaches to facilitate cooperation between majorities and oppositions, but also to improve their representativeness to citizens. This is the case in some Swiss cantons, as Benno Scherrer, President of the Cantonal Council of Zurich, explained: here, the presidency is annual and is not linked to the majority of the moment, but to a periodicity that varies according to the importance of each party: it is therefore possible to have presidents of small parties at the head of the Council, even if they are not in the majority, which encourages pluralism. However, it is the best elected parties that hold the cantonal presidencies for the longest time. In addition, in order to break out of the traditional confrontation between majority and opposition, majorities are negotiated on the basis of themes and thus evolve continuously, rather than remaining fixed in party disciplines. Finally, any "minority" can request, with 50,000 votes at the federal level or 3,000 at the cantonal level, that a referendum be held on a subject that is important to them.

Permanent debate is necessary for democratic life

Josef Neumann, a member of the regional parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany), detailed the political organization of the latter, with coalitions that evolve according to the elections. While he admits that it is neither simple nor easy to sit in the opposition, he believes that respect for the opposition is "an indicator of democracy", and that permanent debate is necessary for both the opposition and pluralism.

During the debate, the Lithuanian youth delegate Beatrice Jurgaityte invited local authorities to encourage pluralism, "the essence of democracy". Kristoffer Tamsons (Sweden, EPP/CCE) pointed out that the smallest minority in a democracy is "the citizen himself", while adding that the democratic debate also takes place outside the assemblies, and that this reality should be better taken into account. Cecila Dalman Eek (Sweden, SOC/V/DP) insisted on the challenges of democratic dialogue, underlining that elected representatives sometimes have to take decisions that are necessary but not well accepted by a part of the citizens, for example when it comes to the climate. Finally, some members were concerned about the growing importance of "Fake News" in the media's treatment of political life and felt that the increase in the number of independent candidates should not lead to populism or the "fragmentation of the political system".

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Council of Europe Congress highlights “generally degrading situation” of local democracy in Turkey

42nd Session Strasbourg, France 24 March 2022
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Council of Europe Congress highlights “generally degrading situation” of local democracy in Turkey

The 46-nation Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has reported a “generally degrading situation” with regard to local democracy in Turkey.

In its latest report on Turkey’s application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, the Congress welcomes the impressive turnout (over 84%) in local elections in 2019 – one of the highest rates across the Council of Europe, demonstrating a strong interest in local self-government.

However, the Congress expresses particular concerns on a number of issues, including the fact that the government continues to suspend mayors when a criminal investigation is opened against them – based on an overly-broad definition of terrorism – and replace them with non-elected officials.

This seriously undermines the democratic choice of Turkish citizens, according to the Congress, and impedes the proper functioning of local democracy in Turkey.

Among other things, the Congress calls on the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to ask the Turkish authorities to modify the definition of terrorism in the current domestic legislation, in a way not allowing for overly-broad interpretation, to stop suspending mayors without court decisions and to ensure that winning candidates can effectively carry out their mandate.

The Congress also undertakes to strengthen its dialogue with the national authorities, the Turkish delegation to the Congress and the Union of Municipalities of Turkey in order to boost local democracy in the country, in line with the European Charter.

See also :

 Mediabox interview

 Speech of David Eray

 Speech of Vladimir Prebilic

 Video of the debate

 Report CG(2022)42-14-AMDT

For further information :

Monitoring of the European Charter of Local Self-Government

Contact: Andrew Cutting, Spokesperson/Media Officer, Directorate of Communications, Council of Europe, tel. +32 485 21 72 02

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42nd Session 

Agenda – Web page – Multimedia (Live broadcast, interviews, videos and photos)


Local democracy in Luxembourg and Turkey, election observation in Georgia and Armenia, fake news and pressure on mayors, rural youth and democratic pluralism on the agenda of the 42nd session

42nd Session Strasbourg, France 23 March 2022
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Local democracy in Luxembourg and Turkey, election observation in Georgia and Armenia, fake news and pressure on mayors, rural youth and democratic pluralism on the agenda of the 42nd session

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


Regions and diaspora: diaspora representation in host regions and relations with regions of origin

42nd Session Strasbourg, France 23 March 2022
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Regions and diaspora: diaspora representation in host regions and relations with regions of origin

Continuing a cycle of debates begun in 2021 on the regions facing diasporas, the Chamber of Regions of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe took an interest, on Wednesday 23 March 2022, in the political representation of foreign diasporas in their host regions, as well as those of their own diasporas in other regions or countries of Europe. The experiences of networks such as the "Parliamentary Network on Diaspora Policies" or the "Tyrol International" network were presented to the members of the Chamber who, during several interventions, underlined the contribution of the diasporas and the need to facilitate their participation in the political life of their host country

Third Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Croatian MP Domagoj Hajdukovic introduced his remarks by paying tribute to the Ukrainian diaspora, in Poland and in the world, which is mobilizing to help and welcome Ukrainian refugees: in exceptional situations as in normal times, diasporas are a good illustration of the duality of their members, between country of origin and host country. The Parliamentary Assembly set up a "Parliamentary Network on Diaspora Policies" in 2017 but has already been working on these subjects since 1999. The situation of Diasporas varies greatly from one country to another, but this Network pleads for a strengthening of the political participation of members of the diasporas, both in their host country or region, and with their country or region of origin. According to this network, it is first important to properly “map” the diasporas to know their precise compositions, and therefore their needs and expectations, including on the social and cultural level. Members of the diasporas must be encouraged to participate in the political life of their host country, specifically by obtaining the right to vote, while retaining this same right in their country of origin. In addition, diasporas also constitute an economic opportunity both for their regions of origin and for their host regions, insofar as they promote exchanges and trade, for often considerable amounts.

Associations and networks to maintain links with the diasporas

People from one region but living elsewhere can contribute to promoting their region of origin, while sometimes representing models of success for their “compatriots”. It was around this idea that the "Tyrol International" network was born. It is responsible for "federating" 32,000 Tyroleans living in other regions of Austria or abroad, while strengthening their links with their region of origin. “Many Tyroleans settled elsewhere are talented entrepreneurs, whose skills, for example commercial or touristic, can also benefit their region of origin,” explained Ingo Erricher on behalf of this network. In the past, he explains, it was poverty that made Tyroleans emigrate, but today, Tyroleans outside their region are also ambassadors of the Land and its successes.

Pedro Faria E Castro, member of the regional government of the Azores (Portugal), insisted on the strong identity of the inhabitants of the archipelago, many of whom, since the 17th century, have emigrated throughout the world: a million and half of people with Azorean origins now live abroad, against barely 236,000 on the spot. Today, emigration has dried up because the inhabitants have fewer reasons than before to leave the archipelago. However, the regional government supports Azoreans living abroad, and has notably opened 16 “Azorean houses” around the world, in order to strengthen the links between the archipelago and its native citizens. But just as the Azoreans have helped shape the countries in which they one day settled, they are ready, today, to welcome in turn all those who will flee the war, concluded Mr. Faria E Castro.

Young people from diasporas: dynamic links between host countries and countries of origin

Finally, the young Italian delegate Sharon Amadi presented the situation and expectations of the more than 4.4 million people from sub-Saharan Africa living in Western Europe and pleaded for better consideration of young people from the diasporas, both in host countries and in those of departure. "These young people also offer a chance to bring together the regions of origin and host countries", she believes, but the success of integration in the host countries depends on the creation of better socio-economic and political conditions. If the political world agrees to encourage the political participation of young people from diasporas in the life of the host countries, she regrets that these participations too often remain at the stage of wishes.

Following these interventions, Hanna Zamazieieva (Ukraine, ILDG) addressed the particularly dramatic situation of national minorities, and in particular the Greek diaspora, in the under siege cities of Mariupol and Odessa, and paid tribute to the Greek government for the help it gives them.

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42nd Session:

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Thematic debate: Fake news, threats and violence – pressure on mayors in the current crises in Europe

42nd Session Strasbourg, France 23 March 2022
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Thematic debate: Fake news, threats and violence – pressure on mayors in the current crises in Europe

At the Spring Session of the Congress, the members of the Chamber of Local Authorities held a thematic debate, on 23 March 2022, entitled “Fake news, threats and violence - pressure on mayors in the current crises in Europe”.

“Local and regional politicians, mayors and councillors are increasingly exposed to hate speech and online disinformation, but also verbal or physical threats, especially during election campaigns. Exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and more recently by the Russia’s war on Ukraine, this phenomenon has a paralysing effect on our democracies and political life at local and regional levels,” highlighted Wilma Delissen Van Tongerlo (Netherlands, ILDG), who is Co-Rapporteur of a new Congress report currently in preparation.  

"Misinformation particularly affects young people who are more exposed to social networks. This leads to a loss of trust in democracy, more discrimination and hate speech, with a deleterious impact on young people," stressed Michael Bryan, youth delegate (United-Kingdom), calling for investment in information gathering and verification.

Ahead of this thematic debate, an inter-university study on this very topic, entitled "COUNTERFAKE - A scientific basis for a policy against fake news and hate speech", has been published and was presented during the meeting of the Chamber. Its findings, based on the experiences of local and regional politicians in Council of Europe member States, will be incorporated into the new report, to be prepared and discussed by the Congress Governance Committee at its June meeting.

See also :

 Mediabox interview with Prof. Dr. Robert Müller-Török and Prof. Dr. Alexander Prosser (Youtube)

 Video of the debate

For further information :

In order to explore how fake news and hate speech affect local democracy, the Congress engaged in a scientific co-operation project involving academics and experts from academic institutions in Ludwigsburg, Budapest, Bucharest, Kosice and Vienna. The Congress contributed to the design of the project as well as the distribution of the research questionnaire to all its members and young delegates. Nearly 200 Congress members shared their experiences.

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Local elections in Georgia: Congress recommends further levelling of the playing field, reducing polarisation and increasing participation of women

42nd Session Strasbourg, France 23 March 2022
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Local elections in Georgia: Congress recommends further levelling of the playing field, reducing polarisation and increasing participation of women

At its 42nd Plenary Session, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe adopted, on 23 March 2022, a recommendation on local elections in Georgia (2 October 2021) following an election observation mission deployed by the Congress from 29 September to 3 October 2021.

The Congress delegation expressed satisfaction with orderly Election Day procedures, in particular against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rapporteur David Eray (Switzerland, EPP/CCE) welcomed a technically well organised and generally calm Election Day and an election legislation generally conducive to holding democratic elections.

However, the rapporteur highlighted observed irregularities that, to some extent, affected the quality of the election process. In the recommendation, the Congress regrets an unnecessarily complex election legislation, widespread allegations of intimidation, vote-buying as well as of pressure on candidates and voters. Regrettably, the elections were also marked by an unlevel playing field, emanating from the dominance of the ruling party which largely benefited from the advantage of incumbency.

“To our regret, the election campaign was characterised by extremely high tensions and the elections, instead of being about local issues, became rather a referendum about the current government. As a result, the local elections were overshadowed by national issues and I would even say that democracy on local level was taken hostage of the overall national political situation.”, emphasised Mr Eray.

In light of these observations, the adopted recommendation invites the authorities of Georgia to implement measures to step up the effectiveness of all legal provisions to ensure a more even level-playing field, to increase participation of women, and to prevent the misuse of administrative resources. It recommends strengthening the regulatory framework to ensure accountability and transparency of campaign finances.

Lastly, the report encourages national authorities to consider introducing effective measures to fight online fake news and hate speech to tackle polarisation of the society.

Further to the invitation by the Georgian authorities, the Congress carried out an election observation mission from 29 September to 3 October 2021 and observed the local elections held on 2 October as part of a joint international election observation mission together with the OSCE/ODIHR and the European Parliament. The Congress mission comprised 18 members representing 15 Council of Europe countries who observed elections in 9 regions of Georgia, visiting in total some 120 polling stations from the opening until the closing.

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Congress of Local and Regional Authorities calls on Luxembourg to go ahead with the communal reform

42nd Session Strasbourg, France 23 March 2022
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Congress of Local and Regional Authorities calls on Luxembourg to go ahead with the communal reform

In a monitoring report on the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government published today, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities calls on Luxembourg to clearly delimit the powers of the State and the communes and to press ahead with the communal reform. The country should create a framework within which local self-government can be exercised and develop fully. Luxembourg is also asked to formally enshrine in law the procedure for government consultation of local authorities and is encouraged to sign and ratify the Additional Protocol to the Charter on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority (CETS No. 207).

The report welcomes the fact that the principle of local self-government, as laid down in the Charter ratified by Luxembourg in 1987, is fully enshrined in the Constitution, recognised by the legislature and the courts and respected. It also highlights that the legal protection of local self-government is fully complied and that the Communal Law reform begun in 2020 is aimed at relaxing the administrative supervision of communes.

However, the co- rapporteurs Marjorie CROVETTO (Monaco) and Christine CHEVALLEY (Switzerland) expressed their concern on the unclear delimitation of powers between the State and the communes. They also underlined the fact that the prior approval of the Minister of the Interior remains the rule in a certain number of cases, particularly with regard to staff recruitment, creation of posts, appointment of local government officers and communal budgets: forms of administrative supervision in place not complying with the Charter (as already pointed out in the previous monitoring report). Finally, it has to be noted that the procedure for consulting local authorities on all matters concerning them directly, including with respect to their budgets, is not formally recognised in law.

The Minister of the Interior and Minister of Equality between Women and Men of Luxembourg, Taina BOFFERDING, addressed the Congress members and had an exchange of views with them.

This is the third monitoring report on Luxembourg since the country ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1987. Countries which have ratified the Charter are bound by its provisions. The Charter requires compliance with a minimum number of rights, which form the European bedrock of local self-government. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities ensures that these principles are observed through its monitoring activities”.

See also :

 Mediabox interview

 Speech of Marjorie Crovetto

 Speech of Christine Chevalley

 Report CPL(2022)42-03

For further information :

Media contact: Giuseppe Zaffuto, Spokesperson/Media Officer, tel. +33 6 86 32 10 24

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Children and sustainable cities: Congress adopts guidelines for local and regional authorities

42nd Session Strasbourg, France 23 March 2022
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Children and sustainable cities: Congress adopts guidelines for local and regional authorities

The Congress has published a new booklet on “How to make your town a better place” to raise children’s awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the United Nations 2030 Agenda. The aim is to encourage 6- to 11-year-olds to get involved in the implementation of SDGs in their own communities. The booklet comes with guidelines for local and regional authorities.

In the Resolution drawn up by the Rapporteur, Brigitte van den Berg (Netherlands, ILDG), and adopted on 23 March 2022 at the 42nd Session, the Congress encourages local and regional authorities to use this learning tool to raise awareness and teach children about SDGs by helping them to understand, through specific examples, how they can contribute to the implementation of SDGs in their towns and cities. This would enable them to come up with their own proposals to be shared with their local authorities or in forums set up specifically to facilitate children’s participation. The Congress also calls on the associations of local and regional authorities in member States to translate, disseminate and promote the Booklet and the Guidelines widely through their networks. “Children’s participation does not only benefit children, but can offer real added value when developing public policies”, said Ms van den Berg during her presentation of the project.

This was backed up by Grace O’Hagan of the United Kingdom, a 10-year-old member of the advisory group of children that helped to produce the booklet. “Adults who think children cannot do this type of work or should not get involved need to know that children want to understand the world around them and be able to help”, she said.

In her contribution to the debate, the Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Baroness Doreen E. Massey, welcomed the Congress initiative, which was in keeping with the PACE’s strategy. She pointed out that children’s rights were closely interlinked with the work of local and national public bodies and that there were many initiatives being carried out between parliamentarians, local and regional authorities, mayors, teachers, youth workers and children. “We can build on our respective experiences to strengthen the protection of children’s rights and encourage children to bring their energy and creativity to discussions and polices which may affect them,” she said in conclusion.

For more information :

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42nd Session 

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Local elections in Armenia: Congress welcomes overall transparency of the vote but expresses concerns about overly complicated voting procedures

42nd Session Strasbourg, France 23 March 2022
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Local elections in Armenia: Congress welcomes overall transparency of the vote but expresses concerns about overly complicated voting procedures

At its 42nd Session, the Congress examined a report, on 23 March 2022, on the partial local elections in Armenia which took place on 5 December 2021 in 38 municipalities.  The observation was conducted remotely, following an invitation from the Armenian authorities.

The report, presented by Stewart Dickson (United Kingdom, ILDG), welcomed the competitive nature of the partial elections and the overall transparency of the vote. These elections took place in a difficult political context coupled with the Covid-19 crisis and a recent amalgamation reform in the country. In comparison with past elections observed by the Congress, positive steps towards transparent, fair and competitive elections have been taken and allegations of fraud or violence were rather limited.

At the same time, the rapporteur expressed concern about the overly complicated voting procedures and short timeframes for training, campaigning and registering. The application of quotas led to significant increase in the proportion of women in community councils and this is welcomed by the Congress. The report invites the Armenian authorities to strengthen the participation of women in politics as heads of lists and mayors and to reinforce the regulation of campaign finances and prevent the misuse of administrative resources.

See also:

 Speech of rapporteur Stewart Dickson

 Report CPL(2022)42-04

For further information :

Contact: Renate ZIKMUND, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, [email protected]

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42nd Session 

Agenda – Web page – Multimedia (Live broadcast, interviews, videos and photos)