The Congress undertakes to support the activities of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM)
17.3.2010 – Political dialogue between Europe and the countries of the southern Mediterranean is a vital requirement for increasing political stability and reviving socio-economic development in the Mediterranean basin. The initiative by the Committee of the Regions of the European Union to set up the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) ties in with these objectives of decentralised co-operation. This was the backdrop to a debate on North-South co-operation held by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe on 17 March 2010, during its 18th Session.
In a resolution adopted at the close of the debate, the Congress undertook fully to support the activities of ARLEM, with which it holds observer status. It also called on European local authorities and their associations to forge bilateral relations with authorities in the countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean basin.
Ian Micallef, acting President of the Congress and rapporteur on the subject, underlined that the establishment of the assembly came at a time when the Congress was stepping up dialogue with the countries of the southern Mediterranean, in particular with the organisation of the 4th Euro-Arab Cities Forum, due to be held in 2011, and the setting up of a Working Group on Euro-Mediterranean Cities and Provinces. “With its pan-European dimension, its networks of contacts, its expertise and its commitment to consolidating grassroots democracy, the Congress has much to contribute to the objectives of ARLEM,” he explained.
Ludmila Sfirloaga, President of the Chamber of Regions and co-rapporteur, presented the results of the co-operation activities already undertaken by the Congress, including the establishment of an association of local and regional elected representatives in Morocco. “Alongside co-operation between towns and cities, we must also step up co-operation between regions,” she stressed.
Morocco was currently joint chair of ARLEM and had been carrying out reforms in the area of local democracy for 20 years, explained Rachid Sassi, Vice-President of the Municipality of Rabat, in his address to Congress members. “Some problems encountered in Europe are similar to those faced by people on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. It would be useful for us also to take part in the discussions in the various European bodies so as to add to them with our experience,” he said. He also proposed that Rabat should be the first pilot city on the southern shore to meet European local democracy standards.
Speaking during the debate, Eberhard Koelsch, Vice-Chair of the Executive Council of the European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity (North-South Centre), pointed out that “democracy cannot be imposed from above, it has to be established and wanted by the grassroots.” He emphasised the specific nature of the partial agreement governing the North-South Centre as an agreement open to non-members of the Council of Europe. Morocco, for instance, had joined the North-South Centre in July 2009, followed more recently by Cape Verde. In 2008, the Congress had also signed a co-operation agreement with the North-South Centre to define common objectives, while also extending mutual co-operation networks.