''Local and regional governments and elected representatives are full-fledged actors and stakeholders in creating conditions for the exercise of human rights in their communities and in ensuring their full implementation,'' stated Juliana HOXHA, Vice-President of the Congress addressing the First Regional Conference on the project ''Minority Protection in South East Europe'' in Skopje, on 26 November. This joint project of the Council of Europe and the European Union is aimed at improving access to rights for minorities at various levels of government based on the existing Council of Europe standards in this field. It includes a grants scheme to support 36 municipalities in developing concrete responses to remove the barriers facing the implementation of minority rights at local level. ''The Congress fully supports the approach focused on putting standards into practice and provoking change in policies at local level. This project has raised considerable interest among local authorities from the seven beneficiary countries. The 150 applicants are proof of the need for such support, the validity of the method and why the Congress and the Council of Europe should continue supporting the protection of minorities at local level'', she added.