President Cools at the Committee of Ministers: The Congress determined to implement the conclusions of the Reykjavik Summit

President Cools at the Committee of Ministers: The Congress determined to implement the conclusions of the Reykjavik Summit

Addressing the Ministerial Session of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg on 17 May 2024, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities Marc Cools outlined the Congress' action to implement the decisions of the Reykjavik Summit.

The President underlined the Congress' continued commitment to supporting Ukraine and its work to fight democratic backsliding, ensure better implementation of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, and strengthen environmental protection as well as young people’s engagement at local and regional level.

President Cools highlighted in particular the Congress' support for the resumption of decentralisation in Ukraine, transition to civilian administration and organisation of local elections, as part of the preparation of the country's institutions for the post-war period. He also referred to work in the fields of artificial intelligence, action on climate change and dialogue with local authorities to raise their awareness of their human rights responsibilities and to facilitate the implementation of the Court's judgments.

In the area of social justice and protection of social rights, the Congress began joint work with the Council of Europe Development Bank on housing. It also pursued its "Rejuvenating Politics" initiative, which enables 46 young people each year to take part in its work, and launched a new revision of the European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life.

"We are determined to implement the Summit's conclusions, and are doing everything we can to ensure that the commitments made in Reykjavik are respected not only in all the other European capitals, but also in the thousands of municipalities, towns and regions that make up the strength of our Europe," concluded the Congress President.

Strasbourg, France 17 May 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Hungarian stakeholders commit to partnership and dialogue to advance local self-government

Hungarian stakeholders commit to partnership and dialogue to advance local self-government

“Serving citizens is the highest priority for local and national governments,” recalled Dr Tibor Navracsics, Minister for Public Administration and Regional Development in Hungary at the 35th Anniversary Conference of the Hungarian National Association of Local Authorities (TÖOSZ), organised in Budapest on 30 April 2024 with the support of the Centre of Expertise for Good Governance at the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.

Gathering on the eve of the 20th anniversary of Hungary’s accession to the European Union, and using this occasion to celebrate also the 75th anniversary of the Council of Europe and the 30th anniversary of the Congress, local government stakeholders acknowledged the importance of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, and the Principles of Good Democratic Governance as the basis for pursuing dialogue to address the challenges faced by Hungarian municipalities.

The participants recalled that during these challenging times for the public sector, predictable resourcing, transparency and upholding common European values such as accountability to citizens were essential.

The event was organised within the joint EU/CoE project ‘Local Government Public Finance Development and Municipal Capacity Building in Hungary’,  implemented by the Centre of Expertise to advance dialogue on intergovernmental finances. The Conference served as a platform to build on the effective cooperation between central and local authorities in delivering significant outputs of the project such as the design of a data portal for local governments, the 2023 Peer Review and the results of the Local Finance Benchmarking exercise.

Strasbourg, France 17 May 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress Spokesperson on Youth calls for combatting hate in local communities

Congress Spokesperson on Youth calls for combatting hate in local communities

“Hate is a slow poison that – if left unaddressed – can spread widely in our communities, affecting the most vulnerable,” stressed Véronique Bertholle (France, SOC/G/PD), Congress Spokesperson on Youth and Deputy Mayor of Strasbourg, speaking in a panel discussion on the state of hate and violent extremism in cities in Europe and North America, in Strasbourg, France, on 14 May 2024.

Taking part in a two-day workshop for local leaders held at the European Parliament in the framework of transatlantic dialogue on combatting hate and violent extremism at local level, Ms Bertholle highlighted the importance of tackling hate and extremism as part of a wider effort to create an environment of tolerance, unity and cohesion at local level.

Organised by the Strong Cities Network on 14 and 15 May, the event focused on city-led efforts in strengthening social cohesion and safeguarding local democracy. In addition to contemporary threats such as terrorism or extremist movements, the panel on 14 May addressed the impact of hate and violence on local elected officials. While noting the need for local politicians and community leaders to play an exemplary role in refraining from using hateful speech, Ms Bertholle also underlined the importance of protecting them from violence.

“The Congress is adamant about the fact that local democracy cannot thrive in a context where even democratically elected representatives are unsafe,” Ms Bertholle stated. She warned that violence against local officials has a paralyzing effect on the most fundamental level of democracy, as outlined in recent Congress reports on the impact of hate speech on local elected officials and on sexist violence in politics at local level.

Finally, the Congress Spokesperson on Youth also emphasised the need to work with young people and increase their resilience to fake news and online hate.

 

  Hate speech and fake news report

  Fighting sexist violence in politics report

Strasbourg, France 16 May 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

International Day against Homophobia: Congress reiterates its commitment to combating discrimination against LGBTIQ people at local level

International Day against Homophobia: Congress reiterates its commitment to combating discrimination against LGBTIQ people at local level

On the occasion of the 2024 International Day against Homophobia, Biophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), 17 May, entitled “No one left behind: equality, freedom and justice for all”, Chair of the Committee on Social Inclusion and Human Dignity (SOC) Bryony Rudkin (United Kingdom, SOC/G/PD), reiterated the Congress’ commitment to combating any form of discrimination against LGBTIQ persons notably at the local level.

“Leaving no one behind, be it in the protection of human rights or in the provision of services at local level, is indeed the main concern for both local and regional authorities serving all people living on their territories in a fair and equal manner,” she said. “Local and regional politicians are very much aware of the different contexts where LGBTIQ persons may be discriminated, be it in educational institutions, labour markets or media conveying stereotypes and violence. The Congress has notably paid attention to these matters in its 2021 reports on “Protecting LGBTI people in the context of rising anti-LGBTI hate speech and discrimination: The role of local and regional authorities” and “The role of local and regional authorities with regard to the situation of LGBTI people in Poland”, but also via the participation in international events, such as the European IDAHOT+ Forum 2023 in Reykjavik, Iceland,” continued Ms Rudkin.

“In the face of various crisis situations and a trend towards democratic backsliding in many countries, it is vital to ensure that local actions continue to be based on tolerance, non-discrimination and non-violence. In 2024, the Congress, and in particular its new Committee on Social Inclusion and Human Dignity (SOC), will continue to promote such values in a cross-cutting manner, through its thematic activities on ageing communities, human trafficking and housing, before developing new specific LGBTIQ activities in the future,” she concluded.

See more :

 International Day Against Homophobia

 European IDAHOT+ Forum 2024 

Strasbourg, France 16 May 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress assesses challenges of local authorities in migration management in Poland, the Republic of Moldova and Romania

Congress assesses challenges of local authorities in migration management in Poland, the Republic of Moldova and Romania

Russia’s full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine has caused mass displacement, with over six million refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe, and in particular in neighbouring countries. While local and regional authorities are key actors in migration management as they are at the forefront in receiving and providing services to those displaced, the increased number of refugees in host countries constitutes a challenge for all levels of government.

Within the framework of its multi-lateral project “Strengthening resilience in local and regional authorities facing migration challenges”, the Congress conducted a baseline assessment of the challenges and needs faced by local authorities regarding migration management, as well as integration mechanisms in Poland, the Republic of Moldova and Romania. The three countries’ baseline reports cover the period from May to August 2023.

The reports present key developments in the three countries’ migration policies, assess the impact of the war and describe local authorities’ responsibilities in the current legal and policy context. They also outline key trends and challenges in migration management and integration, and make recommendations to enhance multi-level dialogue and strengthen institutional frameworks for local authorities as leaders of change.  

The reports are available in English, as well as in Romanian and Polish languages:

The Centre of Expertise for Good Governance at the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities implements the project “Strengthening resilience in local and regional authorities facing migration challenges” in the framework of  the Council of Europe Action Plan on Protecting Vulnerable Persons in the Context of Migration and Asylum in Europe, and thanks to the Federal Republic of Germany’s financial contribution.

* The country report on the Republic of Moldova was prepared in co-operation with the project “Reinforcing the culture of dialogue and ethical open local governance in the Republic of Moldova”.

Strasbourg, France 15 May 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress President expresses deep concern about the draft law in Georgia

Congress President expresses deep concern about the draft law in Georgia

The President of the Congress of Local and regional Authorities, Marc Cools, made the following statement today:

“I share deep concern expressed by the Council of Europe’s Secretary General regarding the draft law on ‘transparency of foreign influence’, adopted by the Georgian Parliament at third reading, and its impact on Georgia’s democracy and respect of human rights. A free and vibrant civil society is an essential component of democracy at all levels. The Congress will continue its work in Georgia to strengthen local democracy and human rights”.

Strasbourg, France 15 May 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Tunç Soyer at ALDA General Assembly: Local democracy received a new boost at Reykjavik Summit

Tunç Soyer at ALDA General Assembly: Local democracy received a new boost at Reykjavik Summit

“The important role of local and regional authorities in strengthening democracy, human rights and the rule of law received further recognition at the Council of Europe Summit in Reykjavik last year, which gave a stronger mandate to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities,” underlined Tunç Soyer, President of the Congress’ Chamber of Regions, in his keynote speech at the General Assembly of the European Association for Local Democracy-ALDA (Association of Local Democracy Agencies), in Barcelona (Spain) on 13 May 2024.

Addressing the panel on “Local democracy, engaging globally: a European perspective”, he pointed out that this stronger mandate entailed closer partnership and broader synergies with ALDA in promoting citizen participation, youth engagement and good governance at local level. Highlighting the close and strong link between the Congress and ALDA, Mr Soyer recalled that the first Local Democracy Agency opened in Subotica (Serbia) in 1993 as an idea supported by the Congress, and that ALDA was then created in 1999 at the initiative of the Council of Europe to coordinate and support the network of Local Democracy Agencies.  

He highlighted the longstanding cooperation between the Congress and ALDA, underpinned by common values of participatory democracy, civic engagement and responsible governance at local level. He also pointed out that country-specific cooperation activities implemented by the Centre of Expertise for Good Governance, which is now operating at the Congress, represented an additional potential for synergies with ALDA, which took on a particular importance this year that marks the 75th anniversary of the Council of Europe, the 30th anniversary of the Congress and the 10th Anniversary of its “Rejuvenating Politics” initiative of engaging Youth Delegates in the Congress work.

Barcelona, Spain 14 May 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

High-level Congress delegation to the Second International Summit of Cities and Regions in Ukraine

High-level Congress delegation to the Second International Summit of Cities and Regions in Ukraine

The President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Marc Cools, Standing Rapporteur on Human Rights, Gudrun Mosler-Törnström (Austria, SOC/G/PD) and Thematic Spokesperson on Youth, Véronique Bertholle (France, SOC/G/PD), participated in a high-level visit to Ukraine on 8 and 9 May 2024.

“The contribution of local and regional authorities to the recovery and reconstruction of Ukraine is essential”, stressed Congress President Marc Cools in his welcoming address at the opening of the Second International Summit of Cities and Regions, which was held in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 9 May.

Addressing leading figures, including the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Congress President Marc Cools commended Ukraine’s efforts related to its decentralisation reform, and reiterated the unwavering support of the Congress to Ukraine, its people, and communities.

In the margin of the Summit which was organised by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities under the President of Ukraine, the Council of Europe Congress delegation met with key Ukrainian stakeholders to exchange on issues related to multi-level and good democratic governance, as well as priorities for ongoing and future reforms, notably in view of Ukraine’s recovery.

In this regard, the Congress delegation took part in field visits to Moschun, Borodyanka, Bucha, and Irpin, areas which are undergoing reconstruction efforts. While exchanging with local leaders, President Cools reaffirmed the Congress political support to Ukraine in the post-war recovery, and commitment through targeted co-operation projects and initiatives, including awareness-raising on the Register of Damage Caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.

 

 Russian Federation's war against Ukraine: special file

 Congress of Local and Regional Authorities under the President of Ukraine

 Flickr gallery

Strasbourg, France 10 May 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress Vice-President participates in 5th European conference on democracy and Human rights

Congress Vice-President participates in 5th European conference on democracy and Human rights

“Strengthening democracy, Human Rights, the rule of law as well as good governance and democratic participation at all levels is a shared responsibility of national, local and regional authorities” Congress Vice-President Bernd Vöhringer stressed at the opening of the 5th European conference on democracy and Human Rights in Kristiansand on 6 May 2024. Referring to worrying trends of democratic erosion, he called for manyfold responses “with all actors at all levels collaborating to protect our hard-earned democratic principles, in line with the outcomes of the Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Reykjavik almost one year ago”. He underlined that “local and regional authorities are at the forefront to directly influence people's lives with their actions and have a crucial role to play to contribute to make European democracy more stable and more resilient”. Highlighting that the Congress adapted very quickly to the outcomes of Reykjavik by revising its priorities and upholding its focus on human rights, he said the Congress placed itself and its members - the local and regional elected representatives - at the service of intangible rights which, if better implemented, will serve the cause of democratic stability in Europe. In the face of the continuing war of aggression that Russia has started against Ukraine, Vice-President Vöhringer recalled that the Congress is engaged in concrete support to Ukraine by contributing to the High-Level Dialogue on good democratic governance with Ukrainian authorities, focusing on local government legislation and decentralisation issues and involving in initiatives on Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction as well as on the to the work of the Register of Damage adopted by the Reykjavik Summit.

Strasbourg, France 7 May 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress to participate in the ALDA General Assembly and Festival

Congress to participate in the ALDA General Assembly and Festival

President of the Congress’ Chamber of Regions Tunç Soyer (Türkiye, SOC/G/PD) will participate in the General Assembly and Festival of the European Association for Local Democracy-ALDA, to be held from 13 to 15 May 2024 in Barcelona (Spain), in the El Born Centre for Culture and Memory. On 13 May, President Soyer address the panel dedicated to “Local Democracy, engaging globally: a European Perspective”. The Festival’s agenda also includes panels and events on migration, participatory democracy, gender equality, digitalisation and many other issues. The new Governing Board of ALDA will be elected on 13 May.

ALDA Festival and General Assembly 2024 (alda-europe.eu)

Strasbourg, France 5 May 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Lviv Agglomeration: Centre of Expertise helps ten local authorities to create a new association in Ukraine

Lviv Agglomeration: Centre of Expertise helps ten local authorities to create a new association in Ukraine

Ten local communities (hromadas) including Lviv City, representing 90% of the Lviv metropolitan area’s population, launched a new association “Lviv Agglomeration” as a platform for their future collaboration. During its inaugural meeting on 29 April 2024, Lviv City Mayor Andriy Sadovyi was elected as its President and Bibrka City Mayor Roman Hrynus as its co-President.

The new association was created with the help from the Centre of Expertise for Good Governance at the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, which had been supporting the development of metropolitan governance in Lviv Agglomeration since 2021. Through a diverse range of activities, the Centre helped the 18 constituent local communities to build trust and to design the common Development Strategy of Lviv Agglomeration endorsed in November 2023.

Speaking at the inaugural meeting, Congress Director Claudia Luciani congratulated Ukrainian partners on this important initiative, stressing that the right of local authorities to associate was guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. She wished the co-founders of the new association to use the opportunities offered by this platform for improving service delivery and governance across Lviv Agglomeration.

The Centre of Expertise will continue its advocacy to improve metropolitan governance in Ukraine, both by supporting the newly created association and facilitating the multi-lateral dialogue on legal framework in this area.

The activity was supported by the Programme “Strengthening Good Democratic Governance and Resilience in Ukraine”. This Programme is implemented under the Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine “Resilience, Recovery and Reconstruction” 2023-2026 by the Centre of Expertise at the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

Strasbourg, France 3 May 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress joins calls for more international partnerships with Ukrainian local authorities

Congress joins calls for more international partnerships with Ukrainian local authorities

Constructive multi-level dialogue, capacity development of local and regional authorities and their national associations, and peer exchanges are key to support Ukraine’s efforts in defending the country and ensuring recovery and reconstruction.  These messages were presented by Bernd Vöhringer, Vice-President of the Congress, at the meeting of the European Committee of Regions’ Working Group on Ukraine, on 29 April 2024 in Brussels (Belgium).

“The Congress has always been keen on creating a space where local leaders can freely exchange, share experiences and learnings, and disseminate good practice,” he stated, while presenting the work of the Congress in enhancing multi-level governance. Vice-President Vöhringer stressed the importance for Ukrainian authorities to continue engaging in city-to-city relations. “The majority of smaller municipalities don’t have international partners. We must do more to support them,” he concluded.

Russian Federation's war against Ukraine: special file

Strasbourg, France 2 May 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

World Press Freedom Day: Congress rapporteurs call for support to local and regional media in reporting on climate change

World Press Freedom Day:  Congress rapporteurs call for support to local and regional media in reporting on climate change

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, Congress rapporteurs on local and regional media, Cecilia Dalman Eek (Sweden) and Mélanie Lepoultier (France), issued the following statement:

“The global crises we are facing today bring to the fore the importance of comprehensive and accurate reporting by independent media at all levels, to guarantee the right of citizens to be informed. Climate change may be a global phenomenon, but its impacts are felt first and foremost in our communities at local and regional level. Forest fires destroy regional nature reserves, rainstorms flood our cities’ streets and the rising sea risks gaining territory on coastal communities.

This local impact of climate change needs to be reflected in the press. Citizens must know how climate change affects them concretely and what their local and regional authorities are doing to respond to this challenge. For this, we need strong and independent local media, which are a part of local communities and understand their needs and concerns. Only when citizens are aware of what is at stake and how their lives risk being impacted, will we see real mobilisation for climate action – both by citizens and by public authorities.

That is why, on this World Press Freedom Day, we call for greater support to local and regional media, to ensure better reporting on the local impacts of climate change. We call on local and regional elected representatives to make sure that local journalists can do their job safely and independently, inform them of what your locality is doing to mitigate climate change, and allow them access to the information they need to inform your citizens.

Press and politics, working together at local level, are key in ensuring a sustainable future for Europe’s communities.”

Link to the 2023 Congress report “Local and regional media: watchdogs of democracy, guardians of community cohesion

Strasbourg, France 2 May 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress Secretary General at the Committee of Ministers: One year after Reykjavik, the Congress pursues implementation of the Summit’s conclusions

Congress Secretary General at the Committee of Ministers: One year after Reykjavik, the Congress pursues implementation of the Summit’s conclusions

In his communication to the Committee of Ministers on 30 April 2024, Congress Secretary General Mathieu Mori presented the Congress action to implement the decisions of the Reykjavik Summit, notably in supporting Ukraine, fighting against democratic backsliding, upholding human rights and the rule of law at local and regional level, promoting democratic values beyond Council of Europe member States, and engaging with young people.

The Secretary General underlined the unwavering political support of the Congress to Ukraine and its engagement in the High-Level Dialogue on good democratic governance with Ukrainian authorities focusing on local government legislation and decentralisation issues, as well as its contribution to the work of the Register of Damage and to Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction.

Secretary General Mori also took stock of the Congress monitoring, post-monitoring and election observation activities, aimed at strengthening local self-government and promoting multi-level governance and democratic participation, as well as co-operation programmes to assist member States in those areas, with 15 co-operation projects currently being implemented in 18 countries. He further referred to the start of the dialogue with local authorities on the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and on strengthening their role in upholding the rule of law, as well as to the Congress co-operation with the Belarus democratic forces and civil society in developing local democracy legislation, providing training and launching a programme of support to children of political prisoners.

The Secretary General concluded by outlining the continued work to enhance youth participation and democratic engagement, through the pursuit of the Congress’ “Rejuvenating Politics” initiative and its Youth Delegates, which will mark 10 years in 2024, and the launch of a new revision of the European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life.

Address by Mathieu Mori, Secretary General of the Congress 

Strasbourg, France 30 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress launches a curriculum on human rights and anti-discrimination for local authorities in Georgia

Congress launches a curriculum on human rights and anti-discrimination for local authorities in Georgia

The curriculum on human rights and anti-discrimination was launched in Georgia to equip local authorities with the knowledge, skills, and perspectives that are essential for advancing a human-rights based local democracy. Meeting in Tbilisi on 26 April 2024, the Forum of Exchange on Human Rights at Local Level in Georgia (a platform for dialogue comprising of 13 Georgian local authorities) presented this practical guide, co-created with local elected representatives, municipal staff, and the National Association of Local Authorities (NALAG), with the support of the Public Defender’s Office, in the framework of the Congress project.

“By enhancing local authorities’ awareness of international human rights standards, we aim to reinforce their capacity to champion inclusivity, equality, and participation in local governance”, stated Gudrun Mosler-Törnström, Standing Rapporteur on Human Rights of the Congress of the Council of Europe, at the opening of the Forum. The curriculum is a comprehensive tool designed to encourage and promote an intersectional approach to decision-making, taking into account the rights and needs of underrepresented groups,” she stressed, while commending the efforts of Georgian local authorities to promote sustainable change for inclusion, and noting that the impact of their contribution reaches far beyond Georgia. The curriculum covers key modules ranging from fundamental principles to sustainable implementation strategies, ensuring that local authorities are well-equipped to foster inclusive and rights-respecting communities.

On the same occasion, local authorities and the project partners shared insights on their perspectives and main interests for the next four years as well as on future direction of their endeavours in regard with the protection and promotion of human rights in their constituencies.

The event brought together local elected representatives and municipal staff, representatives of the National Association of Local Authorities, as well as the deputy Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure and the First Deputy Public Defender of Georgia.

This event was co-organised with the National Association of Local Authorities of Georgia 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 and Human Dignity,, within the Council of Europe Action Plan for Georgia 2020-2023 with the financial contribution of the Austrian Development Cooperation.

 

 One-pager presentation of Curriculum

 Curriculum

Tbilisi, Georgia 26 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress 30th Anniversary Round Table: “The local level is ideal for reinventing democracy”

Congress 30th Anniversary Round Table: “The local level is ideal for reinventing democracy”

Founded in 1994 – following a decision taken at the 1st Council of Europe Summit in Vienna the previous year – the Congress, which took over from the Conference of Local Authorities of Europe established in 1957, has pioneered European-level co-operation for local and regional authorities in Council of Europe member states. Since being set up, it has played a key part in ensuring increased recognition for them, while helping them to boost their effectiveness and role, and it can be proud to have advanced local democracy across the continent. In a time when democracy is increasingly being questioned and tested, the lessons gleaned from local democracy can now, in turn, help to revitalise democratic practices in Europe.

Bringing together past and present Congress leaders and members, the 30th Anniversary Round Table focused on the present and the future, rather than simply recalling the years gone by. Five speakers were asked to discuss the key issues that make the Congress successful and unique today. Dominique Faure, the French Minister for Local and Regional Authorities and Rural Affairs, paid tribute to her predecessor of many years ago, Jacques Chaban-Delmas, a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, for persuading the latter to involve local and regional authorities in the process of building Europe. She stressed the importance of grassroots democracy in addressing the challenges facing our societies today, reminding us that democracy is first and foremost a local matter.

Josep Dallerès, Andorra’s former ambassador to the Council of Europe, expressed his concern that contemporary democracy was being undermined “by lies, compromising of individuals and propaganda”. Contrary to what had been assumed for too long, democracy was not something to be taken for granted, but a culture to be taught and learned. He again put forward the idea of setting up a Council of Europe educational framework for this purpose. As two former presidents of the Congress, Giovanni Di Stasi of Italy and Ian Micaleff of Malta, said, democracy was first and foremost a question of attitude. There were rules to be followed, of course, but certain standards of conduct were also required. This was echoed by Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the German-speaking community in Belgium and several times Vice-President of the Chamber of Regions of the Congress. In his view, “nothing is ever set in stone in democracy”, and beyond the achievements that have been made, “democracy is best reinvented at local level” – exactly as the Congress was doing.

Innovative practices and programmes at the Congress

In addition to its specific activities, which range from monitoring local and regional democracy to observing elections and implementing key Council of Europe guidelines at local and regional level, the Congress stands out for its often innovative working methods, which can also serve as an example, particularly in terms of gender equality, citizen participation and the involvement of young people in local and regional public life.

Danela Arsovska, Mayor of Skopje, North Macedonia’s capital, is one of only two female mayors in the country and is also chair of the Macedonian delegation to the Congress. “My position shows that women can and must make their voices heard much more than they do today, including to better counter hate speech and harassment,” she said, also calling on men to do more to support women facing such behaviour. Throughout its work, the Congress strives to promote equality and, as its President Marc Cools pointed out, also puts this into practice: the delegations are required to ensure that at least 30% of the members they appoint are of the under-represented sex. And although Austria’s Gudrun Mosler-Törnström pointed out that she had been the only female president of the Congress to date, she hoped that other women would one day follow in her footsteps. She also noted that the Congress in its current form, officially established by the 1993 Vienna Summit, had always been “a source of inspiration and pride” for her.

José Manuel Ribeiro, Mayor of Valongo, Portugal, focused on the participation of citizens in local political life, one of the other key policies advanced by the Congress in recent years. In his view, citizen participation “strengthens the capacity of public policy to transform society” and the sovereignty of citizens in no way undermines the legitimacy of elected officials. His city therefore involves its residents as much as possible in major decisions, especially because “local people are much more creative than consultants”.

Young people are bringing renewal to the Congress

Bringing young people on board and taking their expectations into account is another strength of the activities and policies of the Congress. Since 2014, youth delegates have attended and spoken at Congress sessions alongside elected officials. Everybody agreed that standards here were rising every year, as demonstrated by many creative ideas and proposals. Zeljko Vuksa-Fejzic, a lawyer from Sarajevo, was the youth delegate for Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2023. He spoke passionately about how engaging young people could help them to resist illiberal and authoritarian regimes. Local democracy could be a gateway to politics for young people, who were best placed to topple dictators. Local democracy was a force for freedom that “uplifts democracy as a whole”, a view welcomed and echoed by several other speakers.

Many of the youth delegates present felt that as local democracy began at school, youth assemblies (whether for young adults, teenagers or even schoolchildren) should be set up in every country, along the lines of the children’s “municipal councils” in France. Gender equality was one of the other priorities to be pursued at the local level, as several youth delegates pointed out before the session closed on this topic, with many ideas put forward.

 

Statement by President Marc Cools (French only)

Programme of the anniversary

Poster of the anniversary

Video recording

 

***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file – Photos 

Strasbourg, France 3 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Call for tenders for the provision of local consultancy services in the Republic of Moldova

Call for tenders for the provision of local consultancy services in the Republic of Moldova

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is implementing two projects, on Reinforcing the culture of dialogue and ethical open local governance in the Republic of Moldova and on “Promoting civil participation in political decision making in the Republic of Moldova”, as part of the Council of Europe Action Plan for the Republic of Moldova (2021-2024)

In that context, the Congress is launching a tender procedure for the purchase of local consultancy services in the field of open government, transparency in decision-making, decentralisation and access to public services in the Republic of Moldova.

Providers of consultancy services are sought to support local authorities and civil society in improving the quality of local democracy through the promotion of open government and access to information at the local level. Moreover, consultants are expected to support central and local authorities in analysing and improving transparency in decision-making process, and in mapping the provision of public services at local and regional levels.

The deadline for submission of applications is 14 May 2024

The expected start date is 27 May 2024.

Tender documents

Interested consultants are invited to apply and submit their offer for the provision of local consultancy services in line with the Tender File and the Act of Engagement, which contain a full description of the terms and conditions of engagement and the scope of activities.

Tender File  

Act of Engagement.  

Strasbourg, France 25 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Local democracy and the rule of law: Congress Secretary General at Cambridge University

Local democracy and the rule of law: Congress Secretary General at Cambridge University

Secretary General of the Council of Europe Congress Mathieu Mori presented the recent Congress work on the link between local democracy and the rule of law at the 2024 European Future Talks series held at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge University, on 18 April 2024.

The Talks were the occasion to present the role local and regional authorities play, not only as subject to the rule of law, but also actors implementing it. Indeed, some local and regional authorities have powers which necessitate a careful implementation of the rule of law, such as powers of police or powers of detention. Respect for the rule of law also implies that citizens democratically and freely elect their local and regional authorities, that laws are uniformly applied by all state institutions, that no one is above the law and that no citizen is discriminated against or left behind. It is the role of local and regional elected representatives to ensure that this balance is fully respected.

The conference was also the opportunity to stress how local authorities can help with another aspect of the rule of law: the implementation of judicial decisions. Decisions by the European Court of Human Rights sometimes necessitate changes of policies and practice at local level to comply with provisions of the European Convention of human rights. The Congress plays a role in facilitating the political dialogue with local leaders to help them implement the ECHR decisions.

To know more, find here the Congress report on “Local and Regional Authorities as Actors and Guarantors of the Rule of Law

Strasbourg, France 23 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Deliberative democracy: Congress launches new project in South-East Europe

Deliberative democracy: Congress launches new project in South-East Europe

A Regional project on “Promoting deliberative democracy and innovative approaches to citizen participation in South-East Europe” was launched on 18 April 2024 in Bar, Montenegro. It brought together local elected representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and members of the Network of Associations of Local Authorities in South-East Europe (NALAS).

“This project supported by Germany focuses on democratic processes and innovation in citizen participation – a core principle of human rights and thriving democracies. It is in line with our commitment to European values and to meeting the needs and interests of citizens”, stated Bernd VÖHRINGER, Vice-President of the Congress in his opening address.

The launching event served as an opportunity to exchange and discuss the features of deliberative democracy, a key element of the Reykjavik principles of democracy.

The Congress support to the processes in the region was highlighted by President Vöhringer, on the same day, at the opening of XIX General Assembly of NALAS which celebrates its 20th anniversary. NALAS was praised as a committed and reliable partner of the Congress, for its achievements and in addressing the challenges that our societies are facing.

On the margins of the launch, Congress Director Claudia Luciani met with Marash Dukaj, Minister of Public Administration to discuss the follow up to Congress monitoring of the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Montenegro adopted in March 2024. Meetings were also held with Dusan Raicevic, Mayor of Bar, newly elected President of NALAS, as well as with representatives of the international community.

The project “Promoting deliberative democracy and innovative approaches to citizen participation in South-East Europe” is implemented by the Centre of Expertise for Good Governance at the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, with the financial support of Germany. The project aims to strengthen democratic processes in the South-East of Europe and to enhance the skills and capacities of local authorities and their association. It promotes deliberative democracy and innovative forms of citizen participation as complements to representative democracy in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo* Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.

President Vöhringer speech

Ambassador Felten speech

NALAS General Assembly

Flickr Gallery

*All references to Kosovo, whether the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.

 

Strasbourg, France 19 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress Secretary General urged Bulgaria to advance fiscal decentralisation

Congress Secretary General urged Bulgaria to advance fiscal decentralisation

“Fiscal decentralisation is not about administrative restructuring; it is about political empowerment and citizen trust”, stated the Secretary General of the Congress Local and Regional Authorities, Mathieu Mori, at closing the final conference of the EU/CoE project “Developing fiscal decentralisation and improving local financial management” held in Sofia on 16 April 2024. The project achieved significant milestones thanks to effective cooperation between central government, local municipalities, and civil society organisations, and resulted in agreement on a sequenced roadmap to support the decentralisation reform across all levels of governance in Bulgaria. This reform is essential to strengthen democracy and good governance in line with the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the Committee of Ministers recommendation CM/Rec(2023)5 on principles of good democratic governance.

Implemented by the Centre of Expertise for Good Governance at the Congress, the project played a crucial role in advancing the debate on fiscal decentralisation and in building capacities of local authorities in Bulgaria. 

During his visit for the final conference, the Secretary General met with the Vice-President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Iliana Iotova, and the Minister of Regional Development and Public Works, Violeta Koritarova (pictured), underscoring the importance of advancing fiscal decentralisation.

Mr Mori also presented the "Rejuvenating Politics" programme, a Congress initiative to promote youth participation in public life and decision-making processes at the local and regional levels, in a discussion with students and researchers at the University of Sofia.

Strasbourg, France 18 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

New municipalities join the Open Government Partnership local programme

New municipalities join the Open Government Partnership local programme

The Congress congratulates all new OGP Local members, and in particular Modriča and Travnik (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Causeni and Leova (Republic of Moldova), and Kyiv and Orzhytsia – Zviahel (Ukraine).

Congress remains committed to support local authorities who are championing the principles of transparency, accountability, inclusiveness, and co-creation with citizens and civil society.

These local authorities are part of a 100+ cohort of local governments determined to enhance good governance and better address the needs of their residents in the challenging times our societies are facing.

A series of activities is scheduled as part of the  Open Gov Week from 27 to 31 May 2024, focusing on the potential of local authorities to lead the change towards more open and people-powered governance through co-creation processes and innovations. Further details will be announced shortly.

Applications to the OGP Local Programme have been supported as part of the ongoing Congress bilateral projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine, implemented within the respective Council of Europe Action Plans.

Further information:

bE-Open: Open Local Government | A tool for action

Strasbourg, France 18 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress President meets Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova

Congress President meets Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova

On 16 April 2024, Congress President Marc Cools met Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Republic of Moldova Mihail Popșoi. Discussions focused on the decentralisation process in the country in the light of the Congress monitoring recommendations for improved application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the roadmap for their implementation, in the framework of post-monitoring dialogue between the Congress and Moldovan authorities. On this occasion, the President invited the Republic of Moldova to ratify the Additional Protocol to the Charter, on citizen participation in local public affairs. Reference was also made to the current co-operation activities aimed at accompanying the decentralisation reforms and improving the mechanism of consultations between central and local authorities.

Strasbourg, France 16 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress supports multi-level coordination and dialogue on migration in Romania

Congress supports multi-level coordination and dialogue on migration in Romania

Representatives from Romanian local and central authorities, as well as civil society and international organisations gathered in Bucharest on 11 April 2024 for a roundtable to discuss “The current and future role of local public authorities in the context of a multilevel governance on migration in Romania”. Project partners from Poland and the Republic of Moldova joined the discussion, sharing insights and practices from their own contexts.

Discussions included an exchange of views with high-level representatives from the central authorities responsible for emergency responses and immigration issues. The participants identified areas that can further strengthen responses and integration mechanisms for migrants and refugees, and increase the role and preparedness of local authorities in that area.

The participants also took stock of the accomplishments and ongoing challenges that stakeholders had encountered in migration management due to Russia’s war of aggression again Ukraine. Furthermore, the roundtable helped to formulate specific proposals for improving multilevel coordination and dialogue, identified areas for possible legal and policy adaptation, and established priorities for capacity building of local public administration institutions.

The roundtable discussion was based on the findings of a country-specific report [E N / ROM], focusing on migration-related challenges and ways forward in the Romanian context.

The Centre of Expertise for Good Governance at the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities organised the roundtable jointly with the Association of Communes of Romania (ACoR) in the framework of the project “Strengthening resilience in local and regional authorities facing migration challenges”. The project is implemented within the Council of Europe Action Plan on Protecting Vulnerable Persons in the Context of Migration and Asylum in Europe, and with the financial contribution of Germany.

Strasbourg, France 16 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Council of Europe Congress examined the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Finland

Council of Europe Congress examined the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Finland

A delegation from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe composed of rapporteurs Konstantinos Koukas (Greece, EPP/CCE) and Rachel Bailey (United Kingdom, ECR), carried out a monitoring visit to Finland from 16 to 18 April 2024 to assess the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government since the previous monitoring report adopted by the Congress in 2017 and the implementation of the latest Recommendation 396 (2017). They were accompanied by Tania Groppi, Vice-Chair of the Group of Independent Experts on the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Italy). The Congress delegation met with Jussi Halla-aho, Speaker of the Parliament, Kari Kuusiniemi, President of the Supreme Administrative Court, Juhana Vartiainen, Mayor of Helsinki, as well as the Finnish delegation to the Congress, the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, and representatives of various ministries and institutions at all levels of government in Finland.

Finland ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1991. Countries that have ratified the Charter are bound by its provisions. The Charter requires respect for a minimum number of rights, which form the European foundation of local self-government. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities ensures that these principles are respected. Finland also ratified the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority in 2012.

 

Contact Svitlana Pereverten  

 Photo gallery

Strasbourg, France 12 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

 Armenia: Grants to local authorities for better intermunicipal co-operation and help with welcoming refugees

 Armenia: Grants to local authorities for better intermunicipal co-operation and help with welcoming refugees

“What we cannot do alone, we can achieve together.” Local leaders and economic development officers from 42 Armenian local authorities expressed optimism about the potential for intermunicipal cooperation to help deliver better services to citizens, during a series of workshops organised by the Centre of Expertise for Good Governance (CEGG) in Yerevan. The workshops followed the recent awarding by the CEGG of 11 grants to local authorities in Armenia to develop feasibility studies into opportunities for intermunicipal cooperation. 

On 11 April 2024 – the same day as the launch of the Council of Europe’s comprehensive response package to the refugee influx in Armenia – a dedicated workshop on Resilience Building Strategies (ReBuS) was organised to support communities in developing effective responses to the influx of refugees from Karabakh. The Resilience Building Strategies approach is in line with the recent Congress Recommendation 510 (2024) on Local and regional responses to natural disasters and climate hazards: from risk preparedness to resilience, adopted in March 2024. At the same time, a deadline for communities hosting refugees from Karabakh to apply for a grant to address immediate and mid-term needs was extended until 19 April 2024.

These activities were organised under the Democratic Development, Decentralisation and Good Governance in Armenia - Phase 2 project and the Project “Support to Communities Hosting Refugees in Armenia”,  implemented by the Centre of Expertise for Good Governance at the Congress of Regional and Local Authorities as part of the Council of Europe Action Plan for Armenia 2023-2026, with funding from Austrian Development Cooperation. The project aims to support the adoption of revised legislative framework for local self-government in line with European standards to reflect the new territorial-administrative map of Armenia and develop the capacities of local authorities of the newly enlarged communities to fulfil the competences and deliver the services entrusted to them under the decentralisation strategy.

Strasbourg, France 11 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Strengthening a youth perspective within the Council of Europe: Congress Secretary General meets youth representatives

Strengthening a youth perspective within the Council of Europe: Congress Secretary General meets youth representatives

“Many young people are still not able to contribute meaningfully to political debates or can only do so under agendas that they have not shaped themselves”, stressed Congress Secretary General Mathieu Mori, praising in this regard the important work done by the Joint Council on Youth to overcome such shortcomings in youth participation. Addressing the Council at its 50th meeting in the European Youth Centre Budapest on 9-10 April 2024, he underlined that many cross-overs already existed between youth activities undertaken by the Congress and intergovernmental bodies on youth, and pointed to the opportunities for reinforcing this partnership in the run-up to the Committee of Ministers’ Presidency of Malta in 2025 which aimed to put youth policies at centre stage.

Great interest in pursuing the close collaboration with the Congress was expressed by members of both the European Steering Committee for Youth and the Advisory Council on Youth which constitute the Joint Council under the co-management structure of the Council of Europe youth sector. In a dynamic exchange, the results of previous co-operation activities were recalled, for example in the areas of rural youth or youth work in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. On this occasion, the Secretary General announced the new revision of the Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life – a process that had just been initiated by the Congress in this year of the 10th anniversary of its own Youth Delegates initiative “Rejuvenating politics”.

Strasbourg, France 10 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Inter-municipal co-operation under martial law in Ukraine: taking stock of existing practices and ways forward

Inter-municipal co-operation under martial law in Ukraine: taking stock of existing practices and ways forward

The Law on Inter-municipal Co-operation (IMC) was one of the first steps in Ukraine’s journey of decentralisation reform. After nearly 10 years of its implementation, the Centre of Expertise for Good Governance  is revisiting this topic with its Ukrainian partners, based on a survey and analysis of the state of play in the area.

During a moderated discussion on 8 April 2024, more then 150 participants, including members of the Parliament, Government officials, as well as representatives of local authorities and their associations, civil society and experts shared their reflections and ideas. Based on the survey results, 50% of Ukrainian municipalities had some experience of inter-municipal co-operation, with most IMC projects focused on co-financing of service provision to citizens. Education, health care and utilities (including water supply and solid waste management) were priority services provided under IMC agreements. At the same time, almost 90% of respondents indicated that IMC would become crucial for the post-war recovery and reconstruction of Ukraine, emphasising the need for a more structured, diverse and flexible legal regulation of this instrument, taking into account also specificities of IMC in metropolitan areas.

The Centre of Expertise will continue its support to Ukraine to improve the legal framework on IMC, with a series of thematic consultations already planned for April 2024.

The activity was organised by the Programme “Strengthening Good Democratic Governance and Resilience in Ukrainein co-operation with the Specialised Parliamentary Committee on Local Self-Government. The Programme is implemented under the Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine “Resilience, Recovery and Reconstruction” 2023-2026 by the Centre of Expertise at the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

Strasbourg, France 9 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Local authorities in Armenia recommend revisions to the Law on Local Duties and Fees

Local authorities in Armenia recommend revisions to the Law on Local Duties and Fees

Local authorities in Armenia need adequate financial resources of their own, part of which should be derived from the collection of local duties and fees, in line with Article 9 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. In preparation for a revision of the Law on Local Duties and Fees, this was the conclusion of local government stakeholders meeting in Yerevan and online on 8 April 2024 for the 9th Community Consultation. They discussed in particular priority areas for improvement to the legislation that would help local authorities develop greater financial autonomy.

An extensive survey of 71 municipalities undertaken in preparation for the meeting resulted in 37 questions and recommendations being submitted for consideration.  Contributions addressed issues ranging from practical challenges related to road construction works, or the installation of solar photovoltaic panels to enforcement and compliance measures for non-payment of dues for essential veterinary services.

Participants warned against the risks of over-regulating and stressed that, in order to promote local autonomy, local authorities should be granted sufficient discretion in setting fees and compensation for services to respond to local specificities.  The importance of having open and transparent procedures for granting exemptions to avoid corruption risks for local officials was also underlined.

The meeting was organised under the Democratic Development, Decentralisation and Good Governance in Armenia - Phase 2 project,  implemented by the Centre of Expertise for Good Governance at the Congress of Regional and Local Authorities as part of the Council of Europe Action Plan for Armenia 2023-2026, with funding from Austrian Development Cooperation. The project aims to support the adoption of revised legislative framework for local self-government in line with European standards to reflect the new territorial-administrative map of Armenia and develop the capacities of local authorities of the newly enlarged communities to fulfil the competences and deliver the services entrusted to them under the decentralisation strategy.

Strasbourg, France 9 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

International Roma Day: Congress Rapporteur Calls for Support of Roma Rights

International Roma Day: Congress Rapporteur Calls for Support of Roma Rights

As the world marks International Roma Day on 8 April 2024, Gudrun Mosler-Törnström (Austria, R, SOC/G/PD), Standing Rapporteur on Human Rights for the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, reaffirms the Congress’ commitment to protecting the rights of Roma communities.

“Roma continue to face specific challenges, including discrimination, marginalisation, and socio-economic disparities. Local and regional authorities play a crucial role in addressing these issues by fostering inclusive environments and promoting the full integration of Roma communities into local societies,” Ms Mosler-Törnström said, drawing attention to the Congress’ support for local and regional authorities in this effort through its cooperation activities.

“As we commemorate International Roma Day, the Congress calls upon all stakeholders to redouble their efforts in championing the rights and dignity of Roma people, fostering social cohesion, and building inclusive societies where diversity is celebrated and respected,” the Standing Rapporteur concluded.

In a project implemented by the Centre of Expertise for Good Governance at the Congress, recommendations from the Council of Europe/European Union Joint Programme ROMACT will be addressed in a comprehensive training and capacity building curriculum being prepared for Bulgarian local government officials. By promoting dialogue, cooperation between concerned stakeholders, concerted efforts can be made to combat stereotypes, eradicate discrimination, and create pathways for Roma empowerment and participation in decision-making processes.

Strasbourg, France 8 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Minister Behrens: Emergency services’ local roots make them more effective

Minister Behrens: Emergency services’ local roots make them more effective

Earthquakes, floods, fires and droughts: while natural disasters are becoming more frequent in Europe and worldwide, local and regional elected representatives highlight the crucial need to “move from crisis management to a real risk culture” embraced by all stakeholders.  In a recommendation and a resolution debated and adopted on 28 March, the Congress put forward many proposals to that end.

As co-rapporteurs on “Local and regional responses to natural disasters and climate hazards: from risk preparedness to resilience,” Jean-Paul Bastin (Belgium, L, EPP/CCE) and Christian Debève (France, R, ILDG) based their work on the visits they paid to Türkiye and Spain in 2023, and a study of the flooding in Belgium in 2021.  They particularly stress the importance of continuous and transparent communication with the affected communities, both to improve co-ordination of relief efforts and to prevent panic.  Residents need to be better prepared at local level for natural disasters, which are becoming increasingly likely because of global warming.  With input from the youth delegates, the report focuses on the inclusion and involvement of all residents to boost the resilience of society as a whole.

Drawing on the lessons learnt from the severe flooding that devastated the Land of Lower Saxony in Germany between December and January, its Minister for the Interior, Daniela Behrens, described the regional civil defence measures, whose local roots in the worst-affected areas had facilitated the relief efforts. “Of course, we received assistance from the neighbouring Länder and several other European countries, but it is first and foremost our high level of preparedness that enabled us to respond rapidly, including through the effective co-operation between the professional emergency services and volunteer firefighters and other relief personnel, many of whom left their usual jobs to come to the aid of the residents,” she said.  Lower Saxony was now considering introducing compulsory insurance for homeowners to cover the costs of such floods, the objective being anticipation and resilience.  There were also plans to further strengthen the disaster management skills centre which had already been set up in the Interior Ministry before the latest crisis.

Improving rescue workers’ training and anticipating risks

Opening the debate, Bryony Rudkin (United Kingdom, L, SOC/G/PD) stressed the importance of properly documenting disaster responses and measures so as to facilitate the gathering of experience and, in this context, improve training for all involved.  Her compatriot, Joanne Louise Laban (United Kingdom, L, ECR), also called for better training for civil defence personnel.

Davit Khazhakyan (Armenia, L, ILDG) pointed out that a very large proportion of the buildings in the former Soviet republics were of a poor standard and not very resistant to hazards, in particular seismic hazards.  Nicknamed “Khruschev buildings,” these properties from the 1950s and 1960s all needed to be completely refurbished, which was very expensive but vital.  Cemal Bas (Türkiye, L, EPP/CCE) was also very critical of the standard of many buildings destroyed during the 2023 earthquakes, saying that his country had clearly neglected safety before the disaster, while paying tribute to the international support and solidarity that it had received to tackle it.

Local authorities must be involved in drawing up disaster relief plans

Two Italian members, Franco Iacop (L, SOC/G/PD) and Belinda Gottardi (L, SOC/G/PD), both said that local authorities should be more closely involved in determining preventive investments and in drawing up disaster relief plans.  Ms Gottardi said that she did not know “how many more disasters it will take until national governments finally recognise the importance of our role on the ground,” and called on the Congress to continue promoting its proposal to draft an additional protocol to the Charter concerning the environment.

The youth delegates made their voices heard, emphasising the need to train young people in disaster prevention and involve them in organising and conducting relief efforts.  The Irish youth delegate, Jack O’Connor, pointed out that governments should not just consult their usual experts when it came to anticipating crises and providing responses, but should also turn to groups that that were directly threatened or affected and give them a voice in a democratic and participatory manner, taking care to include both the youngest and the most elderly.

Lastly, in response to a question from Clemens Lammerskitten (Germany, L, EPP/CCE), Ms Behrens praised not only the interregional co-operation during the floods but also the smooth functioning of the European civil defence warning system.  “Within 36 hours, France sent us the temporary dykes we needed,” she said. She would like to go further by arranging joint exercises between countries, for instance between France and Germany or between Germany and Poland.

***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file – Photos 

46th session Strasbourg, France 5 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Local authorities and the environmental crisis

Local authorities and the environmental crisis

The thematic debate held at the Chamber of Local Authorities session on 27 March showed the need for better coordination between the different levels of governance and support for local elected representatives to respond more quickly and effectively to the triple environmental crisis of pollution, climate change and loss of biodiversity.

Nobody doubts the reality of the environmental crisis and climate change anymore.

According to the Copernicus European observatory, 2024 started with the hottest January ever recorded.  Towns and regions in Europe are being hit by natural disasters more and more frequently.  Underlining the commitment of the Congress to promote “a fundamental right to the environment”, in particular by promoting the drafting an additional protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government, the President of the Chamber of Local Authorities, Bernd Voehrigner, also pointed out that the vital part played by local and regional authorities in protecting the environment had been recognised in May 2023 in the Reykjavik Declaration by Council of Europe Heads of State and Government.

Drawing on the experience shared by mayors of pioneering cities in the environmental field, such as Zurich and Reykjavik, Chamber members above all sought to provide a variety of responses in terms of resolving the tension between socioeconomic and cultural imperatives on the one hand and the Green Deal on the other.

Einar Þorsteinsson, Mayor of Reykjavik, demonstrated that preserving cultural and social traditions was not incompatible with reducing his city’s carbon footprint.  Public thermal pools, which were so important to Icelanders, were now heated with green energy.  Reykjavik had actually started developing geothermal energy in the 1930s and was now the city with the best geothermal urban heating system in the world.  In his view, improving public health through the development of pedestrian and cycle routes which encouraged physical exercise was one of the best arguments for promoting the Green Deal among the public.  It was also a key asset in the discussions aimed at drastically reducing the carbon emissions produced by cars, without, of course, forgetting the need to develop efficient and fast public transport services.  His city had set the target of reducing CO₂ emissions by 50% by 2030 and a further 50% by the end of the following decade.  This goal was being supported by the development of new technologies for capturing CO₂ from the atmosphere and storing it underground.  Underling the ability of towns and cities to put pressure on central governments, in particular through transnational networks, the mayor of Reykjavik praised the role of the Congress and the Council of Europe in co-ordinating local and regional authorities’ efforts in environmental matters, notably through legal instruments to defend local self-government and fundamental human rights.

Zurich, which is often cited as one of the most sustainable cities in Europe, is also a pioneer in terms of environmental measures.  Highlighting the Swiss government’s reluctance to pass strong legislation to combat pollution and global warming, in particular owing to the electoral unpopularity of some measures, Zurich Mayor Corine Mauch presented the ambitious policy of her city which, as far back as 2008, seven years before the Paris Agreements, had already taken steps which had enabled it to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 35% by 2010.  Unlike the Swiss parliament, in 2022 Zurich residents had voted in favour of the target of net zero emissions by 2040.  Regular reports by the municipal council would keep track of the progress of the policy, which included transforming the collective heating system with aid for private individuals, encouraging the circular economy and development of pedestrian neighbourhoods with local shops and services, providing 130 km of cycle paths, various measures to combat food waste and promote “sustainable eating”, support for businesses and NGOs that were partners in the city’s green policies, etc.  To fund these projects, Zurich had taken out a green loan and was also intending to reduce its energy bills.  Its mayor was therefore optimistic and convinced that local authorities could use political levers at local level to become leaders in environmental change.

Lastly, the youth delegate from Cyprus, Liana Liu Ioannides, urged her elders to provide a legal basis for and make compulsory young people’s participation in environmental policies and the Green Deal in Europe: “Young people can play a leading role, which local, regional and national authorities are depriving themselves of by often ignoring our calls and proposals.  We can help you to harmonise policies in the various member countries and also to win public support.  Losing young people’s potential means losing their trust.”  Speaking on behalf of all the Congress youth delegates, Liana Liu Ioannides said that adding an additional protocol on environmental protection to the Charter of Local Self-Government would not be enough unless compliance with the Charter and the involvement of young people in environmental decision-making were made compulsory.

Over 15 Chamber members put forward their points of view and proposals during the debate which followed the addresses.  They highlighted the primary role played by local and regional elected representatives in tackling the climate emergency, and the importance of leveraging their skills and financial resources to this end. They also stressed the need to synchronise local authorities’ action through international bodies like the Congress, in particular if the aim was to identify the best solutions for shared problems such as rising sea levels in coastal areas, coastline retreat, and the need to remove concrete and tarmac to counter flooding and urban heatwaves, etc. The war in Ukraine was also mentioned as a factor in massive ecocide that demanded concerted European aid.  Joining together and better co-ordinating the efforts of Europe’s towns, cities and local and regional authorities would also enable pressure to be put on national governments, whose environmental policies often lacked ambition. The debate confirmed the need for the Council of Europe to draw up a text committing member states to raising awareness among local elected representatives of their responsibility to opt for green local governance within the framework of their competences.

***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file – Photos 

46th session Strasbourg, France 5 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress supports democratic forces and civil society of Belarus

Congress supports democratic forces and civil society of Belarus

The Congress has joined the initiative of the Council of Europe, which has already set up a contact group with the democratic forces and civil society of Belarus.  As guest speaker at the plenary session on 27 March, Belarus democratic opposition representative Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya called for solidarity from local and regional authorities in Europe, who are an important asset in the struggle for a democratic Belarus.

In response to the repression and muzzling of the opposition in the country following the uprising triggered by the disputed re-election of dictator Alexander Lukashenka in August 2020, a whole range of structures have been set up outside the country to fight against the authoritarian regime in power.  For over three years, powerful networks of activists in exile in Vilnius, Kyiv, Warsaw and elsewhere in Europe have been calling on the international community to work together to build a democratic Belarus freed from the stranglehold of the Russian regime and the Lukashenka dictatorship.

Speaking at the plenary session of the Congress on 27 March, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, representative of the Belarus democratic forces, painted a tragic picture of the regime’s repression of its opponents ever since her childhood: “We were brought up never to stick out from the crowd, and to be submissive.  But since the uprising in 2020, the Belarus people have woken up.  We have set up a self-organised government with responsible and courageous individuals whom the KGB has not managed to deter, in spite of violence and imprisonments.  A crowdfunding system has enabled us to keep going, especially abroad where diaspora groups plead our people’s cause through people’s embassies in various countries on a daily basis.  We have already drawn up a set of reforms and a new constitution to change our country as soon as a window of opportunity arises.  Our aim is to build a democratic regime, a state genuinely governed by the rule of law, as a member of the European family, but we won’t be able to make the change as long as we have Russian soldiers’ boots on our territory and a dictator in power.”

The goal of joining the European Union is part of the agenda of the Belarus opposition, which claims to express the views of the country’s younger generation. The Belarus democratic forces regard the Council of Europe as the institution accompanying countries in their democratic transformation, which is why it sets such store by co-operating with its various bodies, in particular the Congress.

In her address, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya called for practical support from Congress members, who could help the Belarus democratic forces to prepare the reform of self-governance and local self-government.

The Belarus democratic opposition representative also proposed that the Congress launch a support programme for children of political prisoners and veterans who have fought side by side with Ukrainians since 2014, while also offering scholarships for young people to enable them to study and observe the democratic functioning of local and regional authorities in Europe.  Lastly, she referred to the need to promote a broad coalition of countries to make the case for Belarus’ European integration with the European institutions.

The debate that followed Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s address showed the commitment of Congress members, from Georgia to the United Kingdom, to providing practical assistance to Belarus’ democratic diaspora and civil society.  “Your country hasn’t been forgotten!” said Gunther Bergmann (EPP/CCE), backing up his comments with an example because on 25 March his region of North-Rhine Westphalia had approved a programme to support Belarusians who had fled to Germany.  Telling the story of a French citizen of Belarus origin, a sociologist at the University of Strasbourg who had been sentenced to prison by the Lukashenka regime for writing a dissertation condemning the dictatorship, Véronique Bertholle, Deputy Mayor of Strasbourg (SOC/G/PD), expressed the Strasbourg city council’s unwavering support for the Belarus diaspora.

At the close of the plenary session, Ms Tsikhanouskaya thanked the Congress and shared her feeling of being among friends who gave her encouragement to continue her democratic mission.

***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file – Photos 

46th session Strasbourg, France 4 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Exodus of services of general interest from peripheral and rural areas

Exodus of services of general interest from peripheral and rural areas

Radim Srsen: “people should be encouraged to stay in rural areas or return to them”

The problem is a familiar one: public services in peripheral and rural areas with declining populations deteriorate or disappear, prompting still more inhabitants to leave in turn. This vicious circle can only be broken through effective decentralisation enabling the balance between regions to be restored and making them attractive again, concluded the participants in the debate held on 27 March in the Chamber of Regions on the “exodus of services of general interest from peripheral and rural areas”.

Enrique Garcilazo, the Head of the OECD’s Regional and Rural Policy Unit, said that 40% of isolated or peripheral areas had seen a decline in their population and that, of these, 60% were a long way from major cities. The trend had slowed in recent years but had picked up again since the Covid crisis and the war in Ukraine, particularly as a result of the return of inflation. All these indicators showed that the rift was widening, an example being the quality of bandwidth, which was improving in cities but deteriorating elsewhere. This increased the digital gap between urban and rural areas, with impacts in terms of jobs and the economy. These imbalances were also seen in the area of health and education facilities and called, in Mr Garcilazo’s view, for long-term spatial planning, between now and 2060 and beyond, catering harmoniously for both rural and urban areas.

Languages, cultures, identity: rural areas are the soles of nations

Viorel Furdui, Moldova’s Director General of Local Authorities and a local councillor himself, emphasised how important public services were for rural communities and considered that rural areas and small municipalities were worth saving, in particular because, through their language, culture and identity, they were the “sole of nations”. It was important to avoid radical and poorly prepared town planning reforms and instead to encourage co-operation between municipalities to identify their needs. Decentralisation was a key factor but so was the involvement of associations of municipalities and local councillors.

Radim Srsen, the Czech Deputy Minister of Regional Development, said that peripheral areas needed to become attractive again, particularly for young people, because retaining them or making them return was the key to development. Owing in particular to digital infrastructure, there was already a noticeable trend in some countries such as South Korea for young people to move back from the cities to rural areas. Telemedicine and telework were successful initiatives which prompted inhabitants to return to areas prone to depopulation.   

Young people were often the main protagonists of the rural exodus, according to the young Spanish delegate, Maria Virginia Iliata: “many think that they cannot make a living in these isolated areas” she explained, regretting that living far from cities often meant putting up with highly inadequate transport infrastructure and accepting the prospect of unemployment. In Castilla-la-Mancha for example, over 20% of young people were unemployed. Of course, telework could improve things but there was also a more general need to give young people the means of finding a future where they came from.

Many young people were forced to leave their homes, especially for their studies, whereas better planning would help to avoid such departures. The young Armenian delegate, Taisya Hovhannisyan, regretted that Armenia’s main universities were concentrated in the capital, Yerevan. For most young people, the cost of living there was unaffordable, and this prevented many from accessing higher education, whereas they could if facilities were closer to home.

Highlighting the benefits of peripheral and rural areas

Markus Gleichmann (Germany, R, SOC/G/PD) considered that “the drawbacks of rural areas had to be converted into assets”, including where it came to installing the energies of the future, such as solar panels or biogas, which would also be of benefit to the local economy. Peripheral areas also had advantages which the inhabitants of the main conurbations were unaware of: “my region, Frisia, is far less wealthy than the rest of the country”, said Eke Folferts (Netherlands, R, EPP/CCE), “but it is where people are happiest, thanks in particular to its strong social cohesion”. Campaigning by local inhabitants could also help local authorities save facilities, such as the school rescued by the locals and now attracting new pupils in the district in which Rachel Bailey (United Kingdom, R, ECR) was councillor.

***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file – Photos 

46th session Strasbourg, France 4 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress congratulates Ukraine on 10 years of its decentralisation reform

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the decentralisation reform in Ukraine, Congress President Marc Cools addressed his congratulations to the Ukrainian partners in a video message published on the Decentralization.UA portal. On the same occasion, Congress Secretary General Mathieu Mori also addressed his best wishes to the participants of the meetings organised by the Ukrainian government and by the Association of Ukrainian Cities.
4 April 2024 Strasbourg, France
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress’ 30th anniversary: Looking ahead

Congress’ 30th anniversary: Looking ahead

During its 46th session, on 27 March 2024, the Congress held a special ceremony to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Congress President Marc Cools and Deputy Prime Minister of Liechtenstein Sabine Monauni delivered opening speeches, while President of the European Committee of the Regions Vasco Alves Cordeiro sent a video message. Opening speeches were followed by a round table on “New challenges ahead: is local democracy fit for purpose?”, with the participation of Dominique Faure, Minister with responsibility for Local Government and Rural Affairs of France; Josep Dallerès, member of the Council of Europe High-Level Reflection Group and former Permanent Representative of Andorra to the Council of Europe; Danela Arsovska, Mayor of Skopje (North Macedonia) and Chair of the UN Forum of Mayors;  José Manuel Ribeiro, Mayor of Valongo (Portugal); and Željko Vukša-Fejzić, 2023 Youth Delegate to the Congress from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The celebratory event honored the Congress's history by uniting six former Presidents and the three most recent Secretary Generals. Additionally, a video archive from Jacques Chaban-Delmas, the first president of the Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, was showcased.

 “The challenges faced by our societies today require us to double our efforts to provide the best responses for the benefit of our fellow citizens. Our progress and successes over the last three decades give me confidence that local and regional democracy in Europe, and our Congress, are well equipped to meet them,” stressed in his opening speech President Cools. Deputy Prime Minister Monauni emphasized the efforts carried out during Liechtenstein's Presidency of the Committee of Ministers to face these challenges. President Cordeiro, in his video message, underlined the important collaboration between the two organizations and expressed his determination to enhance it.

Preceded by a musical interlude, the main highlight of this celebration was a round-table discussion devoted to “New challenges ahead: is local democracy fit for purpose?”. This discussion provided an opportunity for several speakers to address the challenges confronting democracies. In response to these challenges, they collectively voiced optimism and proposed solutions to strengthen local democracy.

Minister Faure recalled that "local democracy will be vital in tackling the challenges of transition that lie ahead: ecology and climate change, digital technology and artificial intelligence, as well as cohabitation and social cohesion". Ambassador Dallerès highlighted the need to recognise democracy as a culture that requires to be taught and learned, and to create a “Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture” at the local level. Mayor Arsovska, for her part, pointed to the need for the institutions to encourage the political involvement of women, especially by “showing sincere supports in the ambitions of women, and making it possible for us to tackle the violation we face in our everyday life.”

“Representative democracy and participatory democracy are like two twin sisters: they grow with each other and learn from each other”, underlined Mayor Ribeiro, adding that the mechanisms of participatory democracy served as a countermeasure to authoritarian tendencies. Željko Vukša-Fejzić praised initiatives, such as the "Rejuvenating Politics", which provide a platform for young people to express themselves. “They are a promise, a contract for the future […] These programs must reach every corner of Europe, and even beyond”, he said.

 

Statement by President Marc Cools (French only)

Programme of the anniversary

Poster of the anniversary

Video recording

 

***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file – Photos 

 

46th session Strasbourg, France 3 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Chamber of Regions debates the model of intercultural regions

Chamber of Regions debates the model of intercultural regions

On 27 March, the Congress’ Chamber of Regions held a round-table on “Intercultural regions: embracing diversity”, moderated by Congress Vice-President Gunn Marit Helgesen (Norway,  EPP/CCE).

An anti-racial approach to integration, which underpins the model of intercultural regions, was presented by Eunice Romero, Director General for Migration, Asylum and Anti-racism of the Government of Catalonia (Spain) and Chair of the Intercultural Regions Network of the Assembly of European Regions (AER). Recognising that racism is embedded in society, she suggested regions work towards a paradigm that sees the needs of the individuals take the centre stage. “Every case of racism means a failure in the protection of the fundamental rights of citizens” she said, underlining that “inclusion is not about migrants, it is about human rights”.

Congress Vice-President Lia Montalti (Italy, SOC/G/PD) stressed that her region, Emilia Romagna, recognises the migratory phenomenon as structural. Given the heterogeneity in terms of social status, culture and professions of people arriving in Emilia Romagna, the region adopts ad hoc measures instead of standardised ones. Regional action on integration addresses four transversal themes: namely equity between gender and generations; autonomy and “feasibility”, namely giving newcomers the conditions to realise their real integration; re-thinking the static model of integration; and simplification of digital access. On the other hand, she stressed the need to make the integration process smoother, by simplifying administrative procedures and providing newcomers with the possibility of accessing residential rentals.

Due to important industrial investments that will contribute to a zero-carbon society, the whole region of Västerbotten in Sweden is experiencing the arrival of a great number of workers coming from different parts of the world, said Daniel Sjögren, Chairman of the Arts and Culture Committee of Skellefteå Municipality. This city in particular has received 8000 new workers of more than 100 different national backgrounds over a short time period. This situation represents a challenge of maintaining cohesion among different groups, including preserving the cultural heritage of Sami indigenous people. On the other hand, some intercultural projects are already ongoing, such as the Sara Kulturhus culture centre.

According to Afia Mansoor Ahmed, Congress Youth Delegate from Germany, the risk of listening or reading a “single story” is that authorities find insufficient solutions to face the challenges that integration poses today. She wishes more diversity and participation in the job sector, stressing that migrants’ professional competencies are often ignored simply based on their origins. “It is vital for different stakeholders to collaborate,” she said, stressing the need to recognise migrants’ competencies, thus allowing them to contribute their knowledge and skills to providing services that can benefit the entire society.

46th session Strasbourg, France 3 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Council of Europe Congress: Local elections in Türkiye overall well organised and respecting the will of the voters

Council of Europe Congress: Local elections in Türkiye overall well organised and respecting the will of the voters

Despite certain deficiencies observed in the electoral campaign, local elections in Türkiye were overall well organised and respected the will of the people – these were the preliminary findings of the election observation mission of the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. 

At the invitation of the authorities of Türkiye, the Congress deployed a mission to observe the local elections held on 31 March 2024 throughout the country. The Congress mission was led by Mr David ERAY (Switzerland, EPP/CCE) and involved 26 Congress observers including 19 Congress members, one expert and five members of the Secretariat, from overall 16 countries. 

The deployment on the ground on election day was preceded by preparatory meetings online on 7-8 March and in Ankara on 29-30 March, with the Supreme Electoral Council and representatives of the ministries of interior and of the Environment, urbanisation and climate change. The Congress delegation further met media and NGO representatives, as well as candidates and representatives of various political parties. 

On Election Day, 11 Congress teams were deployed to different districts across the country. “Election Day was overall calm and organised in a professional manner, with a high turnout showing a strong commitment of citizens to democratic processes. We acknowledge the logistical organisation that made it possible to handle the large number of voters in a smooth process,” stated David ERAY, at the press conference in Ankara on 1 April. 

“The election results showed that the alternation in power between political parties is possible through the expression of the will of the people and their commitment to local representative democracy,” stated Vladimir PREBILIC (Slovenia, SOC/G/PD), Deputy Head of the delegation. 

The Congress draft report and recommendation will be submitted for adoption at the 47th Congress session in October 2024.

  

 Statement by David ERAY

 Photo gallery

Strasbourg, France 1 April 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress calls for a greater role for local and regional authorities at the United Nations

Congress calls for a greater role for local and regional authorities at the United Nations

On the last day of its 46th Congress session on 28 March 2024, the Congress adopted a recommendation containing its contribution to the UN Summit of the Future. This summit will take place in New York on 22 and 23 September 2024 and will bring together Heads of State and Government from around the world to discuss concrete steps on how to respond to emerging global challenges. The result of the summit will be a political declaration named Pact for the Future.

As a political assembly of local and regional authorities of 46 member States of the Council of Europe, the Congress is convinced that the current and future global challenges can only be addressed by harnessing the power of local and regional governments as the level closest to citizens.  In its recommendation, the Congress called on the Council of Europe member States to support the role of local and regional authorities in delivering the global agenda for sustainable development, including the Pact for the Future.

“Our experience at the Congress shows that institutionalizing the voice of local and regional authorities is an important step towards a meaningful multilevel governance, it leads to a stronger and more effective policy making,” stated Gunn-Marit Helgesen (Norway, R, EPP/CCE), Congress rapporteur on the UN Summit of the Future.

Deputy Mayor of Paris Arnaud Ngatcha informed members about the work of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Group on Local and Regional Governments which includes Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo. He highlighted the importance of adopting a multilevel governance approach to achieving the Agenda 2030. Mr Ngatcha also underlined the important role cities play in combatting climate change, and welcomed the fact that local governments were granted access to the state talks at COP 28.

“The involvement of local and regional authorities in this process can create a strong enabling environment for the successful implementation of Agenda 2030”, concluded Gunn-Marit Helgesen.

46th session Strasbourg, France 28 March 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Deputy Prime Minister of Liechtenstein: Reykjavik Summit reaffirmed the important role of local and regional authorities

Deputy Prime Minister of Liechtenstein: Reykjavik Summit reaffirmed the important role of local and regional authorities

The Council of Europe’s 4th Summit in Reykjavik recognised a crucial role played by local and regional authorities in protecting human rights, stressed Deputy Prime Minister of Liechtenstein Sabine Monauni addressing the Congress session on 27 March 2024 on behalf of the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers. 

She welcomed the strengthening of the Congress as a result, noting that the integration of the Centre of Expertise for Good Governance and the European Label of Governance Excellence (ELoGE) within the Congress secretariat provided additional resources for carrying out its statutory duties and implement more projects for the benefit of effective local democracy in member states.

Recalling a strong message of support to Ukraine sent by the Reykjavik Summit, the Deputy Prime Minister commended the readiness of the Congress to help to promote the Register of Damages for Ukraine and to assist local and regional governments and citizens in making claims to the Register. The Register represented the first step towards holding the Russian Federation to account for the destruction caused by its illegal war of aggression against Ukraine.

She also noted the important role of local and regional governments in supporting Belarussian civil society, and praised the Congress’ commitment to promoting youth participation in decision making – referring in particular to its Youth Delegates initiative – and to promoting environmental protection at local level.

***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file – Photos 

46th session Strasbourg, France 28 March 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Mykola Lukashuk: “The destruction of the Kakhovka dam deprived all of southern Ukraine of water”

Mykola Lukashuk: “The destruction of the Kakhovka dam deprived all of southern Ukraine of water”

While water is the basis of all life, our societies are not always sufficiently aware of the urgent need to protect it or the consequences of its disappearance: although recognised by the UN as a fundamental human right, access to water is still all too often hindered or flouted, according to the participants in the debate on “Right to water under threat: what is at stake for territories?” held on 27 March at the Chamber of Regions.

Sustainable water management was possible only under a cross-border, interregional approach, said Gunn Marit Helgesen (R, Norway, EPP/CCE) on opening the debate before giving the floor to Tatiana Obydenna, First Deputy Mayor of Nikopol in Ukraine.  The destruction of the Kakhovka dam by Russian troops in June 2023 had deprived the city of all water supplies for almost two months, in the midst of the summer heat, and further increased the threats to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.  Nikopol had managed gradually to restore its access to water by digging around forty drinking water wells, thanks to European and international assistance, including from its partner towns, in particular Leverkusen in Germany.  However, the destruction of the dam further aggravated the catastrophic environmental damage linked to the Russian aggression against Ukraine, as was stressed by several other Ukrainian elected representatives during the debate.  According to Mykola Lukashuk (R, Ukraine, ILDG), Russia had committed ecocide which was now depriving all of southern Ukraine of water, and the flooding resulting from the disappearance of the reservoirs would further complicate the country’s reconstruction.  Svitlana Bohatyrchuk Kryvko (R, Ukraine, CRE/ECR) also stressed that the pollution caused by the war was spreading everywhere and ultimately affected the whole of Europe.

Youth delegates propose practical water protection measures

Apart from the tragic example of Kakhovka, the risks surrounding the increasing scarcity of water are a challenge for the whole world.  Global warming and rising temperatures, excessive pumping and inappropriate infrastructure, as well as poor governance of resources and pollution of all kinds, in particular agricultural, are all playing a part in making water an increasingly threatened commodity.  In a very detailed presentation, the Portuguese youth delegate, Debora Gonçalves, highlighted the potential environmental and health consequences of water shortages, while stressing that they also threatened societies’ political stability and could lead to serious conflicts.  “We must not forget how urgent an issue water is,” she added, before setting out several measures proposed by all the youth delegates, in particular the reuse of non-potable water for farming and the application of sustainable development principles across the board in water management.  Instead of penalties directed at individuals, the youth delegates also suggested that tax rebates should be granted to families willing to reduce their water consumption voluntarily.  In conclusion, she said that the increasingly frequent pollution-related cuts in water supplies should give people cause for thought, as in the case of the water rationing imposed on two days out of three in recent months on the French island of Mayotte.

Protecting the environment also means preserving peace

During the debate, Eirini Douro (R, Greece, SOC/G/PD) called for the right to water to be enshrined in national constitutions, while pointing out that efforts to combat harm to the environment had to go hand in hand with the preservation of peace.  Peter Drenth (R, Netherlands, EPP/CCE) also stressed the links between peace and the environment, before Heiner Klemp (R, Germany, SOC/G/PD) raised the issue of the worrying fall in water table levels and called for a reduction in water consumption, not only by the agricultural sector but also by industry and the general public.  His home region of Brandenburg, on the border with Poland, had been directly affected in August 2022 by a sharp drop in water table levels, which had increased salinity in the water and caused an unprecedented mass die-off of fish in the River Oder.

 

 

***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file – Photos 

46th session Strasbourg, France 28 March 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Croatia: Council of Europe Congress welcomes improvements in local and regional governance, though gaps remain

Croatia: Council of Europe Congress welcomes improvements in local and regional governance, though gaps remain

The Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has adopted a set of recommendations to the Croatian government following its June 2023  monitoring of the country’s implementation of  the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

The report, drawn up by Gobnait Ni Mhuimneacain (Ireland, L, ILDG) and Cecilia Dalman Eek (Sweden, R, SOC/G/PD) welcomed the fact that counties had taken over administrative functions after state administrative offices were abolished, that tax reform was ongoing, that voluntary mergers were being encouraged and that the process of consulting local and regional representatives had improved, particularly on financial and fiscal matters.

Weaknesses in the administrative and revenue-generating capacity of many small municipalities and cities remained a concern, as did the inadequacy of financial resources available to local and regional authorities, the unclear delineation of responsibilities, and the lack of effectiveness of the financial equalisation mechanism.

The central state administration still held extensive supervisory powers over local self-government, notably to suspend or annul an act made by a local authority without prior judicial review or ruling; dissolve representative bodies; dismiss executive representatives and give instructions on local affairs:  all a “potential hindrance” to autonomy, the report warned. Therefore, legislation on supervision should be revised to align it with the principle of proportionality. Furthermore, a formal consultation mechanism with local and regional authorities needed to be set up, and the division of responsibilities required clarification. Croatia should also sign and ratify the Charter’s additional protocol on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority, which is applied in practice.

The report – the fourth since Croatia ratified the Charter - recommends that Croatian authorities continue supporting inter-municipal co-operation; provide incentives for municipal mergers and adequate financial resources for subnational authorities; revisit the conditions governing local taxation; explore opportunities to diversify subnational income sources; reduce earmarking of grants and transfers and reconsider the criteria on which the equalisation system is based.

 

Contact person: Panos Kakaviatos, Spokesperson/Media Officer, Directorate of Communications, Council of Europe, tel. +33 6 98 37 64 04

 

***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file – Photos 

46th session Strasbourg, France 28 March 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Council of Europe Congress: local elections in the Republic of Moldova well-administered but the electoral framework needs stability

Council of Europe Congress: local elections in the Republic of Moldova well-administered but the electoral framework needs stability

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe welcomed the well-administered local elections in the Republic of Moldova held on 5 November 2023, in a recommendation adopted on 27 March 2024 during the Congress session.

The recommendation, based on a report by Vladimir Prebilic (Slovenia, SOC/G/PD), commended the work of the well-trained election administration and noted that the election day was overall calm and transparent, despite some minor procedural issues; the use of voter identification devices and video cameras, as well as the large presence of observers, contributed to the transparency and trust in the process.

The rapporteur noted that the Congress delegation, which was deployed to several districts throughout the country and visited around 115 polling stations, assessed positively the revision of the Electoral Code in 2022 and was highly satisfied to see that many of the Congress long-standing recommendations – including on gender quotas, requirement for independent candidates and party and campaign finance – had been addressed in the new Code.

The Congress also welcomed the increased oversight of the Central Election Commission over campaign and party finance and the substantial efforts of the election administration to proactively investigate corruption allegations. At the same time, noting numerous and credible reports of corruption of voters and candidates received by the delegation, the Congress called on the authorities to build the administration’s capacities and increased voters’ awareness of prohibited activities.

The Congress also called for more efforts on election dispute resolution, noting that disputes and contradictory decisions related to the right to stand in elections created legal uncertainty and negatively impacted the electoral process. “We believe that the stability of the electoral framework is paramount to ensure trust in the impartiality of the process. We regretted that some decisions were not taken early enough and sometimes without necessary consultations, debate or clear justification”, pointed out the rapporteur.

Finally, the Congress highlighted other areas for improvement, such the low representation of women and the problems with accessibility of polling station. “In addition, we recommend scrapping the age and education requirements for becoming mayor”, concluded Mr Prebilic.

 

Contact person: Jaime Rodriguez, Spokesperson/Media Officer, Directorate of Communications, Council of Europe, tel. +33 6 89 99 50 42

***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file – Photos 

46th session Strasbourg, France 28 March 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Natural disasters and climate hazards: Congress calls on local and regional authorities to be better prepared

Natural disasters and climate hazards: Congress calls on local and regional authorities to be better prepared

Council of Europe member states are increasingly confronted with natural disasters and climate hazards, and local and regional authorities are in the first line to respond. To do this in the most effective, yet democratic manner, it will be crucial for local and regional authorities to develop a risk management culture, promote territorial solidarity and induce economic, ecological, and social transitions leading to more resilience, finds a report by Jean-Paul Bastin (Belgium, EPP/CCE) and Christian Debève (France, ILDG) presented at the Congress 46th Session on 28 March 2024.

Based on case studies carried out in Belgium, Spain and Türkiye, the report concludes that a concerted effort will be needed, combining short-term and long-term action in a systemic and comprehensive approach to solve both the most urgent problems and get ready for facing upcoming challenges.

The co-rapporteurs emphasised the importance of citizen participation and transparent communication at all times during the crisis management cycle, and of setting up adequate funding mechanisms, holding regular exchanges of good practice and data, providing training programmes to professionals and volunteers, and involving young people at all stages of the process – prevention, relief, training, academic studies, etc-.

Supporting the debate and giving an account of the serious floods that hit her territory only last December and January, Minister for Interior and Sports of the State of Lower Saxony in Germany Daniela Behrens emphasised the importance of European cross-border solidarity and cooperation in matters of disaster protection, both supporting each other with materials and expertise.

The debate was backed up by a photo exposition entitled “Local and regional resilience to natural disasters and climate hazards - a thought-provoking exhibition for local and regional decision-makers“, presenting the images taken in the context of the case studies.

  Resolution

 Recommendation

 

***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file – Photos 

46th session Strasbourg, France 28 March 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Fight the upsurge in antisemitism and anti-muslim hatred: a major challenge for European cities and regions

Fight the upsurge in antisemitism and anti-muslim hatred: a major challenge for European cities and regions

The events in the Middle East have led to an unprecedented upsurge in antisemitic and anti-Muslim incidents in Europe.  During the thematic debate on 26 March, Congress members shared both recent information regarding their local authorities and also best practices for preventing violence and restoring intercultural dialogue on a lasting basis.

Local and regional authorities are once again on the front line when it comes to addressing daily risks of violence.  Social and cultural peace is currently under greater strain than ever in major European cities in which various religious and cultural communities live side by side.

Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Council Leader in Islington, one of the most disadvantaged boroughs in London, highlighted the decisive part which the local council plays in preserving peace and dialogue in an area where over 40% of residents were born outside the UK.  As the first Black and Jewish woman to head Islington Council, she is particularly keen to promote respect between the Jewish and Muslim communities there against the background of the current crisis.  Never give in to hatred was the approach she had already applied when an anti-Muslim terrorist incident left one person dead and 11 injured during Ramadan in 2017.  At the time, the local council took action to prevent the risk of hatred escalating:  “Instead of spreading bitterness, the incident further strengthened solidarity between communities in our area.  We decided to share iftar – the fast-breaking meal – in public with the Muslim community on the streets of Islington, and we’re going to do that again shortly against the particularly sensitive background of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The attack on the illuminations we put up for the Jewish festival of Hanukkah last December also didn’t deter us from repairing the installation the next day through the joint efforts of the representatives of the various communities in our area,” she said.  The aim of the policies pursued by Islington Council was to create shared spaces of safety and trust, as dialogue was the only remedy for fear and ignorance.

“In many countries at present, Jews are preparing to leave Europe, and that demands an urgent response,” said Evein Obulor, Director of the European Coalition of Cities against Racism (ECCAR).  However, an effective response to rising antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred required structured approaches and tools capable of measuring the progress of policies implemented by local and regional authorities.  ECCAR, which brought together 150 towns and municipalities, therefore offered its members practical roadmaps and toolboxes.  Arranging partnerships and cultural events where different communities could share their religious ceremonies in the urban public arena could also help to create spaces of trust and intercommunity dialogue.  Through examples of cities such as Heidelberg, Frankfurt and Stockholm, Ms Obulor illustrated the need also to involve representatives of civil society and religious institutions.  As stressed by a large number of participants in the debate, specific education was also needed to train the young and old alike to respect and take an interest in the habits and customs of other groups.

 

Bertil Cottier, President of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), said that the commission had already sounded the alarm in December and called on European governments to introduce emergency policies to combat the rise in antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred.  Citing ECRI’s reports on Poland and Austria which highlight good practice in this area, he also recalled ECRI’s policy recommendations with a particular focus on Holocaust memorial policies and the prevention of any stigmatization of Muslim officials in administrations.  In conclusion, he said that “general indifference is even more dangerous than acts of aggression,” and called for massive involvement of local and regional authorities to combat cultural and religious racism.

Expressing concern at the rise in the far right in many European countries, the Congress representatives underlined the importance of quickly proposing practical solutions in response to those put forward by antidemocratic forces.  Referring to the example of the centuries-old coexistence between Muslims, Jews and Christians in his country, the youth delegate from Bosnia and Herzegovina, urged his elders to do their utmost to preserve peace between communities and thereby save nothing less than “Europe’s soul.”

 

 ****

46th Session
Agenda – Web file – Photos

 

 

46th session Strasbourg, France 28 March 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya asks the Congress to support democracy in her country

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya asks the Congress to support democracy in her country

The goal of the Belarusian democratic forces was to decentralise governance and foster greater empowerment and autonomy within local communities, stressed Leader of the Belarusian democratic forces Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya addressing the Congress session on 27 March 2024.  

Convinced that the Congress could play a role in supporting Belarus’ joining European institutions, she asked Congress members to help to prepare the reform of self-governance, launch rehabilitation programmes for children of repressed and former political prisoners, organise scholarships and internships for Belarusians, and endorse the European perspective for Belarus, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova.

Ms Tsikhanouskaya called on the Congress, mayors and local government leaders to become part of a broad international coalition for the integration of Belarus into democratic Europe. ”We cannot make the change in isolation from the rest of Europe,” she said, adding that ”for the people of Belarus,  the road to Europe goes through Strasbourg”.

In the debate following her statement, Congress members praised her courage in the fight for democracy in her country, and expressed their solidarity with the people of Belarus and commitment to support democracy in that country.

 

 

***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file – Photos 

46th session Strasbourg, France 28 March 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress President: Local and regional authorities can usefully contribute to the execution of Court judgments

Congress President: Local and regional authorities can usefully contribute to the execution of Court judgments

“Local and regional authorities can make a valuable contribution to the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights on involuntary detention and treatment for mental health reasons”, stressed Congress President Marc Cools, speaking on 27 March 2024 at the Conference on "Of Unsound Mind".

The President stressed that local and regional authorities can offer relevant alternatives to avoid the internment of people suffering from mental health disorders, and enable them to remain in their communities. In this regard, he highlighted "the absolute necessity of raising awareness of human rights and fundamental freedoms among local and regional elected representatives and their administrations, on the one hand, to prevent placement decisions leading to a violation of Article 5 of the Convention, and on the other, to bring local elected representatives face to face with their responsibilities when it comes to the deplorable conditions of establishments for which they are responsible for management or control, and in which treatment and care are delivered."

The President also underlined that in order to remedy these situations, local and regional authorities must have adequate skills, training and financial resources. For its part, the Congress is fully committed to strengthening the role of local and regional authorities, both in enforcing the judgments of the Court, and in developing a better level of prevention in the treatment of people suffering from mental health disorders at local or regional level.

***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file – Photos 

46th session Strasbourg, France 27 March 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Local self-government: France must pursue decentralisation and clarify division of powers, says Council of Europe Congress

Local self-government: France must pursue decentralisation and clarify division of powers, says Council of Europe Congress

The Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has called on France to pursue decentralisation, clarify the division of powers between the state and subnational authorities and provide better protection for mayors.

Adopting its recommendation based on a report by Bryony Rudkin (United Kingdom, L, SOC/G/PD) and Matija Kovac (Serbia, R, EPP/CCE), after their visits in 2023 to monitor implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government,  the Congress welcomed France’s planned decentralisation reforms, the general clause of competence enjoyed by municipalities, France’s ratification of the Charter’s Additional protocol on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority,  the granting of special status to Paris in 2019 and the frequent references to the Charter in legal proceedings relating to local or regional governance.

The report underlined certain points that deserve particular attention, especially the incomplete decentralisation mentioned in the Court of Auditors’ 2023 annual public report; unclear distribution of powers; over-regulation of powers delegated to local authorities, and a gradual reduction in local taxation leading to excessive centralisation of local authority funding.

Local authorities lacked proportional funding from central government, were increasingly dependent on subsidies and contractual funding and consultation mechanisms were mainly used as channels for informing local and regional authorities of central government initiatives, plans and regulations, the report said. It also expressed concern at the increasing threats and attacks against mayors and local elected representatives from society at large, often via social networks, jeopardising democratic local governance. National authorities needed to strengthen legal protection of mayors and extend limitation periods in criminal matters.

The Congress called for the recently announced decentralisation reforms to be pursued and for division of power to be clarified, with over-regulation avoided. Fiscal autonomy should be strengthened and the costs of exercising delegated powers should be periodically reviewed to ensure that they are proportionately financed. It also stressed the importance of reducing local authorities’ dependence on contractual funding and central transfers, while implementing genuine consultation mechanisms.

The debate was followed by an exchange of views with Dominique Faure, French Minister with responsibility for Local Government and Rural Affairs, who then participated in a round table on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Congress.

 

Contact: Estelle Steiner, Spokesperson/Press officer, Tel. +33 3 88 41 33 35

***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file Photos 

46th session Strasbourg, France 27 March 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress committees: last meetings under the current terms of references

Congress committees: last meetings under the current terms of references

The three statutory committees of Congress held their last meetings on 26 March under the current terms of reference.

The Monitoring Committee approved a report on the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Malta as well as the terms of reference for a report on foreign interference during electoral processes at local and regional levels. The Governance Committee discussed the preparation of reports on circular economy and on freshwater resources under stress. The Current Affairs Committee approved the terms of reference for reports on the role of local and regional authorities in combatting trafficking of human beings and on the revision of the European Charter on the Participation of Young People in local and regional life.

Under the new terms of reference adopted by the Congress the same day as part of the revision of its Rules of Procedure to reflect the decisions of the Reykjavik Summit, the three committees will be reconstituted as, respectively, the Committee on the Monitoring of the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and on the respect of Human Rights and the Rule of Law at local and regional levels (“the Monitoring Committee”); the Committee on Governance, Civic Engagement and the Environment (“the Governance Committee”); and the Committee on Social Inclusion and Human Dignity (“the Social Inclusion Committee”).

***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file – Photos 

46th session Strasbourg, France 27 March 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Congress calls for greater involvement of local and regional authorities in strengthening the rule of law

Congress calls for greater involvement of local and regional authorities in strengthening the rule of law

“To help sustain democracies, the rule of law must be respected also at local level,” stressed Congress Rapporteur Stewart Dickson (United Kingdom, R, ILDG) presenting his report on “Local and Regional Authorities as Actors and Guarantors of the Rule of Law” at the Congress session on 26 March.  “Respecting the rule of law means that citizens democratically and freely elect their leaders, that laws are uniformly applied by all state institutions, and that no one is above the law, and no citizen is discriminated against or left behind,” he stressed.

Upholding the rule of law as one of the fundamental pillars of the Council of Europe was of great importance for local and regional elected representatives who can thus contribute to strengthening democracy and human rights, explained the rapporteur, proposing to this end several actions by the Congress – such as contribution to implementing at local level the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and promoting co-operation on the matter, in particular with the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. Mr Dickson also proposed to pursue political dialogue with national, regional and local authorities of all member States concerned by an erosion of the rule of law in the framework of Congress post-monitoring activities.

Following a particularly lively debate, Congress members supported the rapporteur’s proposal by adopting unanimously a resolution and a recommendation inviting member States to comply with the European Charter of Local Self-Government and implement Congress recommendations in order to guarantee good democratic governance. Congress monitoring reports should serve as early warnings to prevent or address worrying developments with regard to member States' compliance with democratic standards and practices. Member States were also encouraged to include local authorities in promoting the rule of law by enforcing the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights at local level.

***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file – Photos 

46th session Strasbourg, France 27 March 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page

Montenegro’s reforms welcomed, but worrying trend to centralisation must be reversed, Congress says

Montenegro’s reforms welcomed, but worrying trend to centralisation must be reversed, Congress says

The Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has called on Montenegro to reverse a trend to centralise local government and to improve consultation procedures, especially on financial matters, while providing adequate funding for municipalities.

In its recommendation based on a report by Cemal Bas (Türkiye, L, EPP/CCE) and Sören Schumacher (Germany, R, SOC/G/PD) following their 2023 visit to monitor implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government the Congress acknowledged strategic initiatives taken by Montenegro to reform the public administration, with a declared focus on decentralisation and digitalisation, such as the Public Administration Reform Strategy 2022-2026. It also welcomed the positive practice of minority language use in the execution of local public functions in municipalities where the majority of the population belongs to ethnic minorities, and the Union of Municipalities of Montenegro's right to apply directly to the Constitutional Court.

However, the rapporteurs expressed concerns about the overall trend towards recentralisation of local competencies, including in the essential area of spatial planning, and restricted financial autonomy at the local level. Smaller municipalities lacked the financial capacity to ensure the high-quality performance of their functions, while the share of tax revenue for most municipalities was diminished following the enactment of the 2021 Law on Personal Income Tax, also known as the “Europe Now” programme.

Furthermore, municipalities had to receive authorisation from the central level to perform some municipal functions and had little room to adapt local responsibilities to local needs due to an overregulation of competences – coupled with considerable shortcomings in the consultation process, including on financial matters and with regard to municipal boundary changes.

The Congress invited Montenegro to resume decentralisation efforts and pursue the declared local self-government reform in consultation with municipalities and the Union of Municipalities of Montenegro. In general, local authorities should be consulted systematically and effectively, particularly through the Union of Municipalities, on all matters that concern them, the Congress said. The rapporteurs also suggested strengthening local fiscal autonomy, ensuring that task assignments come with commensurate resources, and making sure that local authorities can exercise their own competences without ministerial approval.

 

Press contact: Tatiana Baeva-Frachon, Media Officer, Directorate of Communications, Council of Europe, tel. +33 6 85 11 64 93


***

46th Session
Agenda – Web file Photos 

46th session Strasbourg, France 27 March 2024
  • Diminuer la taille du texte
  • Augmenter la taille du texte
  • Imprimer la page