Dubravka SUICA : “ELDW 2013 edition will focus on the involvement of young people in public life”:

Dubravka SUICA (Croatia EPP/CD), , Member of the City Council of Dubrovnik has been appointed new political coordinator of the 2013 edition of the European Democracy Week

You have been appointed as new political coordinator of the European Local Democracy Week. On taking stock of the 2012 edition, what are the major achievements of this initiative?

Dubravka SUICA : 2012 was the sixth year of the European Local Democracy Week, “ELDW” for short, and it focused on the importance of human rights for more inclusive communities. We can say that – over the years – the ELDW has evolved into a real pan-European initiative which also has the potential to attract countries beyond the Council of Europe family of states. We are currently analysing last year’s data and figures show that more than 130 local and regional bodies and partner associations from as many as 30 countries participated in a variety of ways and organised public events to meet with their citizens.

The ELDW is supported by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in order to raise the attention of Europe’s citizens towards local democracy and strengthen links between populations and their local elected representatives. By celebrating the ELDW every year on the week of the 15th October, the date when the European Charter of Local Self-Government was opened for signature, the Congress intends to inform citizens of the opportunities available to them to increase their active involvement in local politics. At the same time, we want to encourage local elected representatives to enter into a dialogue with their citizens in order to increase transparency and accountability. The growing participation of municipalities, national and European self-government associations and also the interest of regional bodies are the proof that we are on the right track.

What is your role as political coordinator?

Dubravka SUICA : I am a member of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the Council of Europe institution in charge of promoting grassroots democracy and, more specifically, coordinating the ELDW across Europe. As political coordinator of the ELDW I will make sure that this initiative further develops in harmony with the main principles and values of the Council of Europe and according to the political agenda of our Organisation. In this context, I will lead the discussions on 28 January in Paris, aimed at, in particular, choosing a general theme for the new edition of the ELDW. This meeting will also be an opportunity for exchanging views and best practices between representatives of municipalities who participated in the past or intend to do so in future. Representatives from “12 Star Cities” – those who give special prominence to their participation in the ELDW – will explain how they succeeded in mounting a veritable campaign for their citizens.

What are the prospects for the European Local Democracy Week in 2013?

Dubravka SUICA : Since 2013 will be the dedicated year of “Active Citizenship” for member countries of the European Union, we are considering seizing this opportunity and promoting active citizenship as a general theme in the broader context of the 47 Council of Europe member states, by extending our ambitions beyond stimulating participation in local and regional elections or fighting political apathy. Therefore, we plan to focus on questions of citizen participation in public life, with a specific attention to the involvement of young people – for example through municipal youth councils - as well as pupils and students, in conjunction with schools, colleges and universities. Strategically, we need to motivate municipalities of those Council of Europe member states who have not yet participated to join the ELDW family as well. As already mentioned, there is also growing interest from Europe’s regions and from municipalities outside the Council of Europe. On the whole, I believe that we have to consolidate and meet new challenges at the same time.