13th Plenary Session of the Congress 30 May-1 June 2006

ACTIVITY REPORT OF THE OUTGOING PRESIDENT Giovanni DI STASI, Italy, Chamber of Regions, Political Group : SOC

1. INTRODUCTION

Over the past two years, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has made substantial progress in achieving its objectives in accordance with the priorities set in November 2004 – helping to reposition the Council of Europe in the new European institutional context, promoting territorial democracy, developing transfrontier and interterritorial cooperation, contributing to solving political problems and responding to major social challenges, and strengthening relations with European and international organisations. The Congress has evolved to become a true watchdog of territorial democracy on our continent and a political partner in the dialogue with the governments concerning its reinforcement. It plays a key role in accelerating the process of the decentralisation of power towards the regional and local level, which has been recognised as an important element in the development of democracy. Today, we are well on our way of creating a Europe of territorial communities, a Europe of sustainable communities, a Europe of citizens.

We have been advancing with the setting up of associations of local authorities and their networks. In 2005, the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe (NALAS) was created, which brought together local authorities representing 60 million people. In South Caucasus, we set up the National Association of Local Authorities of Georgia (NALAG) and are currently working on a similar project in Azerbaijan.

The Congress has been pursuing several projects on inter-regional cooperation, aimed at establishing Euro-regions of a new generation – Euro-regions bringing together national, regional and local authorities from both EU and non-EU member states. The first such Euro-region, the Adriatic Euro-region, was launched in February this year, and the work has begun to prepare the Black Sea Euro-region. Another important initiative – which is gaining wider and wider support, as the session of the Committee of Ministers showed less than two weeks ago – is the proposed Centre on inter-regional and transborder cooperation, to be established in St Petersburg. Its main objective will be to promote greater political, economic and social cohesion among European regions.

The Congress continued its activities to monitor the state of regional and local democracy, by adopting recommendations, having follow-up exchanges of views with government officials, and observing regional and local elections. On 21 May, the Congress delegation to observe the referendum in Montenegro included, for the first time ever, members of the Committee of the Regions of the European Union, with which we signed a Cooperation Agreement in April 2005. The cooperation with the Committee was boosted by the decisions of the Warsaw Summit last year, and recently by the report on relations between the EU and the Council of Europe prepared by Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, who also supported our initiatives mentioned above.

The Congress has become one of the main pillars of our Organisation and the genuine representative body of European territorial communities. Its role in promoting territorial democracy was acknowledge by the Heads of State and Government during the Warsaw Summit, and today it is actively participating in the Forum on the Future of Democracy set up by the Summit. The range of issues with which the Congress is dealing is impressive: citizens’ participation, urban security, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, integration of migrants in our cities, sustainable development of territorial communities, culture and education, history and modernity, fight against trafficking in human beings.

The Congress has been working on developing innovative approaches to respond to the changing needs of our globalising, knowledge-based society and implementing the Lisbon strategy. However, any innovations must be aimed at pursuing the same unchanging strategy – advancing democracy and improving our societies for the benefit of 800 million Europeans.

The membership of our Congress will be renewed at this session. We will set new priorities for the two years ahead of us, in the light of the decisions of the Warsaw Summit, Juncker’s report and the resolutions of the Ministers responsible for territorial communities. It is certain that these new priorities will build on what has already been accomplished and will strengthen the role of the Congress in the European process.

2. SESSIONS

2.1 Plenary session of the Congress (31 May – 2 June 2005)

2.1.1 Summary of the work of the Plenary Session

The Session debated reports and adopted recommendations and resolutions on a wide range of issues, including in particular the revision of the Congress Charter, the 20th anniversary of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, the role of cities and regions in the fight against trafficking in human beings and their sexual exploitation, regeneration of mining and industrial areas, the follow-up to the Forum of Cities and Regions of South-East Europe (Budva, Serbia and Montenegro, 11-12 October 2004) and the development of the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe (NALAS), as well as new monitoring reports on local and regional democracy in Sweden and in Denmark.

Russian Regional Development Minister Vladimir Yakovlev and Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee on Local Self-Government Vladimir Mokry participated in the discussion of the follow-up to the Congress’ Recommendation 143 (2004) on local and regional democracy in Russia, with a particular emphasis on the recent reform of the procedure for election of regional governors. Giorgi Baramidze, Georgian State Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, and Vano KhukhunashviliDeputy Chairman of the Georgian Parliament’s Committee on Regional Policy, Self-Government and Mountainous Regions, took the floor during the debate on the follow-up to the Congress’ Recommendation 157 (2004) on local and regional democracy in Georgia. The Session also discussed an information report on local and regional democracy in the Netherlands, with the participation of Paul Van Kalmthout, Deputy Director General of Kingdom Relations and Governance from the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.

On Wednesday 1 June, a round table was held dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, whereas the morning sitting on 2 June featured a special session on the 3rd Summit and priorities of the Council of Europe. Eduardo Cabrita, Portuguese State Secretary of Local Administration representing the Chair of the Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly President René van der Linden and Secretary General Terry Davis addressed the Session on this occasion.

A special debate was devoted to the developments in South-East Europe, with the participation of Goran Svilanovic, Chairman of Working Table 1 of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe, Miodrag Vlahovic, Foreign Minister of Montenegro (Serbia and Montenegro), and Lutfi Haziri, Minister for Local Administration of Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions of Self-Government.

2.1.2. Summary of the work of the Plenary Session of the Chamber of Local Authorities

On 31 May, the Chamber of Local Authorities debated reports on local authorities facing natural and industrial disasters, their role in dealing with major oil spills, and their initiatives and responsibilities concerning intercultural and inter-faith dialogue. Recommendations and resolutions were adopted following each debate. Manuel Fandino Dominguez, Local Councillor of Muxia (Spain), and Maria Isabel Deu del Olmo, President of the Convivence Award Foundation and Local Councillor of the Autonomous City of Ceuta (Spain), took part in, respectively, debates on oils spills and on intercultural dialogue.

On 1 June, Jeremy Smith, Secretary General of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), Goran ANgelov, Acting President of NALAS, addressed the Chamber during the debate on the consultation of local authorities in implementing the European Charter of Local Self-Government, and Rizvan Sulejmani, Minister of Local Self-Government of the “former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, participated in the discussion on the state of local democracy in that country. The Chamber also adopted a new recommendation on local democracy in Luxembourg.

2.1.3. Summary of the work of the Plenary Session of the Chamber of Regions

The Chamber of Regions began its Session on 31 May by electing Zaza Begashvili (Georgia, ILDG) as its Vice-President. The Chamber adopted a recommendation and a resolution on regional media and transfrontier cooperation, and discussed the implementation of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, with the participation of Sigve Gramstad (Norway), President of the Committee of Experts of the Charter. The Session also heard statements by Higini Clotas i Cierco, Vice-President of the Parliament of Catalunya (Spain) concerning the activities of the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies (CALRE), and by Lluis Maria de Puig (Spain, SOC), Parliamentary Assembly Rapporteur on Regionalisation, focusing on the Assembly’s action on regional self-government.

Jene Gabbe, Secretary General of the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR), took the floor during the discussion of new challenges and prospects in transborder cooperation following the EU enlargement. At the end of the sitting, Congress President Giovanni Di Stasi informed the Chamber about the progress in creating the Adriatic Euroregion.

On 1 June, the Session discussed a report on the role of regions in youth education for sustainable development, with the participation of Giuseppe Porcaro, Chair of the Council of Europe Advisory and Joint Council on Youth, and adopted a recommendation and a resolution. Another debate dealt with a report on outermost regions as a challenge to the balanced and sustainable development of European territory. Vyacheslav Shtyrov, President of Russia’s Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Alberto Joao Jardim, President of the Regional Government of Madeira (Portugal) and Xavier Gizard, Secretary General of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR), contributed to the discussion, following which the Chamber adopted a recommendation.

At the end of the Session, Jean-Claude Cauwenberghe, Minister-President of Wallonia (Belgium) and President of the Congress Working Group “Regions with legislative power”, informed the Chamber about the action of regions with legislative power in the European cooperation and integration process.

2.2. Autumn Institutional Session (8-9 November 2005)

2.2.1. Summary of the work of the Autumn Institutional Session in plenary

Meeting in plenary, the Congress debated a report on local and regional democracy in Turkey and adopted a recommendation. The follow-up to adopted monitoring reports on Spain (Recommendation 121 (2002)), Sweden (Recommendation 163 (2005)) and Denmark (Recommendation 164 (2005)) was also discussed. The Session heard statements from Manuel Zafra Victor, Director of Local Cooperation from Spain; Johan Höök, Director for Local Government Affairs of the Swedish Finance Ministry and Deputy Director Henrik Källsbo; and Hans B. Thomsen, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Danish Interior and Health Ministry, accompanied by another Deputy Permanent Secretary, Thorkil Juul.

During the Session, a Pro-Merito medal was presented to former Congresss Vice-President Claude Casagrande, former member of the French delegation.

2.2.2. Summary of the work of the Autumn Institutional Session of the Chamber of Local Authorities

The Chamber of Local Authorities debated reports and adopted recommendations on local democracy in Cyprus, including its northern part, and in Moldova, as well as on the state of local finances in the Netherlands. The Session also discussed the follow-up to Recommendation 172 (2005) on local democracy in Luxembourg, with Jean-Marie Halsdorf, Minister of the Interior and Local and Regional Planning. Other reports discussed dealt with the European Urban Charter and with public participation in local affairs and elections, with respective recommendations.

2.2.3. Summary of the work of the Institutional Session of the Chamber of Regions

Discussions in the Chamber of Regions focused on issues related to interregional cooperation and regionalisation in Europe. Ivan Jakovcic, President of the Regions of Istria (Croatia) and Vice-President of the Assembly of European Regions (AER) made a statement on interregional cooperation in the Dreatic Sea area and the establishment of the Adriatic Euroregion, while Angelo Pollina, President of the European Affairs Committee of the Assembly of Tuscany (Italy) presented new initiatives of the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies (CALRE). The Chamber was also informed about the creation of the Institute of the Regions of Europe in Salzburg (Austria), by Dr Franz Schausberger, President of the Institute’s Board of Directors.

Stefan Stefanec, President of the Region of Trencin (Slovak Republic) and Beata Balkova, Administrator responsible for European Affairs, presented the results of the international colloquy on regional democracy in the Slovak Republic and the process of strengthening regional authorities. Alexander Uss, Chairman of the Legislative Assembly of the Krasnoyarsk region (Russia) made a statement on regional policy and the development of federal relations in his country, using as an example the Siberian Federal District.

Miljenko Doric, member of the Croatian National Parliament and of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, described recent developments in the process of regionalisation in South-East Europe. At the end of the Session, President of the Chamber Yavuz Mildon provided information on the current state of the Council of Europe draft Convention on Regional Self-Government.

2.2.4 Summary of the work of the Standing Committee

In addition to formally adopting recommendations and resolutions approved by the Chambers, the Standing Committee, meeting on 9 November, debated a report and adopted a recommendation and a resolution on issues of cultural identity in peripheral urban areas: the role of local and regional authorities. A debate was held on principles, practices and observations of free and fair local and regional elections, with the participation of Luc Van den Brande (Belgium, EPP/CD), representative of the Parliamentary Assembly’s Monitoring Committee in the Council of Europe for Democratic Elections; Pierre Garone, Head of Division of Elections and Referendums of the Venice Commission; and Ian Micaleff (Malta, EPP/CD), Congress representative in the Council of Europe for Democratic Elections.

The Committee also discussed, among other things, the follow-up to the 3rd Summit, including the Congress’ participation in the Forum on the Future of Democracy and the Centre of expertise on local government reform, and granted observer status to the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities (APLA) and the European Roma and Travellers Forum.

2.3 Spring Session (16-17 March 2006)

2.3.1 Summary of the work of the Spring Session in plenary

The Spring Session, held jointly with the Committee on Culture and Education, discussed the Committee’s work and priorities, presented by Committee President Hilde Zach (Austria, L, EPP/CD), as well as new instruments in favour of the European cultural diversity: Council of Europe Framework Convention on the value of cultural heritage for society and UNESCO Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expression. Ambassador Christian Ter-Stepanian, Permanent Representative of Armenia to the Council of Europe and President of the Committee of Ministers’ Group of Rapporteurs on Culture (GR-C), contributed to this debate, among others.

The Session also debated a report on the North-South Centre: contributions of local and regional authorities to promote the efficiency of the work of the Centre. President of the North-South Centre Claude Frey addressed the Session on this occasion. A resolution and a recommendation were adopted.

The Congress also heard statements by Liviu Radu, Secretary of State for the Reform of the Public Administration of Romania, representing the Romanian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, and by Alvaro Gil-Robles, outgoing Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

During the Session, Pro-Merito medals were presented to three former Vice-President of the Congress: Hans Martin Tschudi, formerm member of the Swiss delegation; Frantisek Dohnal, former member of the Czech delegation; and Calin Catalin Chirita, former member of the Romanian delegation.

2.3.2. Summary of the work of the Spring Session of the Chamber of Local Authorities

The Chamber of Local Authorities debated a report on young people and new information technologies: a new opportunity for local democracy. It adopted a resolution following the debate. The Chamber also heard the presentation of the review of the European Year of Citizenship through Education (2005) and prospects for the future, made by Chair of the Ad hoc Committee of Experts (CAAHCIT) Krzyztof Ostrowski.

A general debate was held on cultural diversity in the municipality, with presentations on intercultural and interfaith dialogue by Brith Fäldt (Sweden, SOC) and on integration through sport by Suzanne Eisenmann, Deputy Mayor of Stuttgart.

2.3.3 Summary of the work of the Spring Session of the Chamber of Regions

The Chamber of Regions debated a report on regional typical products faced with globalisation, during which Pascal Jan, Director of the Association Alsace-Qualité, made a presentation on the promotion of regional typical products. A resolution and a recommendation were adopted.

A round table was held on regional and minority languages, with the participation of Karl-Heinz Lambertz (Belgium, SOC), Minister President of the German Community of Belgium, Farid Mukhametshin (Russia, ILDG), Chairman of the State Council of the Republic of Tatarstan, and Albertes J. Mulder (Netherlands, SOC), Provincial Executive of Friesland. At the end of the round table, Rapporteur Anissa Temsamani (Belgium, SOC) presented conclusions.

The Chamber also organised a hearing on the contribution of universities to regional cultural development. Jacques Sparfel, Secretary General of the European Confederation of the Universities of the Upper Rhine (EUCOR) and Professor Dr Yuksel Dincer of the University of Galatasaray (Istanbul, Turkey) participated in the hearing, the conclusions of which were presented by Rapporteurs Farid Mukhametshin (Russia, ILDG) and Ömür Aybar (Turkey, EPP/CD).

At the end of the Session, Mr Farid Mukhametshin awarded medals “In commemoration of the Kazan Millennium” (Kazan being the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan) to President of the Chamber Yavuz Mildon, Vice-President Günther Krug and Congress Chief Executive Ulrich Bohner.

2.3.4 Summary of the work of the Standing Committee

The Standing Committee met on 17 March 2006. In addition to the formal adoption of resolutions and recommendations approved by the Chambers, the Committee discussed the implementation of the Congress priorities, preparations for the 13th Plenary Session and activities of the Statutory Committee and Working Groups. It also granted observer status to the Standing Committee of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership of Local and Regional Authorities (COPPEM). Claude Nicolet, President of the decentralised cooperation network for Palestine, made a statement on the observation of the 4th phase of local elections in the Palestinian Territories (15 December 2005).

3. LOCAL AND/OR REGIONAL ELECTION OBSERVATIONS

In 2005, the Congress observed partial local elections in Moldova (on 10 July 2005) which were subsequently repeated three times (on 24 July, 27 November and 11 December 2005). The results of the elections were invalidated each time because the voter turnout was below the threshold set by the electoral law. The Congress observed each of the repeat elections.

The Congress also observed two phases of local elections in Armenia (25 September and 16 October 2005), as well as constitutional referendum in this country (27 November 2005).

In addition, the Congress was represented in the joint fact-finding mission with the Parliamentary Assembly to the Chechen Republic, Russian Federation, during parliamentary elections there (27 November 2005), and observed the fourth phase of local elections in the Palestinian Territories (15 December 2005).

On 26 March 2006, the Congress observed local and regional elections in Ukraine, held at the same time as the legislative elections observed by the Parliamentary Assembly. On 21 May, a Congress delegation observed the referendum in Montenegro (Serbia and Montenegro).

4. WORK OF THE STATUTORY COMMTTEES

4.1 Institutional Committee

Since the 12th plenary session, the Institutional Committee held two meetings, on 7 October 2005 and on 21 April 2006, both in Strasbourg.

Country reports

    The Institutional Committee continued its programme of monitoring activities on local and regional democracy in member States throughout the period of June 2005-May 2006. The following country reports have been prepared: Cyprus, Moldova, Netherlands (local financing) and Turkey. The Congress was quite critical as regards the rhythm of reforms of local self-government in the Republic of Cyprus and in Moldova. The Congress looks forward very much to a change of the situation in these countries. The Dutch context was characterised by a difficult reform of local financing which resulted in the removal of an important fiscal revenue of local authorities. Consequently, the Congress qualified this situation as non consistent with the European Charter of Local Self-government.

    A follow up was given to the political dialogue on local and regional self-government reforms with Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden and Spain. High level government representatives of these countries attended the institutional autumn session with a view to informing the Congress on the implementation of recommendations adopted at the 12th plenary session in May 2005. The Committee regretted the decision of the Danish authorities to exclude the newly established Danish regions from the scope of application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government as it was the case of the former counties.

    The Congress has also started the preparation of the reports on local and regional democracy in the following countries : Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the “former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and the Slovak Republic.

    Reports on the European Charter of Local Self-Government

    Consultation of local authorities

    As part of the general monitoring of the Charter the Congress adopted a report on consultation of local authorities which emphasises that they must be consulted in the planning and decision-making processes for all matters which concern them directly. The Congress’ recommendation placed particular emphasis on the right to be consulted in legislative and decision-making processes on questions concerning the allocation of financial resources and suggested that the most representative national associations of local authorities be included in the consultation process.

    Moreover, the Congress addressed a series of recommendations to all the member states aimed at strengthening the legal and institutional machinery of consultation and promoting the role of associations of local authorities in championing their common interests.

    Participation of public in local affairs and elections

    In adopting this report the Congress reiterated its commitment to public participation in local affairs and elections and proposes. We believe that this issue should be built on in the broader context of the Council of Europe Action Plan adopted at the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government in Warsaw, which aims to strengthen democracy, political freedoms and public participation through the establishment of the Council of Europe Forum for the Future of Democracy.

    Our report identified some reasons for the low turnout at local elections and put forward a number of proposals on how governments can improve general participation in local affairs.

    Measures which governments could take, for instance, range from legislative recognition of participation by groups to the encouragement of participation by groups with the lowest levels of participation, namely women, young people, the less well-educated and the less well-off.

    Lisbon conference and idea of additional protocols to the European Charter of Local Self-government

    On 8 July 2005, the Congress held in Lisbon a conference on the 20th Anniversary of the Charter which was designed to help us to look ahead and to draw some prospects for the future of local government in Europe. This meeting organised under the Portuguese Chairmanship of the Council of Europe jointly with the National Association of Municipalities of Portugal and the CEMR was also conceived as a follow to the Congress report on the 20th Anniversary of the Charter (Rapporteur : Birgitta Halvarsson, Sweden, SOC).

    The conference helped identify new trends and needs in local government to be taken into account by states today. It has brought us at the point of understanding that further work is needed in some areas by means of additional protocols to the Charter without any harm to the latter. This work is now focusing on local property and finances, on control and consultation of local authorities.

    We also thinking about how to spread the influence of the Charter beyond Europe’s borders and consider opening it for signature to non member States, especially in the Council of Europe’s direct neighbourhood and possibly to the EU.

    Regionalisation in Sweden

    As part of the political dialogue with Sweden on the future of its territorial communities the Congress organised jointly with the region of Skane a colloquy on prospect for regionalisation in this country. The seminar was designed to help Swedish institutional partners to get more familiar with experience of regionalisation in other countries.

    4.2 Culture and Education Committee

    The Culture and Education Committee held two meetings since the 12th session: on 29-30 September 2005 in Denizli (Turkey) and on 15 March 2006 in Strasbourg.

    The main themes of the Committee’s work were young people and new information technology, integration through sport, regional rural products in the era of globalisation, regional cultural identity, regional policies in favour of regional and minority languages, interregional cooperation among universities, strengthening cooperation with the North-South Centre, heritage and modernity: cooperation between Europe’s historic cities and regions, role of local and regional authorities in cultural identity issues in peripheral urban areas, and cultural and religious diversity and intercultural and inter-faith dialogue at local level.

    Conference on the implementation of the Revised Charter of the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life (24-25 June 2005, Komosomolsk, Ukraine)

    Participation is a key concept for involving young people more closely in local and regional life. The conference in Komosomolsk made a useful and substantial contribution in this respect. Examples chosen on local, regional and national level from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Georgia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Turkey and Ukraine showed ways and means how to promote active participation of young people in local and regional life.

The areas covered a range from mobilisation of young people in schools, urban neighbourhoods, sports clubs and theatre workshops and various other cultural activities to parliamentary approaches, children and youth councils and youth parliaments.

    With respect to the programme of the conference we installed “policy forums” and workshops as to make a deliberate reference to the origins of democracy in Greco-Roman times, as the forums of ancient Rome and the agorae of the Greek city states were the meeting places where politics was discussed and shaped.
    We all experienced that networking of cities and regions of different European and national organisations is particularly important in this respect. The Revised European Charter on Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life offers the opportunity to closely connect youth representatives and municipal decision-makers.
    The Charter suggests and makes concrete proposals how to articulate and apply the principle most politicians would agree upon, that participation is a key issue to make a democratic society work. The Council of Europe co-management principle and system of decision-making has proved to be a sustainable form of co-decision. Co-management means structures where authorities and young people and youth organisations are respected as equal partners. Such structures must be further developed at the local level.
    The skill to find young people that represent the majority of the youth population remains a difficult task, and should be approached rather as a challenge than an insolvable problem.
    In the text of the Charter it is stated: “In order to carry out the sectorial policies, local and regional authorities should undertake to put in place the appropriate structures or arrangements enabling the participation of young people in the decisions and debates affecting them.”
    The most common way is to set up youth councils, youth parliaments or youth forums. But there is a need to keep these foras durable. We often experienced that there was a very enthusiastic group of young people in the beginning, willing and interested to get involved in these structures. The problem was that these groups often become very skilful and form a very tight group of persons that could make difficult for newcomers, and especially younger persons to be accepted within this established group. Therefore we have to find the ways to guarantee a regeneration of participants in such structures, otherwise we risk that there will be a rise and then, after a couple of years, a decline in the level of participation.
    After some time the process must be restarted and it is hard to experience any progress in developing the forms for youth participation. A strong and persistent structure is therefore something to strive for. In order to achieve this it was suggested in the Charter that the authority should appoint a guarantor –a person or a group of persons. Such a guarantor should be independent from the political structures and form the structures of youth participation, and his nomination should be agreed by both sides. The function of this guarantor would include:

      - to act as an interface between young people and elected representatives
      - to act as an advocate for young people vis-à-vis the authority in situations of tension between the two
      - to act as a channel through which the authority can communicate with young people
      - to prepare regular reports addressed to young people and the authority, to evaluate the level of participation and the impact of it.

    To become a focal point between the different partners involved.
    In Norway and in Sweden such formula has been put into practice.
    In Norway it is one single person with a central position next to the mayor, in Sweden it is a group of youth workers that hold this position. Both forms are in a close relation with youth groups, student councils, youth organisations and Municipal Youth Forums, as well as the authority.
    They support the recruitment of new members in the Youth Forum from different student councils. Political decisions guarantee that this organisational form works. They have a substantial annual budget available for different projects with an extremely short time from idea to decision. One part of the budget is reserved for the Youth Forum to decide upon. We noticed that these forms of participation do work because the young people have a tight grip on the real decision-making. This creates a sense of responsibility.
    What we can see is that the network of the guarantor is extremely important to keep the continuity in the organisation. They introduce new members, they support and train the young and they make annual evaluations. We have clearly noticed that the young people who have participated are much more interested and motivated to become active in other civic activities.
    During this conference in Komsomolsk we managed to exchange valuable and interesting experiences and good ideas, may be they could not be qualified as “best practices” yet, but for sure we managed to establish new contacts and valuable partnerships favourable enabling the participants to extend the knowledge about Council of Europe conventions, legal and political instruments and training facilities and other tools favourable to stimulate and increased youth participation Europe wide. We have set binding goals, both for youth representatives and local and regional decision-makers, we have made steps forward towards concrete implementation, as how to come from theory to practice.
    To conclude, we would like to underline that the authorities in Komsomolsk, Ukraine indicated their readiness and commitment to pursue the efforts made in June 2005 and to renew on an annual basis the fruitful experience of last year, in order to keep the momentum alive, for the benefit of a continuous effort to increase youth participation on the local and the regional level and to create a lasting network promoting youth participation and youth empowerment within our 46 member states.

    European Conference on “Integrated Children and Youth Policies in Europe – Needs for Disadvantaged Neighbourhoods“(Strasbourg, 30 January – 1 February 2006)

    The focus of this conference was disadvantaged neighbourhoods - we all agree that the issue is not self-inflicted exclusion, but inequality of chances, due to a lack of training and economical and social structures at the disposal of the inhabitants living in these urban areas. Poverty, marginalisation and social exclusion in such areas determine people’s prospects and opportunities to take their own lives in their hands. They are entitled to enjoy the same fundamental rights as anyone else, but as a matter of fact they are currently not in a position to get access to these social and political rights that a democratic society is supposed to guarantee to every citizen.

The Conference brought together some 280 participants from 32 European countries and the United States of America, representing 123 cities altogether. The right mix of government officials and experts, local and regional elected representatives, academicians, researchers, representatives of civil society and, last but not least, youth activists created a potential of input and interaction to present credible and successful initiatives in disadvantaged areas of urban centres, which are too often only in the centre of political attention when despair leads to violent behaviours.
It looks as if violence, brought via mass media, TV, radio, newspapers, into the homes and rooms of a so-called normal citizen, attracts the attention of the decision-markers and becomes areas of a political concern only at this very difficult moment The willingness to put additional financial and human resources into these areas seems to grow proportionally with a media coverage, and once this attention decreases, the means and the political will to keep up the proposals and promises made also shifts away.
The participants of this conference have not hesitated to elaborate on alternative concepts and new strategies when reacting to a daily up rise in the suburbs. They understood the importance of a long term presence in these areas, building of confidence, interacting directly with the citizens concerned.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, and in particular, its Culture and Education Committee, together with Directorate of Youth and Sport, in close cooperation with the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and the French Ministry for Youth and Sport and Associative Life, have pulled their resources and expertise together in order to make headway and develop programmes for young people in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. The German Government already initiated this process in 2000 and subsequently has broaden the scope of cooperation with other European cities and institutions, and launched the so-called Berlin Process at a conference in November 2004 which led to this European conference in Strasbourg.
In the framework of five working panels appropriate approaches and actions have been discussed and elaborated in order to renew hope, provide for a fresh start and to improve the future opportunities of children, young people and their parents, whose life chances are reduced by the simple fact that they live in such areas of poverty, marginalisation and exclusion, which very often cut them off from the development of the rest of the mainstream society.
The working panels focused on the participation and involvement of young people in public life at the local level, cooperation of public services with NGOs and civil society, promotion of tolerance in communities, non-formal education and employment prospects of disadvantaged young people, and the need for a new dialogue between youth research, youth policy and youth work.
There is no ideal form to be found, like a recipe, but there was plenty of good will and motivation and a lot of experience to be shared among cities and their various players. This conference was designed to be part of a process, the Berlin process, and all the players involved agreed that the continuity of the efforts made so far, the medium term and long term programmes rooted in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods, securing the necessary funding to pursue their activities on the local level, is the only real chance to overcome segregation within our societies. We need this close interaction of all players concerned, we are convinced that only a holistic approach can provide for a sustainable solution.
Investing in children and youth is investing in the future of our society, and the conference made a successful attempt to pave the way and to show ways and means as how to move form disadvantaged neighbourhoods to more solidarity within our cities and among the cities. Learning from each other, creating networks and practice-based cooperation, these are the bricks to build up new neighbourhoods within our cities.

    Meeting of a working and reflection group on how to promote inter-religious and intercultural dialogue by local authorities (Strasbourg, 3 February 2006)
    The focus of this meeting was to identify the best possible ways and means how local authorities can pursue and promote inter-religious and intercultural dialogue within their constituencies. It is within the competences of local authorities to take care of places of worship (often municipal property), therefore it seems to be of interest for local decision makers not only to deal with the premises, but also to take an interest with respect to the content of the events, meetings, gatherings taking place in the premises that have been put at the communities’ disposal by local authorities.
    Several basic principles have been identified and discussed during the meeting in Strasbourg.

In order to structure this dialogue the participants already identified a few basic principles to be applied which stem from the principles and values enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights and more particularly with reference to Article 14 of the ECHR.
The inter-religious and intercultural dialogue should be based, according to the participants, on the commonly agreed principles and shared values such as: the principle of freedom, implying, the freedom of expression, including the freedom to transmit beliefs, while respecting the beliefs and convictions of the others and taking care not to let this force the others to adopt and share the same beliefs.
The principle of proportionality, inbuilt in our legal system, the need to strike a balance between different positions, laws in force within the host country and the cultural and religious expectations, requests and claims put forward by various communities should be inspired by mutual respect. The participants agreed that it is of the utmost importance to strike a balance between the different aspirations of the cultural and religious minorities and those of the majority population of the host country in order to make it possible for a fruitful dialogue to develop.
Beyond the necessity to identify commonly shared principles and values for those willing and able to engage into a dialogue, local authorities would also need to get practical advice on how to identify reliable partners for a structured form of inter-religious and intercultural dialogue.

    It would be most helpful for the members of the Committee, in order to base their discussion on a firm ground and the existing experiences, thus possibly drawing the inspiration how best to promote a dialogue in their own constituencies, to put at their disposal the surveys of the existing practices, terms of references, rules and legal frameworks within different European countries.

It was felt that making it possible for local authorities which were “in the know” to have available “accurate information”, reliable data, which presupposes to have the necessary access to expert knowledge about different cultural and religious groups and communities and their actual situation.
Therefore access to databanks, the centralised information system at the Ministries responsible for internal and religious affairs, (the Ministries concerned differ in different Council of Europe member states according to their national tradition and division of responsibilities, terms of references etc) would be most helpful.

    4.3 Committee on Social Cohesion

    The Committee on Social Cohesion met on 13 October 2005 in Mulhouse (France) and on 9 March 2006 in Gardone Riviera (Italy). Throughout 2005 and into 2006, the Committee’s work has once again focused on the more vulnerable groups within society, and those most liable to suffer from social exclusion: women at risk, young people, those living with the threat of urban insecurity, migrants, the disabled as well as taking a broader view and examining the way social cohesion policies are created and what social cohesion means to different people.

    effective access to social rights for migrants – the role of regions and cities

    In accordance with the Congress’ priorities for 2004-2006, migrant issues have been an important focus of the Committee’s work this year.

    Firstly, the Committee will be presenting a plenary report and two draft texts to the Congress’ 2006 Plenary Session for debate and adoption. The main objective of the Committee’s work on migrants and social rights has been to define the role of local and regional authorities in the development of the effective access of migrants to basic social rights, such as housing, education, employment, social security and opportunities to develop their cultural rights, with particular reference to the importance of gender.

    The second initiative followed by the Committee on behalf of the Congress, is the launching of a Network of European Cities for Local Integration Policy with funding from one of the co-founders, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Dublin Foundation). The three partners – the Congress, the European Foundation and the City of Stuttgart – will sign a joint Memorandum of Understanding which outlines the functioning and objectives of the new network on 2 May at the first Steering Committee meeting.

    The proposed joint network structure will pool experts on local integration policies from major European cities and experienced researchers from academic research institutions. The initial network will comprise around 30 cities.

    The objective is to support the exchange of experience between cities and develop guidelines for good practice. The relevant experiences and outputs of the network will be communicated to European organisations of cities and local and regional authorities, to the relevant bodies of the Council of Europe and to the various relevant institutions of the European Union and NGOs in the social field.

    promoting youth employment and an enterprise culture in the regions

    A report and draft texts will be presented for debate and adoption to the Chamber of Regions during the Congress’ 2006 Plenary Session outlining the situation of young people in the regions, and specifically describing the current lack of promotion of entrepreneurship amongst the young and the lack of range of experiences and life opportunities from which they suffer. The objective is to discover, through innovative business and education initiatives, how to promote an enterprise culture among young people in the regions.

    The significance of a new approach to youth unemployment and youth transition into the workplace is being emphasised by the globalisation of markets, which necessitate competitiveness, efficiency, creativity and entrepreneurial skills. The promotion of entrepreneurship among young people can be seen as a long-term strategy for innovation and job and wealth creation.

    The Committee on Social Cohesion feels that the Congress could play an important role in promoting entrepreneurship in its own specific area of influence, starting with the European Union applicant countries, as a major contribution to their cultural, social and economic progress. One of the essential aims of the action proposed is to motivate regional authorities to take full responsibility for growth and social cohesion in their own territories. In areas where young people have no contact with entrepreneurship for lack of entrepreneurial models, such action is a strategic necessity at regional level aimed at explaining the concept of enterprise to young people and promoting the healthy socio-economic development of the markets.

    The different options which the final report explores include cultivating a culture of enterprise in compulsory education, promoting personal ambition and developing business competence as well as encouraging regions to work in partnership with businesses to promote opportunities for young people.

Promoting urban security

    Crime and urban insecurity are still important themes for the Committee’s work in 2005-2006 and represent some of the Committee’s contributions to the Congress’s priorities for the next few years.

    The Committee on Social Cohesion will present a report and draft texts on Promoting Urban Security to the Chamber of Local Authorities for debate and adoption during the Congress’ 2006 Plenary Session identifying measures for the promotion of urban security in Europe. As previous recommendations entailing the creation of a new structure in the form of a European Observatory for Crime Prevention did not find favour, the objective – which will be highlighted in the Committee’s recommendation – will rather emphasise the heightening of synergies between different actors in the field, using networks that already exist, but making them more efficient and their output more visible. The recommendation will propose a resource centre – with a handful of people acting as an information nexus for existing partners and networks – which will improve the collection of qualitative and quantitative crime data, increase knowledge of existing crime prevention strategies and build on the initial and in-service training of the various parties involved in preventive policies.

    With regard to local policing in Europe, an activity launched in 2004, meetings of the Working Group on Local Policing have enabled the identification of nine major themes which will form the chapters of its compendium of good practices for local police forces. Approval of the draft compendium by the Committee on Social Cohesion is foreseen for 2006/2007, with final adoption possibly at the 2007 Plenary Session of the Congress. Publication should follow shortly thereafter.

    Violence against women

    Combating violence against women in its many forms has been an important topic for the Committee on Social Cohesion in 2005-2006 and will continue to be so for the coming year.

    The fight against trafficking

    The Committee’s work on the fight against trafficking is in line not only with the Committee’s ongoing study of populations at risk, but also with the major work being undertaken by the Council of Europe at parliamentary and intergovernmental level with its newly adopted convention and its recently launched campaign.

    Following the adoption of two texts on the fight against trafficking at the Congress’ 2005 Plenary Session, work has continued and was enriched by a hearing on this subject in Mulhouse, France, in October 2005 which engendered much dialogue amongst participants as well as media coverage and a proposal to set up a working group on this subject bringing together representatives of towns of origin and towns of destination.

    The Congress is, in addition, participating directly in the Council of Europe Campaign to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings, notably through the Committee on Social Cohesion’s proposal of a new draft text – a resolution highlighting the Congress’ full support to the anti-trafficking campaign with an appended Declaration on the Fight against Trafficking in Human Beings for signature by individual local authorities.

    A signing ceremony of this declaration will be held in front of the hemicycle during the 2006 Congress Plenary Session. The declaration will subsequently be available for online signature on a dedicated web-site.

Participation in the Task Force to Combat Violence Against Women

    The Committee on Social Cohesion was invited, on behalf of the Congress, to follow the work of the Congress representative to this task force whose remit is not only to evaluate the effective functioning of the measures for preventing and combating violence against women adopted at national and international level and to make proposals for revising these measures or for adopting new ones, but also to prepare a blueprint for the Council of Europe’s campaign to combat violence against women. The Committee on Social Cohesion, which heard a report of the first Task Force meeting from its representative when it met in March 2006, intends to follow this work closely and to play a full and active part in this campaign which is due to be launched in 2006.

    Concerted development of social cohesion indicators

    One of several examples of the co-operation and synergy of the Committee on Social Cohesion with its counterparts throughout the Council is the pilot project on social cohesion indicators. This initiative involves the practical application of the indicators outlined in a methodological guide prepared by Directorate General III - Social Cohesion.

    The pilot group of 4 municipalities and regions will test certain parts of the guide (fruit of many years of work in the Council’s intergovernmental sector) in the field, to see how best to implement social cohesion policies through pilot projects on the ground in their own municipality or region.

    The key issue being explored is concertation – finding out from grass-root- level contacts what citizens need rather than imposing a set of cohesion indicators from above. The Committee believes that local and regional authorities have a crucial role to play in the process of democratic dialogue for social cohesion, and therefore that this analysis through the concrete implementation of the tool which the Methodological guide represents will be both timely and useful. A report and draft texts with the group’s conclusions will be presented to the Congress during its 2007 Plenary Session for adoption.

    Intergenerational co-operation and participatory democracy

    The Committee on Social Cohesion has examined the question: “In an increasingly fractured society, how can intergenerational dialogue be re-established? “

    Would including intergenerational issues in the structure of municipal council committees create greater transparency in the allocation of credits allotted separately to each sector (culture, social issues, health, leisure, etc.) and enable the “intergenerational committee” to take advantage of the administrative, technical and other services of the municipality concerned?

    These are some of the issues and questions being addressed by the Committee on Social Cohesion – and in order better to do so, a restricted reflection group of members has been created. Over the course of this year, the group will examine the different avenues possible with a view to identifying sustainable measures that are applicable at no great cost but to maximum effect always with one leitmotiv in mind: “doing with instead of doing for”. A report and draft texts with the group’s conclusions will be presented to the Congress in Spring 2007 for adoption.

    Other issues

    The Committee on Social Cohesion has been given, by the Congress Bureau, the mandate of forming a joint drafting committee with members of the Liaison Committee of International Non-Governmental Organisations enjoying participatory status with the Council of Europe in order to revise the draft memorandum on a partnership between local and regional authorities and NGO’s in Council of Europe member states. This drafting committee will hold its first meeting just after the 2006 Plenary Session and will present the results of its work to the Bureau by the autumn.

    Furthermore, the Committee is examining the possibilty of following up its 2004 report on severe poverty in towns, notably through the creation of a monitoring instrument which would permit the regular overview of activities and of developments in the severe poverty situation in Europe’s towns and cities.

    One of the new topics that have been looked at by the Committee on Social Cohesion over the past year is that of health issues at local and regional level, notably the new “community” approach to healthcare and solidarity and the new social approaches to health-care provision which are more participative, with a paradigm shift from the patient to the citizen.

    Another new issue is access to public areas and infrastructures for people with disabilities and the role of local and regional authorities in reducing obstacles to access which are also obstacles to social inclusion.

    The Committee on Social Cohesion has a continuing interest in the plight of the Roma and Travellers community and to this end has nominated a member to take part as an observer in future plenary assemblies of the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF).

    4.4 Committee on Sustainable Development

    The Committee on Sustainable Development met twice since the 12th Pleanery Session: from 25 to 27 September 2005 in Kemerovo (Russian Federation), at the invitation of the Governor of the Region of Kemerovo, and on 31 March in Constanta (Romania), the day after the Conference on Interregional Co-operation in the Black Sea Basin.

    The meeting in Kemerovo was an opportunity for considering the main sustainable development challenges in Siberia and the possibility of co-operation with the Council of Europe on issues related to it.

    The Congress and the Parliamentary Assembly, in cooperation with the inter-governmental sector of the Council of Europe, also took the initiative to hold a joint conference to address water management as a challenge for local, regional and national decision-makers, including members of parliaments. From 20 to 22 March 2006, a Congress delegation had attended the 4th World Water Forum and the International Meeting of Local Authorities on Water, held by United Cities and Local Governments, which adopted the final declaration appended to the ministerial declaration.

    It is important to note that local and regional authorities as well as parliamentarians were offered to take a full part in the ministerial conference – in both the dialogue session with the ministers and parliamentarians, and the ministerial round table. The essential role of local and regional authorities in water management was acknowledged in the final message.

    The Congress also had the opportunity of dealing with urban sustainable development in the framework of a Conference co-organised with the Geneva Republic. The best innovative practices for protecting the urban environment were presented to more than 1100 participants, to whom President of the Regions Chamber Yavuz Mildon addressed the opening speech.

In 2006, the Congress will deal with urban policies in a broader manner, pursuing its work on the European Urban Charter. We believe in the Urban Charter as a reference tool setting out a series of principals to provide local authorities with a valuable assistance in meeting the challenges of today’s urban society.

    Adopted in 1992, the European Urban Charter was revised to take account of the rapid pace of political, social and economic change in Europe over the past decade and its implications for the management of cities. The new version should also be brought into line with all the Council of Europe legal instruments and take into account the Action Plan of the Third Summit of Council of Europe Heads of State and Government.

    On 2 and 3 December 2005 an important Conference on the Network of Local and Regional Authorities for the Implementation of the Landscape Convention took place in Naples. We are planning to officially launch the Network by a Constituent General Assembly to be held in Strasbourg on 30 May 2006.

    The Committee decided to mark the 20th anniversary of the accident of Chernobyl by holding a Conference entitled "Chernobyl, 20 years on: local and regional authorities dealing with disasters” in Slavutych, a new town built approximately fifty kilometres from Chernobyl to re-accommodate the employees of the nuclear power station and their families.

    The participants of the conference launched “the Slavutych appeal” containing five principles which encourage the utmost transparency in the field of nuclear safety and stress the role of both national governments and local and regional authorities in this matter.

    The conference was also an opportunity to launch the European Forum on local and regional disaster management, a network to enable territorial authorities to share their experiences in hazard management and prevention.

    The creation of Euroregions as new tools for fostering cohesion in Europe was one of the main items discussed by the Committee at its meeting in Constanta. The Committee also began discussing its work priorities and decided that the revision of the European Urban Charter will be one of the main subjects for the coming year, alongside the issues related to climate change and public services for sustainability.

    5. FOLLOW-UP TO THE 3rd SUMMIT

    A Congress delegation, headed by the President, took an active part in the 3rd Summit of Council of Europe Heads of State and Government, held in Warsaw on 16 and 17 May 2005. The Declaration and the Action Plan adopted by the Summit put a specific emphasis on the important role of local and regional democracy and of the Congress in reinforcing democratic processes and increasing citizens’ participation, defending human rights and advancing the rule of law in Europe. Speaking at the Summit, the Congress President said in particular: “At a time when globalisation and the shift of power towards far away institutions tend to widen the gap between citizens and public authorities, it is all the more important to strengthen good governance and democracy, citizen participation, at the local and regional level, the level closest to the citizens. It is only then that citizens will continue to develop a feeling of belonging, of identity that is necessary for democratic societies. It is also at the local and regional level that important achievements can be made for citizens, that good governance can be ensured and that citizens can rely on high quality public services meeting their basic needs.”

    The President also participated in the Youth Summit, which preceded the meeting of Heads of State and Government.

    Following the Summit, a Congress delegation participated in the Launching Meeting of the Council of Europe Forum on the Future of Democracy, established by the Summit. This meeting, which took place also in Warsaw on 3 and 4 November 2005, was dedicated to enhancing citizens’ participation in democratic processes on the continent. Addressing the meeting, the Congress President underlined the importance of reinforcing territorial democracy for the future of democratic development, and the role that the Congress can play in strengthening democracy at local and regional level. It should be noted that the keynote speaker, Mr Timothy Gordon Ash of Oxford University, also underscored the role of local government in fostering intercultural dialogue and easing inter-ethnic tensions in local communities, but also serving as a mediator between local communities and national governments.

    The Congress actively contributed to the preparation of the report on relations between the European Union and the Council of Europe, presented by Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker, in his personal capacity, to the Spring Session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. Prime Minister Juncker, who was entrusted with preparing his report by the 3rd Summit, called for a bigger role of the Congress in relations with the European Union, and the EU Committee of the Regions in particular, in matters concerning territorial democracy in Europe. Mr Juncker stated, in particular: “The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities gives the Council of Europe an instrument which it can use to promote decentralisation of powers, increased local autonomy and a better deal for regional and local communities. This is one of the promising paths towards the necessary revitalisation of democracy.”

    The report went on to say: “The European Union and the Council of Europe should together devise machinery to promote and strengthen democracy. They should make full use of the Venice Commission’s expertise. They should make the new Forum on the Future of Democracy a central body for reflection and the making of proposals on citizen participation. They should make gender equality a central part of both projects. They should use the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities to strengthen local and regional democracy, for the purpose of associating Europe’s 800 million people closely with the work of our organisations.”

    6. ACTIVITIES IN SOUTH-EAST EUROPE

    6.1 NALAS
     
    The most important event for NALAS from mid-2005 to mid-2006 was the holding of its First General Assembly in Skopje, “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, on 6 September 2005. This event represented the culmination of five years of hard work on the part of the associations, their representatives the “liaison officers” and the Congress Secretariat. It included the participation of a number of high-level speakers from the host country, as well as NALAS supporters, including President Giovanni di Stasi on behalf of the Congress and Mr Goran Svilanovic on behalf of the Stability Pact. Donors who had contributed greatly to NALAS’ strengthening over the years were present including the Swiss Agency for Co-operation and Development (SDC), the German Federal Foreign Office, the Open Society Institute (OSI/Soros Foundation) and the German Technical Co-operation Project (GTZ).

    During the Assembly the three main executive posts were voted on with the following results: President: Mr Tarzan Milosevic (Association of Municipalities of Montenegro); First Vice-President, Mr Stefan Celan (Association of Municipalities of Slovenia), Second Vice-President: Mr Emil Calota (Romanian Federation of Local Authorities).

    Following an Executive Bureau meeting in January, SDC agreed to fund NALAS’ three-year Action Plan, thus ensuring the Network’s progress towards its goal of becoming a major voice for local democracy in South-East Europe.

    6.2 Activities under the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe

    As it has done each year since 1999, the Congress organised a Forum of Cities and Regions of South-East Europe in Sinaia (Romania) on 8 an 9 December 2005, which mainly focused on the need to relaunch the economy and tourism in this region and to continue combating corruption at local level.  These activities are supported by the Stability Pact, as are those pursued by the NALAS network.

    The Congress is regularly involved in the Stability Pact's activities. The ad hoc working group "Local and regional elected representatives from South-East Europe", set up by the Bureau of the Congress, supervises activities in South-East Europe, including the Forums and the NALAS network. The group met twice since the 12th session, on 22-23 September in Florina (Greece) and on 29 March in Constanta (Romania). It has already submitted several reports to the Congress, including on challenges for local democracy in South-East Europe (Recommendation 145 (2004)) and follow-up action to the Forums held in Prijedor (22-23 September 2003) (Recommendation 146 (2004)) and in Budva (11-12 October 2004) (Recommendation 167 (2005)).

    6.3 Cyprus

    At its Autumn Institutional Session, the Chamber of Local Authorities adopted a recommendation on local democracy in Cyprus, including – for the first time – its northern part (Recommendation 178 (2005)), having debated a report by Ian Micaleff (Malta, EPP/CD) and Alan Lloyd (United Kingdom, SOC). The Congress continued its efforts to organise a meeting between local authorities of both parts of the island; in particular, during the autumn Session, a question was raised about including representatives of the northern part in the Cypriot delegation.

    The Congress President paid an official visit to Cyprus from 24 to 26 May 2006.

    7 ACTIVITIES IN SOUTH CAUCASUS

    7.1 Congress joint activity in Georgia 2003/2005 - Council of Europe / European

      Commission

    The National Association of Local Authorities of Georgia (NALAG) was established in December 2004 with the aim to defend the interests of all Georgian self-government units at national level and to help develop a culture of partnerships between the local and central authorities. It started being operational early 2005. It elaborated a National Training Strategy, established regional offices and started working under thematic commissions (training, legal affairs and lobbying, etc). The Congress supported and participated in the Executive Board meetings held in 2005, during which several statements on local democracy reforms were adopted. The NALAG started becoming a real stakeholder in the discussions on decentralisation, participating in discussions with the State Commission on Decentralisation on several draft laws. The NALAG managed to ensure its first year of activities through various sources of funding: Urban Institute, Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities, city of Nantes, etc.

    Regarding the situation of local and regional democracy in Georgia, the Congress welcomed the visit of Mr Giorgi Baramidze, State Minister of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Georgia, at the 12th Plenary Session, to discuss the follow-up to the Congress 2004 report.

    7.2 Congress joint activity for the creation of a National Association of Local Authorities of Azerbaijan

    The joint activity between the Congress and the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) was launched in Azerbaijan in 2005, spanning over a two year period, with a view to favour the creation of a National Association of Local Authorities.

    Following the Congress/KS’ proposal a Steering Group made up of members and observers was established. The members are elected representatives from different local self-governments in Azerbaijan, selected by the Council of Europe and KS in cooperation with the Azerbaijani Authorities in order to ensure geographical and political balance. The observers are representatives of the Azerbaijani Government, the President’s Administration, the Committee for Local Self-Government and Regional Policy of the Parliament of Azerbaijan, and some local and international NGOs active in the field of local self-government in Azerbaijan, including KS, and some international organisations.

    A series of 6/7 workshops/events will be organised till February 2007 in Baku and in other Azerbaijani cities in order to examine and discuss, with the support of Congress’ international experts and elected members, different issues of importance for the creation of a National Association, so to reach a consensus on the actions to be undertaken.
    A constituent National Forum of all Azeri local government units could then be held in Baku to officially establish the National Association of Local Self-Governments of Azerbaijan. It is hoped that the National Association could be officially active at the beginning of 2007.

    7.3 Meeting of local and regional elected representatives from the South Caucasus

    Further to the decision of the Bureau (19 September 2005), and in response to Resolution 199 (2005), the Congress convened a specific meeting for local and regional elected representatives from the countries of the South Caucasus (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia), with the participation of the President of the Congress and his Vice-Presidents. This meeting, held in Strasbourg on 15 December 2005, was seen as an opportunity to identify the region’s needs and preoccupations, to open a dialogue and to explore possible ways of future cooperation through the Congress’ activities. The participants adopted an action plan aimed at supporting a number of initiatives in this field.

    8 INTERREGIONAL COOPERATION

    8.1 Euroregions of a new type: Contribution to European Integration

    One of the Congress’ challenges is the reinforcement of the co-operation between the European Union countries and countries which are members of the Council of Europe only. In this respect, the Congress launched the “Adriatic Euroregion” initiative. We feel that this initiative will be of utmost importance for the Balkan area and could also be a good example for the creation of a Black Sea and a Baltic Sea Euroregion. The Congress held several conferences (the last one took place in Brussels on 23 November) for involving all the tiers of Government in the initiative and we consulted all levels of government on the draft Statutes of the Euroregion.. On 6 February 2006, at an official Conference held in Venice, the Adriatic regions of six countries signed the “Joint declaration for the launching of the Euroregion”. The declaration contained in its appendix the draft Statute of the Euroregion, to be implemented by the Adriatic Council. In addition, the Greek territorial authorities expressed their interest in transferring this Euroregion into the Adriatic-Ionic Euroregion, with the participation of Greece.

    One of the most promising aspects of the cooperation between the Congress and the EU Committee of the Regions can be joint action to foster the development of such Euro-regions of a new type, involving regions from both EU and non-EU countries. With the first such Euro-region – the Adriatic Euro-region – having been launched in February, the Black Sea Euro-region (involving also EU candidate countries, Bulgaria and Romania) and the Baltic Sea Euro-region will follow suit. Their creation will help to foster closer political and economic links between national, regional and local authorities of the states members of the European Union, candidates for EU membership and other European countries members of the Council of Europe. These Euro-regions, having a special status committing the authorities at national, regional and local levels – in particular concerning the redistribution of competences – can serve as a bridge between the member and non-member states of EU, enabling the Union to engage not only in economic but also in political cooperation with the countries concerned, in the spirit of the Neighbourhood Policy and the Stabilisation and Association Process in South-East Europe.

    Further to the launch of the Adriatic Euroregion, the Congress began preparations for the creation of a Black Sea Euroregion. On 30 March 2006, the Congress organised in Constanta (Romania), under the Romanian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, an important Conference on Interregional co-operation in the Black Sea basin, with a view of creating a “Black Sea Euroregion”. Here again we care about the problems of the citizens living in semi-closed seas areas and we wish to reinforce co-operation among the countries of South-East Europe. We do believe that the reinforcement of interregional cooperation has become a new path to follow for strengthening the Congress.

    In his report on relations between the EU and the Council of Europe, Mr Jean-Claude Juncker has specifically mentioned: “Several potential areas of co-operation can already be discerned: the development of new-style “Euroregions”, covering regions in both EU and non-EU countries, on the lines of the Adriatic Euroregion, which was launched in February 2006. The establishment of such “Euroregions” on the Black Sea and Baltic will make for closer political and economic ties between local, regional and national authorities in EU and candidate countries, and Council of Europe countries outside the EU.”

    8.2 Towards a Centre on interregional cooperation in St Petersburg

    Another opportunity for cooperation with the European Union is the current project of the Congress for establishing a Council of Europe Centre for interregional and transfrontier cooperation (COPIT), which Russia proposes to host, probably in St Petersburg. This proposal has been discussed with the Russian authorities over the past few months. The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers has established a Working Group on this subject, TRANSREG, under the chairmanship of the Permanent Representative of Norway. The objective of this Centre will be to encourage the development of local and regional self-government and give an opportunity to promote and strengthen cooperation between regions in Europe on the subject of competence of the Council of Europe and in the sphere of economy. The European Union could usefully contribute to the creation of this Centre and to cooperate with it in the future, fostering closer links between regions in EU and non-EU member states, and in particular with the subjects of the Russian Federation. The Centre could take the form a Council of Europe Enlarged Partial Agreement, open for membership also to the European Union. Much as in the case of Euro-regions, the Union could give its financial and political support for a better development of pan-European cooperation at the national, regional and local level.

    In his report on relations between the EU and the Council of Europe, Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said: “I fully support the siting of this Centre in Saint Petersburg, Europe’s flagship city. It should encourage the development of local and regional autonomy, particularly by monitoring the new “Euroregions”, and open up opportunities for co-operation between local and regional authorities in Europe. I also recommend that the EU, and the relevant Council of Europe institutions, consider how it could participate in this.”

    9 RELATIONS WITH THE EU COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

    The Congress is in close contact with numerous observers and other international organisations. It has special relations with the Committee of the Regions of the European Union through the activities of the Committee of the Regions/Congress Contact Group and the Cooperation Agreement, signed in 2005.

    After the adoption of the Agreement, which was presented during the 3rd Summit, the “Contact Group Committee of the Regions/Congress” met twice: on 13 July 2005 in Paris and on 2 December 2005 in Brussels. Several common activities were brought about for the respective reports on waste management, natural disasters, local and regional democracy in Turkey, and in Cyprus, on Western Balkans, on the fight against terrorism, on access to social rights for migrants and on prevention of urban crime.

    The Contact Group pursued joint activities through various commissions, including the Commission for External Relations (RELEX), the Commission for Territorial Cohesion (COTER) and the Commission for Constitutional Affairs and European Governance (CONST).

    In his report on relations between the European Union and the Council of Europe, Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker stressed the importance of increasing cooperation between the Congress and the EU Committee of the Regions. He said, in particular: “Co-operation might focus on: constitutional problems, citizen participation on all levels of the political process, gender equality, citizenship and identity, “sustainable communities”, local and regional government as a place for the exercise of democracy, participation in politics by immigrant communities, and inter-cultural dialogue.” Mr Juncker went on to say that “the Council and the EU have already started to work together in this field, particularly under the Co-operation Agreement between the Congress and the EU’s Committee of the Regions. This co-operation must be continued and intensified.”

    In the light of Mr Juncker’s report, the Congress President and Mr Delebarre, the new President of the EU Committee of the Regions, meeting in Innsbruck on 11 May on the occasion of the XXIII General Assembly of CEMR, discussed ways of furthering cooperation between the two bodies.

    10 COMMUNICATION: A NEW GRAPHIC IDENTITY FOR THE CONGRESS

    At the end of 2005, a Communication Unit was set up within the Congress Secretariat, as part of the Secretariat’s restructuring, with the objective of defining better the communication strategy for the Congress, raising its visibility and giving it a new visual identity. Since the Unit became operational, a new graphic line for the Congress has been developed, and new stationary items, visibility objects and protocol presents have been produced in accordance with this graphic line. The Unit has also launched a new Congress website and is currently working on improving the Congress Yearbook online as an important research and consultation tool, more user-friendly and with more practical functions. In addition, a new graphic line for Congress publications, leaflets, brochures and posters is being developed, alongside with a CD-ROM presenting the Congress and its work.

    11 OTHER ACTIVITIES

    11.1 Local Democracy Agencies

    In 2005 the Local Democracy Agency (LDA) Programme pursued the promotion of interethnic dialogue, trans-border co-operation, civil society and capacity strengthening at local level, as it has been done during the previous years. The LDA network, co-ordinated by the Association of LDAs is mainly active in four countries in South-East Europe, in Serbia and Montenegro (Subotica/Vojvodina, Nis/Southern and Central Serbia, Niksic/Montenegro, and Gjilane-Gnjilan/Kosovo), in Croatia (Osijek/Vukovar, Sisak, Brtonigla-Verteneglio/Istria), in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Zavidovici, Prijedor, Mostar) and in the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (Ohrid). This programme rests upon a network of inter-municipal and interregional partnerships throughout Europe.

    The activities of the LDAs have been supported by the Congress of the Council of Europe (in particular through the contribution of the Congress, and the Confidence Building Measures Programme), the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation, Irland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Italy, France, Norway, the European Commission, FEDRE, The King Baudouin Foundation, the Italian Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia and the Swiss Cantons of Basle-City and Geneva.

    During the year 2004 many projects have been launched (the opening of the 11th LDA in Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina), the start of the “EU Mayors” programme, etc.). The year 2005 has been marked by the executing and the deepening of the different on-going programmes: for example, the project to found a LDA in Georgia resulted in the concrete plan to open the Agency in June 2006

    Furthermore, the Association of LDAs has made an exploratory mission in October 2005 to evaluate the possibilities to open a LDA in Shkodra (Albania). The Association is currently looking for potential partnerships for this future Agency.

    11.2 ENTO

    The network now includes 51 organisations from 24 countries. The main purpose of ENTO is to develop the capacity of local and regional authorities to fulfil their duties by ensuring that their staff are well trained and qualified and can undertake their duties in a democratic, legal, professional, ethical and efficient manner.

    During the period, ENTO organised its first seminar on ‘’transcaucasian co-operation : training for local and regional elected representatives ’’ that took place in Alanya (Turkey) on 7-8 June 2005. This seminar aimed at highlighting the role of training in promoting transfrontier co-operation between local and regional authorities in Europe. It was supported by the Italian government. It focused on strengthening the capacity building of training centers as well as developing their training programme, assisting in the creation of a network of elected representatives, collecting best practices and promoting transborder cooperation in the Caucase.

    With a view to respond more effectively to the Council of Europe’s objective regarding the training of local and regional officials and elected representatives, ENTO co-operated with statutory committees on several events. In particular, ENTO cooperated with the committee on Culture and Education for the organisation of the International Conference on the implementation of the Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional life held on 24-25 June 2005 in Komsomolsk (Ukraine).

    In addition, ENTO contributed to the organisation of the 8th European Conference of Border Regions organised by the Congress and the Parliamentary Assembly on 15-17 September 2005 in Lutsk (Ukraine) and to the preparation of an International Seminar on “Networking for Sustainable Spacial Development of the European Continent” which was organised by the CEMAT on 26 September 2005 in Moscow (Russian Federation).

    The 18th E NTO Seminar and Annual General Meeting took place in Yerevan (Armenia) from 5 to 7 October 2005 on “Training and Trans-border cooperation in Europe”. The aim of the seminar was to provide a forum for in-depth debate and exchange of information, experiences, best practices on this theme in the Caucasus. The seminar format placed special emphasis on innovative working methods, such as the open space method, presentation of national examples and best practices.

    Several seminars were organised in Ukraine regarding the training of local representative or the national strategy regarding the training of elected representatives.

    The Bureau meeting took place on 15 March in Strasbourg and “distance-learning for elected representatives” was presented by Belgian experts at the Committee for Education and Culture. An “international seminar on distance learning” will take place in Mons (Belgium) from 15 to 17 June 2006 in cooperation with the Committee on Culture and Education.

    ENTO continued to modernise its Internet and Intranet sites as well as its interactive database LINK and improved its Newsletter which now appears three times a year.

    The next General Assembly meeting, bureau meeting and Annual Seminar are scheduled for October 2006 in Osijek (Croatia).

    11.3 Ad hoc Working Group "Regions with legislative powers"

    Under the Chairmanship of M. Van Cauwenberghe (Belgium, SOC), the ad-hoc Working Group "Regions with legislative powers" met in Munich (22 November 2005) and in Paris (20 March 2006). In Munich, the members of the Group could participate in the 6th Conference of the “Presidents of Regions with legislative powers” on 21-22 November 2005, as on previous occasions.

    This ad-hoc Working Group where a large number of observers participated discussed in the course of its two meetings its future co-operation with CALRE (Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies) whose last Conference took place in Florence on 28 November 2005, as well as the draft legal instrument on regional self-government, following the Budapest Conference, and the project of a Conference on the “role of the 2nd Chamber” organised jointly with the Venice Commission. The Group also proposed to re-launch the co-operation between the Research Institutes on regionalisation.

    11.4 Relations with Israel and the Territories under control of the Palestinian Authority

    Since the last plenary Session, the Congress continued its efforts to bring together mayors from Israel and the Palestinian Territories. As a matter of fact, the Congress was invited to host on 19 September 2005 the first meeting of the International Board of the Municipal Alliance for Peace in the Middle East (MAP), created in June 2005 in The Hague by the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities (APLA) and the Union of Local Authorities in Israel (ULAI) with the help of VNG, the Association of Dutch Municipalities.

    In November 2005, the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities was granted observer status with the Congress. The Union of Local Authorities in Israel has been enjoying such a status since 1962. This created an opportunity to establish a trilateral cooperation platform (Congress/ULAI/APLA), especially given the fact that ULAI and APLA have difficulties beyond their control meeting on the spot.

    Last but not least, the Congress is very much interested by the strengthening of local democracy in the Palestinian Territories and this is why the Congress sent a delegation to observe the second and fourth phases of Palestinian municipal elections on 5 May 2005 and 15 December 2005.

    The local elections in the Palestinian Territories on 15 December 2005 were seen by all as a trial-run for the Palestinian Legislative Council elections to be held in January 2006. However, judging by the official results of the fourth phase of the local elections, and comparing them with the subsequent results of the elections for the PLC, it appears that there is more political diversity at the local level. This will come as no surprise, as democracy lives and thrives at the level closest to the citizen.

    On 10 February, the Congress endorsed the statement by the Parliamentary Assembly that the elections in January to the Palestinian Legislative Council showed the level of democratic development of Palestinian society.

12 APPENDICES

    Appendix 1

    12.1 TEXTS ADOPTED BY THE CONGRESS IN 2005/2006

    Recommendations

    Recommendation 162 on the revision of the Charter of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe

    Recommendation 163 on local and regional democracy in Sweden

    Recommendation 164 on local and regional democracy in Denmark

    Recommendation 165 on the fight against trafficking in human beings and their sexual exploitation: the role of cities and regions

    Recommendation 166 on the regeneration of mining and industrial areas

    Recommendation 167 on the 5th Forum of Cities and Regions of South-East Europe (Budva, Serbia and Montenegro, 11-12 October 2004)
    Recommendation 168 on natural and industrial disasters : local authorities facing emergencies
    Recommendation 169 on major oil spills: the role of local authorities
    Recommendation 170 on intercultural and inter-faith dialogue: initiatives and responsibilities of local authorities
    Recommendation 171 on “Consultation of Local Authorities” Implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government Articles 4.6, 5, 9.6 and 10
    Recommendation 172 on local democracy in Luxembourg

    Recommendation 173 on regional media and transfrontier co-operation

    Recommendation 174 on youth education for sustainable development: the role of the regions

    Recommendation 175 on outermost regions: a challenge to the balanced and sustainable development of European territory
    Recommendation 176 on local and regional democracy in Turkey
    Recommendation 177 on cultural identity in peripheral urban areas: the role of local and
    regional authorities
    Recommendation 178 on local democracy in Cyprus

    Recommendation 179 on local democracy in Moldova

    Recommendation 180 on state of local finances in the Netherlands

    Recommendation 181 on the European Urban Charter

    Recommendation 182 on public participation in local affairs and elections
    Recommendation 183 on North South Centre: contribution of local and regional authorities to promote the efficiency of the work of the Centre
    Recommendation 184 on regional typical products and globalisation

    Opinion

    Opinion 25 on the results of the 14th Conference of European Ministers responsible for local and regional government

    Resolutions

    Resolution 194 on the verification of credentials of new members and new appointment procedures

    Resolution 195 on the “20th Anniversary of the European Charter of Local Self-Government”

    Resolution 196 on the fight against trafficking in human beings and their sexual exploitation: the role of cities and regions

    Resolution 197 on the regeneration of mining and industrial areas

    Resolution 198 on the 5th Forum of Cities and Regions of South-East Europe
    (Budva, Serbia and Montenegro, 11-12 October 2004)

    Resolution 199 on the NALAS Network (Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South East Europe)

    Resolution 200 on natural and industrial disasters: local authorities facing emergencies

    Resolution 201 on major oil spills: the role of local authorities
    Resolution 202 on intercultural and inter-faith dialogue: initiatives and responsibilities of local authorities
    Resolution 203 on regional media and transfrontier co-operation

    Resolution 204 on youth education for sustainable development: the role of the regions

    Resolution 205 on cultural identity in peripheral urban areas: the role of local and
    regional authorities

    Resolution 206 on North South Centre: contribution of local and regional authorities to promote the efficiency of the work of the Centre

    Resolution 207 on young people and new information and communication technologies: a new opportunity for local democracy

    Resolution 208 on regional typical products and globalisation

    Appendix 2

    12.2 List of Texts Adopted during the Autumn Session 2005 and Spring Session 2006

    AUTUMN SESSION (8 – 9 November 2005)

    Recommendations

    Recommendation 176 on local and regional democracy in Turkey

    Recommendation 177 on cultural identity in peripheral urban areas: the role of local and regional authorities
    Recommendation 178 on local democracy in Cyprus

    Recommendation 179 on local democracy in Moldova

    Recommendation 180 on state of local finances in the Netherlands

    Recommendation 181 on the European Urban Charter

    Recommendation 182 on public participation in local affairs and elections

    Resolution

    Resolution 205 on cultural identity in peripheral urban areas: the role of local
    and regional authorities

    SPRING SESSION (16 – 17 March 2006)

    Recommendations

    Recommendation 183 on North South Centre: contribution of local and regional authorities to promote the efficiency of the work of the Centre
    Recommendation 184 on regional typical products and globalisation

    Resolutions

    Resolution 206 on North South Centre: contribution of local and regional authorities to promote the efficiency of the work of the Centre

    Resolution 207 on young people and new information and communication technologies: a new opportunity for local democracy

    Resolution 208 on regional typical products and globalisation

Appendix 3

    12.3 Joint Declaration on the Adriatic Euroregion
    Venice, 6 February 2006

    The representatives of the bodies and institutions who have taken part in the Conference for the launching of the Adriatic Euroregion held in Venice on 6 February 2006 and who are to compose the Assembly of the Euroregion:

    Considering that the regions, provinces and towns on the Adriatic Sea share extensive human, natural and cultural resources that can be turned to account through actions of cross-border and inter-regional co-operation;

    Considering that the European Union’s enlargement to 25 Member States which occurred on 1 May 2004, and its pre-accession and neighbourhood policies, bear out the special importance attached to the integration and stabilisation of the territories of Central and South-East Europe;

    Acknowledging that the enhancement of transfrontier and inter-regional co-operation in the Adriatic area can make a significant contribution to the advancement of peace, stability and cohesion for the territories concerned;

    Acknowledging that the Euroregion can form a useful instrument for strengthening good-neighbourly relations, for exchange of experience and contacts among local, national and international authorities, and for the conception and implementation of inter-territorial co-operation projects;

    Bearing in mind the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities of the Council of Europe (1980) and the Protocols thereto (1995, 1998);

    Bearing in mind the European Charter of Local Self-Government of the Council of Europe (1985);

    Having regard to the Final Declaration of the Meeting on Inter-regional Co-operation in the Adriatic Basin held in Pula (Croatia) on 28 June 2004;

    Having regard to the Final Declaration of the Fifth Forum of Cities and Regions of South-East Europe held in Budva (Serbia and Montenegro) on 11 and 12 October 2004;

    Having regard to the Protocol on the establishment of the Adriatic-Ionian Euroregion, signed in Termoli (Italy) on 9 November 2004;

    Bearing in mind the Resolution on the role of "Euroregions" in the development of regional policy adopted by the European Parliament on 1 December 2005;

    Bearing in mind Resolution 1446 (2005) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Co-operation and sustainable development in the Adriatic Basin;

    Taking note of the draft Statute of the Adriatic Euroregion appended to the present Declaration,

    hereby resolve to found the Adriatic Euroregion by signing the

    JOINT DECLARATION

    and undertake for that purpose:

      I. To lay down, in the manner prescribed by the applicable regulations, the procedures for joining the association designated as the Adriatic Euroregion;

      II. To meet in the assembly that will be convened in the month of _____ 2006 by the President of the Istrian Region, in order to adopt the Statute and to elect, in compliance with its provisions, the organs of the Adriatic Euroregion;

      III. To participate in the future activities of the Adriatic Euroregion, under such arrangements as may be specified by its Assembly and other organs, taking into consideration the necessary administrative and organisational responsibilities in this regard.

    Done in Venice on 6 February 2006

    Appendix 4

    12.4 EXCERPTS FROM JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER’S REPORT

    …The complementarity we want must be based on continuous strengthening of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in a Europe of 800 million people. It will involve revitalising democratic practices, and giving the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, parliamentary bodies and Congress a bigger role. Increased civil society involvement will be another aspect.

    …The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities gives the Council of Europe an instrument which it can use to promote decentralisation of powers, increased local autonomy and a better deal for regional and local communities. This is one of the promising paths towards the necessary revitalisation of democracy.

    The Council and the EU have already started to work together in this field, particularly under the Co-operation Agreement between the Congress and the EU’s Committee of the Regions. This co-operation must be continued and intensified.

    Several potential areas of co-operation can already be discerned:

      1. The development of new-style “Euroregions”, covering regions in both EU and non-EU countries, on the lines of the Adriatic Euroregion, which was launched in February 2006. The establishment of such “Euroregions” on the Black Sea and Baltic will make for closer political and economic ties between local, regional and national authorities in EU and candidate countries, and Council of Europe countries outside the EU.

      2. The establishment of the Centre for Inter-Regional and Cross-Border Co-operation. I fully support the siting of this Centre in Saint Petersburg, Europe’s flagship city. It should encourage the development of local and regional autonomy, particularly by monitoring the new “Euroregions”, and open up opportunities for co-operation between local and regional authorities in Europe. I also recommend that the EU, and the relevant Council of Europe institutions, consider how it could participate in this.

      3. New networks of local authority associations. Following the establishment of the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe (NALAS), joint EU/Council of Europe programmes might support similar networks in the South Caucasus and Western Balkans.

      4. The Association of Local Democracy Agencies (ALDA) in South-Eastern Europe, founded by the Congress to promote local democracy and confidence-building measures in countries affected by the recent Balkan wars, should also be supported by the EU, particularly since they may eventually join it. This initiative could be extended to other European regions.

      5. European society is regularly hit by urban, social and community crises. The Congress might serve as one platform to promote the inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue which is vitally needed at local level. It might, for example, draw up codes of conduct for managing inter-cultural conflicts, and also take action to promote integration and participation of immigrants and foreign residents.

      - At the same time, it should be agreed that ad hoc meetings will be held, as necessary, by the various Council of Europe bodies and agencies (Secretary General, Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly, Congress, Commissioner for Human Rights) and the Commissioner(s) and Council representatives directly concerned by the matter at issue.

    …The European Union and the Council of Europe should together devise machinery to promote and strengthen democracy. They should make full use of the Venice Commission’s expertise. They should make the new Forum on the Future of Democracy a central body for reflection and the making of proposals on citizen participation. They should make gender equality a central part of both projects. They should use the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities to strengthen local and regional democracy, for the purpose of associating Europe’s 800 million people closely with the work of our organisations.

    …Co-operation might focus on: constitutional problems, citizen participation on all levels of the political process, gender equality, citizenship and identity, “sustainable communities”, local and regional government as a place for the exercise of democracy, participation in politics by immigrant communities, and inter-cultural dialogue. The field for discussion is a vast one, and nearly all of it is central to the Council’s work.

    …What can an intergovernmental organisation like the Council of Europe do to help promote citizen participation, which is falling away at national, regional and local level? How can we rekindle people’s interest in that formidable integration project, the EU?

    …These basic values can be differently invoked at national, regional or local level, and inter-cultural dialogue modulated accordingly. But they cannot be relativised without jeopardising the efforts made in the last sixty years to turn Europe - until recently a highly violent continent - into an area which, though still imperfect, is gradually coming under the sway of shared values, promising peace and stability.

    …The important thing for the Council of Europe is, first of all, to focus, with the EU, and via its governmental, parliamentary, local and civil society relays, on a pan-European inter-cultural dialogue which leads to sharing of our fundamental values by all members of European societies, regardless of their origin, and cultural, ethnic and religious affiliations. Europe must be able to absorb its differences through its own efforts, relying on the authority of its values and arguments, and, above all, the conviction reflected in its actions.

    …Great importance must continue to attach to the two organisations’ joint programmes in the Council of Europe’s areas of excellence: democratic institutions (including those at local and regional level), human rights promotion, and independence of the judiciary.

    …The joint programmes agreed concluded with EIDHR1, TACIS and CARDS2 covered, among other things: […]

      - the development of new local and regional democratic institutions; […]

    …There are few fields where national and regional authorities exercise their sovereignty more rigorously than they do in education. However, national or regional confinement is incompatible with the basic aims of all education, i.e. to transmit, disseminate and create knowledge. For knowledge to be transmitted, disseminated and created, teachers and students must also circulate, and their experience and skills must be recognised and developed.

Appendix 5

    12.5 List of Conferences and Meetings organised by the Congress since the 12th Plenary Session (31 May – 2 June 2005)

    2005

    June

    7-8 June, Alanya, Turkey
    ENTO Training Seminar on “Trans-Caucasian co-operation: training for local and
    regionally elected representatives”

    15 - 17 June, Zagreb, Croatia
    Bureau Meeting, Governing Board and General Assembly of the Association of Local
    Democratic Agencies

    20-21 June, Trencin, Slovak Republic
    Colloquy on “Regional Democracy in the Slovak Republic and the process of strengthening of regional authorities”

    22 June, Pristina, Kosovo (Serbia and Montenegro)
    Meeting on “The role of EU local and regional authorities in the democratic consolidation of the regions of the Western Balkans”

    24-25 June, Komsomolsk, Ukraine
    Conference on the Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life

    27 June, Strasbourg
    Meeting of the Association of Historic Towns and Regions

    30 June – 1 July, Sofia, Bulgaria
    Colloquy on Innovative Approaches for Enhancing Regional Development and the Self-Government of the Regions in Europe

    July

    8 July, Lisbon, Portugal
    Conference on the 20th Anniversary of the European Charter on Local Self-Government

    11 July, Paris
    Meeting of the Group of Experts on the European Observatory for Urban Crime Prevention

    13 July, Paris
    Meeting of the Contact Group “Committee of the Regions/Congress”

    September

    15-16 September, Loutsk, Ukraine
    8th European Conference of Border Regions, in the Bug Euroregion

    22-23 September, Florina, Greece
    10th Meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group of Local and Regional Representatives of South-East Europe and Audition on the development of Eco Tourism and cultural itineraries in South-Eastern Europe

    October

    11-13 October, Geneva, Switzerland
    Conference on Enterprises and Sustainable Development

    12 October, St Gallen, Switzerland
    Group of independent experts on the European Charter of Local Self-Government

    14 October, Mulhouse, France
    Hearing on the role of local authorities in combating trafficking in human beings

    17-21 October, Strasbourg
    Conference on “Local Action for a global challenge / European Preparation for the World Water Forum”

    October, Yerevan, Armenia
    18th Annual Seminar and General Assembly of ENTO

    November

    8-9 November, Sinaia, Romania
    6th Forum of Cities and Regions of South-East Europe

    December

    2 December, Brussels
    Meeting of the Contact Group “Committee of the Regions/Congress”

    2006

    January

    30 January – 1 February, Strasbourg
    Conference on integrated policies for children and youth in disadvantaged urban areas (the “Berlin Process”)

    February

    23-24 February, Strasbourg
    Conference of Presidents and Secretaries General of National Associations of Local and Regional Authorities

    March

    14 March, Strasbourg
    ENTO Bureau meeting

    15 March, Strasbourg
    Hearings on the theme of correspondence training for local elected representatives (in cooperation with ENTO)

    20 March, Paris
    Working Group “Regions with Legislative Power”

    24 March, St Gallen, Switzerland
    Group of Independent Experts on the European Charter of Local Self-Government

    29 March, Constanta, Romania
    Ad hoc working group of local and regional elected representatives of South-East Europe

    30 March, Constanta, Romania
    Conference on “Interregional Cooperation in the Black Sea Basin”

    April

    6-7 April, Ganja, Azerbaijan
    3rd Steering Group meeting for the project to create a national association of Local Authorities in Azerbaijan

    10 April, Paris
    Group of rapporteurs and consultants on local police in Europe

    12 May, Helsingborg, Sweden
    Seminar on regionalisation and regional self-government in Sweden

Appendix 6

    12.6 Timetable of Sessions, meetings of the statutory committees and ad-hoc working groups since the 12th Plenary Session

    2005

    Autumn Institutional Session
    8 November

    Bureaux of the Congress
    12 July, 19 September, 7 November, 16 December

    Standing Committee
    9 November

    Institutional Committee
    7 October, 7 November

    Committee on Culture and Education
    29-30 September

    Committee on Sustainable Development
    25-27 September

    Committee on Social Cohesion
    13 October

    Ad-hoc Working Group of Local and Regional Representatives of South-East Europe
    30 May, 22-23 September

    Contact Group Committee of the Regions/Congress
    13 July, 2 December

    Working Group of Regions with Legislative Power
    22 November

    ENTO Bureau
    5-7 October 2005

    2006

    Spring Session (Culture and Education)
    16 March

    Bureaux of the Congress
    10 February, 15 March, 24 April

    Standing Committee
    17 March

Institutional Committee

    21 April

    Committee on Culture and Education
    15 March

    Committee on Sustainable Development
    31 March

    Committee on Social Cohesion
    9 March

    Ad-hoc Working Group of Local and Regional Representatives of South-East Europe
    29 March

    Working Group of Regions with Legislative Power
    20 March

    ENTO Bureau
    14 March

Appendix 7

    12.7 Missions of the President of the Congress since the 12th Plenary Session

    2005

    14-16 June, St Petersburg (Russia)
    International Economic Forum

    22 June, Pristina (Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro)
    Conference on the South-East Europe Stability Pact

    26-27 June, Ukraine
    Official visit

    29-30 June, Dubrovnik (Croatia)
    Meeting on Interregional Cooperation in the Adriatic Basin

    8 July, Lisbon (Portugal)
    Conference on the 20th anniversary of the European Charter of Local Self-Government

    12 July, Grado (Italy)
    Meeting on the Adriatic Euroregion

    16-17 August, Salzburg (Austria)
    General Assembly of ARE and Conference on Financing of Regional Infrastructure Projects

    6 September, Skopje (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)
    NALAS General Assembly and Liaison Officers Committee

    8-9 September, Strasbourg
    50th Anniversary of the European Cultural Convention

    13-15 September, Bar (Serbia and Montenegro)
    Forum of the Adriatic and Ionic Cities and Towns

    19 September, Strasbourg
    Bureau of the Congress

    26-27 September, Kemerovo (Russian Federation)
    Meeting of the Committee on Sustainable Development

    4-5 October, Armenia
    Official visit and ENTO Annual Seminar

    14-15 October, Vienna
    Conference of CCRE on local and regional communities in South-East Europe

    3-4 November, Warsaw (Poland)
    Launching meeting of the Forum on the Future of Democracy

    7 November, Strasbourg
    Bureau of the Congress

    8-9 November, Strasbourg
    Autumn Institutional Session

    16-17 November, Strasbourg
    Committee of Ministers’ Session

    23 November, Brussels
    Meeting on the Adriatic Euroregion

    24-25 November, Strasbourg
    20th Anniversary of the Assembly of European Regions (AER)

    28 November, Florence (Italy)
    Conference of CALRE

    2-3 December, Naples (Italy)
    Conference on Landscape Convention (RECEP)

    8-9 December, Sinaia (Romania)
    Forum of Cities and Regions of South-East Europe

    16 December, Strasbourg
    Bureau of the Congress

    2006

    16-17 January, Albania
    Official visit

    13 February, Azerbaijan
    Official visit

    14 February, Georgia
    Official visit

    14 March, Strasbourg
    Meeting of the Committee of Ministers

    15 March, Strasbourg
    Bureau of the Congress

    16-17 March, Strasbourg
    Spring Session

    20 March, Paris
    Preparatory Meeting for the 3rd Conference of the Euro-Arab Towns

    29 March, Constanta (Romania)
    Working Group for South-East Europe

    30 March, Constanta (Romania)
    Conference on sustainable development and interregional cooperation in the Black Sea basin

    31 March, Constanta (Romania)
    Meeting of the Committee on Sustainable Development

    3 April, Strasbourg
    Taking-up of office by the new Commissioner for Human Rights
    8-9 April, Athens
    Conference on “European Local and Regional Governance – Best Practices and Innovative
    Policies”

    19 April, Rome
    Meeting on amendments to statutes of the Adriatic Euroregion

    24 April
    Meeting of the Bureau

    27-28 April, St Petersburg
    Conference on European parliamentarism, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the
    Russian State Duma

    4 May, Rome
    Conference of UMANITARIA

    10-12 May, Innsbruck (Austria)
    CEMR General Assembly on “The Future of Public Service in Europe”

    15 May, Rovereto (Italy)
    International Seminar “Cities for Peace”

    17 May, Strasbourg
    Signing of the Strasbourg Declaration by Mayors of the Club de Strasbourg

    18-19 May, Strasbourg
    Session of the Committee of Ministers

    24-25 May, Cyprus
    Official visit

    29 May, Strasbourg
    Bureau of the Congress

    30 May – 1 June, Strasbourg
    13th Plenary Session of the Congress

Appendix 8

    12.8 Observation of local and/or regional elections since the 12th Plenary Session

    ARMENIA

    25 September 2005 Local elections CG/CP (12) 13

    16 October 2005 2nd round of local elections CG /CP (12) 13

    27 November 2005 Constitutional referendum CG/BUR (12) 97

    MOLDOVA

    10 July 2005 Partial local elections CG/BUR (R) 34

    24 July 2005 Repeat partial local elections CG (BUR) (R) 34

    27 November 2005 Repeat partial local elections CG/BUR (12) 98

    11 December 2005 Repeat partial local elections CG/BUR (12) 99

    CHECHEN REPUBLIC, RUSSIAN FEDERATION

    27 November 2005 Fact-finding mission during parliamentary elections CG/BUR (12) 99

    SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO

    21 May 2005 Referendum in Montenegro CG (13) 15

    PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

    15 December 2005 4th phase of local elections CG/BUR (12) 100

Appendix 9

    12.9 List of press releases of the Congress since the 12th Plenary Session

    Press releases since the Congress 12th Session

    11/04/06 Juncker's report opens a new chapter in relations between EU and the Council

        of Europe, says Congress President Di Stasi

    31/03/06 Toward a Black Sea Euroregion

    27/03/06 Free local and regional elections in Ukraine, though overshadowed by parliamentary voting

    22/03/06 Council of Europe Congress to observe local and regional elections in Ukraine

    15/03/06 Black Sea Region to take centre stage at an international conference in Romania

    09/03/06 New information technologies and cultural diversity on the agenda of the spring session of the Congress

    03/03/06 “Slavutych Appeal”: five basic principles which will act as a guide to the public authorities in nuclear safety matters

    01/03/06 Giovanni Di Stasi: ''We strongly believe that Turkey should join all the European institutions''

    27/02/06 Chernobyl, 20 years after: local and regional authorities facing catastrophes

    21/02/06 Congress to hold the first meeting of European National Associations of Local and Regional Authorities

    09/02/06 Congress President to visit Georgia

    09/02/06 Congress President to visit Azerbaijan

    03/02/06 Venice launch of the Adriatic Euroregion under the auspices of the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities

    26/01/06 Council of Europe Conference on disadvantaged neighbourhoods: what opportunities for children and young people?

    17/01/06 Congress President calls on Albanian authorities to fully comply with provisions of the European Local Self-Government Charter

    13/01/06 Congress President to visit Albania

    16/12/05 Congress seriously concerned about deadlock between Tirana and Albanian central government

    16/12/05 Palestinian local elections: marked improvement over previous rounds but major challenges remain, say Congress observers

    14/12/05 President calls on Israeli authorities to contribute to creating appropriate conditions for Palestinian local elections

    09/12/05 Council of Europe Congress to observe local elections in Palestinian

        Territories

    06/12/05 Congress to observe local elections in Chisinau

    05/12/05 Citizen's democratic participation in the agenda of the 6th Forum of Cities and Regions of South-East Europe

    28/11/05 Constitutional Referendum in Armenia: general compliance marred by incidents of serious abuse

    28/11/05 Chisinau local elections: a clean and orderly poll after an uninspired electoral campaign

    24/11/05 Council of Europe delegation to be present in the Chechen Republic on the occasion of elections

    24/11/05 Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly and Congress of Local and Regional Authorities to observe constitutional referendum in Armenia

    22/11/05 Congress to observe local elections in Chisinau

    09/11/05 Congress calls for continued modernisation of local and provincial government in Turkey

    09/11/05 Congress calls for tangible action from the Cypriot government on its recommendations and continuing reform of local public administration in Moldova

    08/11/05 Giovanni Di Stasi calls for increased cooperation with local authorities to stem urban violence

    03/11/05 Local and regional democracy in Turkey and local democracy in Cyprus among the main items on the Congress's autumn agenda

    28/10/05 Meeting of new Council of Europe forum in Warsaw to focus on citizens' participation

    13/10/05 Congress to observe local elections in Armenia

    05/10/05 President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities visits Armenia

    23/09/05 Congress to observe local elections in Armenia

    12/09/05 Death of Alois Lugger, former President of the European Conference of Local Authorities

    11/07/05 Local elections in Moldova's capital calm, but not without shortcomings, say OSCE and Council of Europe missions

    07/07/05 President of the Congress condemns London bomb attacks

    04/07/05 Conference in Lisbon on the 20th anniversary of the Council of Europe Charter of Local Self-Government

    29/06/05 Congress President Giovanni Di Stasi stresses importance of cross-border regional cooperation

    02/06/05 Council of Europe Congress ready to help with new European vision, says President Di Stasi

    1 European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights

    2 Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Democratisation and Stabilisation 



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