Plenary Session of the Congress of Local and Regional authorities of the Council of Europe
30 May-1st June 2007
Jean-Claude van Cauwenberghe : «Europe’s regions need a reference framework – and that’s what the Charter of Regional Democracy will give them»
Interview – 30.05.2007
Rapporteur for the Chamber of Regions on the draft “European Charter of Regional Democracy”, Walloon MP Jean-Claude van Cauwenberghe is counting on the Congress to adopt this text at its session in 2008. As he sees it, the Charter “will consolidate regional democracy as the half-way house between central and local government”.
Question: Ten years after adopting a “European Charter of Regional Self-Government”, which the member states eventually turned down, the Congress is bouncing back with a new text: what’s the difference from the old one?
Jean-Claude van Cauwenberghe : The 1997 Charter couldn’t reflect all the intervening changes in the way European regions and countries function and are organised. People also complained that it was two rigid and inflexible – faults the new Charter has corrected. And it also spells out the rights and duties of regions in their dealings with the state more clearly.
Question: Why is it so important to get a new charter now?
Jean-Claude van Cauwenberghe : The European Charter of Local Self-Government protects the rights of local authorities, and the regions also need a framework which will allow them to function smoothly throughout Europe. The Charter will give them that – and will also provide a reminder that the regions, as the half-way way house between central and local government, are vital to democratic stability in Europe. It’s flexible enough to serve as a yardstick for regions everywhere, whether they have legislative or simply administrative powers. Thanks to the charter, they’ll stop being “UPOs”, “Unidentified Political Objects”.
Question: What will be in the Charter?
Jean-Claude van Cauwenberghe : It will have four chapters. The first will lay down 19 mandatory principles of regional democracy, including subsidiarity, citizen participation and respect for the state’s territorial integrity, as well as funding for regional authorities and their right to run their own affairs. The second and third will have “mandatory” and “optional” sections – which will allow states to adapt the text to their own institutional structures, and also develop their regions. The fourth will include the provisions you normally find in international conventions of this kind.
Question: The Chamber of Regions has passed the “preliminary draft” - what happens now?
Jean-Claude van Cauwenberghe : I hope the Charter can be submitted to the Congress at its plenary session in May 2008. But before that, it will also be going to the Parliamentary Assembly, the Assembly of European Regions and the EU’s Committee of the Regions, the aim being to get plenty of comments – and also the backing of those bodies.