World Forum for Democracy

      Strasbourg, 9 October 2012

      10th Encounter of the Strasbourg Club

      Speech by Keith Whitmore, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe

      Monsieur le Maire,

      Madam Deputy Mayor,

      Ladies and Gentlemen,

      Dear colleagues,

      It is with great pleasure that I welcome you here in Strasbourg on behalf of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

      The occasion of this encounter is festive indeed: to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Strasbourg Club, this informal network of cities from across our diverse continent built at the initiative and under the wing of the City of Strasbourg, host city to the Council of Europe and the Congress.

      Ten years is an important yardstick and a good occasion to take stock of what has been achieved, where we stand and where we are going. I must say that the Congress has been very much enjoying the close ties of co-operation with the Strasbourg Club developed over this decade, not least thanks to the active participation of the City of Strasbourg in the Congress’ work. I would like to thank Mayor RIES and Deputy Mayor RAFIK-ELMRINI, who represents the City in the Congress, for keeping up this tradition of co-operation.

      Strasbourg has been indeed an excellent testing ground for new ideas in the field of local democracy. We in the Congress are very pleased with its initiatives over the past years, for example, developing the Strasbourg-Ortenau Eurodistrict, becoming a very active participant in the European Local Democracy Week – which is a Congress initiative – as a 12-Star City, joining the network of cities for local integration policy, CLIP – which was co-founded by the Congress – as well as restoring the local council of foreign residents, investing in intercultural policies and carrying out action to address Roma issues, to name but a few. All these activities have close links with Congress recommendations and our own action today.

      It is not surprising then that the Strasbourg Club is drawing on this energy and innovative spirit from its host city, and that the Club and the Congress have developed fruitful co-operation of their own. Just to give an example, I could mention among the most recent events our joint colloquy on good local governance, the participation of the Strasbourg Club in the conference on integrating foreign residents at local level, or our co-operation, through your Committee on Roma, in mobilising local and regional action for Roma inclusion.

      In this context, we are grateful for your contribution, through the City of Strasbourg, to the Summit of Mayors on Roma organised by the Congress last year, and to the current work on building a European Alliance of Cities and Regions for Roma Inclusion.

      However, today is also an excellent occasion to look forward, as this encounter is taking place in connection with the World Forum for Democracy, a first event of this kind organised by the Council of Europe. The future of European democracy, including local democracy, is in building a participatory democratic model, and during these two days of your meeting you will be launching a new project on citizen participation in Europe, and discussing active citizenship and education for democratic citizenship as necessary components for increasing such participation. Congress Director Antonella CAGNOLATI and our Thematic Rapporteur on Roma, John WARMISHAM, will be taking part in these debates, which is yet another proof of our close and continuing co-operation.

      I wish you joyous celebrations and fruitful discussions, and look forward to many more years of synergies with the City of Strasbourg and the Strasbourg Club.

      Thank you.