15 March 2010
SUMMARIES OF THE REPORTS
presented to the 18th Session of the Congress
Table of contents
I. REPORTS SUBMITTED TO THE PLENARY SITTINGS OF THE CONGRESS 2
Verification of new members’ credentials and new appointment procedures 2
The role of local and regional authorities in the implementation of human rights 2
Launch of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) and 2
the role of the Congress 2
After Copenhagen, cities and regions take up the challenge 3
Follow-up by the Congress of the Conference of Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government (Utrecht, Netherlands, 16-17 November 2009) 3
Achieving sustainable gender equality in local and regional political life 4
II. REPORTS SUBMITTED TO THE CHAMBER OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES 5
Municipal Elections in Azerbaijan (23 December 2009) 5
Local democracy in Iceland 5
Local democracy in Portugal 5
III. REPORTS SUBMITTED TO THE CHAMBER OF REGIONS 7
Regional democracy in Switzerland 7
Minority languages – an asset for regional development 7
Intra-regional transport: a challenge for sustainable development and regional cohesion 7
I. REPORTS SUBMITTED TO THE PLENARY SITTINGS OF THE CONGRESS
Verification of new members’ credentials and new appointment procedures
Rapporteurs: Anders KNAPE (Sweden, L, EPP/CD)
Günther KRUG (Germany, R, SOC)
As they do every year, the Rapporteurs will review the credentials of the new members and any new procedures for the appointment of national delegations in the light of the current criteria of the Congress Charter and Rules of Procedure.
The role of local and regional authorities in the implementation of human rights
Rapporteur: Lars O. MOLIN, Sweden (L, EPP/CD)
This report is part of the Congress' ongoing activity in the human rights field. Inter alia, it takes stock of the place of human rights in local and regional authorities, of those authorities' responsibilities in this respect, and also of the cost that the implementation of human rights may entail for a city or a region.
The report notes some good practices found in member states’ local and regional authorities and makes some recommendations to member states and their authorities as well as to the Congress with a view to the effective practical implementation of human rights, which is a precondition for any democracy.
Launch of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) and
the role of the Congress
Rapporteurs: Ian MICALLEF, Malta (L, EPP/CD)
Ludmila SFIRLOAGA Romania (R, SOC)
The Mediterranean region is a major strategic area for Europe but continues to be an area of conflict, tension and political instability.
Political dialogue and co-operation between Europe and the countries of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean are therefore essential to promote political stability and give new impetus to the social and economic development of the Mediterranean Basin.
In this context, the local and regional authorities have an important role to play as good governance requires the full participation of the local stakeholders, local and regional authorities and civil society.
The Congress already has special relations with the countries on the Southern and Eastern shores of the Mediterranean Basin – in particular with local authorities associations – and seeks to promote local and regional democracy, the key factor in genuine interterritorial co-operation.
The Congress therefore welcomes the initiative taken by the EU Committee of the Regions in the context of the Union for the Mediterranean in setting up the ARLEM, a political assembly in which the local and regional authorities of Europe and those from the Southern and Eastern shores of the Mediterranean are represented.
The Congress welcomes its status as observer in this assembly and looks forward to contributing to the stabilisation and development of the Mediterranean Basin. It also firmly believes that the joint commitment of the Congress and the Committee of the Regions to this theme will provide a further opportunity to foster the already fruitful co-operation between the two Organisations, as advocated in the agreement drawn up between them.
After Copenhagen, cities and regions take up the challenge
Rapporteur: Dubravka SUICA, Croatia (L, EPP/CD)
The Copenhagen Agreement disappointed many observers, even though it recognised the reality of global warming and the need to limit it. The difficulty that States experienced in negotiating an agreement makes the work of local and regional authorities even more essential.
Cities and regions are at the heart of the fight against global warming and are taking a lead in adaptation strategies. They are mobilised and determined to pursue their climate action.
The Congress believes that States must recognise the fundamental role of local authorities and regions and fully integrate them into the diplomatic climate process , as essential partners in the initiatives that need to be taken. In this context, it is important that they reinforce their capacity to take action closest to citizens.
A new agreement is called for, that takes account of the ecological, economic, ethical, social justice and human rights dimensions, to achieve more sustainable climate change solutions.
Follow-up by the Congress of the Conference of Ministers
responsible for Local and Regional Government
(Utrecht, Netherlands, 16-17 November 2009)
Rapporteurs: Knud ANDERSEN, Denmark (R, ILDG)
Jean-Claude FRECON, France (L, SOC)
The general theme of the ministerial conference was "Good local and regional governance in turbulent times: the challenges of change".
There were three main items on the conference agenda of particular interest to the Congress: transfrontier co-operation and the role of central government in removing obstacles to such co-operation, the report prepared by the Finnish minister, Mrs Mari Kiviniemi, on how to enhance the work of the Council of Europe in the field of local and regional democracy and the Council of Europe Reference Framework for Regional Democracy.
The Congress presented its views on the Kiviniemi report and the reference framework. The ministers "took note" of the Reference Framework for Regional Democracy prepared jointly by the Congress and the CDLR as "a useful and practical reference for those considering institutional reforms and governance at the regional level, as well as for the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress in their work".
The Congress, like the Parliamentary Assembly, has expressed the hope that the Reference Framework for Regional Democracy will be a further step towards a legally binding instrument on regional democracy.
To ensure that the debates in Utrecht lead to further action, the Congress wishes to submit a draft recommendation and a draft resolution on the Kiviniemi report and the Reference Framework for Regional Democracy.
Achieving sustainable gender equality in local and regional political life
Rapporteur : Britt-Marie LÖVGREN, Sweden (L, ILDG)
Sustainable gender equality in politics is far from becoming a reality.
This report analyses the barriers to equal representation of women and men in the local and regional political sphere. It presents mechanisms which have proven successful in enabling local and regional authorities to respond to this fundamental requirement of democracy. Practical support and guidance coupled with political determination is what will make a difference.
Moreover, it emphasizes that it would be pointless to encourage women to stand for elected office without addressing the fundamental inequalities which prevail in our societies and without changing the underlying culture which persists in many local and regional governments.
II. REPORTS SUBMITTED TO THE CHAMBER OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Municipal Elections in Azerbaijan (23 December 2009)
Rapporteur: Francis LEC, France (L, SOC)1
Following the official invitation from the Azerbaijani authorities to observe the municipal elections of Wednesday 23 December 2009, the Congress appointed an observer delegation, headed by Gaye Doganoglu, Member of the Municipal Council of Muratpasa/Antalya, Turkey. Francis Lec, Vice-President of the General Council of La Somme, France, was appointed Congress Rapporteur of this observation mission. The delegation was composed of eleven members of the Congress, assisted by the Congress Secretariat.
The delegation concluded that the elections were, in general, technically well prepared and took place in a calm atmosphere. However, the delegation pointed to three major matters of concern:
- the lack of a truly pluralistic party landscape, the scarcity of real opposition candidates and, as a consequence, the absence of a competitive election campaign (in the streets and on TV);
- the doubtfulness of the registration process and the vote counting due to incidents in some of the polling-stations;
- the underdevelopment of territorial democracy in Azerbaijan.
Local democracy in Iceland
Rapporteur: Esther MAURER, Switzerland (SOC)
The report considers the situation of local democracy in Iceland and the effects of the financial crisis on local authorities. It is the first monitoring report since Iceland ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1991. The overall assessment of the situation shows that the state of local democracy in Iceland is in compliance with the Charter. The national and local authorities in Iceland have made major efforts to deal with a crisis which has had a significant impact on local authorities, without undermining local self-government. These efforts fit in with a willingness to move ahead with the reforms under way, in particular the process of merging municipalities. The recommendation urges the Icelandic authorities to raise the minimum threshold below which the merger of local authorities is compulsory so as to further reduce the number of municipalities, while also granting the city of Reykjavik a special status and setting up a support fund for local authorities particularly hard hit by the crisis. In addition, the Icelandic authorities are urged to introduce appropriate legislation to give local authorities a right of appeal against decisions taken at national level which might infringe principles of local self-government.
Local democracy in Portugal
Rapporteur: Davor ZMEGAC, Croatia (L, ILDG)
This report follows a fact-finding visit made in 2008 on the basis of a complaint which the Congress received from the National Association of Municipalities of Portugal (ANMP), relating to the new Law on Local Finance (Law No. 2/2007). The aim of the report is therefore to determine whether this law is in conformity with the European Charter of Local Self-Government. In this respect, it concludes that the situation in respect of local finances in Portugal has generally improved since the previous monitoring report. This report also contains some information about parishes (freguesias) and some considerations about the legitimacy of the presence of parish representatives as members of the Portuguese delegation to the Congress.
III. REPORTS SUBMITTED TO THE CHAMBER OF REGIONS
Regional democracy in Switzerland
Rapporteur: Marjan HAAK-GRIFFIOEN, The Netherlands (NR)
This report concerns regional (cantonal) self-government in Switzerland, its structure and functioning, the major reforms of recent years, as well as their conformity with European standards and in particular with the new Reference Framework for Regional Democracy.
It reaches the conclusion that, in Switzerland, the fundamental principles of regional self-government relating, inter alia, to cantons' full powers and responsibilities, participation in the shaping of federal policy and representation at federal level are fully in line with the principles laid down by the Reference Framework for Regional Democracy.
However, the recommendation draws the Swiss authorities' attention to a few matters which could be the subject of possible reform, such as the institutionalisation of urban area (“agglomération”) structures, stabilisation of the financial equalisation system and intercantonal conventions and their application.
Minority languages – an asset for regional development
Rapporteurs : Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ, Belgium (R, SOC)
Farid MUKHAMETSHIN, Russian Federation (R, ILDG)
The regional and minority languages of Europe constitute a valuable and underused resource for the development of Europe's regions.
Language minorities play an important role in economic exchanges, particularly in the cultural industries, and are often key actors in developing transborder cooperation. Regions which promote the minority languages present in their territories are reaping benefits in terms of economic growth.
By encouraging their use in education and the public sector and making greater use of the European Charter of Regional or Minority Languages, local and regional authorities can give their regions a strong competitive edge.
Intra-regional transport: a challenge for sustainable development and regional cohesion
Rapporteur: dam BANASZAK, Poland (NR)
An efficient transport infrastructure network is essential for the smooth development of the society and economy of a region; it enables the free circulation of goods, services and people, and ensures the mobility necessary for work, education and leisure. Transport is an essential link for social inclusion, and a condition for quality of life and work.
One of the key challenges for intra-regional passenger transport is the necessary reduction of its dependence on fossil fuels. Other challenges are related to CO2 emissions and their negative impact on the environment and human health. Demographic evolution – especially in rural areas – is another reason to rethink transport strategies.
This report examines diverse strategies to give a new direction to intra-regional transport policies which would assure social and economic wealth without increasing the volume of traffic but through improved efficiency. These strategies combine actions on infrastructure and services as well as on awareness-raising and improving the image of sustainable modes of travel.