2. VERIFICATION OF NEW MEMBERS’ CREDENTIALS AND NEW APPOINTMENT PROCEDURES

            [CG(18)2]

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) said the next item was the verification of the credentials of the delegations, representatives, substitutes and special guests. The Bureau had examined the credentials at its meeting on Tuesday 16 March 2010.

          He called the two rapporteurs, Günther Krug and Anders Knape.

          Günther KRUG (Germany, R, SOC), Rapporteur, reminded members that, although the Charter provided for an interim period of six months when a member lost his or her seat after an election, that was the maximum time allowed, but it appeared that the rule was not always followed. It had to be observed, and the rapporteurs should be informed in good time of any change in the composition of delegations.

          He then drew the Congress’s attention to the provisions of Articles 2 and 6 of the Charter, pointing out that members were protected, during the period of their mandate, by immunity against their removal from office by any government authority.

          Finally, he underlined that the Congress was meeting in its present configuration for the last time and called on all member states to improve their procedures for appointing their national delegations to the next Congress, especially so as to ensure that women accounted for at least 30% of each delegation.

          Anders KNAPE (Sweden, L, EPP/CD), Rapporteur, concurred with his co-rapporteur’s remarks.

          It had been noted that some delegations were incomplete. The Congress called on all member states to appoint their full complement of members. States should not use vacant posts to make it appear that they were meeting the 30% criterion. He asked the countries concerned to comply with the gender equality principle, which was a Congress rule.

          There was another practice that had to be condemned: in order to comply with the 30% rule, some countries appointed men as full members and women as substitutes. If that continued, it would be necessary to review the Congress’s Rules of Procedure.

          It also seemed that some members had not been given a seat on a committee. That was not normal and they should resolve the matter with their national delegation.

          Finally, some representatives had changed their political affiliation in their own country. That made no change to their status within the Congress, of which they remained members.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) thanked the two rapporteurs. As no one wished to speak, he closed the debate.

          He informed the Congress that the Bureau had submitted a draft resolution contained in document [CG(18)2] and that one amendment had been tabled by the rapporteurs.

          He called Anders Knape to move the amendment.

          Anders KNAPE (Sweden, L, EPP/CD), Rapporteur, said paragraph 3 of the draft resolution informed the authorities that a head of delegation should be appointed in order for the national delegation to function properly. The aim of Amendment No. 1 was to remove Denmark and Latvia from the list of countries to which the remark applied, as they had complied with the request.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) said no one wished to speak against the amendment and put it to the vote.

          Amendment No. 1 was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) put to the vote the entire draft resolution contained in document [CG(18)2], as amended.

          The draft resolution, as amended, was adopted.

          3. ADOPTION OF THE DRAFT AGENDA OF THE SESSION

          [CG(18)OJ1PROV]

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) said the next item was the adoption of the draft agenda of the Congress and the Chambers. As the Chambers had sole responsibility for their own agendas, the Congress would only be deciding on the timing of their meetings and not their content. The notice paper of the current sitting contained the proposed organisation of debates.

          The draft agenda was adopted.

          4. ELECTION OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE CONGRESS

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) said the next item was the election of the Secretary General of the Congress.

          For the election, the Bureau had selected three candidates on 15 January 2010. In alphabetical order they were Antonella CAGNOLATI, Andreas KIEFER and Léo PLATVOET. Their curriculae vitae had been distributed to all Congress members and were available at the document distribution point and on the Congress website.

          Only representatives or their substitutes duly nominated in accordance with Rule 5.1 of the Rules of Procedure and whose credentials had been approved by the Congress were entitled to vote.

          The voting would close at 1 pm and the result would be announced at that afternoon’s plenary sitting. If none of the candidates gained an absolute majority of votes cast, a second round between the two leading candidates would be held between 3 and 5.30 pm after the announcement of the result.

          Emil Calota and Yazgul Rzayeva were appointed tellers by drawing lots. The voting was opened.

          5. COMMUNICATION BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE CONGRESS

          [CG(18)3]

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) said his statement was being made in a context of change, since the Council of Europe was opening itself up to the major reforms proposed by its Secretary General.

          The Council, like the continent of Europe, had arrived at a crossroads, and there was now a historical opportunity to adapt the Congress and the Organisation to face new challenges. The Council would have to be more efficient, more visible and more in step with citizens’ expectations.

          In January, the Committee of Ministers and the governments of the 47 member states had given their support to the Secretary General’s proposals.

          The Congress could not remain on the sidelines in the face of such ambitious plans.

          Democracy was a permanent process that varied according to the political, economic and social context, which itself changed over time. Citizens’ needs were also changing and making it necessary to find new responses. To that end, priorities and working methods had to be adjusted. This was why the planned reforms should be supported. That afternoon, Congress members would have an opportunity to engage in an exchange of views on the subject with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

          The Congress had also decided to review its structures and working methods by refocusing its priorities and equipping itself with the tools necessary to improve its efficiency, especially with regard to monitoring, to which a greater proportion of its budget was being allocated, and to election observation missions. The aim was to enhance overall visibility. Moreover, the Congress’s reports were triggering more and more responses from the governments concerned.

          Measures were also being taken to strengthen the impact of the Charter of Local Self-Government and ensure that its provisions were applied throughout Europe.

          The Congress was also endeavouring to strengthen its relations with its European Union partners.

          In November 2009, a delegation had engaged in a dialogue with governments concerning the reform of the Council of Europe’s working methods and had been able to show the importance of local and regional democracy. In that context, the Utrecht conference had enabled new instruments to be developed and a reference framework for regional democracy to be established.

          In December, a Congress delegation had participated in the Copenhagen Summit, at which it had had occasion to highlight the role and relevance of ecological measures at the local and regional levels. Although the summit had failed to meet all expectations, it had been possible to emphasise the important role to be played by local and regional authorities in meeting the challenges posed by climate change.

          In January, the Congress had been involved in the launch of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly. In conclusion, the reform of the Congress had to be more far-reaching, and the ideas must rapidly be translated into action. The Congress, all its political structures and all its members had to join forces to conduct an ambitious reform. A real vision for the future would make the Congress more efficient and place it in a better position to meet European citizens’ expectations.

          Noting that no one wished to speak, the President declared the debate closed.

          Günther Krug (Germany, R, SOC), Vice-President of the Congress, took the Chair in place of Ian Micallef.

          6. CURRENT AFFAIRS DEBATE: THE FINANCIAL CRISIS AND ITS EFFECT AT LOCAL AND REGIONAL LEVEL

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) said the next item was a current affairs debate on “the financial crisis and its effect at local and regional level”. The debate would be introduced by Svetlana Orlova, Vice-President of the Congress, and Olivier Touchet, Regional Director of Dexia France.

          He reminded members that the Congress had already held a debate on this subject one year previously and a number of people had spoken at that time, in particular Maurice Vincent, Mayor of Saint-Etienne, Vladimir Moskov, President of NALAS, and the late Adrien Zeller, former President of the Alsace Region, as well as Svetlana Orlova and several Congress members.

          Many questions had then been asked about the possibilities of obtaining loans for local and regional public funding and about the serious problems encountered by local and regional authorities in their attempts to deal with the social consequences of the crisis, which were in particular bound up with the rise in unemployment and the economic repercussions on businesses. One year on, the consequences of the financial crisis were still the primary concern of local and regional authorities.

          At the request of Svetlana Orlova, the Bureau had decided to devote a current affairs debate to the subject. This should make it possible to take stock of current developments and exchange experience regarding local and regional policies being implemented in the various member states.

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) called Svetlana Orlova.

          7. STATEMENT BY SVETLANA ORLOVA, VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE CONGRESS (RUSSIAN FEDERATION)

          Svetlana ORLOVA (Russian Federation, R, EPP/CD) pointed out that while crises were part of life for all human beings, they were also an opportunity to demonstrate a sense of responsibility. For the past two years, the entire planet had felt the full force of the economic crisis and heads of state and government had been in constant dialogue in the context of the G20 to try to deal with it. Everyone seemed to have become aware that it was impossible for a state to build up its wealth and economic wellbeing when its neighbour was suffering and social achievements were being demolished.

          Local and regional authorities were the first to be affected by the crisis, which was leading to business failures, unemployment, loss of tax revenues, an increase in social expenditure, greater indebtedness and rising deficits. Greece in particular had been a victim of these developments.

          International tensions rose when it was necessary to fight to preserve jobs, and a number of countries, especially Italy, France and Germany, were no longer helping immigrants.

          Russia had naturally also felt the impact of the crisis. Two years back, it had taken steps to support the economy, especially through assistance measures for the banking system, while insisting, in view of the distribution of bonuses, that the measures above all had to benefit the real economy.

          Three billion roubles had been committed to reducing the tensions on the job market and to supporting employment at regional and local level. Moreover, each regional or local authority had adopted its own employment support programme. The result was that more than 100,000 Russian citizens had found a job. However, unemployment was still high and further efforts were needed to deal with the problem.

          Russia was also supporting business credit, especially in the aeronautical and automotive sectors, on which many regions were highly dependent and in which very many jobs were threatened.

          In order to buttress domestic demand, a draft law on trade and commerce was currently passing through parliament and included a genuine programme for the development of agriculture.

          The President of the Russian Federation should be thanked for doing so much to help SMEs find their way out of what was an extremely difficult situation. In all, no less than 31 billion roubles had been allocated to support them at the federal level.

          Thanks to all these measures, citizens had regained confidence, especially as they saw that the President was personally monitoring the situation and the governors were in virtually permanent contact with him. Citizens could also make their views known directly, via the web. Russia’s policy was therefore emblematic and its ripple effects were enabling many jobs to be created. Efforts had focused primarily on regions where tensions were highest, especially those where mining had dramatically declined.

          The tensions that subsisted in many European countries showed it was very difficult to make headway without placing the emphasis on modernisation and new technologies. For its part, Russia had passed a law on energy efficiency and energy savings. The mayors of 17 towns and cities and representatives of civil society were now members of a committee on monitoring energy efficiency. The amounts thus saved would be allocated to social spending.

          Social spending was particularly high as part of the population, affected by new patterns of poverty, could not be left to cope alone at a time of crisis. Many regions had even raised welfare benefits. One outcome was that housing benefit for families with a second child had led to an increase in the birth rate, and Russia had registered 1.6 million births per annum in recent years.

          It was also essential to meet the needs of young people. It was a known fact that a very large number of young people who had completed higher education courses were unable to find jobs. In order to remedy the situation, it had been decided to add a practical component to the theoretical part of a course and to increase the number of company training placements during higher education courses: the more young people were trained in multiple skills, the greater their chance of subsequently finding jobs.

          It was therefore to be regretted that President Micallef had not placed more emphasis on young people in his address. Young people were competent and responsible; they were not afraid to combat corruption. The Congress indeed needed younger elected representatives.

          Corruption was a very important issue in Russia, where it was an obstacle to the resolution of many problems. However, the reform of the justice system currently under way should give the judiciary genuine independence.

          Competition was another very important issue, especially in the automotive sector. At a time when Greece was suffering so much from the deficits it had run up, the question arose as to whether integration should not take priority over competition.

          Russia had taken very significant steps for the protection of the environment, especially with a state-run clean water programme. Apart from nature conservation issues, there was now the question of greening industry. A specific micro-financing plan had been launched because the major banks had demonstrated their shortcomings. The money made available was not destined to enrich financial institutions, corporations or better-off households.

          The Russian Federation had lowered taxes on cultural or training establishments. While giving priority to SMEs, it had also reduced social security contributions for large companies. The payment of corporation tax had been postponed to foster employment and, accordingly, boost earnings. The citizen had to be made the focus of all policies.

          The European continent had experienced war and had been able to rebuild itself with its unparalleled resources and cultural heritage. Despite the crisis, that heritage had to be protected in order to bring the greater Europe happiness, joy and beauty. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) thanked Ms Orlova.

          He welcomed the presence of Olivier Touchet, Dexia's Regional Director for Alsace. The Congress had recently developed partnership arrangements with this bank, thanks to which the Chamber of Regions had been able to organise the Congress Prize for Regions in 2008. He hoped a second prize could be awarded in the near future.

          It was significant that a bank like Dexia, which played a major role in the financing of local authorities, had accepted the Congress’s invitation.

          He was looking forward to listening to Mr Touchet’s statement and to hearing his proposals for cushioning the impact of the crisis on local authorities.

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) called Olivier Touchet.

          8. STATEMENT BY OLIVIER TOUCHET, REGIONAL DIRECTOR OF DEXIA (FRANCE)

          Olivier TOUCHET, Regional Director of Dexia, France, said he was honoured to be able to address the Congress. The global financial crisis had had a significant impact on the fabric of the economy, with the drop in the property market, the rapid rise in unemployment and the fall in industrial production and consumption. Local authority budgets, whether in terms of resources or expenditure, had not been spared. The question of the efficiency of public spending in a context of scarce resources was posed.

          Local taxation, whether own or shared, represented 40% of the revenues of Europe’s local authorities. The proportion based on volatile flows had mirrored the effects of the economic contraction; this applied for instance to

          personal income tax, which made up 34% of tax revenues – and even 98% in Sweden. With the rise in unemployment and with pay frozen, at best, the amount of the tax levied would decline. Corporation tax and the various local business taxes were also suffering, as could be seen in the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Austria and Italy. In Germany, local business taxes represented 44% of the revenues of local authorities, whose income had dropped by 13% in 2009. The overall financial situation had evolved from a surplus of 8 billion euros in 2008 to a deficit of 7.5 billion in 2009.

          Revenues from taxes on consumption, especially VAT, were also likely to fall. Those originating from property taxes fell significantly in 2009, by 29% in France and even 40% in Spain. Then there were the exemptions decided in order to encourage consumption and the instances of voluntary lowering of tax scales. Without compensation mechanisms, the fall in tax revenues was likely to continue in 2010 and 2011.

          While their revenues were weak, local authorities were being called upon to contribute to the cost of social welfare and investment projects. Social spending represented an average of 20% of their total expenditure and was even higher in the Nordic countries or federal states, for example 54% in Denmark. In France, under the combined effect of the rise in the demand for benefits and their less dynamic revenue situation, the départements had had serious difficulties in balancing their budgets for 2010.

          In most European countries, local authorities were the primary public investors – 220 billion euros in 2008, or 60% of the total. In many countries, notably France, Austria, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands, recovery programmes had been set up to help them, the aim being to speed up projects already under way, many of them in the environment sector. The growth rate of local public investment had remained strong in 2008 and should be unchanged for 2009.

          Weak revenues and rising expenditure automatically resulted in scissor effects. While Europe’s local authorities had had no imbalances in 2007, their deficit had reached 38 billion in 2008, or 0.3 percentage points of the EU’s GDP. The trend was likely to continue in 2009 and 2010, and even in 2011. Since local authorities wanted to enhance their anti-cyclical role, their debt was likely to rise in years to come. Access to bank credit facilities should enable them to meet their needs.

          With the crisis, everyone had become aware that financial resources were limited. A working group had, for example, been set up in France on mastering local expenditure and was due to make proposals for curbing it and to study the feasibility of introducing a target – in other words expenditure controls.

          Regarding the consequences of the crisis, a number of questions remained unanswered. Should there be more decentralisation or, on the other hand, a recentralisation of certain items of expenditure? Should performance assessment in local authorities be developed or even imposed? Should local authorities’ resources be made less dynamic but more sustainable? Should their core activities be redefined? How could their financial relations with the state be improved?

          The crisis offered an opportunity for taking long-term decisions. Dexia would be at the side of the local authorities to give them the benefit of its expertise and provide them with funding. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) thanked Mr Touchet for his very profound statement. He opened the debate and called Ramón Ropero Mancera.

          Ramón ROPERO MANCERA (Spain, L, SOC) thought the crisis had shown that the European project was now coming up against new challenges, at the same time as a new institutional framework was emerging from the Treaty of Lisbon. The economic and financial crisis was having a far-reaching impact on local authorities. The Spanish government had adopted strong economic measures to deal with it, including the creation of a local investment fund and a fund for sustainable development, together accounting for 8 billion euros of appropriations in 2009 and 5 billion in 2010.

          Local authorities, which were close to the citizens, should be involved in drawing up national strategies for dealing with the crisis. They had to be able to create jobs, improve infrastructure and promote the local economy. More than ever before they had a role to play in economic competition, thanks to innovation and to new technologies; and companies, training establishments and research centres were involved in their efforts. They could also contribute to guaranteeing the quality of life and social cohesion.

          Local authorities should continue to call for adaptation of their competences and an improved redistribution of resources between their different tiers. The various Spanish associations of local authorities had set up a discussion group, chaired by Felipe González, to assess the situation up to 2020, especially in the context of the Barcelona Agenda. Its conclusions should serve as food for thought in the decision-making processes within the European institutions. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) called Volkram Gebel.

          Volkram GEBEL (Germany, L, EPP/CD) welcomed the fact that the ministers responsible for local and regional government, meeting in Utrecht in November 2009, had stressed the impact of the economic and financial crisis on municipalities and regions in their final declaration. Local and regional authorities had indeed been hard hit because it was they that provided the bulk of services, whether education, health care, culture, public security or social services. All central governments had taken measures to deal with the crisis, measures that of course varied according to a country’s constitutional and economic situation. Germany had also taken economic measures, but generally speaking all states and all local and regional authorities were experiencing the same problems: a loss of revenues, an increase in social spending bound up with the rise in unemployment, and an increase in structural deficits. Germany’s local and regional authorities currently had the biggest budget deficit in their history. Both in Germany and elsewhere, local authorities were not given enough money at the best of times, and in these times of crisis the situation was becoming really perilous, firstly because the public was having to endure significant restrictions and secondly because the economic crisis was affecting authorities’ autonomy and, hence, local democracy. It would clearly not be possible to avoid tax increases, at least for the time being, but by reducing central bureaucracy the representatives of local and regional authorities should endeavour to retain some scope for making their own decisions, the only way of guaranteeing efficient public services.

          The debate begun that morning in the plenary sitting should be continued at committee level. The Culture Committee had already decided to draw up a report on the impact of the crisis on culture and education.

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) called James McCabe.

          James McCABE (United Kingdom, L, SOC) stressed the need to share the burden that the crisis was imposing on Europe’s citizens. In Scotland, as elsewhere, fiscal revenues were in decline, and, while the government was trying to spread the necessary efforts, it was doing so in an inequitable manner. A plan to save £15 million had been decided for the current year and £60 million for the coming years. This reduction in expenditure had to be implemented in an unfavourable situation, namely with an ageing population, which automatically led to an increase in social spending. That challenge was a matter of concern for all the Scottish political parties, which were keen to establish a long-term strategy. In such a situation, elected representatives must set an example, so 32 heads of local and regional authorities had agreed to have their pay frozen for a few years. The financial situation was so difficult that any ideas would be welcome. In order to lighten the financial burden on all Europeans, there was a need to share best practices.

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) called Gilbert Roger.

          Gilbert ROGER (France, L, SOC) thought that some people ought to feel they had less cause than others to give local and regional authorities lessons in good management, and they included the representatives of banks, not least Dexia, which had advised some French local and regional authorities to subscribe bonds that had turned out to be 98% toxic. The term used was "snowball credit".

          This bank had followed a risky management strategy with disastrous consequences. It was directly responsible for the fact that the General Council of the département of Seine-Saint-Denis would find itself obliged to approve a 9% rise in local taxes on 8 April. In such a situation, its representative could have been expected to issue local and regional authorities with a public apology. In both France and Greece, it was high time for banks to demonstrate best management practice. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) called Ioannis Michas.

          Ioannis MICHAS (Greece, R, SOC) said that, as everyone knew, Greece was facing a particularly difficult situation. The Greek government was doing its utmost to restore the country’s financial credibility. The Congress too should contribute to rescuing local economies, both in the countries of southern Europe and elsewhere. With this aim in mind, it should ask the Council of Europe to pressure the EU to implement mechanisms for countering the speculation that was currently rife, with the consequences for citizens and local authorities of which everyone was aware. Banks had fallen short of their obligations by offering governments damaging financial packages. Europe should demonstrate the necessary solidarity. That did not mean that the countries that came off best should pay for the others, but they should prevent them from becoming victims of speculation. The Greek government had adopted some very tough measures, which were hitting the poorest people hardest. It would have to come to taxation of the banks’ profits to ensure that it was the affluent that paid. The Congress and the Council of Europe should bring their influence to bear.

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) called Viktor Kress.

          Viktor KRESS (Russia, R, EPP/CD) said he represented the region of Tomsk in western Siberia. Like many others, it was a victim of the economic crisis, which, in 2009, had led to the contraction of its fiscal revenues and, as a knock-on effect, a reduction in its investment. However, industrial production had been maintained and was now beginning to pick up again. This favourable development could be attributed to the decision taken a decade earlier to focus on innovation, harnessing the universities for that purpose. One out of five of the inhabitants of Tomsk was a student. Innovation was a very sound basis for investment, and it was an approach that the Congress should encourage.

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) called George Pavlidis.

          George PAVLIDIS (Greece, R, EPP/CD) said the Greek authorities had demonstrated a great awareness of their responsibilities, which had led them to reduce public spending, increase revenues and raise the country’s competitiveness. The Greek population would only accept those measures, the effects of which were very harsh, if they were fair. There was therefore a need to resolutely fight speculation and usury, and the international community should play its part here. There was no point deceiving oneself – there was a potential domino effect in every economic crisis. The Greek authorities were doing their utmost to overcome the crisis but needed the solidarity of the other nations of Europe.

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) called Nataliya Romanova.

          Nataliya ROMANOVA (Ukraine, R, ILDG) pointed out that while all countries were feeling the effects of the economic crisis Ukraine was one of those suffering the most. The representatives of the country's local and regional authorities were endeavouring to act in close co-operation with central government. Representatives of the three associations of municipalities, regions and other territorial authorities, together with government representatives, had adopted 154 measures in response to the crisis. On 3 February, a National Congress of Local and Regional Authorities had been set up in Ukraine and had called for strict controls over the government’s use of budgetary resources. At the same time, Ukraine’s local and regional authorities had committed themselves to changing budgetary priorities, in co-operation with the government. That was the only way to make an effective contribution to finding a way out of the crisis. It was also to be welcomed that the Ukrainian government had decided to repurchase certain assets in order to support the most disadvantaged members of the population.

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) said there was some time left for other members to speak.

          He called Dominique RONGA.

          Dominique RONGA (France, R, SOC) said that the Lorraine region, which she represented, had concluded a partnership agreement with the region of Tomsk and believed that partnerships could help combat the financial crisis.

          Once the regional election campaign was over, a partnership could be envisaged with a Greek region similar to Lorraine, out of solidarity with the Greek population.

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) called Richard Kemp.

          Richard KEMP (United Kingdom, R, NR) said he had not intended to take the floor but had been prompted to do so by certain remarks concerning banks: local councillors did not grasp the precise scope of their powers and left it to central government to debate the major issues.

          Liverpool’s revenues amounted to £140,000,000. Amounts of that magnitude gave local and regional authorities the means of standing up to those that financed them and calling on banks to change their practices.

          The criticism of financial service providers had mainly taken on an ethical dimension. Why were banks continuing to implement their policy of paying obscenely high bonuses when they had made their profits only thanks to the support of governments? The banking system had to be changed. Most local and regional small banks had disappeared after being swallowed up by the major international banks. The re-emergence of funding solutions at their level would be good for local and regional authorities. Elected representatives were too timid in their approach towards the banks, just as they were towards central government.

          In the United Kingdom, the treasury was generally regarded as the most efficient administration: elected local and regional councillors knew their fellow citizens’ needs whereas the bureaucrats in the capital only imposed their dictates. Central government bureaucracy should be reduced to provide local leaders with more means of action, thus enabling them to guarantee their fellow citizens the services that were most necessary in times of crisis (housing, health care, etc). The Congress should convey this message. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) called Francis Lec.

          Francis LEC (France, L, SOC) thought the subject of this debate was a key concern for local and regional authorities. In France, investments that were the source of jobs and economic development were funded by local and regional authorities to the tune of 60%, so funding was an essential issue.

          The banking world’s attitude to local and regional authorities showed it was necessary to determine a policy at the European level.

          The banks had a duty to advise and had failed to discharge it, and it was necessary to prevent that from happening again. Local and regional authorities should act at European level to negotiate bank loans at the lowest possible interest rates. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) called Nina Costiuc.

          Nina COSTIUC (Moldova, L, SOC) thought it was important not to speak solely about the financial aspect but also to discuss the question of citizens’ morale. It was necessary to open up borders, co-operate more and establish friendly and good neighbourly relations. In that connection, it was crucial to develop partnerships. The Budeşti region had had a partnership with a German region for the last seven years. Children from Moldova had been able to stay in Germany and young Germans had got to know Moldova.

          The financial crisis could be resolved, but only if joint efforts were made. Local and regional authorities were best placed to help citizens, to identify their needs and, therefore, to set priorities. Both the financial and the moral aspects of the crisis should be considered.

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) thought that the debate had just touched on a very interesting aspect.

          As there were no more speakers on the list, he called Olivier Touchet to respond to the statements made.

          Olivier TOUCHET, Regional Director of Dexia, France, said that with regard to the matter of structured credits he was unable to comment on the specific case of Seine-St-Denis, with which he was not familiar.

          It was true that the banks had been too hasty in adopting such practices. Dexia’s new management had recommended returning to the practice of listening to clients’ needs and was emphasising the advice and follow-up roles that banks had to play and the need for very close monitoring of all credit arrangements.

          Dexia had in fact never had anything to do with snowball credit.

          As far as structured credit was concerned, French local and regional authorities had actually benefited from such operations, earning an overall total of 500 million euros. The “Charter of good conduct between banking institutions and local authorities” (“Gissler Charter”) had led to the validation of 80% of structured credits. Choosing the type of credit was always a shared exercise: it was up to the bank to provide its customers with full information, and Dexia was committed to doing just that.

          Structured credits had in fact weathered the crisis very well. Mr Touchet was unable to comment on the Seine-St-Denis or Somme cases.

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) thanked Mr Touchet, with whom he would remain in contact in order to continue the dialogue that was of interest to all members of the Congress.

          He called Svetlana Orlova.

          Svetlana ORLOVA (Russian Federation, R, EPP/CD) Vice-President of the Congress, stressed the importance of the debate. The financial crisis was affecting all European countries to a greater or less extent. Everything had begun with the collapse of Enron and an audit failure. The major banks had swallowed up the small regional banks. The taxpayer should not be forgotten: the banks were still raking in huge profits and distributing bonuses, which was immoral, especially as some countries were suffering enormously from the crisis. It was necessary to help Greece and to take migratory movements into account. Russia had passed extremely liberal legislation that enabled everyone to travel to the territory of the Federation, including with their family.

          It would not be possible to make headway without investing in information technology, new technologies and green industry.

          There was one crisis after another and permanent institutions like the Congress had a responsibility to assess the situation and draw up strategies to respond to the expectations of those who elected its members and trusted them to prepare the future for coming generations. The Congress was doing its job when it dealt with these issues. However, it should go further by adopting very concrete rather than general recommendations. In particular it should concern itself with issues such as migration, transparency and cross-border problems, which local and regional authorities were best able to deal with. Why not bring the Congress into the modern era by broadcasting its debates live via the internet, which, apart from saving paper, would enable citizens to be involved and central government to be held to account?

          Ms Orlova concluded by thanking everyone who had participated in this extremely important debate and endeavoured to give the Congress the benefit of their experience.

          9. SUSPENSION OF THE SITTING

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) in turn thanked the speakers, especially Svetlana Orlova, who had initiated the debate. The Congress had shown that morning that it was capable of altering its order of business to debate major issues that really were of interest to all European citizens. The Bureau would be examining what follow-up to give to the discussion. As Ms Orlova had stressed, the members of the Congress were there to give Europe a new vision and show Europeans that they were by their side.

          The President reminded colleagues that they could still take part in the ballot to elect the Secretary General, which would close at 1 pm.

          The sitting rose at 12.50 pm.

          10. RESUMPTION OF THE SITTING

          The sitting resumed at 3.05 pm with Ian Micallef (Malta, L, EPP/CD), President a.i. of the Congress, in the Chair.

          ELECTION OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE CONGRESS (RESULTS)

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) announced the results of the ballot for the election of the Secretary General of the Congress:

          Number of voters: 245

          Blank or spoilt papers: 1

          Votes cast: 244

          Votes obtained:

          Antonella Cagnolati: 94 votes

          Andreas Kiefer: 137 votes

          Leo Platvoet: 13 votes

          As Andreas Kiefer had obtained an absolute majority of the votes cast, he was proclaimed Secretary General of the Congress. (Applause) He would hold office for five years from 1 April 2010.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called Andreas Kiefer.

          Andreas KIEFER, Secretary General of the Congress, thanked the members of the Congress for the trust they had placed in him. He hoped he would come up to their expectations and was pleased to be able to rely on the experience of Antonella Cagnolati when carrying out his duties. He would give the greatest consideration to the issues that had been discussed in the proceedings that morning.

          He intended to embark on a new stage in the development of the Congress and said that immediately on taking office he wanted to ensure that new members were helped to settle in more quickly, to which end he would be proposing the production of a handbook for newcomers.

          He assured members he would devote all his energies to the work of the Congress, which he intended to serve to the best of his ability. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) said he was certain the members of the Congress would work on good terms with the new Secretary General for the future of their assembly.

          12. ADOPTION OF THE COMPOSITION OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE, STATUTORY COMMITTEES AND WORKING GROUPS

          [CG(18)5 PROV]

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) said the next item was the adoption of the composition of the Standing Committee, the statutory committees and the working groups. The candidatures proposed by the groups could be found in document CG(18)5 PROV.

          There being no objections, the proposed candidatures were approved.

          13. STATEMENT BY THORBJØRN JAGLAND, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) said he was pleased to give the floor to the Secretary General, with whom the Congress had established close ties. The Congress had been the first political assembly to be addressed by him following his election in October 2009. In January 2010, he had launched an ambitious reform of the Council of Europe with the support of the governments of all member states.

          The Congress had launched its own reform in June 2009. He was looking forward to hearing the Secretary General present his vision of the process of reforming the Council of Europe and of its local and regional dimension as embodied by the Congress.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

          The SECRETARY GENERAL emphasised that he had always considered local and regional democracy a key component of any democracy, and his experience as a local elected representative had confirmed him in that view.

          His aim was to bring about a refocused organisation based on an improved distribution of tasks as compared with the institutions of the old Europe. The reform had already been presented to the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, and numerous exchanges of views had been held with governments, the European Union and the OSCE, so his statement before the Congress might seem to come a little late, especially as the reform was already launched. He emphasised that the Congress had initiated its own reform following its Bureau’s examination of the report by Halvdan Skard, whose aim was to concentrate resources on clear political priorities. As President Micallef had stressed to the Committee of Ministers, the Congress wanted to be a driving force within the Council of Europe, and, at the threshold of a new era, the Secretary General fully intended to work with it.

          The Council was in a position to become the “lighthouse” of Europe – in fact, it might be better to call it the continent’s “GPS”. Its independence was a strong point; its action to defend our common European values was pursued with no consideration for economic, military or geo-strategic issues. Unlike the European Union and the OSCE, it was the only European organisation that covered the entire continent. It was the only institution to carry out missions to monitor compliance with obligations entered into by states with regard to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It brought together parliamentarians from all countries, had special contacts with civil society, NGOs and local authority representatives and had a major presence in the field. Owing to its exceptional access to knowledge and information, it should be able to anticipate and develop solutions to the major social and political problems that fell within its remit.

          The Congress could play a key role owing to the unique contacts it maintained at all levels of society. One of its main contributions to the collective added value was the monitoring procedure, which, in order to be effective, had to be regular and form part of a genuine political dialogue. The Secretary General welcomed the Congress’s determination to follow up its monitoring with targeted assistance programmes in co-operation with governments and local authorities.

          The Secretary General congratulated the Congress on its role in the observation of local and regional elections. The Congress would be sending a delegation to Tbilisi to observe the municipal elections. It was to be regretted that the Congress had not been invited to observe the local elections in Belarus.

          As members were aware, he had made the strengthening of relations between the Council of Europe, on one hand, and the European Union and the OSCE, on the other, of his key priorities. To that end, he had already met with the Union’s most senior officials. The Council had never had such regular, high level and substantial contacts with the European Union, and he would make sure that remained the case.

          The Secretary General also welcomed the revised co-operation agreement signed between the Congress and the European Union’s Committee of the Regions and the creation of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly, in which the Congress would be participating as an observer.

          Everyone was aware that the financial situation of the member states was particularly difficult, and the Council itself was feeling its impact. There was not much chance of the situation improving in the near future, which meant that the various bodies of the Organisation were under constant pressure that was forcing them to take difficult decisions in order to set their priorities. The agenda of the present session of the Congress was particularly ambitious and very broad. That was quite understandable as it was at the local level that democracy was tried and tested. Each of the Council of Europe bodies should strive not to do less but to do things better. In that connection, the fact that two Norwegians were among the determined promoters of a reform of the Council of Europe was perhaps due to their natural proclivity for pragmatism. Norwegians thought there was always room for improvement and he would be guided by that conviction throughout his term of office.

          The Secretary General then congratulated Andreas Kiefer on his election as Congress Secretary General and assured him of his full support.

          It was the local level that taught us that no nation was born a democracy, but that democracy should become a universal right, since participatory democracy was the best path to shared growth. He had no doubt that the Congress’s work would enable its members to return home with more knowledge and ready to work for better governance throughout Europe. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) thanked the Secretary General for this broad overview. The next item was the oral replies to written questions. The Secretary General would only reply to questions from members present in the chamber.

          ORAL REPLIES TO WRITTEN QUESTIONS

          He called Anders Knape.

          Anders KNAPE (Sweden, L, EPP/CD) said the President of the Congress had just signed an agreement for the renewal of the co-operation between the Congress and the European Union’s Committee of the Regions. Did the Secretary General believe the Congress was sufficiently involved in strengthening the ties between the Council of Europe and the European Union?

          The SECRETARY GENERAL replied that everything aimed at forging closer ties between the two organisations was welcome. The role of the European Union had steadily grown and the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon would speed up that trend, so it was essential for the Council to work with the European Union, which, in turn, had every interest in maintaining good relations with the Council, whose focus differed from its own. The many challenges facing Europe made greater co-operation between the two complementary organisations essential.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called Halvdan Skard to ask his question.

          Halvdan SKARD (Norway, L, SOC) said the Secretary General had embarked on an ambitious programme to reform the Council, which the Bureau of the Congress unreservedly supported. The Congress had also undertaken detailed discussions on its own activities. Would the reform it envisaged make an effective contribution to the revitalisation of the Council as a whole?

          The SECRETARY GENERAL said he had been pleased to hear the President of the Congress make a statement to the Committee of Ministers in favour of paring down the Congress’s activities. There was a need to avoid having too many irons in the fire.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called Svetlana Orlova to ask her question.

          Svetlana ORLOVA (Russian Federation, R, EPP/CD) said the Congress was worried about the consequences of the economic crisis, as the debate that morning had shown. She wished to thank Wojciech Sawicki, who had done remarkable work as acting Secretary General of the Congress. She asked the Secretary General what, in his opinion, the Congress’s priorities should be in the context of the coming reform of the Council of Europe.

          The SECRETARY GENERAL replied that the Congress carried out an essential monitoring task. There would be no point in laying down standards applicable throughout the continent if their implementation were not verified. There was a need to improve co-ordination of the monitoring activities of the various Council of Europe organs.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called Yasemen Çelik to ask her question.

          Yasemen CELIK (Turkey, R, NR) asked the Secretary General what he expected from the Congress in connection with the forthcoming reform of the Council of Europe.

          The SECRETARY GENERAL replied that the best thing would be for the Congress to start by reforming itself. That was, incidentally, the intention expressed by the President of the Congress to the Committee of Ministers. There was a need to work efficiently and, therefore, in a more focused way, and that was the goal that everyone at the Council of Europe should set themselves.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called Dubravka Suica to ask her question.

          Dubravka SUICA (Croatia, L, EPP/CD) said Lars Molin’s draft resolution on human rights, which members would be debating during the present sitting, showed the Congress’s desire to work towards improving human rights at the local level. What did the Secretary General think of the Congress’s proposal to extend the scope of the monitoring of the European Charter to include consideration of respect for human rights at local level?

          The SECRETARY GENERAL replied that he welcomed the development of local democracy. Everyone should clearly take action to ensure that local and regional authorities fully complied with human rights standards in their work. It went without saying that local authorities could not disregard the major principles on which the Organisation was founded, which meant that the management of local authorities should be carefully scrutinised.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called Jean-Claude Frécon to ask his question.

          Jean-Claude FRECON (France, L, SOC) spoke as Congress Vice-President responsible for finance, and therefore the budget. The Secretary General had asked the Congress to reduce its budget by 2% for 2011, and the Bureau had unanimously agreed to make that sacrifice as it considered it necessary in order to guarantee a better future. However, once the reform was completed would the Council of Europe embark on a fresh dynamic process?

          The SECRETARY GENERAL replied that demonstrating the ability to reform was a precondition for obtaining additional budgetary resources for the Council from the member states. However, simply being virtuous did not guarantee the allocation of more funds. He had in fact toured the European capitals to meet heads of government and foreign ministers in order to raise their awareness of the Organisation’s work.

          François Mitterrand had once said that the Council of Europe was a Sleeping Beauty on the banks of the Rhine. It should be woken up to ensure that its member states and their citizens gained a maximum from it. If that were achieved, it would be possible to ask for additional resources.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called Karl-Heinz Lambertz.

          Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ (Belgium, R, SOC) said that since its creation the Congress had attached great importance to the development of co-operation between European regions and, in particular, to transfrontier
          co-operation. This co-operation between elected regional representatives was an instrument that fostered the development of the principles of democracy and the rule of law at grassroots level.

          What role did the Secretary General expect to give inter-regional and transfrontier co-operation in the planned reforms at the Council of Europe?

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called the Secretary General.

          The SECRETARY GENERAL said a significant development was taking place in Europe, where transfrontier co-operation was becoming more and more important, and not only on account of central government action. There were clearly greater ties at the private level between companies and, even, individuals. The opening up of European borders naturally fostered these relationships, but co-operation was also developing between regions of countries whose borders were fairly closed.

          It was necessary to develop the concept of “soft security” through greater co-operation between neighbouring regions. There were serious problems in some countries, with human trafficking just one example. Europe could not solve these problems on its own and would have to work with countries outside Europe.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called Keith Whitmore.

          Keith WHITMORE (United Kingdom, R, GILD) wished to ask a question on the observation of elections. In 2010 the Congress had decided on a substantial increase in the number of monitoring missions in order to check member states’ honouring of their commitments.

          What role did the Secretary General envisage for the Congress’s monitoring missions in the context of the Organisation’s monitoring activities as a whole?

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called the Secretary General.

          The SECRETARY GENERAL reminded members that a significant proportion of the Juncker report was devoted to the election of a Secretary General capable of speaking on an equal footing with the continent’s top leaders.

          Another part of the report stated that the Council of Europe should focus on its key tasks, which was what the planned reforms would try to bring about.

          The monitoring procedures were an important part of the Council’s activities, and legislative work would lose its relevance without them. There was, of course, the European Court of Human Rights, but it could not function properly without checks on the application of the relevant legal provisions. It was therefore necessary to improve co-ordination between the various bodies involved in the monitoring process.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called Günther Krug.

          Günther KRUG (Germany, R, SOC) returned to the proposals mentioned with regard to the Council of Europe’s future activities. He would like to know what resources and synergies existed between the Congress and the Parliamentary Assembly. How did the Secretary General envisage meaningful co-operation between the Chamber of Local Authorities and the Chamber of Regions in that context, and what were their priorities? How would it be possible to ensure that the opinions of the political groups were given greater consideration?

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called the Secretary General.

          The SECRETARY GENERAL thought it was up to the Congress to answer those questions itself and that he should not interfere with regard to the procedures, rules and co-operation planned by the Congress.

          The question of synergies between the Congress and the Parliamentary Assembly was an important aspect. The Council could be the “lighthouse” of Europe as it possessed unique instruments for gathering information throughout the continent and at all levels. It would also be necessary to exploit that information more efficiently than in the past. It would be helpful if the Congress and the Assembly were to co-ordinate their efforts to cover certain events. For example, information was needed on what had been happening in Georgia for the last two years, and that would provide a good opportunity for co-operation between the Congress and the Assembly.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called Ioannis Michas.

          Ioannis MICHAS (Greece, R, SOC) acknowledged that the economic situation was difficult in Europe, especially Greece. The Greek Prime Minister had had contacts with European and world leaders, including President Sarkozy, Chancellor Merkel, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, the President of the Eurogroup and the President of the United States.

          Could the Secretary General say what measures the Council of Europe could take to help protect the European economy and establish intervention mechanisms capable of putting an end to the actions of speculators and preserving the social cohesion of states and their local authorities?

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called the Secretary General.

          The SECRETARY GENERAL did not think the Council had an important role to play in that area as it was not its responsibility to help European countries find their way out of an economic crisis. It could, however, concern itself with the social and human consequences of the crisis, some of which could prove dangerous and risk leading to the destabilisation of society.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called Herwig van Staa.

          Herwig VAN STAA (Austria, R, EPP/CD) pointed out that the previous speakers had said they were ready to support the reforms and agree to a reduction in the budget. The Secretary General had been able to inspire confidence. What concrete measures did he intend to take to improve the Council’s political role and political significance, and what tangible role should the Congress play in that connection?

          Mr van Staa also wondered whether it had been accidental that the Secretary General had never spoken about the Congress when talking about the four pillars of the Council of Europe.

          The Secretary General had stressed the importance of forging ties with the European Union. What weight would the reform give to countries that were members of the Council of Europe but not the EU?

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called the Secretary General.

          The SECRETARY GENERAL said the Council included twenty countries that were not members of the EU, which showed its importance as the only organisation with links to those countries. The Council was the only body that ensured they complied with European standards. The European Union would never open itself up to all the countries of the continent, which fully justified the Council’s raison d’être.

          The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture provided an example of what could be done. This excellent monitoring mechanism enabled checks to be carried out in European prisons, both in EU member states and other countries, and to take appropriate action in all those states.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called István Börbély.

          István BORBELY (Hungary, R, EPP/CD) asked the Secretary General if he could envisage including the right to democracy at all levels in the list of human rights.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) called the Secretary General.

          The SECRETARY GENERAL reminded members that the European Convention on Human Rights enshrined the key principles of human rights, the rule of law and democracy and accordingly answered the wish expressed by the speaker. The Convention was working well, as could be seen from the Court’s judgments.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP(CD) called Ludmila Sfirloaga.

          Ludmila SFIRLOAGA (Romania, R, SOC) pointed out that the regions had an increasingly important position in Europe’s institutional structure: new macro-regions were being set up and the regions were becoming more and more involved in the process of good governance at both the national and European levels. Moreover, initiatives had been taken to increase citizens’ involvement in political affairs by developing and fostering regional democracy.

          Could the Council give its backing to processes in support of the regions and, if so, how, both at the internal level and in its relations with national governments?

          The Council should ensure that when new authorities were created they fully complied with its standards. The Congress had a very important role to play in that area. It was essential that local, regional and transfrontier authorities complied with the principles referred to in the various conventions.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) thanked the Secretary General and said the Congress wanted to be a driving force for the Council of Europe and fully participate in the work to improve the Organisation. (Applause)

          Ludmila SFIRLOAGA (Romania, R, SOC) took the Chair in place of Ian Micallef.

          14. TERRITORIAL DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS

          [CG(18)6]

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) said the next item was the debate on territorial democracy and human rights.

          She reminded members that the Congress had always shown a strong commitment to human rights. In 2008, it had adopted a joint statement with the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights on the implementation of human rights at the local and regional levels. That statement set out a series of proactive proposals for promoting the implementation of and effective respect for human rights, raising awareness of human rights, fostering good practices, and so on.

          The report that Lars Molin was about to present was in line with that joint action, which sought to give a concrete dimension to local and regional authorities’ role in the implementation of human rights. The draft recommendation and draft resolution had been approved by the Institutional Committee at its meeting on 15 February.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) called Lars Molin.

          Lars MOLIN (Sweden, L, EPP/CD) Rapporteur, quoted Eleanor Roosevelt: “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home (…) places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.” It was true that the local level was essential for the implementation of human rights as that was the key level for respect for democracy, security and social ties, all of which were protected by the European Charter of Local Self-Government. The members of the Congress implemented most of the provisions of the international conventions in their day-to-day work, including the European Convention on Human Rights. As the authorities’ representatives, it was their duty to respect the international obligations entered into by the member states. While some rights, such as the right not to be subjected to racial discrimination, were protected by law and were therefore non-negotiable, things were not so clear with regard to certain freedoms bound up with economic rights, which stemmed from solidarity between citizens and regarding which member states should do their utmost to ensure they were upheld.

          While rules of law were enacted at the national level, the local level could play a valuable role to ensure some rebalancing.

          It was not easy to assess the cost of human rights. Upholding them in the social services did not entail any additional expenditure, but providing specific support for certain categories of people, such as the sick or the elderly, could result in additional economic pressure. However, Article 9(1) of the European Charter of Local Self-Government had to be complied with in all cases by local authorities. Conversely, there was an economic, social and also political cost of failing to uphold human rights.

          At a time when the new Secretary General intended to undertake a comprehensive reform of the Council of Europe and had declared that history taught us that democracy could not survive without social stability and that social rights could not be upheld without democratic rights, the present report aimed to give a new impetus to the Congress’s work. Today, it was not possible merely to make grand declarations about the protection of human rights, which should be systematic and institutional. The Council of Europe should concentrate its efforts on co-operation between states in order to attain its principal objectives, which were respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

          In that connection, the draft recommendation stressed the primary role of the Congress and proposed an action plan. The report had its origin in the Forum for the Future of Democracy held in Stockholm in 2007 and in the report presented to the Congress by Keith Whitmore. The Swedish chairmanship and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions had subsequently placed the emphasis on the interdependence between human rights and democracy. The document had been drawn up following a long consultation process with the European Court of Human Rights, the Commissioner for Human Rights and all the other Council of Europe departments involved. He wished to thank all the members of the Congress who had contributed to its drafting.

          The main elements of the action plan were training, awareness-raising, the establishment of reference points and the introduction of independent complaint mechanisms. It was particularly important that local and regional authorities should have elected representatives trained to uphold human rights and aware of the results that could be obtained in this area through better governance. Confidence in society was greater when everyone knew that their rights would be respected. Democracy thus demanded a permanent relationship between voters and their representatives.

          There was no ready-made solution for the implementation of human rights so there was a need for a toolkit and for the exchange of good practices. It was here that the Congress had a key role to play: human rights had to be made part of the everyday work of all public authorities. National indicators should be developed in consultation with elected representatives. A systematic dialogue ought to be encouraged between the different levels of society and citizens should know that, if problems arose, they could appeal to independent bodies competent to deal with their complaints. This was the role of ombudsmen or other bodies whose job was to receive complaints from consumers or injured parties, anti-discrimination agencies, etc. Civil society representatives should be involved in this work, which would reduce the workload of both the national courts and the Strasbourg Court.

          Monitoring activities were also very important in this regard; each time a delegation visited a country to monitor the Charter’s implementation, it should adopt a human rights approach. Human rights would thus become indicators for monitoring the action taken by local and regional authorities, and the Congress would draw up regular reports on the human rights situation, which should also be the subject of frequent debates.

          The aim of the report was not to provide a definitive response but, rather, to serve as a starting-point for improving the implementation of human rights at the local and regional levels, as there could be no good governance or democracy without respect for human rights. Moreover, as an interdependent relationship was involved, respect for human rights should enhance the importance of the European Charter of Local
          Self-Government. The rapporteur was convinced that the Congress would be capable of meeting this challenge.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) thanked the rapporteur.

          She introduced Dieter von Blarer, who had been Ombudsman of the Canton of Basel-City in Switzerland for four years and was a member of the European Ombudsman Institute. He was a lawyer by training and had worked for various international organisations, such as the UNHCR in Iraq and the OSCE in Kosovo. Since he had been responsible, within the office of the Ombudsperson of Kosovo, for drawing up accusations of abuse of authority, he no doubt had a great deal to discuss with the members of the Congress.

          15. STATEMENT BY DIETER VON BLARER, OMBUDSMAN FOR THE CANTON OF BASEL-CITY (SWITZERLAND)

          Dieter von BLARER, Ombudsman of the Canton of Basel-City in Switzerland and member of the European Ombudsman Institute, said he would focus on the activities of ombudsman institutions and ombudsmen before describing two practical cases.

          As a general rule, ombudsmen were elected by the representatives of the people at the national, regional or local levels, so they possessed full democratic legitimacy. In particular, they were tasked with protecting the rights of individuals and combating violations by administrative authorities. Their remit also included settling differences between citizens and the authorities. There was also a need to supplement the parliamentary supervision of certain administrative institutions.

          As part of his remit, the Basel Ombudsman held regular discussions with the relevant parliamentary committee.

          Those institutions helped citizens to claim and assert their rights; they advised citizens and played a reconciliatory role but did not give the administrative authorities any instructions.

          Ombudsman bodies also had to protect institutions from unfounded criticism. They had played an important role in the countries of the former Soviet Union or the eastern bloc, especially when the judicial systems were in transition.

          The European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court were key instruments for ensuring that rights were upheld, but the procedures were lengthy. The highest levels of the hierarchy of laws had little influence on administrative decisions, and it was in that connection that local ombudsmen could play an important role by taking action on individual cases or events that had been brought to the public’s attention. In January 2008, the Basel police had received information concerning a demonstration by opponents of the Davos World Economic Forum. Since acts of violence had been perpetrated in previous years, the police had wanted to take preventive action, and around sixty individuals who fitted a certain profile had been arrested and taken to a central location, where some had been strip-searched. A dozen of them or their families had complained to the ombudsman’s office. An inquiry had been launched and the office had conducted an investigation with expert assistance. Subsequent to the ombudsman's report, the police had been issued with new instructions, following discussions with the ombudsman. There had since been fewer complaints.

          Local ombudsman institutions could also take action with regard to building permits or permission for the use of public places or the exercise of a professional activity. For example, a German midwife who had applied to the cantonal authorities for permission to carry on her profession in a self-employed capacity in a private maternity clinic had had her application turned down on the ground that she had not practised for one year in a public hospital. The case had been brought before the ombudsman’s office. It emerged that domestic law had not been complied with (the midwife had already practised in another canton) nor had the bilateral agreements with the European Union, nor even those binding Switzerland and the German Empire since the 19th century. It had been possible to dispel the misgivings of the public health authorities after a visit to the private maternity clinic, where it had been established that women who gave birth there ran no greater risk than at a hospital. The permission to practice had been granted. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) thanked Mr von Blarer.

          She welcomed Stefan Wolf, Mayor of Weimar, a historical town that had for over fifteen years awarded a prestigious human rights prize to individuals who had done remarkable work to promote such rights. The prize was only one of many initiatives taken by the municipality for the protection and promotion of human rights, and both the town and its mayor were to be warmly congratulated. The town set an example for others to follow.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) called Stefan Wolf.

          16. STATEMENT BY STEFAN WOLF, MAYOR OF WEIMAR (GERMANY)

          Stefan WOLF, Mayor of Weimar, said he was honoured to be able to address the Congress concerning local authorities’ role in the protection of human rights. The town of Weimar, which had 65,000 inhabitants and 4 million visitors a year, had its roots in German humanism and still bore traces of the Nazi reign of terror. For the past fifteen years it had been awarding one of the most prestigious human rights prizes.

          A week back, the Iranian Minister of Culture and Tourism had been invited to Weimar in the context of cultural exchanges. Mr Wolf said he had raised the human rights situation in Iran in their discussions and referred to it in his public statements. He had also spoken about the great cosmopolitan Franz Liszt and about Johann Gottlieb Herder, as well as the massacres committed in Weimar between 1937 and 1945. The survivors of Buchenwald had taught the world that it was not possible to remain silent about that terrifying period. The right to one’s own life story was a fundamental human right. Political leaders had a duty to ensure respect for everyone’s rights, especially those of asylum-seekers. Every person had a right to a destiny, a future and a personal history, and that clearly applied to people living in hostels or retirement homes.

          On 14 July 2007, the day that the declaration known as the “Buchenwald testament” was handed to the town by former prisoners of the concentration camps, Weimar had undertaken never to stay silent about the crimes of National Socialism and always to fight against racism and anti-Semitism. On 3 October 2009, the municipal council had confirmed that decision by conferring honorary citizenship on Bertrand Herz, President of the International Buchenwald-Dora Committee.

          There should be no underestimating each individual’s need for self-worth and respect for others. That was Weimar’s experience with its human rights prize, which was awarded each year to individuals who had defended other people’s rights, sometimes at risk of their own lives. The town worked closely with the Federal Government’s human rights commissioner and other national bodies, but if it did not have its own official responsible for foreign nationals it would be unable to accomplish its task.

          Everyone who worked to promote human rights on a voluntary basis knew how hard it was to take action when social needs were not satisfied. That no one was above the law was Europe’s hallmark, and it was by pooling the efforts of the local, regional, national and European levels that that could be achieved. The German Federal Government had, for example, proposed the creation of “social towns”; this was a long-term project that was financed by federal funds but was supported at the local and regional levels. Mr Wolf said he was, for example, in favour of a “social ticket” on all public transport to enable unemployed people to access the jobs market. It was all about the defence of human rights as defined in 1789. No human being should be considered superfluous or excluded from social processes.

          No racist discourse and no demonstration by right-wing extremists should be tolerated. Mr Wolf appealed for elected representatives to defend human rights everywhere and at all times and thus demonstrate courage to stand up for their principles. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) thanked Mr Wolf and opened the debate.

          Nataliya ROMANOVA (Ukraine, R, GILD) thanked the rapporteur for his excellent work and Stefan Wolf for his impressive description of what could be done at the local level with regard to respect for human rights. The European Convention on Human Rights was the “Constitution” common to all member states, but it was implemented differently from one country to another. The important thing was that they had all agreed on a common denominator and could share good practices, and the Congress enabled that to be done for the local and regional levels. States should have mechanisms at their disposal enabling them to pool efforts aimed at ensuring respect for human rights. Those mechanisms were determined by the Council of Europe institutions, but everyone at local level still had to strive to respect human rights in all their dimensions – political, social and cultural. It was up to local authorities to set the tone so that each state complied with the principles underpinning the Council of Europe. The old democracies should contribute to the common effort by sharing their experience in that area. Since 2006, Ukraine had been organising fact-finding visits to various European countries for its local councillors to enable them to familiarise themselves with existing practices.

          The rise in the number of regional ombudsmen should make it possible to strengthen synergies and develop alternative conflict resolution methods designed to reinforce respect for human rights.

          Ms Romanova said she had contributed to a report drawn up by a number of Ukrainian NGOs, assessing the situation of human rights in their country. Reports of that type should be made available to everyone, especially staff of regional administrative authorities, of which the NGOs could be invaluable partners. Of all elected representatives, local councillors were the people who could take the most effective action when it came to ensuring respect for the rights of the most vulnerable. In that context, the draft resolution would be particularly helpful for all member states.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) called Gaye Doganoglu.

          Gaye DOGANOGLU (Turkey, L, EPP/CD) congratulated Lars Molin, whose report would provide an excellent basis for discussion. The Committee on Sustainable Development had wanted to deal with this issue in connection with its examination of the consequences of climate change. The right to a healthy environment was one of the “emerging rights” – rights that were as fundamental as the human rights already identified by international law. The relationship between human rights and sustainable development was obvious, since everything was linked together: the right to life, health, water, food and housing, equality, the absence of discrimination, the right to information and the right to justice. Who could deny that climate change had an impact on people’s lives? There was an urgent need to assess its impact on all societies, bearing in mind that the most vulnerable communities were those that would suffer the most from future changes. The effectiveness of government action depended to a large extent on the ability to forestall threats. It could be said that the risks run by local people were stronger when states and local authorities were weaker, and that applied in Europe too. The impact of climate change on living conditions was such that the right to a healthy environment would become key to the upholding of other human rights. That was why the Committee on Sustainable Development was increasingly addressing the issue of human rights. It would also contribute to the work of the committee of experts on the strengthening of human rights, and it wanted analysis of the link between human rights and sustainable development to be one of the Congress’s priorities for 2011-2012.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) called Sevdia Ugrekhelidze.

          Sevdia UGREKHELIDZE (Georgia, R, EPP/CD) congratulated the rapporteur. After having devoted half her life to human rights at the local level, she was aware that they were not all described in detail in the European Convention or upheld by the European Court of Human Rights as they were, in a way, “incidental human rights”. It was very difficult to establish precisely where some ended and others began, which made it harder to uphold citizens’ rights. For example, property rights could be abrogated because of planning requirements. At times of crisis, it was particularly important to remain vigilant.

          The Tbilisi region had wanted to have its own regional ombudsman, which had made possible the involvement of an independent NGO to which citizens could turn on any issue concerning a municipal service. Although the initiative had only been launched in December 2009, the NGO had already received 14,000 phone calls or letters on malfunctions or abuses and they had led to the lodging of some 500 complaints. The result was all the more significant as, by this means, the regional administration could both help citizens and correct local malfunctions brought to light. Problems differed from one town to another but there could be no doubt that the appointment of further regional ombudsmen would contribute to enhanced respect for human rights at local level.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) called Helena Pihlajasaari.

          Helena PIHLAJASAARI (Finland, L, SOC) agreed with the rapporteur that local and regional authorities were the best level for ensuring that human rights were upheld, so they should have the appropriate monitoring instruments at their disposal. A questionnaire on the appointment of local and regional ombudsmen had been sent to member states and it would be appreciated if they would all reply before the end of March.

          With regard to human rights, the situation was still in a state of flux. Things depended not only on the financial situation of regions and municipalities, but also on fluctuations in unemployment or changes in housing policy. Respect for human rights had to be incorporated into the planning process at all times, and an annual review should be carried out to see whether local administrative practices were developing in the right way.

          Ms Pihlajasaari concluded by saying that it was no hard task to approve the rapporteur’s excellent work.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) called Mikhail Gulevskiy.

          Mikhail GULEVSKIY (Russian Federation, L, GILD) said the Russian political system had been modernised at both the national and local levels. That could be seen in Lipetsk, where municipal elections had just been held. There had been 107 candidates for 35 seats five years ago, and 160 candidates on 14 March last. All political parties and all population groups had been represented, and 20% of the candidates were women. Six years back, the municipality had set up a monitoring body on which both councillors and NGO representatives sat. Experience had shown the effectiveness of that body, thanks to which the citizens were better informed about the local authority’s role in all areas. In general, the authorities should adopt transparent working practices and openly inform their citizens about both their plans and the means with which they carried out their work.

          For some years it had been apparent that the approach to administrative work was changing. Regular meetings between the mayor and the political parties enabled councillors to be better informed about citizens’ problems. During each sitting, a public debate was held to explain the budgetary expenditure and detail regional planning projects. It was important for local authority leaders to know how to listen to people: in certain towns, young demonstrators had been seen breaking windows, but that was not democracy. Human rights were wonderful if they were not merely recognised on paper.

          In Lipetsk, all the conditions had been met to ensure the town was well managed. 800 new dwellings had been built and more than 1,500 families had moved in. The work was continuing, as were the efforts to improve roads and transport. A kindergarten and a polyclinic had been opened and qualified teachers had been appointed. The employment situation was good and the town had only 1% unemployment.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) called Leen Verbeek.

          Leen VERBEEK (Netherlands, R, SOC) congratulated the rapporteur on his excellent work, on behalf of the Dutch delegation. It was important to emphasise the need for a local and regional democracy framework and to make that a focal point of the Congress’s work.

          Far-off countries did not have a monopoly on experiencing problems, and all countries were confronted with local and regional issues. In the Netherlands, for example, there were tensions between those who wanted to freely practise the religion of their choice and those who wanted to exercise their freedom of expression just as freely. That was an example of the difficulties encountered by local and regional authorities. The adoption of the report would enable human rights to be better protected in the regions.

          With regard to new structures, Mr Verbeek said he would like to mention the example of the Netherlands, where there was a genuine talking shop culture. Each discussion led to the creation of a new organisation, which meant there were nearly more organisations than inhabitants. As soon as a new organisation was set up, the old bodies felt relieved of any obligation, so it was better to lay down an obligation for all existing organisations to ensure respect for human rights rather than to create new organisations.

          The rapporteur had spoken about links between the EU and the Congress as far as human rights were concerned. How did he see those links in practice and would it be possible to act together at the local and regional levels?

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) called Devrim Çukur.

          Devrim CUKUR (Turkey, R, NR) concurred that an action plan should be rolled out at the local and regional levels in order to guarantee better respect for human rights, but there was a need to specify the rights directly concerned and the actual measures that political leaders should apply.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) called Christopher Newbury.

          Christopher NEWBURY (United Kingdom, L, EPP/CD) asked if it would be possible to complete the draft recommendation by including references to monitoring, which were missing from the text.

          In Stockholm, the financial costs of human rights projects were sometimes high relative to local budgets. How could the Congress guarantee priorities in the present context of budget restrictions?

          It was also necessary to avoid any confusion between matters to do with human rights and the issue of climate warming, which were two different subjects.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) said there were no more speakers on the list and asked the rapporteur to reply to the members who had taken the floor.

          Lars MOLIN (Sweden, L, EPP/CD), Rapporteur, said that various rights were involved and that the situations varied from one Council of Europe member state to another. Each member state should bring its legislation into line with the Council’s standards. Social and economic rights evolved over time. Collective rights, i.e. third-generation rights, were currently often in the spotlight, and it was at that level that debates on the environment and climate change took place.

          The important thing was to reach an agreement between the EU’s Committee of the Regions and the Congress. It was true that two judicial proceedings could be conducted at the same time, one before the Strasbourg Court and the other initiated by a state before the Luxembourg Court, and could lead to two conflicting judgments. In order to avoid that type of difficulty, the European Union should ratify the European Convention on Human Rights, as the Treaty of Lisbon permitted it to do. The Council of Europe should make efforts in that direction.

          Paragraph 10 of the resolution asked the Congress’s Institutional Committee to assess the human rights situation systematically in the context of its monitoring visits. In paragraph 11 the Congress instructed its Institutional Committee to produce a five-yearly report on the human rights situation at the local and regional levels in the Council of Europe’s member states.

          On the question of funding, which was a sensitive area in the present context, it should be pointed out that the Congress's Charter contained an article on financing. Finally, the rapporteur emphasised the need to establish ties between central government and local and regional authorities regarding respect for human rights.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) declared the debate closed and proceeded to the examination of the draft recommendation.

          She called Herwig van Staa to move Amendment No. 1.

          Herwig VAN STAA (Austria, R, EPP/CD) said the amendment was intended to correct what was no doubt a drafting error. Paragraph 3a only referred to local authorities, and for completeness’s sake it was necessary to refer to “local and regional authorities”.

          Amendment No. 1 was adopted.

          The draft recommendation contained in document CG(18)6 (REC), as amended, was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) put to the vote the draft resolution contained in document CG(18)6 (RES), to which no amendment had been tabled.

          The draft resolution was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) thanked the rapporteur as well as the secretariat for their excellent work.

          Dubravka Suica (Croatia, L, EPP/CD) took the Chair in place of Ludmila Sfirloaga.

          17. NORTH-SOUTH CO-OPERATION: LAUNCH OF THE EURO-MEDITERRANEAN REGIONAL AND LOCAL ASSEMBLY (ARLEM) AND ROLE OF THE CONGRESS

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, L, EPP/CD) said the next item was the debate on North-South co-operation.

          The Congress had for many years been involved in developing partnerships with its immediate neighbours in the Mediterranean region. Over the past few months, that co-operation had been given a new impetus, to which several factors had contributed, especially the relaunch of the Union for the Mediterranean and the decision of the Committee of the Regions to create a political assembly of local and regional elected representatives for the Mediterranean region.

          Then there had been the decision by Morocco to join the North-South Centre, the first non-member state to do so, and to intensify its relations with the Council of Europe. That had been followed by the regionalisation initiative taken by the King of Morocco, an initiative that constituted an important stage in the development of local and regional democracy in that country. The Congress would do its utmost to ensure that the process moved forward.

          Finally, there had been the contribution of the Congress, which had decided to set up a working group to devise a strategy for its own co-operation in the region. Eberhard Kölsch would be speaking on that matter.

          January had seen the launch in Barcelona of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM), a long-awaited event.

          The fact that the presidents of the two chambers were rapporteurs on the subject was proof of the importance that the Congress attached to the question. Although ARLEM was an initiative of the Committee of the Regions, no less than six Congress representatives were among its members.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) called Ian Micallef, Rapporteur.

          Ian MICALLEF (Malta, L, EPP/CD), Rapporteur, reminded members that the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) had been set up in Barcelona on the initiative of the EU’s Committee of the Regions and that it was destined to become a platform for co-operation and dialogue between local and regional authorities on both shores of the Mediterranean. The Congress fully supported the initiative and was looking forward to participating in the future work as an observer. The task of ARLEM, which would complement the existing institutions, was to become a territorial pillar of Euro-Mediterranean relations. The Barcelona process and the creation of the Union for the Mediterranean were also a result of that rapprochement, which was destined to foster intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding in order to make the region an area of stability and sustainable socio-economic development.

          ARLEM had been born of the conviction that the Mediterranean basin was crucial for stability and peace in Europe. The southern and eastern shores shared a common history and heritage and had a long tradition of trade and migratory flows. Above all, they shared a common future. For many years, they had felt a growing need to work together to meet the socio-economic and political challenges facing them.

          The development of relations had begun between local and regional communities, which should also be the main beneficiaries of the process now under way, if only because democracy was built from the bottom up. ARLEM met the compelling need to involve all levels of administration in Euro-Mediterranean co-operation. The aim was to create the platform that the Congress had long advocated, for example in its March 2009 debate on ways of reinforcing Euro-Mediterranean dialogue. The initiative also came at a time when the Congress was becoming more involved in the region and was seeking to breathe new life into the Euro-Arab inter-municipal dialogue, especially with the launch of the Forum of Euro-Arab Towns in Dubai in 2008. In order to put that dialogue on a permanent footing, a steering committee had been set up to prepare the forum to be held in 2011.

          The Bureau of the Congress had decided to set up a working group to clarify and steer the strategy in this field. It was obviously necessary to take account of the interests of all stakeholders, especially the associations of local and regional authorities in Israel and Palestine, and of the Arab Towns Organisation, all of which had observer status with the Congress. The Congress had also provided its assistance for the creation of the Association of Local Authorities in Morocco, a country that had been guided to a significant extent by the European Charter of Local Self-Government. At the co-operation seminar held in Rabat in February, Morocco had asked to benefit from the Congress’s experience regarding regionalisation and local self-government. The Congress was also paying special attention to Algeria, which had recently been approached by the Parliamentary Assembly. The Congress also intended to work with all partner institutions, whether it be within the Council of Europe, the European Union or other regional organisations.

          It was to be welcomed that the creation of ARLEM enabled the ties between the Council of Europe and the Union for the Mediterranean to be strengthened. As a member of ARLEM, the rapporteur could ensure that the Congress made full use of its observer status and that the new organisation derived every benefit from the Congress’s achievements, which ranged from the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the Code of Good Practice to the New Urban Charter and numerous other documents that it might find helpful – as might the NGOs on the southern shore of the Mediterranean.

          The rapporteur concluded by calling on his fellow members to vote for the draft resolution, which assured ARLEM of the Congress’s support and invited it to assume its observer status and strengthen the ties of co-operation between Euro-Mediterranean towns and regions.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, L, EPP/CD) called Ludmila Sfirloaga, Rapporteur.

          Ludmila SFIRLOAGA (Romania, R, SOC), Rapporteur, emphasised how important it was for the Congress to support this initiative for co-operation between local and regional authorities on the two shores of the Mediterranean and to strengthen its relations with the Committee of the Regions regarding this important matter.

          The Congress had been developing relations with the Mediterranean regions since the early 1990s, especially with Tunisia and Morocco and the Israeli and Palestinian associations. A number of conferences of the Mediterranean regions had been held in collaboration with the Parliamentary Assembly. On each occasion, the Congress had adopted recommendations and resolutions that underlined the main problems confronting the local and regional authorities of the Mediterranean, especially with regard to migration and the environment. These meetings had also enabled a Euro-Mediterranean dimension to be developed within the Congress’s activities, so there was already a long tradition of Congress involvement in ensuring that local and regional authorities played a part in promoting sustainable development, peace and stability in the region.

          ARLEM would be a permanent forum for dialogue and co-operation and had set itself the goal of being recognised as a consultative and institutional partner of the Union for the Mediterranean. The rapporteur was convinced that all the organisations and associations involved in this field could participate in ARLEM’s work.

          The draft resolution accordingly welcomed the birth of the new Euro-Mediterranean assembly. It was a particular cause for satisfaction that ARLEM was based on the balanced representation of countries on the southern Mediterranean rim and representatives of the EU’s Committee of the Regions and of associations. Constructing virtual bridges in this way between Europe and its neighbours was particularly important.

          The Congress could become directly involved in the initiative and play an important role in the strengthening of regional democracy, in decentralisation and in civil society participation. Apart from co-operation between towns and cities, efforts should be made to strengthen co-operation between the regions in the south and the north of the Mediterranean basin. A number of European regions had already developed concrete projects with partners on the southern shore, and such projects should be encouraged from both the economic and the cultural points of view. The Congress could also encourage the countries to the south and east of the Mediterranean to develop specific co-operation projects with the local and regional authorities of Council of Europe member states, especially in the fields of migration, employment, training and the environment.

          The fact that the Congress enjoyed observer status with ARLEM was recognition of the added value it could provide for that initiative. It was ready to share its experience of the effective and efficient construction of local and regional democracy.

          The draft resolution reflected the desire to work with the Committee of the Regions and ARLEM on democracy and decentralisation. For their part, local and regional authorities within the southern and eastern Mediterranean countries were called upon to build bilateral relations. The Congress and its members would definitely commit themselves to these efforts to promote local and regional democracy.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, L, EPP/CD) opened the discussion and called Jean-Claude Frécon.

          Jean-Claude FRECON (France, L, SOC) said the Committee of Ministers’ Rapporteur Group on education, culture, sport, youth and the environment had asked the Congress for its opinion on the motion for a resolution on the North-South Centre to be submitted to the Standing Committee in June. He therefore asked Eberhard Kölsch for his opinion on the Congress’s involvement in the Centre’s development.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, L, EPP/CD) called Sari Yillipulli.

          Sari YILLIPULLI (Finland, R, NR) stressed that governments' shared desire was to be able to offer services meeting the needs of all citizens, strengthen good governance, make societies more tolerant and ensure their country’s competitiveness. Many local and regional authorities in northern and southern Europe were trying to reinforce their co-operation with the aim of reducing poverty and ensuring sustainable development. Co-operation between the local authorities in northern and southern Europe was also consistent with the Millennium Development Goals.

          In Finland, the association of local and regional authorities had been co-ordinating co-operation programmes since 2002. The minister responsible for local authorities had significantly increased the funds allocated to that programme and thus enabled fifteen partnerships to be built with six African countries. The projects focused in particular on children, education, the environment, technical development and infrastructure. The co-operation arrangements and objectives should be carefully studied in order to guarantee sufficient funding.

          Co-operation between northern and southern Europe was essential simply because the world was a global village.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, R, EPP/CD) found the last sentence particularly apt. As the rapporteurs did not wish to speak, she closed the debate.

          She asked the Congress to vote on the entire draft resolution contained in document [CG(18)8] (RES).

          The draft resolution contained in document [CG(18)8] (RES) was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, R, EPP/CD) said she was pleased to welcome Rachid Sassi, who had agreed to stand in for the Mayor of Rabat, Fathallah Oualalou. Mr Sassi, who was considered a rising star in Moroccan politics, had been involved in the creation of ARLEM.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, R, EPP/CD) called Rachid Sassi.

          18. STATEMENT BY RACHID SASSI, VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF RABAT (MOROCCO)

          Rachid SASSI, Vice-President of the Municipality of Rabat, thanked the Congress and its President for giving him the opportunity to speak. He warmly congratulated the new Secretary General of the Congress.

          The Mayor’s Office in Rabat, the capital of the Kingdom of Morocco, had launched ambitious reforms in the area of local democracy twenty years ago. Mr Sassi said he was honoured to be present at the proceedings of the Congress, a body for dialogue and consultation between local and regional authorities, which were the key drivers of development. Under the energetic direction of His Majesty Mohammed VI, Morocco had in the past few weeks launched a national debate on bold decentralisation projects that, in view of the status recently granted to the country by the European Union, deserved Europe’s support and assistance.

          Several southern countries had recently become aware of the need for democratic territorial restructuring after having for a long time favoured a centralised form of governance. In this process, European co-operation and expertise were highly sought after. There should be stronger relations between national and international bodies in order to reinforce the institutions of the southern countries, while at the same time taking account of their social, cultural and environmental constraints. The countries concerned faced problems such as a lack of education and training, insufficient funding for SMEs, corruption, a low level of involvement of young people or relatively inefficient financial management. There was a strong case for their being able to participate regularly in the debates of the Congress and other European bodies so that their elected representatives, and therefore their citizens, could benefit from the solutions discussed. Co-operation was a noble cause for Europe and a necessity for the future of the South.

          Access to knowledge and communications was a major advantage and could be facilitated by the new technologies. Links between universities in the North and the South would enable better support for young people, both women and men, so that they could decide their future. It was crucial for the South to maintain its ties with and be aided by Europe. North-South co-operation should be based on solidarity, partnerships and participation, not only with good neighbourly relations in mind – Rabat was the closest capital to Lisbon – but also with regard to integration. South and North should unite in a comprehensive development programme. In that connection, Rabat could be the location of a pilot project. If the proposal met with the Congress’s approval, he would inform his city councillors accordingly – democracy oblige. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, R, EPP/CD) thanked Mr Sassi and welcomed Eberhard Kölsch, who, after being Germany’s permanent representative at the Council of Europe between 2006 and 2009, was now Vice-Chair of the Executive Council of the North-South Centre and chaired its new Think Tank. He lectured at the University of Bonn.

          Having had the pleasure of listening to Deborah Bergamini in Rabat explaining her views on the development of the Mediterranean region, she was looking forward to Mr Kölsch’s statement.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, R, EPP/CD) called Eberhard Kölsch.

          19. STATEMENT BY EBERHARD KOLSCH, VICE-CHAIR OF THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL OF THE NORTH-SOUTH CENTRE

          Eberhard KOLSCH, Vice-Chair of the Executive Council of the North-South Centre, said it was a pleasure for him to take the floor following Rachid Sassi, just a few weeks after the Rabat seminar on co-operation between Morocco and the Council of Europe. He congratulated the new Secretary General of the Congress on his election and wished him every success.

          The values of the Council of Europe were in good hands within the Congress. Democracy should be experienced, desired and recreated every day from the bottom up. The current period was characterised by globalisation and by competition between national economies, and even workers, hence the temptation of certain governments to find short-term solutions that guaranteed efficiency more than the rule of law. It was therefore vital to defend the Council’s values, both inside and outside the continent. The North-South Centre, soon to celebrate its twentieth anniversary, was well placed to do that. North-South issues could not be dealt with in the same way as those between East and West, which had been resolved with the Council’s eastward enlargement.

          The North-South Centre was a window through which the Council of Europe and the rest of the world looked at one another. It was based on an open agreement: not only Council of Europe member states but also third countries were invited to work with one another. Morocco and Cape Verde had become members the previous year. The agreement was also the only one that fully integrated the four Council of Europe bodies: the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Conference of NGOs and the Congress.

          The North-South Centre could pride itself in having achieved a number of successes in the Mediterranean region but its work should embrace all African countries. The University of Young People, which had met in Cape Verde, marked the beginning of a new type of co-operation.

          The Centre needed the support of the Congress, and Mr Kölsch invited Congress members to publicise its existence. The European Commission had understood that the Council of Europe and the North-South Centre were able to take action where it was powerless. The Centre’s target groups were mainly young people, who were the next generation of leaders. Democracy was also a specific way of managing conflicts. The Centre also dealt with other issues, such as migration, human rights and intercultural dialogue. Although its members came from different backgrounds, they all pursued the same goal.

          On the occasion of its twentieth anniversary, it had expressed the desire to modernise its statute for more transparency and improved co-operation with the four pillars of the Council, a desire supported by a Parliamentary Assembly recommendation. Mr Kölsch invited the Congress and the Secretary General to give their opinion and present their proposals. Intensive consultations were also under way with the Centre’s Executive Council, the Conference of NGOs, the European Commission and the European Parliament.

          In order to promote democracy, the rule of law and human rights at the local and regional levels, both within the Council of Europe and beyond, many different players were necessary and they should combine their efforts and sing from the same hymn sheet. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) thanked Mr Kölsch for his very interesting statement. Everyone would have taken note of his expectations with regard to the Congress, of his vision of co-operation within the Mediterranean area and of his conception of the North-South Centre as a Council of Europe showcase and an open window on the world. An era of fruitful co-operation was doubtless about to dawn.

          20. DATE, TIME AND AGENDA FOR THE NEXT SITTING

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) proposed that the Congress hold its next public sitting the following day at 3 pm with the agenda as adopted that morning.

          The agenda was agreed.

          The sitting rose at 6.05 pm.

          SITTING OF THE CHAMBER OF REGIONS

          Thursday 18 March 2010 at 10 am

          --------------------------

          CONTENTS

          Page

      1. Opening of the 18th session of the Chamber 37

      2. Adoption of the draft agenda of the Chamber 37

      3. Communication by Ludmila Sfirloaga, President of the Chamber 37

      4. Regional democracy in Switzerland 39

      5. Minority languages: an asset for regional development 42

      • Statement by Ivan Jakovčić, President of the Istrian Region, Croatia 43
      • Sigve Gramstad, Vice-Chair of the Committee of Experts of

            the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, Norway 44

      6. Intra-regional transport: a challenge for sustainable development and regional cohesion 48

      • Statement by Valerio Prignachi, President of Brescia Mobilità SpA,
      Italy 49
      • Stepan Kirichuk, President of the Russian National
      Congress of Municipalities,
      Russian Federation
      50

      7. Closing of the 18th session of the Chamber 52

          1. OPENING OF THE 18TH SESSION OF THE CHAMBER

          The sitting opened at 10.05 am with Ludmila Sfirloaga (Romania, SOC), President of the Chamber, in the chair.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) declared the 18th session of the Chamber of Regions open, in accordance with Rule 17(1) of the Rules of Procedure.

          2. ADOPTION OF THE DRAFT AGENDA OF THE CHAMBER

            [CPR(18)OJ1PROV]

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that the agenda for the present session had been adopted by the Congress at the previous day’s sitting and that the agenda for the Chamber of Regions was now to be adopted. She noted that there were no objections.

          The agenda for the 18th session was adopted.

          3. COMMUNICATION BY LUDMILA SFIRLOAGA, PRESIDENT OF THE CHAMBER

          [CPR(18)1]

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC), the first woman to be elected President of a Chamber of the Congress, welcomed the adoption at the previous session of Recommendation 273 (2009) on equal access to local and regional elections, which specified the place that women should have in such elections, i.e. at least one-third of candidates should be women. The Venice Commission’s response to the recommendation had been very positive, and the reaction of the Committee of Ministers should be given particularly close attention. The Congress had been the first institution to campaign for 30% of the members of national delegations to be women. It was to be hoped that one day there would be as many women as men in the Chamber. The debate to be held on Friday morning on Britt-Marie Lövgren’s report on “Achieving sustainable gender equality in local and regional political life” would mark a new and important step in this context.

          Amongst all the work done since October, the efforts to introduce a legal instrument on regional democracy at European level had been very important for the regions of Europe. The European Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government had simply noted the Reference Framework during their 16th session, held in Utrecht in November. The declaration could be regarded as a glass that was half empty or half full: half empty in that the Council of Europe did not need permission to analyse the scope of regional democracy; half full if it was considered that this represented recognition by an intergovernmental body of essential criteria as a basis for the Chamber’s monitoring function. The Reference Framework for Regional Democracy could therefore, as Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe suggested, be regarded as an encouraging compromise between those who wanted a standard-setting text and those who disputed the value of even a reference text. In any case, the Reference Framework constituted the starting point for a new instrument for the future, a sort of yardstick by which the Congress could gauge regional democracy in the course of its monitoring missions. How could this Reference Framework best serve the interests of European regions? That was the question that the Bureau of the Chamber of Regions and the Institutional Committee wished to answer.

          It had been proposed in October that activities be organised with a view to considering ways of strengthening the regions of Europe. A conference on regionalisation in Europe and the role of the Congress was to be organised in Greece in the late spring, on the initiative of Ioannis Michas. Alberto João Jardim had also proposed organising a seminar on the special autonomous status held by some regions, to take place in November in Madeira, with which the Congress reaffirmed its solidarity following the devastating floods suffered by that island. Transfrontier co-operation in Europe was also an important theme for the Chamber of Regions. At Utrecht in November, seven countries had signed Protocol No. 3 to the Madrid Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation, which provided for the establishment of Euroregional Co-operation Groupings (ECGs). It was essential for members of the Congress to endeavour to persuade their national governments not only to sign the new protocol, but also to ratify it.

          The Congress had also continued to follow and support the activities of two Euroregions established on its initiative, the Adriatic Euroregion and the Black Sea Euroregion. And the campaign against corruption would be the theme of a conference organised by the Congress and the Committee of the Regions, to be held at Messina in May. The Congress had also benefited from its long-standing co-operation with the associations representing the regions at European level, particularly REGLEG, and had maintained its relations with the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-Eastern Europe (NALAS). Another welcome development was the new agreement to be signed later that morning with the Association of European Border Regions, whose new President was Karl-Heinz Lambertz, a member of the Chamber of Regions.

          Following the Round Table on co-operation between European associations of regions, held during the plenary session in October, a report produced by the President and Herwig Van Staa as joint rapporteurs had proposed that thought be given to ways of improving co-operation between the various organisations.

          Reform of the Council of Europe had been announced by the Organisation’s Secretary General at the beginning of the year. Ian Micallef had informed the Ministers’ Deputies that the Congress would be examining its own activities and structures during another - wider - exercise that included reflection on Congress priorities for 2011-2012.

            Representatives of regions needed to continue to play an effective role in the Congress. Two main objectives should be borne in mind: to promote regionalisation and to strengthen co-operation between regions, in order to bolster the Congress’ efforts to promote regional democracy while giving due priority to the Council of Europe’s fundamental values.

            The Bureau of the Congress would hold an extraordinary meeting on 12 April at which Congress reform and priorities for 2011-2012 would be discussed. The President invited members to submit their proposals to the President of the Congress.

            Excellent co-operation had been established in the Chamber of Regions. Discussions on the future priorities and structures of the Congress should enable this co-operation to be developed so as to find effective ways of working for the future.

            The President said that, while she was a mere woman, she hoped to have met everyone’s expectations nevertheless. Wearing a skirt had not prevented her from succeeding in a man’s world!

            She called Nataliya Romanova.

            Nataliya ROMANOVA (Ukraine, ILDG) drew members’ attention to transfrontier co-operation, of which Ukraine had considerable experience.

            The Utrecht Conference and the ratification of Protocol No. 3 were prime concerns of both regional and central authorities. A substantial amount of work had been done in Ukraine in the past few years, and international conferences had been organised, including conferences on the Euroregions and on best practices in the field of transfrontier co-operation. Three regional representatives, including the speaker, were responsible for transfrontier co-operation questions. The issue was particularly important for a country that had a common border with Belarus. A co-operation meeting had enabled the two countries to sign a framework protocol on questions relating to the environment, building and transport.

            The speaker hoped that her country’s efforts would make progress possible on this question in Europe, and that the Congress would express its support for ratification of Protocol No. 3 to the Madrid Convention.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called Mykhaylo Kichkovskyy.

            Mykhaylo KICHKOVSKYY (Ukraine, EPP/CD) thanked the President for her comprehensive report. The Chamber of Regions attached great importance to questions relating to transfrontier co-operation. He considered that Protocol No. 3 and the decisions taken in Utrecht would help to strengthen such co-operation.

            A round table on the protocol, and on the roles and funding of Euroregions in particular, had been held in Ukraine on 10 March. Representatives of the central and of local and regional authorities had participated. Irrespective of their size and level of development, Euroregions always offered huge potential for partnership. They might have to call on the Council of Europe’s assistance with, for instance, the organisation of events highlighting some of their special features.

            A draft proposal for implementation of the provisions contained in Protocol No. 3 on transfrontier co-operation had been submitted to the Supreme Council of Ukraine. A declaration on the Assembly of Ukrainian Regions had been adopted.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) thanked the speakers and expressed the hope that the Congress could meet their expectations.

            She noted that there were no more speakers on the list and closed the debate.

          4. REGIONAL DEMOCRACY IN SWITZERLAND

          [CPR(18)2]

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) said that the next item on the agenda was the presentation and discussion of Marjan Haak-Griffioen’s report for the Institutional Committee on “Regional democracy in Switzerland”.

            In the context of its monitoring activities, the Institutional Committee had organised a monitoring visit to Switzerland in May 2009, for the purpose of examining regional democracy. The recommendation had been approved by the Institutional Committee at its meeting of 15 February.

            Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe, the previous rapporteur, was no longer a member of the Congress, so the Institutional Committee had appointed Marjan Haak-Griffioen as rapporteur, and the President now invited her to present the committee’s conclusions and the draft recommendation.

            Marjan HAAK-GRIFFIOEN (Netherlands, EPP/CD), Rapporteur, expressed her pleasure at presenting the report, the first to be produced on regional self-government in Switzerland. The report coincided with the Swiss Chairmanship of the Council of Europe.

            Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe was the rapporteur who had originally produced the draft. He had headed the Congress delegation that had visited Switzerland in 2009. He had prepared this very interesting report and the recommendation. His membership of the Congress had expired at the beginning of 2010. The speaker, who agreed with his conclusions, had gladly agreed to take over from him. She thanked her colleague for his outstanding work within the Congress.

            The report concerned cantonal self-government in Switzerland, its development and its conformity with European standards. The report also referred to the organisation of the municipalities and communes. It was the first Congress report to analyse a reform of regional democracy as defined during the 2009 Utrecht Ministerial Conference. The fundamental principles of regional democracy were fully complied with in Swiss legislation and practice.

            An extensive reform of financial equalisation had introduced a clear division of responsibilities between the various authorities. Broad fiscal autonomy also had repercussions for taxpayers. The Conference of Cantonal Governments was responsible for taking into consideration the rules relating to minorities, in conformity with the standards established by the Council of Europe.

            Referring to the “question of Jura”, the speaker hoped that the present dialogue would lead to a negotiated solution.

            The Swiss system was marked by a highly developed practice of direct democracy. Each canton chose how its citizens could participate in political decisions. An important event had occurred on 29 November 2009 when, following a popular initiative, the Swiss people had agreed to prohibit the building of new minarets in the country. The Congress was following the ensuing developments closely and considered that it would probably be necessary to introduce safeguards to ensure that Swiss legislation came more closely into line with international law.

            The draft recommendation contained ideas about structural reform at municipal level. It considered that a critical review of intercantonal agreements was needed, to guard against a risk of dispersal of decisions. The possibility of laying new institutional foundations so as better to regulate the application of intercantonal agreements should also be considered. The recommendation included a detailed list of suggestions. Regional democracy in Switzerland was highly developed, extremely sophisticated, dynamic and lively. It operated in a federal context that was a product of history and of sociological development.

            This efficient and coherent system enabled a federal country to live in harmony.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) congratulated the rapporteur, whose strong personality had enabled her to perform her task excellently despite the difficulty of taking over from Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe at very short notice.

            She called Philippe Receveur.

            Philippe RECEVEUR (Switzerland, EPP/CD) thanked the authors of the report and said that he was pleased to see that they recognised the highly elaborate character of Swiss democracy and its conformity with the Reference Framework for Regional Democracy.

          The rapporteurs had expressed concern about Article 139 of the Federal Constitution, which allowed referendums on popular initiatives, in connection with the vote on banning minarets. Perhaps the Federal Assembly or the Federal Court could be asked to determine in advance whether a popular initiative was consistent with the Confederation’s international obligations. The fact remained that, as things stood, although cases had been taken to the European Court of Human Rights, it was no longer possible to build new minarets in Switzerland. On the other hand, mosques could still be built there, so Swiss Muslims could still practise their religion.

          The speaker noted that a broad majority in the Federal Government and Federal Parliament had firmly opposed the “anti-minaret” initiative and he stressed that Switzerland was not an anti-Muslim state. However, it was important not to condemn but to try to convince people that banning minarets was not the right response to the fears of citizens influenced by the activities of certain extremists or by the deteriorating relations with Libya. The vote raised a complex problem but did not express rejection of the Muslim community or of Muslim religion and culture. The dialogue should continue and intensify. The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs had indicated that the Federal Council would move in that direction, as would regional and local governments, which had a duty to do so. For Switzerland, a model of coexistence between different cultures and religions, religious peace was a factor of stability and prosperity.

          The authors of the report had also expressed an interest in the “question of Jura” and called for a negotiated solution. In this connection, the speaker noted that the establishment of the Inter-Jura Assembly was an exceptional example of good governance. It represented a way of settling a difference between two states of the Confederation, the cantons of Bern and Jura. Referring briefly to the history of a dispute that dated from 1815, when the Congress of Vienna had given the 90% German-speaking canton of Bern a number of French-speaking districts to compensate for the loss of other territories, the speaker explained that the Inter-Jura Assembly had been set up in 1994 in order to resume dialogue after an initial vote in 1974 had led to the establishment of a French-speaking canton, and a second vote a few years later to the return of four districts in the new canton to the canton of Bern. The Assembly was the only body of its kind established in Europe to find an agreed political solution, in accordance with the rules of democracy, to a conflict between two regional authorities. In 2005, the Assembly had embarked on a study, under the aegis of the Confederation, on the institutional future of the region. Its final conclusions, submitted on 4 May 2009, recommended either increased autonomy for the Bernese Jura within the canton of Bern, or the establishment of a new canton to include the present Bernese Jura and the canton of Jura. The report had been presented to the people of the two regions, and the governments concerned were discussing the action to be taken on these conclusions. Thus, the solution to the conflict could be the establishment of a new canton, but this would have to be debated and a vote on the subject would have to be organised.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called Esther Maurer.

          Esther MAURER (Switzerland, SOC) spoke in German, offering an example of Swiss linguistic pluralism. She thanked the authors of the report and drew attention to the financial equalisation that was a feature of Swiss regional organisation and to the accompanying distribution of tasks. The canton of Zurich was one of the six cantons that contributed to equalisation, whereas 20 cantons benefited from it. The canton of Zurich had been in favour of equalisation from the outset, but thought it highly responsible not to have set any upper limit in this context. As a result, on the one hand, certain decisions had to be taken at national level because there were not enough funds, and, on the other, the cantons benefiting from equalisation had been able to reduce their taxes in the absence of confederal fiscal harmonisation. In short, equalisation now meant that, in some cantons, the most prosperous people were paying less tax. It went without saying that no such thing had been envisaged initially.

          On the distribution of tasks, the European Charter theoretically required subsidiarity. However, the construction and management of motorways depended on national decisions, so the regional authorities, unable to regulate road traffic as they saw fit, were swamped. It was a very awkward fact that the richest communities had to contribute substantial sums to equalisation while being denied fundamental powers. The same tendency to centralise was to be seen in the regions, to the detriment of local authorities. In this context, the speaker regretted that the report had analysed only the regional question. Regional and local issues were so closely intertwined that future reports should be required to cover both.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called Günther Krug.

          Günther KRUG (Germany, SOC) asked how far the new Reference Framework had affected the preparation of the report.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called Keith Whitmore.

          Keith WHITMORE (United Kingdom, ILDG) congratulated the authors of the report. He thanked the authorities in Lugano for their hospitality and agreed that regional and local questions should be dealt with together.

          He then returned to the “anti-minaret” vote, stressing the incomprehension, resentment and anger it had caused in the Muslim community throughout Europe, as in Manchester for example, where 27% of the population was Muslim. The Muslim community in Switzerland should quickly be given assurances that their freedoms were not threatened, and dialogue with that community should be intensified. The speaker hoped that the rapporteur would inform the Swiss authorities of the Congress’s views on the matter.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that there were no more speakers on the list.

          Günther KRUG (Germany, SOC), Vice-President of the Chamber, took the chair.

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, SOC) called on the rapporteur to reply.

          Marjan HAAK-GRIFFIOEN (Netherlands, EPP/CD), Rapporteur, thanked the colleagues who had participated in the debate. She had taken note of the detailed information provided by Philippe Receveur about the “question of Jura”. The Congress would carefully follow the outcome of the current consultations. The speaker noted that the anti-minaret vote had been mentioned briefly in the report by Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe, who had gone to Switzerland several months before the vote was organised. The report noted that direct democracy was highly developed in the Swiss Confederation. However, it was for the authorities to consider the extent to which the results of popular votes should be allowed to influence policy decisions. The vote in question was currently the subject of judicial proceedings to determine whether it had constituted discrimination against a community. The Congress would, of course, follow the question.

          The rapporteur had also noted Esther Maurer’s observations about financial equalisation.

          The last speaker had asked a question about the implementation of the Reference Framework. Generally speaking, implementation was satisfactory, but the form it took varied from case to case. A further document would be presented by the Congress shortly.

          Keith WHITMORE (United Kingdom, ILDG), Chair of the Institutional Committee, said the committee would continue to examine the Swiss results. As to the case of the minarets, trust between the communities should be restored, and all should be included in the political process.

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, SOC) declared the general discussion closed and noted that the committee had presented a draft recommendation [CPR(18)2] (REC), to which no amendments had been tabled.

          Draft recommendation [CPR(18)2] (REC) was approved.

          5. MINORITY LANGUAGES: AN ASSET FOR REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

          [CPR(18)3]

          The PRESIDENT (Germany, SOC) noted that the next item on the agenda was the presentation and discussion of the report written by Karl-Heinz Lambertz and Farid Mukhametshin for the Culture and Education Committee on "Minority languages: an asset for regional development".

          The regional languages of Europe constituted a valuable and all too often underestimated resource for regional development in Europe. The protection of these languages encouraged sustainable cultural and economic development by stimulating improvements in employment, education and quality of life, and thereby preventing potential economic emigration in local populations.

          Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ (Belgium, SOC), Rapporteur, noted that 60 of the 90 languages spoken in Europe were minority languages. So this was no marginal phenomenon, and the Council of Europe had been quite right, years ago, to take up the cause of defending and protecting Europe’s regional and minority languages. The history of his country, Belgium, had given it several minority languages in addition to its three official languages.

          The report confirmed the importance of minority languages at local and regional level and stressed the need to continue and extend the process of protecting these languages. One original feature of the report was the introduction of a new paradigm, abandoning a purely defensive position and adopting a rationale based on regional development. Good governance and strengthening regional identity depended on renewed links with minority languages, particularly in border areas.

          What could regions do for minority languages and what could minority languages do for regions? It was a matter of developing a genuine and mutually beneficial partnership for the future. Language and culture were closely connected with economic promotion, job creation and the diversification of cultural industries.

          Farid MUKHAMETSHIN (Russian Federation, ILDG), Rapporteur, applauded the work that the Congress had done in the past two years to promote the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which set out basic principles and objectives for all member states. In particular, regional or minority languages were to be recognised as an expression of cultural wealth and promoted in order to safeguard them. Their use in speech and writing needed to be developed, the links between different language groups maintained, the teaching of minority languages developed and arrangements made to enable non-speakers of minority languages to learn them.

          In Tatarstan, 115 ethnic groups speaking different languages lived together in perfect understanding, despite cultural or religious differences. The region enjoyed a satisfactory rate of economic growth and good social stability. Communities not only tolerated one another, but each respected and valued the others' specific characteristics. The Russian Federation had signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in 2001 and had launched various initiatives in 2009 introducing practical application of the Charter in several of its regions. There were 230 languages in Russia. It was impossible to protect them equally, as the Charter required.

          It was intended to solve the problem in stages and gradually achieve full compliance with the Charter. The central authorities had set up a three-stage programme, showing how seriously the Russian Federation took the Charter. Steps were already being taken to bring legislation into line. This process would continue until such time as it was completed.

            Ludmila Sfirloaga (Romania, SOC), President of the Chamber of Regions, resumed the chair.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) was pleased to welcome Ivan Jakovčić, President of the Istrian Region of Croatia.

            Istria was a region notable for having a second officially recognised language: Italian. As former Minister for European Affairs of the Republic of Croatia, Ivan Jakovčić had worked for an integrated Europe with due regard for cultural and linguistic differences. He had played a major role in the Congress, first as a member and later as a partner. He had subsequently been active in the defence of minorities and minority languages in particular.

            The defence of cultural and linguistic values had always been a feature of the initiatives he had taken in the context of the Adriatic Euroregion, of which he was President. He had displayed a very strong commitment to regional development and to the defence of minority languages.

            Ivan JAKOVCIC, President of the Istrian Region of Croatia, thanked the President for her welcome. He proposed to speak in Italian, which was one of the official languages of Istria. He began by congratulating the rapporteur and endorsing all that he had said, since he himself had been pursuing the same course in Croatia for 20 years. He considered that minority and regional languages were a rich asset for Europe and was sorry that some people were not convinced of this.

            In fact, Europe was quite simply a continent of minorities. Language was part of the identity of every individual. We should be building a strong and open modern Europe, in which minorities provided the firmest foundations. The borders dividing the continent were not natural ones. They were the result of the wars that had divided Europe and created minorities.

            A legal infrastructure was necessary to protect minorities. Ten years ago, the speaker had called, in this Chamber, for the inhabitants of Istria to be granted the right to speak Italian. That was now a fait accompli, despite difficulties with the new nationalists. The Croatian Constitution, and the laws on minorities and the use of minority languages, had been amended. Identical rights were provided for by the various regional and local rules, and they applied to all the minorities living in Croatia: Hungarian, Czech, Slovak and Serb. Although there were still occasional difficulties, the battle had been won, and cultural diversity was now an ordinary part of daily life.

            The speaker had campaigned under the election slogan "Diversity is a rich asset; tolerance is a strength". And he had won every election for the past ten years.

            The example of Croatia proved that it was possible to live together in good conditions. Tolerance paved the way for increased economic, scientific and cultural development, and encouraged tourism. Thus Istria maintained strong links with the Italian regions and co-operated closely with the Serbian province of Vojvodina. These interregional relations helped to develop the economy. Special links between Montenegro and Istria had also enabled better co-operation to be established.

            The Council of Europe had launched the initiative for an Adriatic Euroregion, of which the speaker was now President. This region comprised 25 countries along the Adriatic coast. The speaker had presented a strategy for the Euroregion to the Committee of the Regions, similar to the strategy presented for the Baltic and the Danube. Tolerance should prevail every time, and everywhere. (Applause)

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called Sigve Gramstad, Vice-Chair of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Mr Gramstad was an expert in the field, having chaired the ad hoc committee set up to write the draft Charter and, subsequently, the Committee of Experts.

            Sigve GRAMSTAD, Vice-Chair of the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, noted that the Congress had been a key player in the preparation of the Charter, the purpose of which was to protect and promote both minority and regional languages. This was important, because the building of Europe was based on cultural diversity. The Charter had been designed in response to Europe’s great linguistic diversity. European languages were used with very different degrees of intensity. That was why the Charter also touched on the variety of local and regional institutions that were required and the varying degrees of autonomy.

            A great many amendments had been made to national legislation to promote the development of the new institutions.

            The authorities had gradually come to appreciate the value of minority languages more, and this had enabled the users of these languages to develop a certain pride.

            As regards monitoring, the Committee of Experts had examined 53 national reports and had held more than 300 meetings with governmental authorities and more than 600 with regional authorities and independent experts. Although there could never be a full picture of follow-up missions, it was at least possible to realise the efforts that had been made and the legal measures that had been adopted to promote regional and minority languages, an important asset for regional development.

            It was certainly difficult to measure the precise impact of regional development because it was a lengthy process. Also, some of the information supplied to the Monitoring Committee had been contradictory. It appeared, however, that in places where minority languages or cultures were well accepted by the majority, users of those languages were more closely involved in democratic life. It was noted that the States Parties to the Charter had increased their efforts to promote minority languages. This was apparent in a number of areas: education, the legal system, the civil service. New institutions had been established, more substantial funds had been released for projects concerning certain minority languages and cultures. And lastly, border regions were attracting increasing public and private investment, and it appeared that regions where there were a number of languages and cultures were highly popular with tourists.

          The protection and promotion of minority and regional languages was a moral objective, but was also instrumental in regional development. Acceding to the Charter was an indication of strong commitment by the state concerned. So far, 24 countries had ratified it. The speaker called on the other member states to do so without delay.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) invited Ivan Jakovčić to give his views on developments in the Balkans, as seen from Istria.

          Ivan JAKOVCIC said the first difficulty was to define where the Balkans ended, which was a very complex matter… Generally speaking, relations between the states and regions were steadily improving, and co-operation between all the countries in the area was increasing. As for Istria, it was a region with a bridging role. Despite the continuing difficulties in Kosovo and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the speaker was convinced that what had happened in the heart of Europe ten years ago would not happen again. Everything the Congress did would help to consolidate local democracy in the Balkans, and he hoped that its efforts would be wholly successful.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called Valery Kadokhov.

          Valery KADOKHOV (Russian Federation, SOC) said the Russian Constitution required the authorities to protect all the peoples of the Federation, which was a multi-ethnic state. To that end, the two chambers of the Parliament had established a committee for the indigenous peoples of the North and the Far East, granting 26 peoples special status and state protection. The voices of minorities were heard in Russia, as they were in Switzerland, Belgium and Spain. Peoples complemented one another, and languages contributed to the richness of the heritage of every country in Europe. Thus, in Daghestan, the population of 2.8 million included people of more than 30 different ethnic origins, and various languages could be learned in schools and heard in theatres in the Republic.

          The report presented a generally positive situation in a Europe that was a mosaic of peoples and languages, but the picture was not uniformly rosy. The previous government in Ukraine had seen fit to issue a decree prohibiting the use of Russian in relations with the authorities, despite the fact that there were several million Russian speakers in the country. Initiatives of this kind were downright disheartening; other initiatives of a similar kind had been taken in some Baltic countries, where thousands of Russians had been deprived of the right to speak their own language. Every state should respect all its citizens, all languages and all cultures. We should follow the example of Canada, where the last Winter Olympics had been organised in that spirit.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called Herwig Van Staa.

          Herwig VAN STAA (Austria, EPP/CD) thanked the rapporteurs and the guest speakers. He had always been in favour of free speech for minorities and the protection of their languages. However a distinction needed to be drawn between the minority languages of migrants and those of indigenous peoples. Otherwise, if migrants did not learn the language of the host country, integration would be impossible, and this in turn would cause major difficulties. This question should therefore be studied in a separate report. Also, the Charter protected minority regional languages, but a given language could be a minority language at national level but not in certain regions. That was often the case in regions situated on the border with another state. Cross-border co-operation should always be encouraged in this context. It was a well-known fact that many conflicts arising out of a language-related question had eventually been resolved via political autonomy. This had been achieved to the fullest extent in the Spanish Basque Country, and Romansh was an official language in Switzerland. The particular historical situation should be considered in each case.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that there were no more speakers on the list. She called the rapporteur.

          Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ (Belgium, SOC), Rapporteur, thanked the various speakers for their contributions, which had stressed the importance of linguistic diversity and shown the differences and similarities in the situations obtaining in Europe’s regions. This report was part of a process of reflection on minority and regional languages in which the Council of Europe had been engaged for many years. Nevertheless, it was intended to shed new light by emphasising the regional development aspect.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that the rapporteur had tabled six amendments to the draft resolution contained in document [CPR(18)3] (RES).

          She called him to speak in support of amendment No. 1.

          Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ (Belgium, SOC) Rapporteur, explained that this amendment, like the others, took account of the opinion given by the experts and was intended to clarify the text of the resolution.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that no-one wished to speak against the amendment and that it had been approved by the committee.

          She put amendment No. 1 to the vote.

          The amendment was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called the rapporteur to speak in support of amendment No. 2.

          Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ (Belgium, SOC), Rapporteur, said it was a matter of extending the text of the resolution to include the concept of social life, so that it would not be confined to the economic aspect.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that no-one wished to speak against the amendment and that it had been approved by the committee.

          She put amendment No. 2 to the vote.

          The amendment was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called the rapporteur to speak in support of amendment No. 3.

          Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ (Belgium, SOC), Rapporteur, said that the teaching of minority languages should begin in nursery school in order to be more effective.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that no-one wished to speak against the amendment and that it had been approved by the committee.

          She put amendment No. 3 to the vote.

          The amendment was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called the rapporteur to speak in support of amendment No. 4.

          Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ (Belgium, SOC), Rapporteur, stressed that, for reasons of efficiency, plurilingual education was preferable to bilingual education.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that no-one wished to speak against the amendment and that it had been approved by the committee.

          She put amendment No. 4 to the vote.

          The amendment was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called the rapporteur to speak in support of amendment No. 5.

          Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ (Belgium, SOC), Rapporteur, said that this amendment was intended to promote the use of minority and regional languages in local and regional media, and also in economic and social life.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that no-one wished to speak against the amendment and that it had been approved by the committee.

          She put amendment No. 5 to the vote.

          The amendment was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called the rapporteur to speak in support of amendment No. 6.

          Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ (Belgium, SOC) Rapporteur, stressed the need to encourage both educational and cultural exchanges, not just the former.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that no-one wished to speak against the amendment and that it had been approved by the committee.

          She put amendment No. 6 to the vote.

          The amendment was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) said that a vote was now to be taken on the whole of the draft resolution contained in document [CPR(18)3] (RES), as thus amended.

          The draft resolution contained in document [CPR(18)3] (RES), as thus amended, was approved.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that the rapporteur had tabled six amendments to the draft recommendation contained in document [CPR(18)3] (REC).

          She called him to speak in support of amendment No. 1.

          Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ (Belgium, SOC) Rapporteur, said this amendment was intended to amplify the text of the recommendation.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that no-one wished to speak against the amendment and that it had been approved by the committee.

          She put amendment No. 1 to the vote.

          The amendment was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called the rapporteur to speak in support of amendment No. 2.

          Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ (Belgium, SOC), Rapporteur, said that this amendment proposed better wording for paragraph 5(b) of the recommendation.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that no-one wished to speak against the amendment and that it had been approved by the committee.

          She put amendment No. 2 to the vote.

          The amendment was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called the rapporteur to speak in support of amendment No. 3.

          Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ (Belgium, SOC), Rapporteur, said that this amendment devoted two paragraphs to two separate ideas which it sought to develop.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that no-one wished to speak against the amendment and that it had been approved by the committee.

          She put amendment No. 3 to the vote.

          The amendment was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called the rapporteur to speak in support of amendment No. 4.

          Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ (Belgium, SOC), Rapporteur, said that this amendment extended the reference to continuing education to include vocational training.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that no-one wished to speak against the amendment and that it had been approved by the committee.

          She put amendment No. 4 to the vote.

          The amendment was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called the rapporteur to speak in support of amendment No. 5.

          Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ (Belgium, SOC), Rapporteur, said that this amendment emphasised the importance of the media, the cultural industries and cultural tourism.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that no-one wished to speak against the amendment and that it had been approved by the committee.

          She put amendment No. 5 to the vote.

          The amendment was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called the rapporteur to speak in support of amendment No. 6.

          Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ (Belgium, SOC) Rapporteur, said that it did not appear to be advisable to extend education in the mother tongue to migrants. Such a measure might complicate the situation of indigenous minority languages, without constituting a good solution for migrants, whose special problems ought to be the subject of a separate report.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that no-one wished to speak against the amendment and that it had been approved by the committee.

          She put amendment No. 6 to the vote.

          The amendment was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that a vote was now to be taken on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in document [CPR(18)3] (REC), as thus amended.

          The draft recommendation contained in document [CPR(18)3] (REC), as thus amended, was approved.

          6. INTRA-REGIONAL TRANSPORT: A CHALLENGE FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND TERRITORIAL COHESION

          [CPR(18)4]

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that the next item on the agenda was “Intra-regional transport: a challenge for sustainable development and territorial cohesion”, a report presented by Adam Banaszak [CPR(18)4] (RES and REC).

          Mobility and transport policies had become major challenges in terms of quality of life and societies’ economic and social development. The public authorities should grasp the full scale of these challenges and put forward new policies for sustainable multimodal transport.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called the rapporteur.

          Adam BANASZAK (Poland, NR), Rapporteur, noted that the question of transport affected everyone in daily life. The quality of life and economic and social development were directly influenced by the way transport was managed, and regions played a vital role in introducing innovative solutions that would enable the transport sector to become more dynamic and reduce its environmental cost. It was essential, today, to reduce CO2 emissions and dependence on fossil fuels. Cars and heavy goods vehicles made regions very dependent on these fuels. It was in regions’ interest to develop intermodal systems and promote non-polluting means of transport, such as walking or cycling.

          Regions played a key role in ensuring good co-operation between public and private players in the transport sector. They should provide clear financial and political support for public transport in order to make it more efficient and attractive.

          Another challenge was that of reconciling users to public transport by making networks more accessible. Congestion was the bane of Europe, causing increased pollution and substantial financial losses.

          The report recommended member states to establish zones to which old and polluting vehicles were not allowed access. Measures of this kind already existed in some countries. Transport policy should be an integral part of overall urban and environmental planning policy. To develop that policy, the cost of public transport would have to be reduced.

          We were experiencing “suburbanisation” and extensive urban sprawl. Living, working and leisure facilities were widely dispersed. Careful spatial planning could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The report recommended the introduction of public transport lanes to get passengers living outside towns to places where they had access to cycle paths.

          And transport in rural areas should also be considered. Intra-regional transport should be accessible to all, particularly the elderly and infirm. The report recommended the introduction of appropriate services and the use of collective taxis in particular. It should be borne in mind that good transport policy could have a direct impact on people’s health.

          The rapporteur asked the governments of all member states to consider closely the examples cited and to promote a sustainable policy to encourage walking, cycling and the use of non-polluting cars. He hoped that his report would serve as a starting point for a more environmentally friendly policy.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) was pleased to welcome Valerio Prignachi, President of Brescia Mobilità. She took the opportunity to congratulate him on this new and important appointment. Brescia Mobilità was the holding company responsible for coordinating all intra-regional transport in the province of Brescia in Italy. As former minister with responsibility for transport in the province, Valerio Prignachi would contribute his experience to the report under discussion. It should also be remembered that he had served as Chair of the Congress Committee on Social Cohesion and was an active member of the Committee on Sustainable Development.

          Valerio PRIGNACHI, President of Brescia Mobilità in Italy, observed that many points had already been covered by the rapporteur. The province of Brescia could serve as an example for the current process of reflection. The province had a population of 1 000 000, including 200 000 in the city itself. Brescia Mobilità was engaged in a major project concerning the superstructures relating to mobility. An automated metro serving 13 stations had been completed and was now operating.

          Lombardy's transport network served a population of 3 million. There were 712 vehicles per 1 000 inhabitants in Europe as a whole, 747 in Italy and 784 in Brescia, the highest figure in Europe. The region of Brescia was a tourist area and it therefore needed an extensive transport network.

          However, there were also geographical areas in Lombardy where population density was relatively low, and which were consequently not very attractive, in economic terms, to service providers. This was the main concern of those seeking to organise the necessary public transport provision to guarantee the right to mobility and a quality service. The same advantages had to be provided in urban and rural areas, without incurring economic losses that were so substantial that they would ultimately entail a reduction, or even withdrawal, of the service.

          An innovative initiative had therefore been taken. After the Copenhagen conference, an automated driverless light metro had been installed in Brescia. It was still the only one of its kind.

          We had to rely on industry to encourage sustainable mobility and produce non-polluting vehicles. Lastly, in order to be in line with European policy on reducing greenhouse gases, we had to opt for renewable sources of energy, thereby achieving lower management costs. These savings would, in turn, release additional resources to extend the network.

          Efforts had been made in the past two years to apply a policy of integration of outlying rural areas in Brescia. To achieve this, the same right of access had to be guaranteed to all, an essential prerequisite being an integrated system for the use of the different modes of transport. A perfect balance had to be struck, so that users living outside the city became regular customers.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) then called Stepan Kirichuk, an old friend of the Congress from the days when he had been a member of the Russian delegation. He was now President of the National Congress of Municipalities of the Russian Federation and had spoken in that capacity on many occasions. He would be speaking today about the solutions that the Russian Federation had found to the problems of transport and cohesion.

          Stepan KIRICHUK, President of the National Congress of Municipalities of the Russian Federation, thanked the President for her kind words and said he was sure that, with her skills, she would succeed in carrying out the programme she had mentioned at the beginning of the session.

          Transport in the Russian Federation was based on different models, depending on the regions, their structure, population, industry and trade. The lack of balance of the transport network in the country as a whole was a real problem. The different modes of travel had developed in different ways, and the infrastructures were not sufficiently developed, while the number of vehicles on the roads was increasing steadily. Air transport was also experiencing considerable problems.

          The authorities were determined to overcome these problems. The infrastructures had developed differently in the European part of the Russian Federation and the eastern part, particularly Siberia, so the authorities had decided to pursue an innovative strategy of modernisation between now and 2030. As a result of its geostrategic situation, Russia bridged east and west. The authorities had therefore decided to improve synergies between the various networks operating in the south, east and north.

          By 2030, 20 730 kilometres of new rail track were to be constructed, half of it for high-speed lines. It took 11 days to cross the country from east to west on the Trans-Siberian Express, i.e. 1 000 kilometres a day, a good average rate. But the various regional networks needed to be better integrated into one big national system, with major motorways to link the main regional centres. The transport networks in Siberia should also be strengthened, with better access to the northern regions in general and a consequent improvement in the economic and social situation in those regions. The Russian national programme for transport also included plans to construct 7 000 kilometres of toll motorways. National, regional and local authorities should co-operate closely to improve transport networks: the country’s economic development depended on them.

        The speaker thanked the rapporteur for his excellent analysis and wholeheartedly supported the draft recommendation and resolution. Finally, he informed the Congress of the initiative launched in Russia under the slogan "Safe roads save lives".

        The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) opened the debate, calling Günther Krug.

        Günther KRUG (Germany, SOC) observed that, although transport was responsible for 18% of all CO2 emissions, 80% of that 18% came from private vehicles and only 1% from rail transport. As a former railway engineer, he was convinced of the need to encourage the development of this mode of transport, but he realised that this involved highly complex systems. International standards varied, which complicated transfrontier relations. It was also necessary to ensure that there was fair competition between the various means of transport, which was not always the case. Lastly, although walking and cycling were well worthwhile, more attention should be paid to electromobility.

        The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called Inger Linge.

        Inger LINGE (Sweden, EPP/CD) said that all Swedish political parties agreed that regions should be responsible for planning and funding public transport. This applied in the Stockholm region, where an intermodal ticket had been introduced. The speaker also emphasised the benefits of producing biogas from waste water, enabling fuel to be produced locally.

        The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called Keith Whitmore.

        Keith WHITMORE (United Kingdom, ILDG), Chair of the Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority, was pleased to see that the report covered the integration of intra-regional transport. He also said that local authorities should have the unfailing support of national and regional authorities. Investment in transport had increased substantially, but much more needed to be done and, to that end, the coherence of European structural funds should be ensured by defining sustainable transport plans. The speaker would be supporting the amendments tabled by Piet Jansen.

        The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called Piet Jansen.

        Piet JANSEN (Netherlands, EPP/CD) thanked the rapporteur. The Netherlands delegation supported the draft resolution and recommendation, on which he had tabled some amendments which did not alter the substance of the texts but were designed to strengthen them by encouraging long-term investment. Local and regional authorities in the Netherlands had already followed many of the recommendations made in the report, but much remained to be done with respect to the integration of mobility policy and to planning. As to the bicycle, it was a good alternative to the car, as demonstrated by the increasing numbers of cycle paths.

        The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called Nikolay Dudov.

        Nikolay DUDOV (Russian Federation, EPP/CD) said that, in his capacity as governor of the region of Magadan, he was fully aware of all the problems relating to transport and accessibility. He therefore approved the draft resolution and recommendation. Russia attached the greatest importance to modernisation of its transport networks and had accordingly already, under its strategic programme for the development of the road and rail network up to 2030, implemented many of the proposals made in the report. It proposed to spend € 100 billion on the programme in the course of the next 20 years,

        The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called Nataliya Romanova.

        Nataliya ROMANOVA (Ukraine, ILDG) observed that the question of transport was of particular importance in Ukraine, a country crossed by five major European road corridors. Regional transport should cover all local centres. The region of Chernigiv had introduced pilot programmes of co-operation with Belarus, and it was indeed essential to encourage inter-regional and cross-border co-operation in transport matters.

        The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that there were no more speakers on the list and called the rapporteur.

        Adam BANASZAK (Poland, NR), Rapporteur, thanked the speakers who had taken part in the debate.

        The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called the Chair of the Committee on Sustainable Development.

        Gaye DOGANOGLU (Turkey, EPP/CD), Chair of the Committee on Sustainable Development, seconded the rapporteur’s thanks to speakers.

        The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) declared the debate closed. She noted that the committee had presented a draft resolution and that two amendments had been tabled in this connection. She called amendment No. 1 tabled by Piet Jansen.

        Piet JANSEN (Netherlands, EPP/CD) explained that long-term investment should be encouraged.

        Amendment No. 1, which had been approved by the committee, was adopted.

        The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) called amendment No. 2 tabled by Herwig Van Staa.

        Herwig VAN STAA (Austria, EPP/CD) proposed that a new paragraph 9 be added to the draft resolution, mentioning the European Union’s Committee of the Regions and asking the European Commission to establish a funding instrument to be placed at the disposal of regions and urban areas to encourage them to produce mobility plans; such an instrument would be particularly useful to the new member states of the European Union.

        Amendment No. 2, which had been approved by the committee, was adopted.

        The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) Invited the Chamber of Regions to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in document [CPR(18)4] (RES), as thus amended.

          The draft resolution contained in the document, as thus amended, was approved.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted than an amendment to the draft recommendation contained in document [CPR(18)4] (REC) had been tabled, and she called Piet Jansen to speak in support of the amendment.

          Piet JANSEN (Netherlands, EPP/CD) said the purpose of this amendment was the same as that of amendment No. 1 to the draft resolution.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) noted that no-one wished to speak against the amendment and that it had been approved by the committee.

          She put amendment No. 1 to the vote.

          The amendment was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) invited the meeting to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in document [CPR(18)4] (REC), as thus amended.

          The draft recommendation, as amended, was approved.

          7. CLOSURE OF THE 18th SESSION OF THE CHAMBER

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, SOC) declared that the Chamber of Regions had reached the end of its 18th session. She thanked members for their active participation, as well as the interpreters, analysts, members of the Secretariat and Table Office staff.

          The19th ordinary session of the Chamber of Regions would be held at the same time as the 19th session of the Congress, from 26 to 28 October 2010.

          The President declared the 18th session of the Chamber of Regions closed.

          The sitting ended at 1.00 pm.

          SESSION OF THE CHAMBER OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES

          Thursday 18 March 2010 at 10 am

          ---------------------------

          TABLE OF CONTENTS

          Page

      1. Opening of the eighteenth session of the Chamber 55

      2. Adoption of the draft agenda of the Chamber 55

      3. Communication by Ian Micallef, President of the Chamber 55

      4. Observation of municipal elections in Azerbaijan 56

      5. Status of capital cities in the South Caucasus 66

            • Statement by Gagik Beglaryan, Mayor of Yerevan, Armenia 67

      6. Local democracy in Portugal 70

      7. Closure of the eighteenth session of the Chamber 71

          1. OPENING OF THE EIGHTEENTH SESSION OF THE CHAMBER

            The sitting opened at 10.09 a.m. with Ian Micallef (Malta, EPP,CD), President of the Chamber, in the chair.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) declared the 18th session of the Chamber of Local Authorities of the Congress open, in accordance with Rule 17.1 of the Rules of Procedure.

          2. ADOPTION OF THE DRAFT AGENDA OF THE CHAMBER

            [CPL(18)OJ1PROV]

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) said that the first item on the agenda was the adoption of the draft agenda of the 18th session of the Chamber.

          Details of the organisation of the debates were set out in that afternoon’s notice paper.

          No objection having been made, the draft agenda in document [CPL (18)OJ1PROV] was adopted.

          3. COMMUNICATION BY IAN MICALLEF, PRESIDENT OF THE CHAMBER

            [CPL(18)1]

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) noted that this session of the Chamber was shorter than usual, being confined to the morning in order to allow more time for the plenary sittings.

          Nevertheless, there was a full agenda, covering examination of a report on an election observation mission, a monitoring report and a report on a fact-finding mission. This was all part of the work to strengthen local democracy in member states, which was one of the Council of Europe’s basic tasks.

          Observation of elections offered an opportunity for in-depth discussion with governments with a view to the holding of free and fair elections. The purpose was not to censure specific countries but to note shortcomings and failings in order to improve the state of local democracy.

          Monitoring the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government was another key activity. This year the Congress had planned 15 monitoring missions – a steep increase on the previous total of 3 or 4 annually. Today’s report covered a country – Iceland – which had been experiencing severe financial difficulties which had had a serious impact on local authorities.

          Finally, the Chamber would consider the fact-finding visit to Portugal further to a complaint from the National Association of Portuguese Municipalities.

          The discussion promised to be lively, since there were divergent views. But when a breach of the Charter was complained of, the matter had to be investigated. The Chamber of Local Authorities was capable of discussing democracy-related issues in a responsible manner.

          The Chamber, the Congress and the Council of Europe were at a crossroads. Halvdan Skard, together with the Bureau of the Congress, had begun an in-depth review of activities in order to shape the Congress of the future. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, who had addressed the Congress the previous day, had launched his own reform. It was a matter of ensuring that all the reform plans coincided to make the Congress a stronger, more dynamic and more relevant assembly.

          The European Charter of Local Self-Government had been ratified by all but three of the member states. Coming from a small country, the President was convinced of the Charter’s usefulness, including for small countries. This being the case, he had been trying to encourage the three remaining countries to ratify it and had last month visited the Principality of Andorra to this end. It would not be very long before the whole of the continent was protected by the European Charter of Local Self-Government, a treaty that was essential to developing genuine local democracy.

          4. OBSERVATION OF MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS IN AZERBAIJAN

          [CPL(18)2]

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) said that the next item on the agenda was the presentation and discussion of a report by Francis Lec on behalf of the mission which had observed the municipal elections in Azerbaijan.

          The committee had presented a draft resolution to which two amendments had been tabled and a draft recommendation to which 20 amendments had been tabled.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called the rapporteur, Francis Lec.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, recalled that following the official invitation from the Azerbaijani authorities to observe the municipal elections, the Congress had appointed an observer delegation, headed by Gaye Doganoglu, member of the Municipal Council of Muratpasa/Antalya, which had met a variety of officials, including the Deputy Minister of Justice and the Chair of the Central Election Commission. The delegation had also received information from media representatives on the latest electoral developments.

        The authorities for their part had pointed out that the state of decentralisation should be viewed positively. The delegation had gained the overall impression that the population had little confidence in the integrity and running of the municipalities. The Congress members had laid particular emphasis on the need to create the conditions for the election of the mayor of Baku.

        Various persons interviewed by the delegation had complained about the situation of democracy and human rights, the lack of pluralism and the government’s determination to ‘atomise’ the opposition.

        Although the election campaign had officially begun on 25 November 2009, the observers had been surprised at the lack of any visible signs of a lively campaign when they had arrived in Azerbaijan a month later. There had been hardly any posters. Many persons interviewed by the delegation had emphasised the fact that candidates not supported by the ruling party had experienced problems registering, and media representatives had complained about the absence of a normal election run-up and a real campaign, observing in particular that there had been no noteworthy public debates and that free airtime had been unfairly allocated to representatives of the ruling party.

        The delegation had been split into seven teams which had covered some twenty electoral districts. Despite improvements in overall organisation by comparison with previous elections, the delegation had noted various shortcomings in the conduct of the vote. Although these municipal elections had been well prepared technically and taken place without incident, the delegation believed that they had failed to meet the basic standards of a pluralist democracy and that voters had not been offered a genuine choice between different parties or enjoyed an election campaign worthy of the name.

        On polling day, the delegation had observed a number of problems that might cast doubt on the fairness of the vote. Despite notable progress in terms of organisation, these elections could therefore not be considered satisfactory from the democratic point of view, and, taking into account its observations and impressions together with the information and documents received, the delegation was convinced that improvements could and should be made by the Azerbaijani authorities regarding pluralist democracy, media freedom and human rights. It particularly felt that the state of local democracy was still unsatisfactory.

        In other respects, the rapporteur was glad to have been able to compare opinions with his colleagues from the Azerbaijani delegation in the Congress. Such open debate was essential for the observer missions, which were a key part of the Congress’s work in the Council of Europe. Only thus could the missions serve a purpose and representatives of the countries visited could be told, ‘This is what is wrong, and this is what we suggest you do about it.’ This was how the Congress could be sure of rendering service to democracy and to Azerbaijan. (Applause)

        The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) thanked the rapporteur and opened the general debate by calling Christopher Newbury.

        Christopher NEWBURY (United Kingdom, EPP/CD) said that he supported the rapporteur and pointed out that he had already taken part in the October 2006 observer mission.

        The report accurately described the shortcomings, irregularities and infringements observed on polling day. In particular, the delegation had noted that there was no real independent national observation system and that the persons monitoring the polling stations had been hard pressed to say how many votes had actually been cast at any given time. When it had been pointed out to the presiding officer of a polling station that the head of a household had put a wad of ballot papers in the ballot box, he had merely shaken the box to separate them… The staff responsible for overseeing the elections had taken offence at being asked by the delegation to fill in the relevant lists, as if this might complicate an already opaque counting process. Besides, things had sorted themselves out as if by magic as the delegation had left: although the count had seemed as if it would take hours, the results had been published immediately…

        While the elections might seem satisfactory in many respects, this was not actually the case, and it was disturbing, four years after a Congress delegation had made similar observations, to find oneself almost back at the same point. The fact that over 90% of the candidates came from the ruling party probably accounted for the high abstention rate.

        Having observed twenty elections, Mr Newbury thought that the Congress should voice its concern about the elections that had just taken place in Azerbaijan.

        The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called the Chair of the Azerbaijani delegation.

        Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) thanked the Congress for the support that it had given to Azerbaijan, a country that had been independent for only ten years. This was why, although the Azerbaijani delegation agreed with a number of points in the report, it questioned others and had tabled several amendments.

        Since webcams had been placed in a number of polling stations, the people of the country, as well as observers throughout the world, had been able to see that the elections had been calm and fair.

        Moreover, it was odd that the rapporteur had stated that the ruling party had had 50% of free airtime: where parties had been unable to take part in debates, this was simply because they did not have enough electoral support. Debates had been organised within the municipalities.

        Leaving aside the fact that it was unfair to speak of a drift towards authoritarianism in Azerbaijan, it seemed wrong that the report should cover a number of points with no direct connection to the elections, such as the work of journalists. Besides, it should not be forgotten here that the President had signed a pardon for a journalist.

        Lastly, the domestic authorities had drawn their own conclusions from the shortcomings observed: ten election commissions had been disbanded and a governor had been removed.

        The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Paolo Rondelli.

        Paolo RONDELLI (San Marino, SOC) congratulated Francis Lec on his detailed report, which gave a clear picture of the situation. While things might have changed since the 2006 observer mission in terms of procedure, the members of the Azerbaijani delegation ought nevertheless to be advised to remind their country’s authorities that the electoral system must allow participation by everybody, including those representing political minorities.

        The fact that, as the Chair of the delegation had pointed out, the country had been enjoying democracy for only 10 years should be regarded not as a hindrance but rather an encouragement to forge ahead in order to attain the standards of more advanced countries. The country’s economic and financial situation was improving fast, and it would be advisable for the authorities to do what was necessary to ensure that the electoral process also improved.

        The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Dubravka Suica.

        Dubravka SUICA (Croatia, EPP/CD) remarked that although the Council of Europe was the only European organisation to have sent a mission to these elections, there had been much comment in the international press also pointing to irregularities and shortcomings. In its relations with all these countries where democracy was fairly recent, the Congress must consider how to organise its work in a spirit of constructive political dialogue with the different governments.

        The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Nihat Zeybekçi.

        Nihat ZEYBEKCI (Turkey, EPP/CD) thanked the rapporteur for his excellent work and stressed that because the system of governors and municipalities had been set up recently from scratch in Azerbaijan and the electoral system was entirely new to the country, while it was possible to criticise some technical shortcomings, the real question was which course the country was intending to take. The delegation and the rapporteur had emphasised that the situation had improved greatly since 2006 and the rapporteur had called for effective dialogue with central government. But it was now necessary to state what concrete proposals and working methods were to be adopted for conducting this dialogue. It was essential not to risk damaging good relations with central government but instead encourage the latter to continue its reforms. The sentence in the report relating to the unfair nature of the elections ought to be reformulated.

        The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Bruno Belin.

        Bruno BELIN (France, EPP/CD) wished to know how the situation had developed since 23 December.

        The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Istvan Borbely.

        Istvan BORBELY (Hungary, R, EPP/CD) said that he was familiar with Azerbaijan, having visited it several times as an observer. He believed that new democracies each had their own distinctive features, whether in terms of religion or of family structures, and he argued that they should be given time to make progress along the path of democracy. He noted that there was no lack of willingness on the part of these countries’ leaders.

        The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Vladimir Novikov.

        Vladimir NOVIKOV (Russian Federation, NR) pointed out the observers’ excellent work in Azerbaijan. It ought to be remembered that some ten years ago this country was still living under an authoritarian regime. There was undoubtedly a democratic process at work today. The report stressed that Azerbaijan’s leaders attached considerable importance to economic development, better living standards and democratic changes. Mr Novikov pointed out that when he had been elected ten years ago in his city of 120,000 inhabitants he had obtained 45% of the vote; he had been re-elected five days ago with 90%. He was convinced that in five years’ time, both participation and confidence in Azerbaijani elections would be greater.

        The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Viacheslav Rogov.

        Viacheslav ROGOV (Russian Federation, ILDG) maintained that the history of all the new democracies born after the end of the Soviet Union should not be forgotten. Emphasising that he had been an observer of numerous elections in Armenia, Georgia and Macedonia, he pointed out that not much time had elapsed since the start of the democratic process in these countries. In Georgia, for example, the situation had been extremely critical in the late 1990s. Impetus had been provided, and the dialogue between local authorities and central government had produced positive results. Mr Rogov argued for balance in assessing the process now under way. The new democracies could not be treated in the same way as the older ones, some of which had still not even ratified the Charter. It was important to recognise their efforts.

        In paragraph 8d of the draft recommendation, the authorities were asked to release arrested journalists, but it was not known who these people were or why they had been arrested. If a signal were to be sent, it ought to be a balanced one.

        The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the Chamber to vote on the draft resolution in document CPL(18)2.

        Two amendments had been tabled by Abulfaz Babayev.

        He called Anar Ibrahimov to speak to Amendment No. 1 on behalf of Abulfaz Babayev.

        Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) stated that his country’s delegation proposed to add the phrase “takes note of the progress achieved since the last elections in 2006” to paragraph 1.

        The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

        Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, was in favour of the amendment.

        Amendment No. 1 was adopted.

        The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to speak to Amendment No. 2 on behalf of Abulfaz Babayev.

        Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) proposed to add the following paragraph:

        “It notes that the conflict with the neighbouring Republic of Armenia has been continuing since 1993. Because Nagorno-Karabakh and the adjoining areas have been invaded by the Armenian army, a large part of Azerbaijan’s territory is under occupation at present. This has resulted in large numbers of displaced persons living in conditions of extreme hardship.”

        Emin YERITSYAN (Armenia, EPP/CD) was against the Chamber returning to this issue. Territorial disputes in the southern Caucasus, amongst other places, were a focus of international attention. Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem was a matter for the OSCE; talks were also in progress between the two Presidents, the United States, Russia and France.

        The Congress had always shown a certain restraint on these issues and a new initiative must not hamper talks. Mr Yeritsyan argued that this question was no concern of local democracy in either form or substance. He was worried about the wider consequences of adopting this amendment. He asked his colleagues to show the same restraint as in the past and invited them to vote against the amendment.

        The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

        Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, stated that this issue had not been covered in the report. An earlier amendment submitted by the Azerbaijani delegation had been dismissed as too contentious. The amendment that had just been moved made reference to a text already adopted by the Congress. Since it was merely a reminder, Mr Lec had no objections to it.

        Amendment No. 2 was adopted.

        The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Emin Yeritsyan on a point of order.

          Emin YERITSYAN (Armenia, EPP/CD) considered the vote to be out of order, since some members had voted both for and against.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) agreed to take a fresh vote for the sake of transparency.

          He called Anar Ibrahimov.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, EPP/CD) stated that he was opposed to this fresh vote.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) pointed out that he was the one chairing the sitting.

          The amendment was rejected by 44 votes against, 43 in favour and 6 abstentions.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Nihat Zeybekçi on a point of order.

          Nihat ZEYBEKCI (Turkey, EPP/CD) raised a strong protest against an undemocratic way of proceeding which had led to the challenging of a vote that had twice had the same outcome, and he considered the President to be biased.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) pointed out that the President did not take part in voting and was assisted by two tellers.

          He called Abulfar Babayev.

          Abulfar BABAYEV (Azerbaijan, EPP/CD) accused the President of a breach of democracy.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called the rapporteur, Francis Lec.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, regretted that this controversy was obscuring the main point of the debate. He asked that the examination of the amendments be continued.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov on a point of order

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) asked for a fresh vote, for the sake of transparency.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) stated that the rules made provision for confirmation of votes upon request. The vote must then be by sitting and standing.

          He called Marc Cools.

          Marc COOLS (Belgium, ILDG) suggested instead that a consensual text might be found which did not give the impression of passing judgment on the conflict. He proposed the following oral amendment: “The Congress takes note of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and its repercussions for the organisation of the elections.”

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) thought that at this point in the discussion it would be advisable to abide by the procedure and put the amendment to the vote by sitting and standing, especially as the number of abstentions had diminished.

          He called the rapporteur.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, pointed out that the amendment being put to the vote contained a word-for-word repetition of a text adopted by the Congress of the Council of Europe on 27 October 2006, which ought to have prevented any controversy.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) put the amendment to the vote by sitting and standing.

          The amendment was rejected by 52 votes against, 45 in favour and 6 abstentions.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked his colleagues to vote on the draft resolution.

          The draft resolution in document CPL(18)2 was adopted as amended.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) told the Chamber that it must now examine the draft recommendation, to which 20 amendments had been tabled. They would be examined in the order in which they had been received.

          He called Anar Ibrahimov to speak to Amendment No. 1.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) proposed mentioning, in order to highlight the efforts made to encourage the involvement of women and young people in the country’s social life, that the Congress appreciated, as a positive step forward, the substantial increase in the proportion of women (26.5%) and young people (27.6%) among the representatives elected in the municipal elections of 23 December 2009.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Christopher Newbury, who wished to speak against the amendment.

          Christopher NEWBURY (United Kingdom, EPP/CD) remarked that if such a positive message was to be conveyed in the recommendation, there ought to be some details supporting this finding.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, stated that he did not oppose this amendment, any more than the subsequent one referring to the decision to annul the results of 33 polling stations, but that, while the sincerity of the Azerbaijani delegation was beyond doubt, the truth of the information ought to be verified.

          Amendment No.  1 was adopted.

          POINT OF ORDER

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Gilbert Roger on a point of order.

          Gilbert ROGER (France, SOC) pointed out that the President had stressed the need for everyone to cast their votes clearly: in favour, against or abstention. Yet the colleague who had intervened several times just now in order to have the result of the vote confirmed had failed to vote on either the draft resolution or the previous amendment. He was not being logical…

          OBSERVATION OF MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS IN AZERBAIJAN (continued)

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to speak to Amendment No. 2.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) said that due note should be taken of the decision by the Central Election Commission to invalidate the results of the vote in 33 polling stations.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, did not oppose the amendment provided that the facts were checked.

          Amendment No. 2 was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked Abulfaz Babayev to speak to Amendment No. 3.

          Abulfaz BABAYEV (Azerbaijan, EPP/CD) stated that Azerbaijan was being asked to comply with the Congress recommendation on creating a municipality and electing the Mayor of Baku.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, was delighted that this long-standing recommendation was to be reiterated and advised in favour of the amendment.

          Amendment No. 3 was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to move Amendment No. 4.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) thought that since the observer mission was supposed to have confined itself to the conduct of local elections, it would be advisable to delete the words ‘and by the tendency of moving towards an autocratic system’.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, was in favour of this amendment.

          Amendment No. 4 was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked Anar Ibrahimov to speak to Amendment No. 5.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) said that this was an amendment to the drafting, to replace the word “given” by the words “on account of”.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Christopher Newbury to speak against the amendment.

          Christopher NEWBURY (United Kingdom, EPP/CD) thought that this amendment was of wider significance: inasmuch as the mission had established that a number of candidates had been refused, there was no reason to amend the text.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, thought it preferable to retain the original wording and advised against the amendment.

          Amendment No. 5 was rejected.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked Anar Ibrahimov to speak to Amendment No. 6.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) proposed to delete the word “real” in the expression “real opposition candidates”.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, emphasised that the purpose was to stress the shortcomings of the election campaign and approved the deletion of the word “real”.

          Amendment No. 6 was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to move Amendment No. 7.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) said that the words “the lack of a truly pluralistic landscape” should be deleted.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Christopher Newbury, who wished to speak against the amendment.

          Christopher NEWBURY (United Kingdom, EPP/CD) was convinced that a truly pluralistic landscape was currently lacking in Azerbaijan, and he therefore wished to keep the original wording.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, stated that he had no fundamental objection to this amendment, but that he would leave it to the Chamber’s wisdom.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Michel Cohen.

          Michel COHEN (Malta, SOC) pointed out that the lack of a truly pluralistic landscape had already been mentioned in paragraph 5b. It was necessary to be consistent.

          Amendment No. 7 was rejected.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to speak to Amendment No. 8.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) proposed to replace “a number of polling stations” by “a number of buildings where polling stations were located” in paragraph 5e.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, stated that he had no objections.

          Amendment No. 8 was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to speak to Amendment No. 9.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) proposed, in paragraph 6, replacing “integrity of the elections” by “value of the elections”.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Christopher Newbury to speak against the amendment.

          Christopher NEWBURY (United Kingdom, EPP/CD) thought that it would be a mistake to adopt the amendment. The expression ‘value of the elections’ was very vague. Even the Azerbaijani authorities had acknowledged that some of the results were not valid. It was the ‘integrity’ of the poll that should be questioned.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

          Francis LEC (France, L, SOC), Rapporteur, opposed the amendment. If the term “fairness” could not be used, the word “integrity” ought to be kept.

          Amendment No. 9 was rejected.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to speak to Amendment No. 10.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) proposed deleting the second sentence of paragraph 7 and replacing it by: “This leaves room for improvement for the authorities.”

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, did not oppose the amendment.

          Amendment No. 10 was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to speak to Amendment No. 11.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) proposed deleting the words “and to revise the system to oversee the number of ballots cast” in paragraph 8a.

          Members of the election commission, observers and candidates had been present at the counting.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Christopher Newbury to speak against the amendment.

          Christopher NEWBURY (United Kingdom, EPP/CD) referred his colleagues to the explanatory memorandum, where it was stated that “the Congress observers regretted that it was difficult to obtain concrete information from the head of the electoral commission about the votes cast at a specific point in time”. This showed that there was no reliable verification system. The text should be left as it stood, which would encourage the Azerbaijani authorities to improve their system.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, noted that the recommendation invited the Azerbaijani authorities to take all necessary steps to introduce tools to strengthen transparency regarding voter participation and vote count and to revise the system to oversee the ballots. If the issue was the vote count, the amendment seemed unnecessary. However, the rapporteur stated that he was not opposed to it.

          Amendment No. 11 was rejected.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to speak to Amendment No. 12.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) proposed replacing the phrase “concerning television and radio” after the words “in particular” in paragraph 8c by “for radio and television election coverage”.

          It was necessary to create the conditions for independent journalists and free media to operate free of all pressure.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Jean-Louis Testud to speak against the amendment.

          Jean-Louis TESTUD (France, EPP/CD) noted that 60 journalists had been jailed in Azerbaijan and invited the Chamber to vote against the amendment. It was unacceptable for press freedom to be flouted in this way.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, was opposed to the amendment.

          Amendment No. 12 was rejected.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to speak to Amendment No. 13.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) proposed replacing the word “create” in paragraph 8c by the words “improve the”.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Christopher Newbury to speak against the amendment.

          Christopher NEWBURY (United Kingdom, EPP/CD) noted that what the Azerbaijani media representatives had said was clearly disturbing. It was obviously a case of “creating” rather than “improving” the conditions for a free press.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, opposed the amendment.

          Amendment No. 13 was rejected.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to speak to Amendment No. 14.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) proposed that, in paragraph 8c, “independent journalists” should be replaced by “all journalists”.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, said that he had no objections. He had observed on the spot that the press was not altogether free. The mission had asked the Minister of Justice to release the two arrested journalists. He had given the same reply as the Azerbaijani delegation, namely that this matter fell outside its election monitoring remit. The rapporteur did not agree. Press freedom could not be dissociated from individual and collective freedoms.

          The mission’s efforts had not been fruitless. Abulfaz Babayev had stated prior to the opening of the session that the Azerbaijani Head of State had decided to pardon a certain number of journalists, including Ganimat Zahidov, editor-in-chief of the Azadlig daily newspaper, who had been arrested in 2007. This was unquestionably good news, although it still had to be confirmed. The mission would not have been in vain. Note should be taken of this gesture and the Azerbaijani delegation thanked for its action. There was no reason to oppose the amendment.

          Amendment No.  14 was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to speak to Amendment No. 15.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) proposed that, in paragraph 8c, “free media can operate” should be replaced by “media can freely operate”.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) asked the rapporteur for his opinion.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, had no objection to the amendment.

          Amendment No. 15 was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to move Amendment No. 16.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) proposed simply to delete paragraph 8.d, especially as a journalist had just been released.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Jean-Louis Testud to speak against the amendment.

          Jean-Louis TESTUD (France, EPP/CD) stressed that all the journalists had to be released, especially as pardoning was not the same as releasing.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, preferred to keep the original wording.

          Amendment No. 16 was rejected.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to move Amendment No. 17.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) proposed adding the word “state” before the word “TV”.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Christopher Newbury to speak against the amendment.

          Christopher NEWBURY (United Kingdom, EPP/CD) remarked that this was somewhat dubious, since non-state television was closely monitored by the authorities. Besides, airtime had to be divided between all channels, whether state broadcasters or not.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, was opposed to the amendment.

          Amendment No. 17 was rejected.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to move Amendment No. 18.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) proposed to add the qualification ”in municipal elections” to the words “pre-election campaigning”.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, was in favour of the amendment.

          Amendment No. 18 was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to move Amendment No. 19.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) proposed to replace the word “candidates” by the words “candidates of political parties”.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, was in favour of the amendment.

          Amendment No. 19 was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) called Anar Ibrahimov to move Amendment No. 20.

          Anar IBRAHIMOV (Azerbaijan, R, EPP/CD) proposed to add the words “on state television channels”.

          Francis LEC (France, SOC), Rapporteur, was opposed to the amendment.

          Amendment No. 20 was put to the vote and rejected.

          The draft recommendation in document CPL(18)2, as amended, was put to the vote and adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, EPP/CD) announced that, because of time constraints, the debate on local democracy in Iceland was postponed to the following day in the plenary session.

          Dubravka Suica (Croatia, L, EPP/CD) replaced Ian Micallef in the Chair.

          5. STATUS OF CAPITAL CITIES IN THE SOUTH CAUCASUS

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) said that the next item on the agenda was the debate on the status of capital cities in the South Caucasus, introduced by Gagik Beglaryan, Mayor of Yerevan, who had agreed to take questions.

          Three years ago, the Chamber had examined a report on the status of capital cities. The recommendation that it had adopted encouraged all European capitals to have their own democratically elected municipal government. The rapporteur had been the Vice-President Emin Yeritsyan.

          The 2007 report paid particular attention to the three South Caucasian republics, pointing out that, of the three, Georgia was the only one to have an elected mayor and, even here, the Mayor of Tbilisi had very limited powers. It had thus been a major event when, in May 2009, Armenia had held its first election for the Mayor of Yerevan, and Gagik Beglaryan had had the honour of being the first elected mayor of the city. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) was delighted to welcome Gagik Beglaryan, whose election had been greeted by the Congress as a step forward for democracy in Armenia.

          She called Gagik Beglaryan.

          Gagik BEGLARYAN, Mayor of Yerevan (Armenia), thanked the Congress for having invited him and congratulated Andreas Kiefer on his election to the post of Secretary General.

          He expressed satisfaction at the cooperation under way between the Council of Europe and local authorities in Armenia. He recalled that elections had taken place on 31 May 2009 in Yerevan, a Council of Europe capital city, which now belonged to the family of European capitals. He said that he was very honoured to have been elected mayor of Yerevan, a city founded 2,791 years ago. This thriving city was home to 1.1 million people, 37% of Armenia’s population. It was twinned with thirty other cities.

          With its new status, Yerevan intended to strengthen its foreign relations as well as cooperation in the fields of the economy, science, culture, education and tourism. The city was a member of international organisations such as the International Association of French-speaking Mayors, the Black Sea Capitals’ Association and the Organization of World Heritage Cities.

          Yerevan was stepping up its efforts to expand cooperation with other European and international organisations. To this end, it had hosted the first Franco-Armenian Conference on Decentralised Cooperation. The city of Yerevan and some forty other cities in Armenia had traditionally cultivated links with French cities. Steering committees had been set up in Armenia and France, led by the mayors of Yerevan and Lyon.

          The Forum for the Future of Democracy, established in May 2005 during the Council of Europe Summit of Heads of State and Government in Warsaw and a prominent event in the Council of Europe calendar, was to be held in Yerevan in October 2010, exemplifying the cooperation between the Council of Europe, the Republic of Armenia and the city of Yerevan.

          The Council of Europe had supported Armenia throughout its process of strengthening local democracy. The amendments to the Constitution approved by the national referendum in 2005 had laid down the legal foundation for Yerevan’s status. Prior to 2009, Yerevan had been run by a government-appointed mayor and had had no budget of its own; it had been split into twelve municipalities with elected officials. It had been impossible to establish local democracy in such a fragmented system. Yerevan was now a fully integrated community with a mayor and city councillors who were elected.

          The current model of local self-government in Yerevan had been developed in close technical and political cooperation with the Congress and other Council of Europe bodies.

          Far-reaching changes had also take place in Georgia, and Tbilisi was to elect its own mayor in May.

          In the wake of this progress, the public must be encouraged to play a larger part in local self-government. A number of statutory provisions concerning Yerevan would shortly be coming into effect to improve democratic governance as well as infrastructure and service quality.

          Cooperation with the Council of Europe, the European Union and other international organisations was set to increase with a view to genuine exchange of experience. The South Caucasian capitals still had vast untapped potential; they wanted to play a greater role in regional and especially European integration, which was the priority. The European Commission’s Eastern Partnership programme specifically sought to promote the integration of Armenia, Georgia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Ukraine. Local authorities and capital cities ought to become resolutely involved in this process.

          Capital cities in particular must be the driving force behind European integration. Mr Beglaryan therefore proposed that, in cooperation with the Committee of the Regions, the Congress should initiate technical and policy consultations on a common policy to draw together Eastern Partnership work.

          Yerevan exemplified problems that were shared by all the capitals of the southern Caucasus, where institutional reforms based on the European Charter of Local Self-Government could round off the picture of local democracy in Europe. In 2010, Yerevan was ready to host a summit of member states’ capital cities to promote dialogue and provide real added value for the strengthening of local and regional democracy in Europe.

          Mr Beglaryan thanked the Congress for its unfailing support for the development of local democracy in Armenia. He was convinced that dialogue and cooperation would continue to grow. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) opened the debate by calling Paolo Rondelli.

          Paolo RONDELLI (San Marino, SOC) was delighted to have been able to visit Yerevan twice. It was a wonderful city that was very pleasant to be in.

          He wanted to know whether, since having been elected mayor, Gagik Beglaryan had noticed any changes in the public’s attitude to the municipal authorities. Did they now feel that they had more of a say in the running of their city? Had the mayor taken steps to encourage the public’s direct involvement?

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) called Fabio Pellegrini.

          Fabio PELLEGRINI (Italy, SOC) recalled that he had met Gagik Beglaryan when he was still only a candidate and was conducting quite a lively campaign.

          He wanted to know whether the Mayor of Yerevan shared the Congress’s appreciation of the importance of the event to be held in Armenia this autumn on the principles of democracy in Europe and whether he himself would attend it.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) called Emin Yeritsyan.

          Emin YERITSYAN (Armenia, EPP/CD) stressed the important role of capital cities and other municipalities in relation to the Congress. He told his colleagues that it had been decided, as a token of goodwill, that the Ambassador in Strasbourg, on behalf of the Republic of Armenia, should sign an additional protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government concerning cross-border cooperation.

          He further stated, in reply to Paolo Rondelli, that a working party set up by the Mayor of Yerevan had drawn up a bye-law creating administrative districts within the capital and establishing public panels responsible for appraising municipal service delivery. It was also planned to create a municipal ombudsman.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) called Ronald Arvon Hughes.

          Ronald Arvon HUGHES (United Kingdom, SOC) congratulated the first elected mayor of Yerevan and asked him if he felt that he had sufficient powers and responsibilities.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) called Dario Ghisletta.

          Dario GHISLETTA (Switzerland, SOC) remarked that while Gagik Beglaryan had laid emphasis on relations with European capitals in general, he had made no mention of relations between Yerevan and the capitals of the states bordering Armenia. He therefore wished to know what approaches had been made to these capitals.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) called David Katamadze.

          David KATAMADZE (Georgia, EPP/CD) stressed that all countries in the southern Caucasus had worked to develop local democracy and that the very number of local elections held in those countries bore witness to the fact. Like the mayor of Yerevan, the mayor of Tbilisi had also recently been elected and further local elections would be held shortly.

          Since Tbilisi and Yerevan were twinned, how did the latter’s mayor plan to strengthen ties between the two capitals?

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) called Nihat Zeybekçi.

          Nihat ZEYBEKCI (Turkey, EPP/CD) congratulated the Mayor of Yerevan on his election and wished him every success in his difficult task.

          He deplored the fact that while the Chamber was this morning studying ways of strengthening democracy in the southern Caucasus and giving citizens a greater voice there, a little while ago the President of the Chamber had offered a deplorable picture of how the Chamber was run by overturning an established vote in order to obtain a different result. But facts were stubborn things, and, however the Chamber had eventually voted, it was nevertheless a fact that the inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh had been unable to make their suffering heard at the ballot box. You could say whatever you wanted about the conduct of local elections in Azerbaijan, but millions of displaced persons had been effectively deprived of their right to vote and stand for election.

          Turkey was very close to the southern Caucasus and was convinced that much could be done at local level to make up for the breakdown of relations between states. The tragic situation in Nagorno-Karabakh could be brought to an end only if all the countries concerned agreed to cooperate and if cities played their full part. Turkey was obviously ready to participate in these efforts.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) pointed out that the subject of the debate was Armenia.

          She called Mikhail Chernishev.

          Mikhail CHERNISHEV (Russian Federation, EPP/CD) was pleased that his city of Rostov-on-Don had long entertained friendly relations with Yerevan. He was happy to see that the democratic process under way in Yerevan was bearing fruit. There had been substantial and very positive interchange between the two cities. He wished Gagik Beglaryan every success.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) called Gagik Beglaryan.

          Gagik BEGLARYAN, Mayor of Yerevan, explained in reply to the first question that he had previously been elected to Central Yerevan Council three times by universal direct suffrage under the old rules. His priority had always been to build bridges with the voters and get them to become actively involved in the life of the city. Citizens’ participation was central to democracy. Every elected local representative must be concerned to get citizens involved in public life.

          He further believed that the Armenia’s domestic legislation gave Yerevan powers that were greater than those delegated by central government. It was the duty of any elected mayor to exercise his or her powers fully. Mr Beglaryan would naturally attend the Forum in Yerevan in the autumn.

          The city of Yerevan was open to all forms of cooperation with capitals of neighbouring states, including Tbilisi. David Katamadze was right in saying there was much that could be learnt from each other’s experience. Mr Beglaryan was similarly willing to cooperate with Ankara and Istanbul. He regretted the fact that there were many Azerbaijanis in Armenia who had been unable to take part in the elections in their country.

          Mr Beglaryan thanked Mikhail Chernishev for his kind remarks. He invited all his colleagues to the events that would be taking place this year in Yerevan, which was a friendly city that everybody would fall in love with. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) thanked Mr Beglaryan and closed the debate.

          6. LOCAL DEMOCRACY IN PORTUGAL

            [CPL(18)4]

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) said that the next item on the agenda was the presentation and discussion of a report on local democracy in Portugal by Davor Zmegac on behalf of the Institutional Committee. A fact-finding visit had been made to Portugal in 2008 on the basis of a complaint which the Congress had received from the National Association of Portuguese Municipalities (ANMP), relating to the 2007 Local Finance Act. The object of the report had been to determine whether this Act complied with the European Charter of Local Self-Government, which had been ratified by Portugal in December 1990.

          She called the rapporteur, Davor Zmegac.

          Davor ZMEGAC (Croatia, ILDG), Rapporteur, stated that his report had been approved unanimously by the Institutional Committee. The purpose of his visit to Portugal had been to ascertain whether the 2007 Act complied with the Charter and to gather information on the role of the parishes, or freguesias, and how they might be represented in the Portuguese delegation to the Congress. In Portugal the delegation had met local-government association representatives, members of the Court of Auditors and the Local Government Minister as well as members of parliament and academics.

          The matter was fairly complex, especially in terms of finance. Mr Zmegac was convinced that the Congress should do everything in its power to protect local authorities more effectively from central-government attempts at domination. He acknowledged that the Portuguese government was battling serious problems relating to indebtedness and the imbalance in public finances. It was making a laudable effort to solve them, but it had failed to respect its partnership with local government. According to the Charter, local authorities must be able to manage resources of their own.

          The report had found that the law being challenged did not breach the Charter. As for the parishes, which were a long-standing feature of Portuguese life and much appreciated by the population, the Congress had already asked Portugal to look at how they might be involved in its work. The Charter required fair representation of all categories of local government. Mr Zmegac saw no problem with parishes being represented in the Portuguese delegation – provided that there was no prejudice to the municipalities. Recommendation 127 (2003) remained valid.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) opened the debate by calling Artur Torres Pereira.

          Artur TORRES PEREIRA (Portugal, EPP/CD) took strong issue with a report that had already been revised four times. He was angry at interference by members of the civil service and insisted that policy decisions should be a matter for politicians. He was sorry that the report found it acceptable for central government to be able to control local finances through a law. He noted that the relevant minister was now arguing for an amendment of the law – having been elected in Lisbon…

          If this law were found to comply with the Charter, any government could arbitrarily impose budget restrictions on local authorities. There had been a time when the Congress had protested against any arbitrary attack on the financial independence of local authorities. Mr Torres Pereira appealed to his colleagues to follow his lead rather than bowing to the will of a member state government. As Ian Micallef had emphasised, local democracy had to be protected, especially in a recession. It was unacceptable for the report, which broke with previous principles, to side with the persecutor rather than the victim. The law was bad. The Congress ought to show some solidarity.

          The report did not contain either a draft resolution or a draft recommendation for the Congress or the Portuguese authorities to remedy this situation.

          Mr Torres Pereira wished the situation to be reviewed in 2010 or 2011 in the light of Recommendation 127 (2003), which was the only means of breaking the deadlock and showing the Congress’s support for the Portuguese local authorities in conflict with central government. This was the only way in which the Congress could remain a benchmark for European institutions.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) said that there were no more speakers on the list.

          She called Davor Zmegac.

          Davor ZMEGAC (Croatia, ILDG) thought that it was up to the Congress to decide whether or not a country should be visited.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) proposed examining the possibility of organising a follow-up visit to Portugal in 2010.

          She called Emil Calota.

          Emil CALOTA (Romania, SOC), Chair of the Institutional Committee, said that this proposal called for careful reflection. Considering further monitoring in Portugal might be a solution, but for the time being it was impossible to adopt a provision in breach of the Congress Rules of Procedure.

          While Arthur Torres Pereira’s policy statement was worth considering, the report’s findings were clear: Recommendation 127 (2003) remained valid.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) called Arthur Torres Pereira.

          Arthur TORRES PEREIRA (Portugal, EPP/CD) counted on Congress’s support for follow-up action in 2010 or 2011.

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) stated that the proposal would be examined by the Bureau of the Congress, which would take a decision.

          7. CLOSURE OF THE EIGHTEENTH SESSION OF THE CHAMBER

          The PRESIDENT (Croatia, EPP/CD) said that the Chamber’s 18th session had now come to an end. The Chamber’s 19th session would take place at the same time as the 19th session of the Congress, from 26 to 28 October 2010.

          The President declared the 18th session of the Chamber of Local Authorities closed.

          The session rose at 1.10 p.m.

          SECOND SITTING OF THE CONGRESS

          Thursday 18 March 2010 at 3 pm

          -----------------

          TABLE OF CONTENTS

          Page

      1. Opening of the sitting 75

      2. Adoption of the minutes of the previous sittings 75

      3. Statement by Kathrin Hilber, State Councillor for the Canton of St Gallen, on behalf of the

      4. After Copenhagen, cities and regions take up the challenge 79

      5. Statement by Klaus Bondam, Deputy Mayor of Copenhagen (Denmark) 80

      6. Follow-up by the Congress to the Conference of Ministers responsible for Local and Regional

          Government (Utrecht, Netherlands, 16-17 November 2009) 85

      7. Local and regional democracy in Albania - follow-up to the 2006 report of the Congress 87

      8. Address by Ferdinand Poni, Deputy Minister of the Interior (Albania) 91

      9. Date, time and agenda of the next sitting 92

          1. OPENING OF THE SITTING

            The sitting opened at 3.05 pm with Ludmila Sfirloaga (Romania, R, SOC), Vice-President of the Congress, in the Chair.

          2. ADOPTION OF THE MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS SITTINGS

          [CG(18)PV1am]

          CG(18) PV1pm]

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) said that the minutes of the last sittings had been distributed and noted that no comments had been received.

            The minutes were adopted.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) said that the names of substitutes present at this sitting which had been notified to the President’s office would be published in the list of those present appended to this report.

          3. STATEMENT BY KATHRIN HILBER, STATE COUNCILLOR FOR THE CANTON OF ST GALLEN, ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRMANSHIP OF THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE (SWITZERLAND)

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) said that the next item on the agenda was the statement by Kathrin Hilber. The latter had agreed to answer written questions from Congress members and four questions had been tabled.

            The President was pleased to welcome Kathrin Hilber, State Councillor for the Canton of St Gallen, Switzerland, who would address the Congress on behalf of the Swiss Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.

            Members of the Congress already knew Ms Hilber not only because she was a member of it but also because of her active participation in the Conference of Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government, held in Utrecht the previous November just before her country had taken over the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. The discussions at this conference had established that the countries agreed on many issues connected with local and regional self-government. Switzerland possessed one of the most successful models of local democracy in Europe, if not the world, something that had been further confirmed by that morning’s discussion of the follow-up report on Switzerland in the Chamber of Regions.

            The Congress was particularly interested in what Ms Hilber had to say about her country's priorities and vision for the Council of Europe, where it held the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. Given Switzerland's support for the reform process launched by Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary General, it would be interesting to hear a representative of that country set out her vision of the local and regional dimension of that reform and of the role of the Congress in a renewed Council of Europe.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Kathrin Hilber.

            Kathrin HILBER, State Councillor for the Canton of St Gallen, Switzerland, said she was delighted at the opportunity to address the Congress, on behalf of the Swiss Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. Switzerland attached great importance to respect for the values defended by the Council of Europe, which lay at the root of the European identity. Its priorities were a logical extension of the commitments entered into in 2005 at the Warsaw Summit and the efforts made by previous chairmanships. These priorities covered three main themes: protection of human rights and the rule of law, strengthening of democratic institutions and enhancement of the Organisation’s transparency and effectiveness. In this context, Switzerland attached particular importance to the future of the European Court of Human Rights, which was the guarantor of fundamental freedoms in Europe. The entry into force of Protocol No 14 on 1 June was therefore a good thing. However, the Court had an enormous workload which was jeopardising its ability to deliver judgements in good time and thus to provide efficient redress for human rights violations. In response to this challenge, the Swiss Chairmanship had organised a ministerial conference in Interlaken the previous month which had led to the adoption of a declaration and an action plan that opened the way to concrete reforms via a long-term strategy. It was to be hoped that this represented the start of productive action which would help the Court discharge its essential and unique role.

            The work of the Congress was fundamental to the second priority of the Swiss Chairmanship: the Europe-wide strengthening of democracy and democratic institutions. The year 2010 marked the 20th anniversary of the opening of the European Charter of Local Self-Government for signature. It had now been ratified by 44 member states and was a decisive element, together with the work of the Congress, in the preparation of country reports on the situation of local and regional democracy in member states and on the implementation of its principles. The Swiss authorities were pleased that one of the reports examined during this session concerned Switzerland and that its conclusions were positive.

            Switzerland was a federal state which was undoubtedly one of the most highly decentralised countries in the world and thus needed no reminder of the value of local and regional democracy. It was therefore strongly in favour of the Congress’s work in promoting high-quality democracy at those levels. It was particularly appropriate that the January meeting of the Bureau of the Congress had been held in Ticino.

            Furthermore, during the Swiss Chairmanship a conference on democracy and decentralisation was to be held on 3 and 4 May in St Gallen, her region of origin. All members of the Congress would be welcome to take part in the debates and contribute to the exchanges of experience. The Congress would probably also be interested to note that a colloquy on Switzerland and transfrontier relations would be held on 22 April in Montreux.

            With regard to the third priority, the Swiss Chairmanship had made a firm commitment, together with the new Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland, to enhance the Council of Europe's transparency and effectiveness. As the Secretary General had announced the day before, an important reform process exploiting the Organisation’s strengths and values had been launched with the aim of increasing the Organisation’s political weight on the European stage. This process would be successful only if all parts of the Council were fully involved. During an exchange of views with the President, Mr Micallef, in February, the Committee of Ministers had been happy to learn that the Congress wanted to play an active part in the process. It awaited with interest the Congress’s concrete plans for strengthening the strategic thrust of its mission and for consolidating and prioritising its activities in accordance with the Organisation’s priorities, whilst rationalising its working methods in the interests of increased effectiveness.

            At their 16th conference the previous November in Utrecht, the Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government had adopted a declaration on "good local and regional governance in turbulent times: the challenge of change" and "the Utrecht agenda", which the Committee of Ministers had forwarded to the Congress. The declaration was to be debated that same day by the Congress and she therefore wished only to stress that the latter's active participation in the work of the CDLR, the competent intergovernmental committee, was essential if activities were to make rapid progress and produce the desired results.

            The Congress could make a valuable contribution to the Council of Europe's basic mission by protecting and strengthening democracy and good governance as well as by safeguarding human rights and the rule of law.

            In this connection, there was reason for satisfaction over the debate held the day before about the role of local authorities in implementing human rights. The Congress should concentrate in future on the Organisation’s essential fields in close co-ordination with the Council of Europe's other organs and structures so as to ensure that action was consistent.

            Local and regional authorities had a leading role to play in preserving the Council of Europe's values, for example in securing equality between men and women in all areas of public life at all levels of government and in policy development. This point had been emphasised by the Swiss Chairmanship the week before in celebrations for International Women's Day.

            This example was only one of the Committee of Ministers’ priorities, but local and regional authorities could make a constructive contribution to them and improve matters. When the Organisation’s chief bodies were co-operating and striving to achieve synergy and complementarity, only positive results could be expected.

            Before concluding, she congratulated Andreas Kiefer on his election to the post of Secretary General of the Congress and hoped he would be successful in his new functions at a difficult but stimulating time when the Council of Europe was undergoing change.

            On behalf of Micheline Calmy-Rey, Chair of the Committee of Ministers, she expressed the hope that Congress members would succeed in their crucial task of supporting and encouraging democratic processes in Europe so as to achieve the Council of Europe's common objectives. (Applause)

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) thanked Kathrin Hilber for her statement, which would be followed by replies to the written questions.

            ORAL REPLY TO WRITTEN QUESTIONS

            She called Knud Andersen to put the first question, but noted that he did not wish to take the floor. She called Kathrin Hilber to answer the question.

            Kathrin HILBER, State Councillor for the Canton of St Gallen, Switzerland, said that in the previous month the Committee of Ministers had examined the texts and proposals resulting from the Utrecht Conference. A number of decisions had been made on that occasion about the follow-up to the conference. The Committee of Ministers had in particular instructed the CDLR to assist Ministers with actions under the Utrecht Declaration. The Congress would need to participate in this process in order to develop synergies with the CDLR.

            The Committee of Ministers intended to look carefully at the question of establishing a partnership with the Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government at a forthcoming meeting. The Congress would be kept informed of any decision in the matter.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) thanked Kathrin Hilber for her reply to the question from Knud Andersen (Denmark, R, ILDG) on the subject of the Ministerial Conference of Local and Regional Government held in Utrecht on 16 and 17 November 2009, at which Ministers had asked the Committee of Ministers to set up a partnership before the end of 2010. Knud Andersen had asked for clarification of the Committee of Ministers’ position on this partnership proposal and on the Kiviniemi report, on which the Congress had given an opinion.

            She gave the floor to Raci Bayrak to put the second question.

            Raci BAYRAK (Turkey, R, NR) said that the right to life and the right to freedom were fundamental rights which should not be subject to referendum. However, the construction of new minarets in Switzerland had been prohibited by referendum on 28 November 2009.

            This decision was contrary to the values defended by the Council of Europe. What measures did Switzerland propose to take to ensure that these basic values ceased to be subject to popular votes in future?

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Kathrin Hilber to answer this question.

            Kathrin HILBER, State Councillor for the Canton of St Gallen, Switzerland, admitted that the result of the federal vote had caused a considerable stir in Europe and beyond.

            It was true that 57.5% of the population had approved a popular initiative launched in accordance with the Swiss Constitution, but the government and parliament had recommended rejecting the initiative. The vote was doubtless an expression of the fears and anxieties aroused by the omnipresence of images of extremist excesses.

            She was convinced that most of the Swiss who had voted were not hostile to the Muslim community. The 400,000 Muslims in Switzerland were well integrated into a society which was itself highly diverse at the cultural and religious levels. Muslims who wanted to do so could continue attending the country’s 200 or so mosques. Only the construction of new minarets was now prohibited, but not that of new mosques.

            The government was nonetheless dismayed by the vote, which could be interpreted as an attack on the coexistence of different cultures and religions. It might appear to be a lack of tolerance and there was a risk that it might cause provocation and stir up extremism. This question concerned all Council of Europe member states. The fears and prejudices which had emerged during the campaign should be tackled openly.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Eduard Vasilishen to put the third question.

            Eduard VASILISHEN (Russian Federation, R, SOC) said that during its chairmanship Switzerland had organised a number of important events connected with the development of intercultural exchanges, the fight against the counterfeiting of medicines, transfrontier co-operation, decentralisation and youth policy. Did Switzerland propose to support the strengthening of international co-operation in those areas in future?

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) (interpretation) called Kathrin Hilber to answer this question.

            Kathrin HILBER, State Councillor for the Canton of St Gallen, Switzerland, said that the meeting of cultural experts of Council of Europe member states to be held in Zurich on 9 and 10 April would be an opportunity to share ideas and best practice in the areas of human rights and cultural rights, as well as that of cultural diversity policies. It would then be possible to consider what actions Switzerland could undertake in those areas.

            European cities were experiencing a growing cultural pluralism as a result of migration. Through its "Intercultural Cities" programme the Council of Europe was supporting the attempts of 12 pilot cities to manage diverse populations. Cultural pluralism should take place within the framework of common values. On 27 November the city of Neuchâtel, one of the pilot cities, had organised a meeting with delegates from the other intercultural cities.

            The international conference on "Preparation for the practical implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on the Counterfeiting of Medical Products and Similar Crimes involving Threats to Public Health" otherwise known as the "MEDICRIME Convention", to be held in Basle on 15 and 16 April, was an event organised by the Swiss Chairmanship at a time when the preparation of this new convention was entering its final phase. It was to be hoped that it could be adopted by member states at the 120th ministerial session of the Committee of Ministers on 11 May since it represented a significant contribution to the protection of human rights, particularly the right of Europeans to health.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Mikhaïl Gulevskiy to put the fourth question.

            Mikhaïl GULEVSKIY (Russian Federation, L, ILDG) reminded members that in 2010 numerous member states intended to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the victory over fascism. The Council of Europe had been established among other things to promote reconciliation between nations after the tragic events of the second world war.

            How did the Swiss Chairmanship plan to celebrate the anniversary? The 30 million dead and their survivors should be remembered.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Kathrin Hilber to answer the question.

            Kathrin HILBER, State Councillor for the Canton of St Gallen, Switzerland, fully agreed that the 65th anniversary of the victory over fascism was a highly important event. However, Switzerland would not be organising anything on that occasion as it had not planned on any commemorative ceremony during its Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) thanked the speaker and wished Switzerland great success in its Chairmanship.

          4. AFTER COPENHAGEN, CITIES AND REGIONS TAKE UP THE CHALLENGE

          [CG(18)4]

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) said that the next item on the agenda was discussion of the report entitled "After Copenhagen, cities and regions take up the challenge". The report was presented by
            Dubravka Suica, who had led the Congress delegation to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen.

            The agreement signed in Copenhagen was disappointing from many viewpoints. States' difficulty in setting binding targets made local authority action even more essential. To end the spiral of climate warming, all parties must accept their responsibilities for persuading their fellow citizens to adopt more sustainable lifestyles.

            In this connection, the President drew attention to the message from Elizabeth B. Kautz, President of the US Conference of Mayors, who was unable to be present. The message mentioned the commitment made by US cities to protect the climate and preserve the planet. Ms Kautz had been present in Copenhagen to encourage states to recognise the importance of cities and regions in the struggle against climate change.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Dubravka Suica.

            Dubravka SUICA (Croatia, L, EPP/CD) said that she had led the Congress delegation to the Copenhagen Conference in December. She was now presenting a report which aimed at recognition of the possible role of local and regional authorities in the fight against climate change. Such recognition had long been requested by the Congress.

            The conference had represented a unique moment in terms of exchanges but had been a missed opportunity which had created enormous disappointment. A lack of commitment and co-operative spirit had been noticed on the part of governments, but the public was clearly aware of the climate problem. Thousands of representatives of local authorities and of NGOs had joined the representatives of the governments of 193 nations. The scale of the mobilisation that had occurred showed that public opinion was now conscious of climate change. Unfortunately, progress by the end of the conference had been slim, although a few positive results had been recorded. For the first time the impact of global warming, which states had agreed to limit to 2° Celsius by 2020, had been recognised. This was a beginning, but it was still far from enough.

            The shortcomings of international democracy and the difficulties experienced by states in negotiating a binding global agreement gave even greater importance to work in this area by local authorities, which must find sustainable ways of reducing CO2 emissions. Many mayors and presidents of regional councils had given presentations on what action they had taken. The Congress representatives had had many talks both with the President of the European Union Committee of the Regions and with the mayors of major world metropolises. The representatives of local and regional executives had been able to speak with a single voice, as they would do once again in Cancun next December.

            The importance of the issues made international negotiations difficult, but the heavy mobilisation noted at the Copenhagen Conference had shown that public opinion was in a state of acute expectancy. Everything must be done to prevent a gulf from opening up between populations and governments. Reaching a binding international agreement to give effect to the Kyoto Protocol was therefore a moral and political imperative. As far as they were concerned, local communities had shown that they could act in a determined and ambitious way and thus modify patterns of consumption. 50 to 80% of the measures needed to control global warming could be implemented at local level; communities could therefore undoubtedly do better than states.

            The Congress should therefore aim to see the role of cities and regions recognised and supported in the fight against global warming. At a time when states seemed to be held back by an inability to co-ordinate action, could local communities not be regarded as innovative testing grounds for taking up the challenge of the century? The dialogue between local authorities and governments must be started at European and global levels in order to achieve a more marked reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Synergies and partnerships must be encouraged. For this, legislative measures allowing action closer to the local population must be adopted.

            To promote such collective action, representatives of local authorities must take part in the coming negotiations in Cancun in addition to government representatives. The Congress expected an enhanced commitment from the European Union, larger appropriations of funds enabling authorities to act ever more efficiently, and exchanges of experience.

            For its part, the Congress must continue its endeavours to ensure that the basic role of local communities in this important battle was recognised; to this end it should make use of its observer status at the United Nations to tackle climate change issues.

          European local and regional authorities wished to promote clean energy. 2010 would be a key year. Cities and regions must combine forces to win recognition by states as essential partners in negotiations that were also crucial for human rights. In other words, the agreement that everyone hoped would emerge from the Cancun conference must take account of the ecological, economic and ethical dimensions of the fight against climate change.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) said that she was pleased to welcome Klaus Bondam, the Deputy Mayor of Copenhagen, who had been greatly involved in the fight against climate change and who had also campaigned for formal recognition of the role of local authorities in the climate negotiations. The Copenhagen Conference had been an unprecedented opportunity for a mobilisation of opinion and had shown the public's very strong expectations. The Congress would listen with particular interest to the thoughts of the Deputy Mayor of Copenhagen on these questions.

          5. STATEMENT BY KLAUS BONDAM, DEPUTY MAYOR OF COPENHAGEN (DENMARK)

            Klaus BONDAM, Deputy Mayor of Copenhagen (interpretation), said that before taking over his current job as Deputy Mayor for employment and integration of the city of Copenhagen he had been, from 2006 to the end of 2009, the Deputy Mayor for technical and environmental questions, responsible in this capacity for representing Copenhagen on Eurocities, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and the C40 Cities – Climate Leadership Group. He had pursued the same aim in all those organisations, namely for the role of cities and local executives to be recognised as part of the fight against climate change. He had expected great things from the conclusions of the Copenhagen Conference; unfortunately, the agreement reached by governments had fallen far short of the binding agreement which would have been desirable. However, seen from the viewpoint of cities and local executives, the process under way since the Bali Conference in 2007 had enabled local authorities to form a network for the common fight against global warming. They had thus shown their capacity to influence governments and had been a factor in the negotiations leading to the Copenhagen Conference.

            He approved the draft resolution and draft recommendation contained in the report. Both texts stressed the challenges confronting the international community. He was pleased to learn that ICLEI and the Congress had decided to enhance their co-operation in the run-up to the Cancun Conference.

            In Bali, the global organisations of mayors and local executives had signed an agreement on the fight against global warming, pledging themselves to take specific common action. They had thus agreed on a roadmap equivalent to that adopted by the United Nations for the Copenhagen Conference. Since then, the mayors and presidents of local and regional authorities had endeavoured to promote an international agreement recognising their key role in the fight against climate change. They wanted to play a greater part in this fight and, to this end, receive the active support of governments, solely through financial appropriations enabling them to carry out concrete actions.

            Cities and regions throughout the world had already set themselves ambitious targets as regards the reduction of greenhouse gases. Copenhagen city had set itself the target of reducing emissions in 2015 by 20% as compared with 2005 and hoped to be carbon neutral by 2025. Together with ICLEI, Copenhagen had identified some 3100 targets for the fight against climate change defined by local authorities throughout the world. Local authorities were thus more ambitious than national governments.

            The conclusions of the Copenhagen Conference had been highly disappointing. The agreement reached by states was really just a statement of general principles and guidelines. Moreover, the document said nothing about either the role or the responsibilities of local communities in the fight against climate change. However, he was convinced that many of his counterparts would do everything in their power to see that a proper agreement was reached in Cancun.

            Such an agreement could be regarded as a success if it were binding; if it included ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions; if it guaranteed the granting of adequate funds for this purpose; if it contained a list of measures for adaptation to the new conditions, transfers of technology and transfers of funds on an equitable basis; if it was a truly global agreement that mobilised governments, local communities, businesses and civil society.

            To reach such an agreement governments would have to be convinced of its merits through direct dialogue. That was why representatives of local authorities had wanted to attend the Copenhagen Conference and meet national delegations. Members of ICLEI had had talks with several delegations from European Union countries and also with delegations from the United States, Australia, Korea, Mexico and Switzerland.

            He called on members of the Congress to take part in this essential collective effort, give constant reminders to their national governments that local executives were their best allies in the fight against global warming and encourage them to draw up legislation calling for local action. They would have several opportunities to win a hearing in the coming months: at Dunkirk in May on the occasion of the 6th Conference of European Cities and at Bonn in June at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

            A Climate Summit had been organised for the mayors at the Copenhagen Conference. Nearly 100 mayors from the largest world metropolises had attended, thus showing the United Nations that local and regional executives must be involved in the negotiations for a world climate agreement.

            He expressed satisfaction that Mexico was planning to organise a similar summit in December 2010. ICLEI had also organised bilateral meetings between the various national delegations and local executives during the Copenhagen Conference. It was absolutely essential for cities and regions to be present throughout the negotiations and to take part in the discussions.

            On returning to Australia at the end of the Copenhagen Conference, the Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle, had said that he had been particularly struck by the many and varied experimental measures implemented by his counterparts worldwide. A reduction in CO2 emissions must genuinely be achieved in cities to make them more habitable, healthier and more innovative. It was up to local elected representatives to bequeath to future generations cities that were in a better state than when they started their terms of office.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) opened the debate and gave the floor to Carmen Oliver Jaquero.

            Carmen OLIVER JAQUERO (Spain, L, SOC) said she had taken an active part in the Copenhagen Conference as a representative of Spanish local authorities. After extremely tortuous negotiations and despite limited results, some positive points could be noted, including the massive mobilisation of participants. The fight against climate change was not just the business of governments and experts. All parties had realised the necessity of working together.

            Against this background, local authorities had an important role to play; all of them were trying to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. For them it was both a challenge and an immense opportunity. Competition from the emerging countries was driving developed countries to innovate on an ever larger scale; the Green Revolution was on the march and required the use of strategies promoting genuine and sustainable development. Local authorities must co-operate with all other parties concerned in combating climate change.

            She said that a meeting had been organised in Albacete, where over 400 people had debated the topics discussed in Copenhagen. The record of proceedings was available from the website of the association of Spanish local authorities. She also referred to the climate network created in Spain by central government and the association of municipalities, which brought together 300 cities and 27 million people.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Amrit Mediratta.

            Amrit MEDIRATTA (United Kingdom, L, SOC) said that, given the presence of 193 states, it was not really surprising that no binding post-Kyoto agreement had been reached in Copenhagen. However, the Conference had been an opportunity for all to realise the necessity of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Despite persistent differences of opinion, the developed countries had agreed to release funds up to 2020 to help the developing countries reduce their emissions; the developing countries had undertaken to fund concrete projects such as the fight against deforestation.

            Local and regional authorities now had a recognised role in the fight against climate change; they had been able to win a hearing in Copenhagen and were already taking concrete action on the ground. As pointed out by the United Nations Secretary-General in July 2009, national policies decided on by governments were implemented by local authorities.

            He supported the recommendation by the Congress which, like the Parliamentary Assembly, should urge governments to include local authority representatives in their delegations to the Mexico Conference.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Gilbert Roger.

            Gilbert ROGER (France, L, SOC) wished to propose an amendment emphasising an important fact: the poorest populations were the first victims of climate change and energy problems. This had recently been seen in the case of the storm that had struck France.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Mykhaylo Kichkovsky.

            Mykhaylo KICHKOVSKY (Ukraine, R, EPP/CD) said that he headed the Council of Transcarpathia, a region where, as in the Alps, mountain rivers provided the inhabitants with their water supply. He said he was ready to play an active part in implementing the Congress resolution on the fight against climate change. Local and regional authorities must play an active part in this fight insofar as their powers permitted.

            The Congress, as also the European Union Committee of the Regions, had already emphasised on several occasions the role of mountain regions. Ukraine had conducted numerous consultations resulting in the drawing up of a draft resolution forwarded for possible additions to the Committee on Sustainable Development. A debate on this document was to be held shortly in Ukraine under the auspices of the Congress. The President, Mr Yanukovych, attached special importance to environmental protection. He invited members of the Congress to take part in the debate, which would be attended by the President of the Rada.

            The mountain regions of Europe had their role to play at their level in protecting ecosystems and promoting sustainable development. The Congress had to realise how important the climate problem was.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Oddleif Olavsen.

            Oddleif OLAVSEN (Norway, R, EPP/CD) thought that the Copenhagen process made the proverb "think globally, act locally" more relevant than ever. Targets had been set for 2020; the world’s municipalities and regions would be in the front line even though responsibility rested primarily with states.

            He noted that the authorities in his region had considered it possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2020. Such a potential could not be ignored. Local authorities could act through specific mechanisms; governments could, for example, purchase local emission vouchers, while all pollutants would be assessed in CO2 equivalent tons. Emissions would thus become goods for which the prices and trade would be negotiated. This system would be simple to combine with grants, e.g. for the assessment of buildings.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Piet Jansen.

            Piet JANSEN (Netherlands, R, EPP/CD) pointed out that results in Copenhagen had been modest despite the presence of President Obama and other leaders. Local authorities, which were close to the grass roots, had to be deeply involved in the fight against climate change. He supported the draft resolution and recommendation.

            The previous year the Netherlands state and local authorities had decided, with a sense of urgency, to co-operate on climate and energy questions; the NGOs had joined them. A joint effort was essential if ambitious targets were to be reached. Relevant tools must be put in place and every endeavour made to ensure that European legislation had a greater impact. As Barack Obama had said in another context, "Yes, we can!"

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to James McCabe.

            James McCABE (United Kingdom, L, SOC) was pleased at the opportunity to discuss the Copenhagen agreement on climate change and, in particular, to place local authorities in the forefront of the process. Future agreements must include sections devoted to local authorities. The European Union and the Council of Europe must be in the vanguard of the process. Moreover, the most concrete proposals had been made by the Europeans in Copenhagen. Like the rest of the United Kingdom, Scotland was developing a process of adaptation to climate change. It was an immense task. CO2 emissions had to be reduced by 40% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050. Legally binding targets must be set because time was passing quickly.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Suvi Riehtniemi.

            Suvi RIEHTNIEMI (Finland, R, EPP/CD) congratulated Dubravka Suica on her report and hoped that the United Nations would prepare a binding long-term agreement which would give credibility to political decision-making and to the efforts invested by businesses and ordinary citizens. It was likewise essential to encourage dialogue and co-operation between the local, regional and national government levels, among other things in order to put climate strategies in place.

            Energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources were objectives which had constantly to be pursued in order to safeguard the well-being of current and future generations.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Emil Calota.

            Emil CALOTA (Romania, L, SOC) asked the Deputy Mayor of Copenhagen, an exemplary ecological city which showed the way in the development of mass transport, walking and cycling, what advice he could give to members of the Congress on how to encourage city-dwellers to adopt low-carbon behaviour patterns.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Valery Kadokhov.

            Valery KADOKHOV (Russian Federation, R, SOC) noted that despite the mixed results of the Summit, the fact that the leaders of nearly all countries in the world had met in Copenhagen indicated the concern about climate change. The statements made were not pious hopes. According to the United Nations, in 40 years’ time the temperature in Siberia, an immense forest-covered territory, would rise by 3.6°. This was why Russia had reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% compared with 1990 and hoped to reduce them by a further 20% by 2020.

            To attain the targets set, both small and large countries must agree on what measures to take in the face of the climate challenge. Following the Kyoto Protocol, developed and developing countries must increase their efforts to adopt a document setting legally binding targets. Unfortunately, the negotiations which had taken place the previous year had not produced the expected result. The Congress must provide impetus; every single country was aware of the urgency of the situation.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Halldor Halldorssen.

            Halldor HALLDORSSON (Iceland, L, EPP/CD) said that, despite disappointment, a small step forward had been taken in Copenhagen. Changes in behaviour started at local level. Iceland had the good fortune to possess 70% of green energy compatible with sustainable development.

            He asked Klaus Bondam whether his city had taken steps to reduce the environmental impact of organising the summit.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Christopher Newbury.

            Christopher NEWBURY (United Kingdom, L, SOC) said that he would vote against the draft resolution and recommendation contained in the report. He pointed out that scientists, particularly climatologists, had much more mixed and varied views than political leaders. Certainly, one should consume less fossil energy, but belief in the arrival of a cataclysm caused by man-made climatic warming came with a considerable human and financial cost, while scientific proof was inadequate. The report referred to "undeniable facts". Before 1940 scientists had noted a warming of the climate followed by a period of cooling from 1940 to 1970. Climatologists of that era had even expected a new ice age! Afterwards a fresh period of warming had occurred. The global warming theory was therefore by no means undeniable.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Kadri Őlcenoğlu.

            Kadri OLCENOGLU (Turkey, L, NR) said that the Creator had surrounded the planet with a protective layer which we were now endeavouring to plug after piercing it. Certain parties were proposing that each country should have an emission permit quota. It would be interesting to know the guest speaker’s viewpoint on the introduction of a system for exchanging pollution rights.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Klaus Bondam to reply to the speakers.

            Klaus BONDAM, Deputy Mayor of Copenhagen welcomed the Congress’s support for the draft resolution and recommendation and was glad to hear his city held up as an example. Copenhagen municipality was prepared to hold a dialogue with those Congress members who so desired.

            He replied that the desire for change was not necessarily connected with belief in climate change. Cities should be thought of as places where people lived better, which did not consist solely of concrete and asphalt and where one could move freely. It was sufficient to have the political courage to wage this battle and put partnerships into practice. Furthermore, cities were safer when the majority of their inhabitants travelled by bicycle or on foot under less trying conditions. The Copenhagen Summit had led to a reopening of the debate on environmental policies and to proposals for innovative solutions. Copenhagen showed clearly that it was still possible to move forward despite the difficulties!

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to the rapporteur to answer the speakers.

            Dubravka SUICA (Croatia, L, EPP/CD), Rapporteur, stressed that various models for fighting climate change had been presented during the debate. Most of them appeared in the text and the discussion had shown in any case that everyone in Europe felt concerned. Local authorities were in the front line in this battle and members of the Congress must endeavour to convince their national governments of the need to act as quickly as possible. As Piet Jansen had said, it was necessary to think globally and act locally: the well-being of future generations was at stake. As regards Klaus Bondam, he had stressed the importance of everyday progress towards a higher-quality environment with the object of making gradual changes in behaviour patterns. The year 2010 would undoubtedly be a key year for mobilisation against climate change!

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to the Chair of the Committee on Sustainable Development to answer the speakers.

            Gaye DOGANOGLU (Turkey, L, EPP/CD), Chair of the Committee on Sustainable Development (interpretation), thanked all speakers for their contributions to this lively debate and stressed that she and Dubravka Suica had been charmed by the warm and welcoming atmosphere in Copenhagen. The Summit itself had admittedly been disappointing but one should not be discouraged and better results were to be hoped for from the Cancun Summit. The representatives of local and regional democracy must endeavour to convince their fellow citizens that reducing their carbon footprint was a priority. Dialogue was the watchword in cities, regions and states, and at international level. In this connection, COP 16 should enable members of the Congress to secure further progress.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) said that Gilbert Roger had lodged an Amendment No 1 to the draft resolution contained in document [CG(18)4]. This amendment had received a favourable opinion from the committee.

            She put the amendment to a vote.

            Amendment No 1 was adopted.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) invited the assembly to vote on the whole of the draft resolution, as amended, contained in document [CG (18)4].

            The draft resolution as amended and contained in document [CG(18)4] was adopted.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) invited the assembly to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in document [CG(18)4].

            The draft recommendation contained in document [CG(18)4] was adopted.

          6. FOLLOW-UP BY THE CONGRESS TO THE CONFERENCE OF MINISTERS RESPONSIBLE FOR LOCAL AND REGIONAL GOVERNMENT (UTRECHT, NETHERLANDS, 16-17 NOVEMBER 2009)

          [CG(18)17]

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) said that the next item on the agenda was presentation and discussion of the report by Knud Andersen and Jean-Claude Frécon on "Follow-up by the Congress to the Conference of Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government (Utrecht, Netherlands, 16-17 November)" contained in document [CG(18)7].

            The Congress had made a great contribution, as regards the items concerning it, to the preparation of the Final Declaration adopted by the Ministers in Utrecht. It had also adopted two positions, in conjunction with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, on the Kiviniemi report and on the Framework of Reference for Regional Democracy. Following adoption of the Final Declaration, the Congress had wanted the decisions taken by the Ministers to be followed up and to this end had submitted for adoption by its members a draft recommendation and a draft resolution respectively concerning the Kiviniemi report and the Framework of Reference.

            In the absence of Jean-Claude Frécon, Knud Andersen presented the draft resolution and the draft recommendation.

            Ludmila Sfirloaga was replaced in the Chair by Günther Krug (Germany, R, SOC), Vice-President of the Congress.

            Knud ANDERSEN (Denmark, R, ILDG) said that the agenda of the Utrecht Conference contained three items of interest to the Congress: transfrontier co-operation and the role of central governments in removing obstacles; the report by the Finnish Minister Mari Kiviniemi entitled "How to enhance the work of the Council of Europe in the field of local and regional democracy" and the Reference Framework for Regional Democracy.

            The Congress had stated its positions on the Kiviniemi report and on the Reference Framework. The proposal in the Finnish Minister’s report that co-operation between the Congress and the CDLR be enhanced was a good one. However, the Council of Europe had expressed a number of reservations on certain recommendations in the report, which stressed the necessity for better communication between international institutions and within the Council of Europe itself. Improved dialogue was, of course, necessary between the different bodies, but each partner’s individual identity must be preserved. The Council of Europe must thus retain its unique character. The Ministers' Final Declaration had taken account of the concerns of the Congress, which would monitor follow-up to the Kiviniemi report. The recommendations contained in this report should be immediately applied by member states.

            With regard to the Reference Framework for Regional Democracy, he recommended that regional councils be elected by direct universal suffrage and that the regions enjoy greater latitude to manage policies for which they were responsible. A proper charter for regional democracy should be published. The Reference Framework was nonetheless a complete catalogue of what was involved in regional democracy. It should therefore be circulated as widely as possible and be put into effect in all member states.

            The PRESIDENT (Germany, R, SOC) thanked Knud Andersen for his excellent summary of the Utrecht Conference and declared the debate open.

            Igor SHUBIN (Russian Federation, L, ILDG) considered that an analysis of the socio-economic situation and of the challenges posed by the financial crisis was an absolute priority in European countries. They must combine their efforts to strengthen Europe's economic and political development, a task to which the Council of Europe had devoted itself since its inception.

            The Utrecht Conference had demonstrated the existence of certain problems and a 2011-2013 action plan had been drawn up for local and regional democracy. It was important to include the experience of countries which had succeeded in combating the crisis. Although it was a relatively young democracy, Russia had considerable experience of what action was needed in periods of crisis. It was thus fully aware of the importance of carrying out an objective assessment of the situation and of adopting realistic budgetary assumptions in order not to worsen the population’s circumstances. In fact, the efforts made had softened the impact of the crisis and improved the living conditions of the public. Regions and municipalities had received substantial assistance. The finances of the city of Perm, for example, which had already embarked on a thoroughgoing budgetary reform, had not deteriorated following the crisis and deficit financing had not been necessary. This favourable state of affairs was being felt in daily public life. Furthermore, the transmission of municipal debates over the Internet had helped to strengthen the transparency of local authority proceedings and had enabled the public to play a direct role in decision-making.

            The Russian reforms were continuing and efforts were being made to achieve efficiency at all levels of government in a country which was now free from the burden of corruption.

            The obstacles confronting Europeans as a result of the crisis could be overcome by pooling the efforts of all.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Oleksandr Luk’ianchenko.

            Oleksandr LUK’IANCHENKO (Ukraine, L, EPP/CD) stressed that Ukraine supported the idea of a European local democracy week, which would enable many members of the public to visit the European institutions.

            He was pleased, moreover, that one of the largest cities in the country, Donetsk, was represented in the Chamber of Local Authorities: its elected representatives could give their colleagues the benefit of their long experience. Exchanges of views and experience between the different municipalities would be encouraged by the organisation the following year in Ukraine of a general meeting of pilot cities. He hoped that the Congress would support the initiative.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) said that the list of speakers was closed and gave the floor to the rapporteur to answer the speakers.

            Knud ANDERSEN (Denmark, R, ILDG) pointed out that the examination the following year of the report to be submitted by Christopher Newbury and himself on local and regional democracy in Russia would be an opportunity to debate the way in which a democratic society should be organised both in Russia and in all European countries.

            The local democracy week would also be an opportunity to stress the importance of democratic institutions and civil society.

            He hoped, finally, that every member of the Congress would make maximum use of the indispensable reference document represented by the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) invited members of the Congress to vote on the draft resolution.

            The draft Resolution contained in document [CG(18)7] was adopted.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) invited members of the Congress to vote on the draft recommendation.

            The draft Recommendation contained in document [CG(18)7] was adopted by a two thirds majority.

          7. LOCAL AND REGIONAL DEMOCRACY IN ALBANIA - FOLLOW-UP TO THE 2006 REPORT OF THE CONGRESS

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) said that the next item on the agenda was the debate on local and regional democracy in Albania.

            She reminded the meeting that in 2006 Van Cauwenberghe and Rhodio had submitted a rather critical report and recommendation which contained a very detailed list of recommendations which the Albanian authorities had been invited to consider.

            During his visit to Albania in November 2009, the President, Mr Micallef, had invited the Albanian government to draw up a progress report on the implementation of the recommendation and to take part in a debate on the overall situation of local and regional democracy in Albania. This proposal had been warmly approved by the Albanian authorities and the Congress was pleased to welcome Ferdinand Poni, the Deputy Minister of the Interior, to whom the President now gave the floor.

            Ferdinand PONI (Albania) was pleased to have this opportunity to stress the Albanian government’s determination to develop its relations with the Council of Europe, particularly the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. In order to align itself with the great nations of Western Europe, Albania had now taken decentralisation and the proper exercise of the responsibilities of local elected representatives as its overriding priority. The Minister of the Interior was extremely keen to attain the standards shared by the European democracies. Decentralisation and the promotion of local and regional democracy in accordance with European legislation and the Utrecht Declaration were now the aim of all official bodies in Albania.

            As a full NATO member and as a candidate for membership of the European Union, Albania was endeavouring to respect citizens' freedom of movement fully and was preparing to complete the second phase of its implementation of local self-government by organising direct elections.

            During the period of democracy building, the country had set itself clear priorities, and its achievements between 2005 and 2009 had enabled it to bring its legislation up to date and consolidate its public services for the benefit of its citizens. It had embarked on an irreversible process.

          As part of its decentralisation process, Albania had managed to reduce taxation on SMEs with no corresponding reduction in local authority tax revenues. Local and regional funds had tripled in size in four years and the national local investment programme had increased repayments to local authorities by a factor of 50. Local and regional elected representatives had also been made responsible for building monitoring and inspection. Laws and regulations had been brought into line with the European Charter of Local Self-Government. A number of instruments had been created, in particular a body for permanent inter-institutional consultation and a working group which co-ordinated all decentralisation activities. Local authorities had been made responsible for collecting taxes on SMEs and for other charges and the whole of the tax system had been simplified. In accordance with European Union requirements, Albania had likewise adopted a legal and regulatory framework for loans to local authorities. In addition to the transfer of property rights regarding water supplies, new provisions had encouraged intermunicipal co-operation, leading to economies of scale. Transfers of ownership to the local authorities had also been facilitated for all state property.

          The measures had produced noteworthy results in the light of the recommendations made in 2006 and 2007. Now that the targets had been reached, the Albanian authorities were optimistic. In the current period of economic crisis they considered it particularly important to take further steps to encourage local democracy. Even though the crisis had led to heavy reductions in public expenditure throughout the world, Albania had attained a growth rate of 3% in 2009. At the local level, thanks to the priorities set by the government, decentralisation had been consolidated and transfers of responsibility and powers to local authorities had been speeded up.

          Albania was therefore complying with the European Charter of Local Self-Government. While in 2005 the local authority budget had amounted to 12 billion leks, of which 7.4 billion came directly from the state budget, the local authority budget amounted to 50 billion leks in 2009, while non-earmarked appropriations from the national budget amounted to only 25 billion. These figures gave rise to particular optimism because they did not take account of funds collected by municipalities for their administration and management, anti-unemployment measures, social policy and education and health investment.

          Fruitful and effective co-operation between the central and local authorities was one of the reasons for the country’s good economic health. The Albanian government intended to achieve a number of objectives without delay. It was implementing a liberal policy of lightening taxation on businesses, which was already one of the lowest in Europe. It was endeavouring to modernise and computerise its taxation services; consolidating reform of its regulations; simplifying the licensing system; speeding up business registration formalities; abolishing bureaucratic practices; introducing the one-stop-shop system; and opening up genuine possibilities for loans to local authorities within the framework of the national debt.

          A system of financial facilities had been put in place and bureaucracy had been reduced. The transfer of property to the municipalities had been assured. Resources granted to local authorities had been quadrupled. As this was an irreversible process, it would no longer be possible to reduce municipal budgets. By improving the performance of local finances, it had been possible to increase and develop the supply of services.

          In four years, Albania had undergone two fundamental reforms: modernisation of the civil service and improvement of the system for producing and distributing identity documents. The Albanians had become more European than ever and had demonstrated their ability to attain effective targets through the tools supplied by the Council of Europe. Success in the reforms had led to compliance with the commitments entered into by the Albanian government in the May 2009 elections.

          Consulting local authorities in all matters concerning them had become a priority in Albania. At first sight, the opposition might be trying to impose a different view of democratic institutions. However, this had not been the case as regards the priority given to local democracy, the status of local elected representatives and co-operation with Europe. In these areas everyone accepted the same principles and employed the same tools.

          The programme of the Berisha II government should lead to the attainment of a series of clear objectives in matters of decentralisation, which included local mandates, the participation of local authorities in decision-making, consolidation of institutions, development of interregional co-operation, acceleration of the procedure for transfers of state property to the local and regional levels, improvement of services to the public and consolidation of relations between local and regional authorities.

          One of the major priorities of the Albanian government remained co-operation with its neighbours to the East, but also with the European Union and the United States. In this context, there were dozens of projects devised both by central government and by local and regional authorities. The issues addressed in these projects included intermunicipal co-operation, human resources and a town planning law drawn up with Council of Europe assistance. Bilateral relations linked Albania with several European countries and with countries of the Mediterranean Union and the Adriatic Euroregion.

          Today the Albanians were Europeans who were attempting to implement exacting standards with the support of the Congress, which he thanked on behalf of his country's representatives.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to the Head of the Albanian delegation, Refik Rrugeja.

          Refik RRUGEJA (Albania, L, NR) explained that the three associations of Albanian local and regional authorities had achieved good results.

          The Albanian delegation was trying to play a more active part in the Congress’s work than in the past. It was always dangerous to cause divisions, as those who wished to create a new association were trying to do. To divide was to risk jeopardising democracy. It was better to work together to settle Albania's internal problems through dialogue. The Congress was not the proper place to wash dirty laundry.

          He appealed to the Socialists to co-operate in order to reach common objectives rather than try to divide local authorities.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) noted that the speaker was replying to a question which had not been put to him by the Congress.

          She gave the floor to Dario Ghisletta.

          Dario GHISLETTA (Romania, L, SOC) said that Switzerland was involved in a Council of Europe project to give Albania substantial financial support to strengthen its local and regional structures. The purpose of the project was to recommend a development strategy to local and regional authorities, support legal reforms and provide technical support for promoting democratic principles. This collaboration with Albania was aimed at improving local authorities’ capacity to co-operate at intermunicipal level. Switzerland was also supporting new legislation on spatial planning.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Dobrica Milovanovic.

          Dobrica MILOVANOVIC (Serbia, NR) said that a recommendation adopted by the Congress in 2006 had drawn attention to the dependency of the budgets of local and regional authorities on central government and the small number of taxes levied directly at local level. This recommendation had stressed the transfer of competences to local authorities, but this had not been followed by transfer of the financial resources needed to put such competences into practice. She wished to know more about the measures taken by the Albanian authorities to rectify this anomaly.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Ferdinand Poni, Deputy Minister of the Interior (Albania).

            Ferdinand PONI, Deputy Minister of the Interior (Albania) said that he had talked about the financing of Albanian local authorities in his statement. In 2005, 12 billion leks had been transferred to local authorities. This amount had increased to 50 billion, of which 25 billion consisted of non-earmarked appropriations, not counting revenue from local taxes and duties.

          There were two ways of complying with the spirit of the recommendation, either by giving an exact figure for each service or by increasing appropriations overall. They had been multiplied by a factor of 4. What other European country could claim to have reached such a level?

          No condition had been imposed on local authorities as regards use of the non-earmarked appropriations allocated to them.

          Expressing himself in French, Ferdinand Poni addressed the Swiss representative. Albania was happy to be working on a project to which the Council of Europe was a party and which was financed by Switzerland, which was also financing a major project on intermunicipal co-operation. The type of co-operation in question concerned water distribution and the treatment of household waste.

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Günther Krug.

          Günther KRUG (Germany, R, SOC) thanked the Minister for his willingness to conduct a dialogue. The Socialist Group had received a letter from an Albanian political group mentioning certain decentralisation issues whose importance called, in his opinion, for questioning of the Albanian government’s representative, bearing in mind that the Congress's current rules prohibited the writers of the letter concerned from addressing themselves directly to the Minister in the hemicycle itself.

          The writers of the letter said that Recommendation 201 on local and regional democracy in Albania, which had been adopted by the Congress in 2006, had set out a roadmap to be followed by the Albanian government in its efforts to strengthen local and regional self-government. They had stated that, unfortunately, there were doubts about the soundness of the measures taken for this purpose. On the contrary, it was felt that the competences of the regions had been reduced, which seemed to violate not only the Charter of Local Self-Government but also the Albanian Constitution, as indicated in certain Constitutional Court judgments. The writers explained that the decentralisation reforms as undertaken by the Albanian government and parliament did not comply with the law of 30 July 2000 on the organisation and operation of local authorities. Institutional laws had been profoundly modified and the government had not complied with the timetable for the completion of decentralisation, particularly as regards the transfer of public services to local authorities. Moreover, the functions of the authorities were still poorly defined and the government continued to legislate by decree on many key subjects. The principle of the financial independence of local authorities was not respected in that the government had amended tax law to reduce their own resources without offsetting these restrictions and continued to finance resources through grants.

          Expressing his view as rapporteur for the verification of credentials, Günther Krug said that he was surprised that the Albanian delegation had included among its members an elected representative whose term of office had expired over six months before. As that person’s appointment to the Albanian delegation was thus automatically invalid, a place was therefore vacant on that delegation. He hoped the vacancy would be filled as soon as possible, preferably by a Socialist elected representative.

          In general, local democracy was therefore obviously open to improvement in Albania. Further efforts were still needed and these should be assessed in a new report.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to the Deputy Minister of the Interior of Albania.

            Ferdinand PONI, Deputy Minister of the Interior (Albania) (interpretation), was not certain that he had been listened to carefully as in his view he had already answered the questions just put to him. The communication referred to probably concerned discussions which had taken place in other forums. In any case, nothing in the reform of local authorities had violated the Constitution. Edi Rama and the other authors of the letter were probably alluding to the general situation in Albania. If he had had the screen he had asked for he would have shown figures making the situation clear to the Congress; this had not been possible, but the facts remained, and they were stubborn. Had Germany, like Albania, quadrupled its subsidies to the municipalities? This was what the Albanian government had done; it was intent on decentralisation, more sometimes than the local authorities themselves!

            Between 1997 and 2005, Albania had had a Socialist government. What had it done to encourage decentralisation throughout those years? It had simply drawn up an inventory paving the way for transfers of ownership. The present government, on the other hand, had carried out over 350 of such ownership transfers and had helped to set up municipal companies by transferring the necessary assets, particularly as regards water supplies, and had been aided in this task by the World Bank and other international financial bodies.

            As regards the composition of the Albanian delegation to the Congress, the situation was crystal-clear. Every delegation to the Congress must respect geographical and political balance and a fair distribution between men and women. The composition of the Albanian delegation met these criteria and delegates' credentials had been validated at the opening of the session. The delegation comprised four members, including one Socialist, the Mayor of Kuçova. The most famous local elected representative in Albania had become a member, and the Minister was very pleased about this. To replace him, a procedure must be followed and a name proposed - possibly that of a Socialist - and the government had said it was ready to consider changes in this connection. As the situation stood, however, the Albanian delegation complied with the membership criteria of Congress delegations. Letters had been exchanged on this point and the acting Secretary General of the Congress certainly had them in his possession.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Helena Pihlajasari.

          Helena PIHLAJASARI (Finland, L, SOC) said that when it had adopted Recommendation 201 four years earlier the Congress had invited Albania to pursue the decentralisation reform so as to strengthen local democracy. It had particularly recommended that co-ordination between the executive authorities on the one hand and the local authorities and main political parties on the other hand be placed on an institutional footing in order to encourage their participation in political decision-making. What was the current situation?

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to the Deputy Minister of the Interior of Albania.

          8. ADDRESS BY FERDINAND PONI, DEPUTY MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR (ALBANIA)

            Ferdinand PONI, Deputy Minister of the Interior (Albania) thought he had already said all there was to say on the subject. He could only repeat that ongoing discussions were taking place between all levels of authority. An inter-ministerial committee had been set up for that purpose, together with a group of experts, and constituted a joint body; local authorities, civil society and the government were represented on that body. Budgetary transfers were decided jointly by representatives of the Finance Ministry and the large municipalities. Regular meetings were held between the government and associations of cities and regions. Certain parties might, of course, decide not to attend meetings of those bodies, but the procedures were there and the government intended to strengthen institutionalised co-ordination still further.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to Jos Wienen.

            Jos WIENEN (Netherlands, L, EPP/CD) thanked the Minister, who had reported a highly positive trend in the strengthening of the competences of local and regional authorities. In its Recommendation 201, the Congress had invited the Albanian government to present the measures taken to implement its recommendations to the President of the Congress. It had also requested the drafting of an interim report by senior officials on this subject. Could the Congress examine that document?

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) gave the floor to the Deputy Minister of the Interior of Albania.

            Ferdinand PONI, Deputy Minister of the Interior (Albania) recalled that he had been present in 2006 at the time of the adoption of Recommendation 201 and again in 2007 and had given the Congress all the explanations it desired. He thought he had replied to all the questions put to him. The Albanian government’s priority was to settle the regional question, which implied a bilateral solution. This was the second time that he was appearing before the Congress to answer the friendly questions put to him and the Congress had received a document in which the government had replied point by point to the comments made in the report. What more could he do? It would appear somewhat excessive to ask him to repeat something he had already done twice. He had answered all the questions put to him and had gone even further. Albania had implemented all the report’s recommendations and more.

            Jos WIENEN (Netherlands, L, EPP/CD) said he had received the recommendation but not the answer...

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) thanked the speakers and Mr Poni and said that the Institutional Committee would make proposals to the Bureau on the follow-up to this debate. Refraining from adopting a political position, she remarked that three vacancies had still to be filled in the Albanian delegation, which was currently composed only of right-wing representatives. She urged Albania to fill the vacant seats in a balanced manner and recalled that this was the consistent position of the Congress.

            Ferdinand PONI, Deputy Minister of the Interior of Albania, considered this to be possible. The associations would decide.

            The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) stressed that political balance must be observed in all delegations.

            She closed the debate.

          9. DATE, TIME AND AGENDA OF THE NEXT SITTING

          The PRESIDENT (Romania, R, SOC) proposed that the Congress hold its next public sitting on Friday 19 March at 10 am with the agenda as adopted the previous day. However, as there had been no opportunity to debate the report on Iceland in separate chambers, she proposed dealing with this report as the first item of business.

          She noted that no objection was raised.

          The agenda for the next public sitting was thus adopted.

          The sitting rose at 6.05 pm.

          THIRD SITTING OF THE CONGRESS

          Friday, 19 March 2010 at 10 am

          ___________________

          TABLE OF CONTENTS

          Page

      1. Opening of the sitting 95

      2. Adoption of the minutes of the previous sittings 95

      3. Formal adoption of the texts approved by the Chambers 95

      4. Local democracy in Iceland 95

      5. Achieving sustainable gender equality in local and regional political life 98

      6. Statement by Ana Barceló Chico, Mayor of Sax, Spain,
      President of the Women’s Committee of the Spanish Federation of

          Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP) 99

      7. Statement by Fabienne Keller, Member of the French Senate for the Bas-Rhin, France,
      former Mayor of Strasbourg
      100

      8. Statement by Lydie Err, Member of the Parliament of Luxembourg, Member of the
      Sub-Committee on equal participation of women and men in decision-making of
      the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
      101

      9. Closing of the eighteenth Session of the Congress 109

          1. OPENING OF THE SITTING

            The sitting opened at 10.05 am with Ian Micallef (Malta, L, EPP/CD), President a.i. of the Congress, in the Chair.

          2. ADOPTION OF THE MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS SITTINGS

        [CG(18)PV2am]

          [CG(18)PV2pm]

          [CPL(18)PV1]

        [CPR(18)PV1]

        [CG(18)PV2]

            The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) said that the minutes of the previous sittings had been distributed and had not given rise to any observations.

            The minutes were adopted.

            The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) said that the names of substitutes present at this sitting which had been notified to the President would be published in the list of those present appended to the minutes.

          3. FORMAL ADOPTION OF THE TEXTS APPROVED BY THE CHAMBERS

            The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) said that, in application of Article 46 of the Rules of Procedure of the Congress and its Chambers, the agenda called for formal adoption of the texts approved by the Chambers. Document [CG (18) 9] listed these texts, which were available at the documents distribution counter.

          The texts were adopted.

          4. LOCAL DEMOCRACY IN ICELAND

          [CPL(18)3]

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) said that the agenda called for the presentation of the report by Esther Maurer (Switzerland), on behalf of the Institutional Committee, on “Local democracy in Iceland”, which should have been examined the previous morning by the Chamber of Local Authorities.

          The Institutional Committee had organised a visit to Iceland in June 2009 in order to examine the situation of local democracy there. The country, which had ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1991, had never yet been the subject of a follow-up visit by the Congress. The recommendation had been unanimously approved by the Institutional Committee on 15 February. Esther Maurer had headed the delegation that had gone to Iceland.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Esther Maurer.

          Esther MAURER (Switzerland, L, SOC), Rapporteur, stressed that Iceland was one of the last countries to be monitored and that, when she went there she had concerned herself not only with the situation of local
          self-government, but also with the consequences of the financial crisis, which had severely affected the country.

          The delegation had met a number of representatives of the local and central authorities, who had received it in a very open, friendly and hospitable manner. All the exchanges had been marked by a wish for transparency and mutual respect.

          In Iceland, the autonomy of the local authorities was guaranteed by the Constitution, which established the principle of the existence of municipalities and left it to the law to determine their powers, without directly defining the criteria for their distribution between central government and municipalities. The country had only two levels of government and had no regional bodies. The situation of the municipalities varied widely in terms of both population and area. Nine of the sixty-eight municipalities had more than 5,000 inhabitants, while forty-six had fewer than 1,000. A third of the country’s population lived in the capital, Reykjavik.

          The merger of municipalities was considered an instrument of organisation. It was voluntary and could be compulsory only for municipalities with fewer than 50 inhabitants. Application of the policy had brought the number of municipalities down from 204 in 1990 to 78 today. The delegation had concluded that the merger policy broadly reflected the criteria of local self-government and complied with the principles of Article 5 of the Charter.

          The serious economic crisis that had hit Iceland had also had consequences for local authorities. The broad financial autonomy they enjoyed had been both an advantage and a disadvantage. While it had enabled municipalities to intervene more speedily and more effectively in the local economy and the provision of social services and thus to make an initial response to the most serious effects of the recession, the dramatic fall in the incomes of individuals and businesses had caused a fall in tax revenue which affected the municipalities’ ability to meet their obligations in terms of services.

          During all its discussions the delegation had noted the severity of the crisis in most local authorities, but also the confidence of local and national officials in their ability to emerge from it speedily. All the officials in the government system – parliamentarians, ministers, local elected representatives – had shown that they were fully aware of the risks an economic crisis presented for local self-government: citizens’ loss of confidence in institutions, centralisation of decision-making or, worse, state supervision of the municipalities’ financial and budgetary management. All had expressed a wish to confront the crisis by increasing forms of intergovernmental cooperation and ensuring the continuity of the policies pursued before the crisis, first and foremost reducing the number of authorities. Iceland therefore intended to continue its merger policy.

          A number of actions were aimed at drastically reducing public expenditure, including at the local level, where the administrative apparatus was, however, modest and already seemed to be reduced to the essential. Several committees had been set up in order to identify, with the active participation of staff, the costs that could be reduced or cut altogether.

          Overall, the crisis in Iceland seemed to have brought out feelings of social solidarity and cooperation between organs of government. It could be seen as a pilot experiment or a good practice that other countries might follow if they had to find ways of overcoming great, mainly financial, difficulties without reducing the autonomy of local authorities or their ability to find for themselves solutions appropriate to the requirements of their populations.

          Lastly, the rapporteur wished to discuss the status of Reykjavik, which, although the capital city, had the same legal system as the other municipalities, with no difference in terms of powers or resources. In particular, the system of financing did not take into account the extra expenses the city had to bear because of the presence in its territory of domestic and external institutions. Although the Charter did not directly deal with the situation of capital cities and only imposed the principle of the existence of local authorities in every part of a country, Reykjavik should have more powers commensurate with its needs.

          Overall, the delegation had concluded that local self-government in Iceland was of good quality.

          The draft recommendation drew the attention of the Icelandic authorities to a few points. It asked them to clarify their fundamental legislation on the basis of the subsidiarity principle, making provision for a clear division of responsibilities between central government and local authorities, to grant the city of Reykjavik a special status and pass legislation giving the European Charter of Local Self-Government legal force. It recommended stipulating the cases in which the Minister responsible for local government could exercise supervision over local authorities’ performance and in which local authorities could be involved in decision-making.

          The document advised raising the minimum threshold below which the merger of local authorities was compulsory, setting up a support fund for local authorities particularly hard hit by the crisis so that they were able to continue delivering certain social services and introducing appropriate legislation to give local authorities a right of appeal against decisions taken at the national level which might infringe principles of local self-government.

          This, in brief, was the situation of local democracy in Iceland. The rapporteur thanked the Icelandic officials concerned, the Congress expert and the Secretariat for their excellent work.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) noted that two speakers were listed and gave the floor to Linne Vennesland.

          Linne VENNESLAND (Norway, L, EPP/CD) congratulated Iceland, which was clearly well ahead of other countries in terms of the autonomy of its municipalities. Many lessons could be learned from the situation of that country. A few years previously the Icelandic local authorities had appealed against a central government decision that was harmful to them. The judgment of the court had demonstrated the importance of such a freedom.

          She congratulated the rapporteur and looked forward to the next report on Iceland, which appeared to be one of the best countries in Europe in terms of management of its local authorities. She thanked her for her excellent work and proposed that her report be used as a guideline for all countries that had to reform and merge their local authorities.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Halldor Halldorsson.

          Halldor HALLDORSSON (Iceland, L, EPP/CD) thanked the rapporteur, who had been welcome in Iceland. Her report was important for Icelandic local authorities because it was always interesting to see one’s country through other people’s eyes. Some provisions had already been strengthened in local legislation. The minimum threshold below which the merger of local authorities was compulsory had already been raised, for example. The Government had appointed a committee to put in place reforms that it considered advisable. As for the criticisms raised by the report, which had not thus far presented any particular problems, they would be examined. This was the case of the special status of Reykjavik and the principle of subsidiarity.

          Since the rapporteur’s visit the previous June, central government had co-operated more with local authorities and an economic co-operation agreement was even in preparation. It was obviously too soon to take stock of the reforms in progress, but they would certainly make it possible to supervise local finances more effectively. The European Charter of Local Self-Government would serve as a yardstick for those reforms.

          In order to be closer to citizens, the local authorities were preparing a plan that would enable specific services to be provided to people with disabilities and the elderly.

          It was important to establish dialogue with central government, particularly on public finances. Central government authorities also had to recognise the important role local authorities played at the economic level. The economic crisis had made both levels of government aware of the need to establish good relations. He hoped that his country would overcome this difficult period by undertaking essential restructuring.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) noted that the list of speakers had been exhausted and closed the debate as the rapporteur did not wish to take the floor again.

          The Institutional Committee had submitted a draft recommendation contained in document [CPL(18)3] to which no amendment had been tabled.

          The draft recommendation as a whole had to be voted upon. A majority of two-thirds of the votes cast was required.

          The draft recommendation was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) thanked the rapporteur and the Secretariat.

          5. ACHIEVING SUSTAINABLE GENDER EQUALITY IN LOCAL AND REGIONAL POLITICAL LIFE

          [CG(18)10]

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) said that the agenda now called for the last debate of the session, which concerned an important subject: achieving sustainable gender equality in local and regional political life. Everyone knew that progress in increasing the number of women involved in politics was very slow in member states and that good will and legislation were not enough.

          The report by Britt-Marie Lövgren included proposals for improving the situation. The members of the Congress would also hear statements by three guests, Ana Barceló Chico, Mayor of Sax (Spain), Fabienne Keller, Member of the French Senate for the Bas-Rhin, and Lydie Err, Member of the Parliament of Luxembourg. The President also noted that a ministerial conference on gender equality would take place in Baku on 24 and 25 May 2010, and that he would be attending it.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Britt-Marie Lövgren so that she could present her report.

          Britt-Marie LOVGREN (Sweden, L, ILDG), Rapporteur, began by congratulating the expert Francesco Marloni, who had contributed to the report. Progress had been made since 2004 but equal rights between women and men were not a reality. It was important to do better because gender equality was the sign of true democracy.

          The media sometimes played a negative role in the promotion of women in politics. In the United Kingdom, Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, had asked for the education of children to be a government priority in the fight against domestic violence. A section of the British press had literally portrayed her as mad!

          The women who sat in the Congress fully played their role there. A proportion of 40% was required in order to ensure a better balance in decision-making. Women should not only be substitute members, as was sometimes the case. She proposed practical measures aimed at encouraging women to stand at elections and combating stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes.

          In Sweden, the law provided that an elected person could leave his or her job in order to take up their new duties and that loss of salary was compensated for by the local authorities. Political parties played an important role in the selection of candidates. They should adopt a new approach so that women would be better represented. In Sweden, one out of two candidates on many lists were women, although this was not required by law.

          Practical mechanisms had to be put in place at the local and regional levels to ensure gender equality. Newly elected representatives had to be trained with the support of government. Discriminatory behaviour must be banned. Local authorities should sign the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men.

          With respect to the draft recommendation, she welcomed the recent statement by the Chair of the Committee of Ministers that this issue was a priority. She urged member states to make progress in this field and support their action financially.

          The committee welcomed the work of the Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men and invited the ministers who would be meeting in Baku on 24 and 25 May to take into account specific local circumstances during their debates.

          The rapporteur called on her colleagues to support the draft recommendation so that every citizen, male or female, could fully play their part in democratic societies.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) thanked the rapporteur. Before giving the floor to Ana Barceló Chico, Mayor of Sax and Chair of the Women’s Committee of the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces, he welcomed the fact that more than one hundred local authorities in Spain – out of 912 in Europe – had already signed the Council of European Municipalities and Regionas (CEMR) European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life.

          6. STATEMENT BY ANA BARCELO CHICO, MAYOR OF SAX, SPAIN, PRESIDENT OF THE WOMEN’S COMMITTEE OF THE SPANISH FEDERATION OF MUNICIPALITIES AND PROVINCES (FEMP)

          Ana BARCELO CHICO, Mayor of Sax and Chair of the Women’s Committee of the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces, thanked the President of the Congress for inviting her to present her point of view on the state of equality between women and men in local and regional political life.

          There had been steady progress on this issue in Spain over the past thirty years, but there had been a qualitative and quantitative leap since the organic law on effective equality between women and men had been passed in 2007. The law provided for balanced representation of women and men on lists of candidates and required statistics to be produced on the impact of the measure.

          The first local election since the adoption of the law had taken place in 2007. For the first time, electoral lists had to be composed of at least 40% women. After the elections the FEMP had studied the impact of application of the quotas provided for in the law. It had concluded that, while the law had resulted in women being better represented in political life, application of the new measures had not resulted in a balanced distribution of women and men in political life, and particularly not in decision-making.

          The FEMP had observed that everything to do with town planning and local development remained for the most part in the hands of men, while women had been given responsibility for personal services, education and health. Clearly, the traditional division of roles between the sexes continued to weigh on women when it came to sharing responsibilities. Political life reflected social life and Spanish society continued to operate according to a patriarchal pattern that could be summed up in one phrase: women in the private sphere, men in the public sphere.

          In order to move beyond that pattern, an effort was needed that many women did not make. In other words, changing legislation was not enough to change mentalities. In this context, was the introduction of quotas justifiable? The FEMP believed quotas were necessary but not enough to bring about greater representation of women in political life. If there was to be any hope of shattering the “glass ceiling”, they had to be accompanied by other strategies.

          Investigation was still needed into the reasons that prevented women from standing for election and why, once elected, they did not continue with their project. The differential distribution of political responsibilities that had already been mentioned was a sort of horizontal segregation within local executives, a form of direct discrimination that prevented women pursuing a sustained political career. Another negative consequence was that it discouraged younger women from getting involved in politics. Those evils had to be eradicated.

          Lastly, it was essential for men to make far more effort to enable women to reconcile their personal, family, professional and political lives.

          As long as women were not more involved in political life, the law would not have achieved its objective. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) thanked the speaker and gave the floor to Fabienne Keller, Member of the French Senate for the Bas-Rhin, Municipal Councillor of Strasbourg and Councillor of the Strasbourg Urban Community. The Congress had already had the pleasure of welcoming Fabienne Keller, then Mayor of Strasbourg, in 2007 on the occasion of the Council of Europe campaign against domestic violence, in which the city had been very involved. The Congress would now listen with interest to her account of her personal experience at the local and national levels of women’s participation in political life and of the obstacles to women entering politics and the conditions that would encourage them to stand for election and serve out their terms of office.

          7. STATEMENT BY FABIENNE KELLER, MEMBER OF THE FRENCH SENATE FOR THE BAS-RHIN, FRANCE, FORMER MAYOR OF STRASBOURG

          Fabienne KELLER, Senator for the Bas-Rhin, municipal Councillor of Strasbourg, emphasised that, while women’s place in European societies had improved significantly, the fight for more sharing of responsibilities between women and men was still an issue. She had always been particularly sensitive to that fight. Women had never held so many senior posts in business and public life, but there was still much progress to be made: the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had recently stressed that European women continued to find it more difficult to find a job than men and had lower pay than men with the same qualifications.

          In the political sphere, a few years previously France had passed a law on parity which had enabled undeniable progress to be made. It had imposed alternation – one man, one woman – on lists of candidates on ballot papers. Nevertheless, very often it was a man who was at the top of the list. Moreover, there was no parity for ballot papers on which there was only one name. Despite that, there had been considerable change in a country where women had only had the vote since 1945. It should be noted that women had had the vote in Turkey since 1920.

          Responding to the President’s request that that she should outline her personal career path, she said that she had trained as an engineer at the Ecole Polytechnique, where she had been accepted in one of the first mixed intakes, six years after girls had put an end to 179 years of its being an exclusively male institution. She had then done her military service in the Navy but, to her great disappointment, unlike her classmates, had not been able to serve at sea as mixed crews were still not permitted on battleships.

          Fascinated by politics, in 1992 she had become the first woman member of the Bas-Rhin general council, an institution established as long ago as 1789. She remembered what one official of her party had said when she was selected: “The UDF is bound to lose: they’ve chosen a woman”.

          She had then run the municipal affairs of Strasbourg, the seventh largest city in France, in partnership with a man. Probably, only women would agree to share power.

          She said she was convinced that the days when certain posts were closed to women had passed.

          While women were well integrated in political life and businesses, they had problems rising in the hierarchy. There was a very small percentage of women mayors, especially in large cities. After the regional election that would take place in France the following Sunday, two women at most would be Presidents of regional councils, out of twenty-six regions.

          It was said that obstacles connected with family life were responsible for that situation, but women still faced the issue of reconciling private and professional life, while very few men had to. How could one have a fulfilling professional life if one had no private life? How could one be a happy mother if one had to abandon one’s career? The image of the family was still too patriarchal and sacrifices were always made for men’s benefit. It was also true that women exercised self-censorship and hesitated to seek promotion in order to devote themselves to their children. That situation had to change; men had to agree to take on their share of the responsibility.

          The figures in the report on the French situation by Brigitte Gresy, general inspector for social affairs, were particularly striking: they described the “glass ceiling” for which there was no provision in any law. At retirement, women received an average of €1,000 and men €1,600; about 80% of family tasks were carried out by women; 80% of part-time jobs for reasons of childcare were taken by women.

          Inequality in politics was similar to that in companies. On both right and left, political movements failed to observe the spirit of the law on parity; while there were the same number of male candidates as there were female, far more men were elected than women. It was up to women who were elected to provoke the necessary cultural revolution. A woman in politics or in the business world had no more positive qualities than a man. She noted that the action of the local democracy agencies set up by the Council of Europe were to a great extent based on the practical sense of women and their feeling for reconciliation.

          She mentioned the emblematic figure of Simone Veil, who had entered the Académie Française the previous day. She was a model for many women. It was she who in 1974 had championed the law legalising abortion in France in the face of opposition from many elected representatives.

          She had also sought to speak of the condition of women in deprived neighbourhoods, prostitution, access to training, domestic violence, forced marriages, and so on. She called on everyone to remain on their guard and preserve the mechanisms that facilitated parity, and to analyse the situation regularly. The report presented that morning was of great value in that respect.

          She said she was happy to have been able to bear witness before the Congress and, in her elected position, to be able to continue the fight for equality. She expressed her gratitude to the Council of Europe, that great institution that Strasbourg had had the honour of hosting since 1949 and with which she had had the great pleasure of working. Long live the Council of Europe! Long live the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe! (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) thanked Fabienne Keller for her address and her work with the Congress during her term as Mayor of Strasbourg. He knew that she had often passed on the Congress’s messages.

          He welcomed Lydie Err, Member of the Parliament of Luxembourg, former Chair of the Sub-Committee on equal participation of women and men in decision-making of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and Assembly rapporteur for the report “Increasing women’s representation in politics through the electoral system”. He was looking forward to hearing her opinion on the factors that led to women being under-represented in politics.

          8. STATEMENT BY LYDIE ERR, MEMBER OF THE PARLIAMENT OF LUXEMBOURG, MEMBER OF THE SUB-COMMITTEE ON EQUAL PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN AND MEN IN DECISION-MAKING OF THE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE

          Lydie ERR, Member of the Parliament of Luxembourg, member of the Sub-Committee on equal participation of women and men in decision-making of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said she was pleased to be speaking to the Congress in this palace of human rights (droits de l’Homme). It was also important for non-French speakers to understand that in this case, the term “l’Homme” (“Man”) included women. She was delighted to be speaking for the first time to an audience that was far more convinced than her colleagues in the PACE.

          One woman in politics was a change; many women changed politics. Despite her long experience of politics, she regretted not having had the opportunity to verify the latter assertion. During her first term of office in 1984 she had been the only women in a political grouping that had eighteen members and felt she was in terra incognita; there were now four women out of thirteen in the group and, although they had different experiences and different centres of interest, they were as one when it came to equality between women and men.

          She congratulated the Congress on the progress that had been made in that area. Fabienne Keller had mentioned that French women had obtained the vote rather late; Luxembourg had just celebrated the 90th anniversary of votes for women, but from one parliament to the next, the percentage of female members had fallen by four points and was now only 20%.

          The world was unjust and the political world was particularly so for women. Two-thirds of illiterates, 80% of refugees and more than 80% of victims of violence were women; they accounted for three-quarters of unpaid work and, on average, received 25% less than men for equal work and equal qualifications. This was the case because women were kept away from decision-making centres. When the first United Nations conference was held on the subject in 1975, 10.9% of the world’s parliamentarians were women; the figure was now 18%. At that rate, it would be another 160 years before parity was reached!

          And what did parity mean? It was not a goal to be achieved, but a means of seeing that politics actually reflected an equality that often existed only on paper. It was unacceptable that women, who were the demographic majority in Europe because girls were not killed there at birth, were treated in politics as though they were a minority. This democratic deficit had to be eliminated. It was important to reach the critical mass of women so that politics changed, in other words, 30 to 40% - a percentage seldom achieved in European countries, but on the way to being reached in the Congress, something of which she was a little jealous. She congratulated the Congress on its activities in the parity field, especially the monitoring carried out, the decision to take gender equality into account in all decision-making, gender mainstreaming and facilitation of women’s access to the media.

          The fight against gender stereotypes and sexist attitudes should continue. While there were 180 women among the 630 members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, about a hundred of them were only substitutes. In order to achieve equality, multiple office-holding had to be eliminated and gender budgeting promoted. In order to satisfy the requirements of the rule of law, it was not enough to adopt ambitious provisions: they also had to be applied. Despite Article 7 of the Convention against discrimination, equality been men and women was not guaranteed. If progress were made in that area, it would help to reduce other inequalities. She therefore proposed increasing the number of women in politics at every level. She wished to report on the analysis she had conducted on behalf of the PACE of the impact of electoral laws on the number of women in politics. Once there was a constitutional basis, it was not contrary to the principle of equality to require by law a minimum percentage of both men and women candidates. France had understood this after a law had been declared null and void by the Constitutional Council.

          In the majority of Council of Europe member states, women were still seriously under-represented in politics, although the lack of equal representation of women and men in political and public decision-making processes threatened the legitimacy of democracies and violated the fundamental right to equality; this therefore had to be remedied as a priority.

          The current under-representation of women in politics was mainly linked to attitudes, customs and behaviours that deprived women of responsibility, discriminated against them and imprisoned them in preordained roles and stereotypes according to which they “were not made” for politics or decision-making. Such attitudes also influenced the institutional, political and electoral landscape. Conversely, however, a change in that landscape could influence societal attitudes.

          Changing the electoral system to make it more favourable to the representation of women in politics, in particular by setting gender quotas, could lead to a decision-making process that was more gender-balanced and therefore more legitimate.

          In theory, the parliamentary representation of women was particularly fostered by an electoral system that combined a vote on a proportional list in a large constituency and/or a constituency covering the entire national territory with a required minimum number of votes, blocked lists, a compulsory quota imposing not only a high proportion of women candidates, but also strict regulations as to the position of those candidates on lists, and effective sanctions – the example of France showed that pecuniary sanctions were not always effective – in the event of failure to comply with the regulations.

          While technically it would be enough to amend electoral laws in order to move towards the representation of women in politics that everyone present wished for, politically it was a very sensitive issue as every law was voted on by male representatives who were aware that every seat won by a woman could have been theirs. The electoral law might be changed and quotas introduced in existing laws but, without the political will, all that would simply amount to crutches that made it less obvious that democracy was limping. Whether or not the law was amended, it was political will and the mobilisation of women that made things change. If they wanted to, there was nothing to prevent political parties demonstrating their firm will to adapt parliaments to the needs of the whole population. Unfortunately, that will was not yet in evidence.

          As Thorbjørn Jagland had said, “The legal status of women in Europe has improved in recent years, but progress is far too slow... We need a major leap. This was an important programme for the coming years. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) opened the general discussion and gave the floor to Ludmila Sfirloaga.

          Ludmila SFIRLOAGA (Romania, R, SOC) welcomed the debate and recalled that the previous October the Congress had adopted a very important recommendation on equal access to local elections. It was true that it had not specifically been aimed at women, but it advocated eliminating in member states all the obstacles to voting and eligibility that sick and disabled citizens, prisoners, and women too, might encounter. On that occasion it had been requested that electoral systems should be put in place guaranteeing equal representation of the sexes and the debate had been rather difficult, some male members of the Congress finding it difficult to support the proposal.

          It was now more specifically a question of equality and parity in the political life of local and regional authorities and the place of women in local and regional elections.

          Having been the first women to sit in the Chamber of Regions, the speaker was able to stress the importance of women’s action in local and regional authorities. Along with many of her colleagues, she had campaigned for national delegations to the Congress to be composed of at least 30% women, but that was only one stage and now work was needed to see that there were equal numbers of men and women in the hemicycle. In fact, the issue should be kept permanently on the agenda until good sense prevailed. The previous statements encouraged a degree of optimism: there were many strong women in the Congress who refused to place themselves at a disadvantage in relation to men: watch out, gentlemen, the women are coming!

          She concluded by proposing that all Council of Europe documents on parity should be compiled in a handbook which would serve as a permanent reference for work to promote equality. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Esther Maurer.

          Esther MAURER (Switzerland, L, SOC) stressed that, while men were judged on their actions or proposals, the media were mainly interested in women’s shoes, hair and dress sense and far less in what they did. This lack of objectivity would only be remedied if men and women fought together against such unfair treatment.

          When women were involved in politics they usually looked after social, health and education issues, whereas they should deal with finance, town planning, security and justice, areas that were, it was true, far removed from their traditional role in the family. Having been in charge of public security in Zurich for twelve years, she had observed that it was far from pointless for a woman to deal with issues such as prostitution, criminality and forced marriages.

          If quotas were imposed for the composition of national delegations to the Congress, it would probably be worth imposing them for the distribution of posts and reports as well. Even a report on equality between men and women should be drafted in a gender-neutral fashion. There was no need to require men to participate in the debate because many of them were perfectly capable of defending equality.

          She ended by recalling that she had presented the report on Iceland at the beginning of the session. This was a country where there was no talk of quotas but where people lived out equality and there were both strong women in economic life and strong men for whom that was not a problem. Well-deserved tribute should be paid to Iceland. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Gaye Doganoglu.

          Gaye DOGANOGLU (Turkey, L, EPP/CD) was delighted that in women’s week their voices were being heard in the hemicycle. Nevertheless, she deplored the fact that men did not say more on that subject.

          Now serving her fourth term in the Congress, where she chaired the Turkish delegation, she had also been the first woman elected in her municipality. There were now ten women from different parties, but there was still a great deal to be done. Having been named “woman of the year” by the students of a Turkish university that week, she felt in a way that she was a leading light in her town and her country, but that did nothing to alter the fact that it was not easy to be both a good mother and a good politician.

          In order to play a real part in society women also needed economic freedom. In order to move towards gender equality, which was still a great struggle, women had to have access to senior posts. One could of course discuss family structures and numbers of children, but women could only win their freedom if they could choose their career. In many countries, in particular in rural areas of Turkey, women were controlled by their father and then by their husband: padre, padrone ... .It was essential that in all Mediterranean countries they should have access to a degree of economic and political independence that would enable then to intervene in issues such as violence against women, as well as on all the themes frequently discussed by the Congress.

          In Turkey, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia, a great many women were victims of trafficking. That scourge had to be tackled and women’s education improved so that they were able to lead a dignified life.

          In application of the rule of gender parity and equality that prevailed in the Council of Europe, care should be taken to see that every delegation included a high proportion of women.

          It was to be hoped that the debate would mark a new phase that would enable all women and men to work together. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Zinaida Dragunkina.

          Zinaida DRAGUNKINA (Russia, R, EPP/CD) suggested that the report on the debate should be sent to all the male members of the Congress who were not in the hemicycle and that it should serve as a sort of handbook for men.

          She also observed that a new Secretary General had been elected during the current session and that, as usual, a man had won.

          A number of remarkable women sat in the Congress and the rapporteur had been right to stress not only their professionalism and good sense, but also their sense of dialogue and the respect they demonstrated towards the other, so-called “strong” sex. It was clear that many policies would be better implemented if more responsibilities were entrusted to women. It was therefore essential to change mentalities, including in the Congress, where women should be entrusted with subjects other than parity and nursery schools.

          She regretted that this important draft was being debated at the end of the session, since the discussion would have taken on a completely different character had it taken place on the first day.

          The Russian population consisted of 11,000,000 more women than men. It was true that women were celebrated on Women’s Day – they were given flowers. But on 8 March she had heard a senior official say that as women’s life expectancy was 13 years longer than that of men, the retirement system was threatened. Such statements were unacceptable and demonstrated the need to change men’s mentalities.

          Certainly there were a few women elected to the Duma, but they were far from being a third of the members. Things were moving in the right direction, but they had to be speeded up.

          In some countries questions relating to equality between the sexes were handled by central government, as was the case in Canada, but central departments were not sufficiently encouraged to act. What was lacking was general awareness. The legislation in force, including constitutions, needed to be reviewed and the principles advocated in the Congress applied. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Gunne Berit Gjerde.

          Gunne BERIT GJERDE (Norway, R, ILDG) knew that equality between women and men was a long battle, but experience showed that progress could be made at the price of ongoing efforts.

          The Norwegians had thought they were the best from the point of view of democracy and gender equality since Brundtland had been Prime Minister. Evidence of this was the number of women in the new government and the 38% of female municipal councillors in the country. She had been the first woman to be elected mayor in 1999.

          There was still a long way to go before strict equality would be achieved, however. For a start, at least 40% of the members of every political committee should be women and 40% men.

          The speaker had agreed to take part in a research project conducted by the Norwegian political parties and the local authorities association that aimed to improve women’s access to the posts of mayor and deputy mayor and on committees. A goal of 30% of women by 2012 had been set.

          After the 2007 elections Norway had set up a new strategy, which consisted in particular of fighting discrimination against women when electoral lists were being drawn up. As men were usually at the top of the list, they then occupied the most important posts. Since the 2007 elections, 23% of mayors had been women.

          Norway had the tools needed to fight stereotypes, but it was important to be aware of the consequences of the choices that had to be made in order to achieve equality.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Gilbert Roger.

          Gilbert ROGER (France, L, SOC) hoped he would not be the only man to take part in the debate. He also regretted that the discussion had not taken place earlier in the week.

          On the occasion of a symposium on the position of women in French institutions, Clotilde Tascon-Mennetrier had shown that the law could improve their representation.

          In the suburban town of which he was mayor the municipal council had three prominent members, two of whom – a man and a woman – sat on the regional council, while the third – also a woman – was a member of parliament. A woman was also first deputy mayor responsible for economic development and town planning.

          He was very concerned about the fate of girls from working class neighbourhoods, whose ambitions were all too often stifled by their families in the name of religious and cultural traditions. In his municipality, young people from working class neighbourhoods had gone to the prestigious Ecole des Sciences Politiques. Ten young people were now graduates of the school, while 20, 19 of them young women, were currently students there.

          He thought that the recommendation should include the requirement to appoint 40% of women to all associated bodies. In France, the President wanted to merge the general (département) councils and the regional councils in 2014. Why not? That would, however, have the disadvantage of bringing female representation down from 50 to 16%. No doubt Fabienne Keller would oppose that ... (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Leen Verbeek.

          Leen VERBEEK (Netherlands, R, SOC) told of an interesting experience that had taken place the previous week in the Netherlands: two male politicians had decided to resign in order to look after their children. It was a sign of the times, even though one of them did not as yet have any children.

          The Netherlands delegation approved the draft resolution and would have no objection to speaking of 50% instead of 40%. Gender equality did not mean that women and men were identical. What would it mean in practice if the Congress were composed of 50% female delegates? That there would be fewer men! Who was prepared to give up his place to a woman? It was easy to set objectives, far less so to achieve them.

          The Netherlands delegation unreservedly approved the report. To conclude, he asked his female colleagues always to remain as attractive and beautiful. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Gabriele Neff.

          Gabriele NEFF (Germany, L, ILDG) was a municipal councillor in Munich and also regretted that the debate was taking place at the end of the session.

          The Liberal Party of which she was a member was opposed to quotas in principle, but it was probably necessary to reopen the debate as women found it difficult to assert themselves. She herself, who had been a candidate for the post of Mayor of Munich, had encountered difficulties, within her own party, in appearing on the electoral list. She had nonetheless been elected to the municipal council where she was responsible for a number of financial and economic matters. It would be a long time before the media stopped taking an interest in her appearance and recognised the value of her work, however.

          More women were needed in political life. While laws and regulations could be changed, it was also important to motivate women to become involved. One positive step would be to convince young people that politics was a noble and fascinating field.

          Schoolchildren had to be taught the importance of political commitment, but it was also important to put an end to the sexist remarks that were of course only directed at female politicians: who could forget the ironic comments on Angela Merkel’s “plunging neckline” when she went to the opera in Bayreuth?

          Much remained to be done before, reversing the well-known German saying, one could say “Behind every woman who succeeds there’s a strong man”. In order to achieve parity, in politics as in the economic world, children first had to be educated to respect the principle of equality.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Rositsa Yanakieva.

            Rositsa YANAKIEVA (Bulgaria, L, SOC) observed that, several decades after the United Nations had adopted the Convention against discrimination, the fight for parity continued. Results had been obtained, but discrimination remained. In Bulgaria, women’s place in political life was theoretically guaranteed because they had formally been men’s equals since the nineteenth century. Real equality was not formal equality, however. Statistics showed that 70% of Bulgarians had a positive image of women in politics, but much remained to be done. After the last municipal elections only a quarter of Bulgarian mayors were women. The same proportion applied to women parliamentarians, but some occupied very senior posts. The Bulgarian delegation to the European Parliament was more than 40% female.

            At the local level, the participation of women in political life was a subject that aroused little interest; that was a pity because their role at that level was particularly important. She hoped that the situation would change for the better and that Bulgaria would be able to make more room for women in politics. Some associations, including one that she herself was involved with, were doing intensive work for this purpose, in particular trying to help locally elected women in their work. It was also important to increase the number of nursery schools and kindergartens so that women could reconcile family life and political office. The development observed in Bulgaria gave reason to hope that, regardless of gender, religion or origin, elected representatives could be chosen solely on the basis of their abilities.

            She approved the draft resolution.

        The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Irmeli Henttonen.

          Irmeli HENTTONEN (Finland, R, ILDG) said that political decisions should be made with equal representation of both sexes, which meant that there should be as many women as men in senior positions. Finnish women could hardly complain in this regard: the country had a woman President and many government ministers were women. That being said, while an average of 37% of those elected to local and regional authorities were women, the rate varied considerably in different regions. Therefore a great deal remained to be done, even in Finland, and the statistics did not perfectly reflect the actual situation.

          Finnish legislation imposed a quota system under which every electoral list had to reserve at least 40% of seats for the under-represented sex. Sometimes the measure was of advantage to men: thus they would constitute at least 40% of the next delegation to the Congress.

          The rapporteur had rightly emphasised the need to inform the public about how parity was respected in the various local and regional authorities. That would be a good thing because one could imagine that no authority would want to find itself relegated to the bottom of such a list. The speaker congratulated Britt-Marie Lövgren on her excellent report and thanked the President’s office for placing the item on the agenda of the session.

        The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Iryna Demchenko.

          Iryna DEMCHENKO (Ukraine, L, EPP/CD) said that Ukraine had wanted mixed education since the Middle Ages and was still very anxious to guarantee it. The Sumy region was making great efforts to see that the number of women in politics increased as women currently accounted for only 15% of elected representatives. Ana Barceló Chico had tried to distinguish between the introduction of quotas and changing mentalities. In fact, society as a whole would have to change if women were to be given more consideration. In Ukraine, many women were against the introduction of quotas in order to promote parity; she herself was not convinced that greater participation of women in political life would be brought about in that way. Having said that, how many men were prepared to step aside to make way for a woman as able as them?

          In theory, Ukrainian legislation made it possible to improve the situation of women and promote their entry into politics. They still had to assert their rights, however, and they had huge problems reconciling family life and political life. All local and regional authorities should develop the infrastructure that would enable women to exercise genuine choice. Had not Marx said that a society could describe itself as civilised only when women were able to choose the path they wished to follow?

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Joe Conway.

          Joe CONWAY (Ireland, L, ILDG) (interpretation) noted that every democracy was based on the principle “one person, one vote”. It was conceivable that in certain situations the members of a minority group should be helped a little in order to be better represented. But on what philosophical or democratic foundation could positive discrimination in favour of a specific group, which was by definition equal to the others, be based? If too few women were elected, it was because too few were chosen. As far as he was concerned, with municipal elections coming up in June 2010 and his term of office due to expire, he had thought that he should perhaps stand aside for a woman. Generally some sort of democratic engineering had to be developed in order to ensure that efforts to promote parity were not compromised.

          He recalled that during its last session the Congress had already discussed the representation of women in political authorities but that it had done so in the last few minutes of the last plenary session and the document had been adopted by eight votes to four, which said a great deal about how much interest there was in that type of debate. One could conclude with Martin Luther King that “the greatest suffering is not the wound inflicted by our enemies but the silence of our friends”.

          The real democratic challenge was not the distribution of posts among men and women but the lack of interest in political life revealed by increasingly low turn-outs. Everyone should therefore get involved in an ongoing effort to teach young people the importance of political involvement.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Kadri Ölcenoglu.

          Kadri OLCENOGLU (Turkey, L, NR) noted that in some countries baby girls were killed; fortunately, that was not the case in Turkey, otherwise his mother would not have lived and nor would he. During the 8 March celebrations he had made a speech in his town to say how difficult it was for men to cope without a woman at their side; he invited his male colleagues to go home and celebrate 8 March with their wives. He was aware that he would not be able to do his work without his wife beside him. Men and women were complementary. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Volodymyr Udovychenko.

          Volodymyr UDOVYCHENKO (Ukraine, L, ILDG) wanted to calm things down and speak on his own behalf and on that of his female colleagues in the Ukrainian delegation. As he saw it, the question should be tackled from a more philosophical viewpoint. He approved the draft resolution and the draft recommendation, while noting that the current situation was the result of a history dominated by patriarchal systems. However, as his compatriot Iryna Demchenko had noted, women had played a significant role in the history of Ukraine; one, the Grand Duchess Olga, who had reigned for 50 years, had avenged the assassination of her husband, developed her Duchy and remodelled Kiev, where a memorial paid tribute to her. He also mentioned Yulia Tymoshenko, of whom it had wrongly been said that she had lost because she was a woman.

          There were several women in the Ukrainian delegation. Women occupied important positions in the Congress and men were very respectful when they spoke. He concluded with a poem in Ukrainian and these words: long live women!

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) closed the debate and gave the floor to Britt-Marie Lövgren, Rapporteur.

          Britt-Marie LÖVGREN (Sweden, L, ILDG) thanked the speakers. She told Leen Verbeek that on 8 March the Council of Europe had published a study on parity showing that no significant progress had been made with respect to the representation of women in political decision-making authorities. That meant that the 40% referred to in the Council of Europe recommendation of 2003 was still relevant. She noted that one could also say that there should be at least 40% of men... She ended by wondering why the subject of gender equality had been examined on Friday, a day when many delegates deserted the hemicycle. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) noted that Congress members were paid for Friday and should be present.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Sandra Barnes.

          Sandra BARNES (United Kingdom, L, NR), Chair of the Committee on Social Cohesion (interpretation), said she had attended the debate with pleasure and interest. The question of equality between women and men was fundamental, particularly for the Council of Europe. It was true that it was difficult to make such equality a reality. In the United Kingdom, just one large council out of 300 was headed by a woman, her own, where there were two other women. A discourteous man had once referred to them as “The Three Graces”.

          She thanked her colleagues for their participation in the debate and noted that it had taken place in a hemicycle that was less sparsely attended than usual.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) congratulated Sandra Barnes on her election to the chair of the Committee on Social Cohesion and then invited the assembly to proceed to the vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in document [CG(18)10].

            The draft resolution was adopted.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) invited the assembly to proceed to the vote on the draft recommendation contained in document [CG(18)10].

          The draft recommendation was adopted.

          9. CLOSING OF THE EIGHTEENTH SESSION OF THE CONGRESS

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) (interpretation) declared that the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities had reached the end of its 18th session. He thanked the members for their participation in the work of the Congress and the Chambers. He also thanked the Secretariat, the temporary teams in London and Paris, as well as the interpreters for their excellent contribution, which had been essential to the week’s work.

          The session had taken place in the context of a new dynamism. The Congress had entered a phase of reform. With the election of Andreas Kiefer as Secretary General, the interregnum had ended. On behalf of the whole Congress, he warmly thanked Wojciech Sawicki, who had so excellently ensured that it continued to work in good conditions.

          Many subjects had been tackled during the session which were important for the Congress and Europe: the situation of local democracy, the human rights dimension of local authority action, Mediterranean dialogue, climate change, sustainable development and equality between women and men. He thanked his colleagues and the guests for their valuable contributions.

          The debates during the session had outlined the future action of the Congress, a Congress involved, like the Council of Europe of which it was an integral part, in an ambitious reform process. The Bureau would meet on 12 April and the Standing Committee in June. It was now time to move from thought to action. The current positive state of affairs had to be maintained. The Congress and its officials would be renewed in October: they would inherit an organisation in good working order, capable of exploiting its full potential.

          The 19th session of the Congress would be held from 26 to 28 October 2010.

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) gave the floor to Artur Torres Pereira.

          Artur TORRES PEREIRA (Portugal, L, EPP/CD), emphasising that gratitude was one of the greatest qualities human beings could display, expressed his own and that of all the members of the Congress to the President, Mr. Micallef, who at a difficult time had found the words to speak of reform and the revitalisation of the Congress. At a time when the Congress had to set out along that path, it had to thank its President for his eminent role, the work he had done and would do. (Applause)

          The PRESIDENT (Malta, L, EPP/CD) thanked Artur Torres Pereira for his kind words.

          He declared the 18th session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe closed.

          The session rose at 12.40 pm.



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