Local elections in Bulgaria (23 October 2011)
Presentation by the Rapporteur: Mihkel JUHKAMI, Estonia, (L, EPP/CD
The Congress appointed a delegation to observe the first round of the municipal elections in the Republic of Bulgaria (Bulgaria) on 23 October 2011.
Whilst it concluded that these elections largely met European standards and were conducted in an overall calm and professional manner, it nevertheless identified legal, administrative and regulatory issues that could benefit from further improvement. These include the administration of elections, the voting process and practical arrangements, the vote count and related processes and the complaints and appeals procedures.
In addition the delegation acknowledged the measures taken by the Bulgarian authorities to address the scourge of vote-buying and –selling, through its incorporation into the Criminal Code but noted that this issue remained a major obstacle to public confidence in free and fair elections.
The Congress insisted on the need to reinforce public confidence in the electoral processes by developing notably training programmes for members of the electoral commissions (on electoral procedures but also ethical behaviour) as well as public awareness campaigns for voters prior to elections, in particular among vulnerable groups.
The Congress stands ready to support the Bulgarian authorities in developing programmes and strategies in this matter and to help strengthen a cohesive and inclusive society.
Local and regional democracy in the Czech Republic
Presentation by the Rapporteurs:
Emil CALOTA, Romania (L, SOC) and Philippe RECEVEUR, Switzerland (R, EPP/CD)
The present report on local and regional democracy in the Czech Republic follows upon Recommendation 77 (2000) adopted in May 2000. It expresses satisfaction that the Czech Republic has made considerable progress since the country ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1999 and that the legislative framework is in line with the Charter. It takes note, however, that the fragmentation of municipalities still poses a challenge to effective and efficient local self-government and that the overall system of controls carried out by the State administration would benefit from being coordinated and simplified.
The report recommends that Czech Government develop the mechanisms of consultation with local and regional authorities. It encourages the government to uphold the principle of concomitant financing and to ensure that sufficient funds are allocated whenever tasks are delegated to local authorities. It invites the authorities to ratify those provisions of Articles 4 and 9 of the Charter on which they had formulated reservations, since these are de facto operational now. Finally, it invites the Czech authorities to sign and ratify the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority (CETS No. 207) as well as the Additional Protocol to the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities (ETS No. 159).
Local and regional democracy in Germany
Presentation by the Rapporteur:
Britt-Marie LOVGREN, Sweden (L, ILDG)
This report is the first general monitoring of the European Charter of Local Self-Government on Germany (a visit carried out in 1999 focused solely on local finances, evaluated at the time as being in a critical situation). The report sets out in detail the complex structure of the regional and local authorities in the country. The Rapporteurs praise the federal and regional (Länder) constitutions for their recognition of the principle of local self-government. They draw the attention of the German authorities, however, to the persistent financial deficits of local and regional authorities, and underline the need to establish practical guarantees that complement constitutional provisions.
It is recommended to the German authorities that they strengthen and institutionalise the participatory rights of associations of local authorities both at federal and regional (Land) level. They are encouraged to set standards and criteria for concomitant financing in order to provide transparency in the whole financial calculation and planning process. The Government is also invited to consider extending counties’ rights to impose taxes directly beyond the available ones. Finally, Germany is called on to ratify the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority.
Local and regional democracy in the Republic of Moldova
Presentation by the Rapporteurs:
This report on local and regional democracy in the Republic of Moldova is a follow-up to Congress Recommendation 179 (2005), adopted in November 2005. The rapporteurs note with satisfaction that positive progress has been made regarding the legislation and institutions in respect of all the statutory texts concerning the local public administration of the Republic of Moldova since the latest Recommendation in 2005. In this regard, the draft National Decentralisation Strategy is a sign of the current Government’s declared commitment to conducting a thorough reform of local public administration so as to consolidate local authorities’ autonomy and improve the management and quality of the services provided to members of the public. The Congress nevertheless underlines that the level of local authorities’ own resources remain inadequate, supervision of local authorities is sometimes excessive and there is a lack of clarity with regard to the distribution of powers and financial resources.
The Congress recommends that the Moldovan authorities continue with the measures they have launched in the context of the National Decentralisation Strategy so that it can be adopted and implemented in keeping with the national authorities’ declared intentions. It also invites the authorities to draw up further programmes and strategies to ensure the free movement of people and goods and to implement economic development programmes accompanied by appropriate financial resources for localities in the Nistru/Dniestr security zone. Finally, the Congress calls on the Moldovan authorities to enact a new law on the special status of the capital, Chișinău, and to sign and ratify in the near future the Additional Protocol to the Charter on the Right to Participate in the Affairs of a Local Authority.
Local and regional democracy in Portugal
Presentation by the Rapporteurs:
Devrim ÇUKUR, Turkey (R, SOC) and Jos WIENEN, Netherlands (L, EPP/CD)
This is the second report concerning the monitoring of local and regional democracy in Portugal in light of the Charter since 2003. The report notes that, since then, Portugal has been engaged in a difficult reform process to increase its capacity to access international capital markets and has been seriously affected by the economic crisis. In this context, the report underlines the importance of improving consultation with the local authorities and their representative associations and of developing the relations between the different tiers of government.
The report stresses the necessity that local authorities be given autonomy with respect to local taxes including the local and regional tax-collecting system. The Government is invited to improve consultation procedures, setting up consultation guidelines in agreement with local and regional authorities and encouraged to give the municipal and regional associations the right to appeal to the Constitutional Court. The Congress recommends that the institutional links between directly elected representatives at State, regional and local authority level be strengthened and calls for transparency in administrative procedures. Finally, it invites the Government to sign and ratify, in the near future, the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority (CETS No. 207).
Local and regional democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Presentation by the Rapporteurs:
Jean-Marie BELLIARD, France (R, EPP/CD) and Beat HIRS, Switzerland, (L, ILDG)
This report on the situation of local and regional democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina follows on from two visits made in April and December 2011. It concludes that the legislative framework as such in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the entities has improved and now includes explicit references to the European Charter of Local Self-Government. The report underlines that the judicial protection of local self-government has been strengthened in both entities and welcomes the establishment in January 2010 of the Ministry of Administration and Local Self-Government of the Republika Srpska. However, the monitoring delegation remains concerned about a number of issues, for instance the fact that the constitutional guarantees governing the relations between the various levels of local self-government have not yet been put in place; the great fragmentation of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which means that some municipalities are unable to exercise their powers; the lack of clarity in the apportionment of powers between the entities, cantons and municipalities; and the low level of financial autonomy of local authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Congress recommends that the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina urge the entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to draw up reform plans on decentralisation and implement the principles set out in the Charter in practice. It also calls on the authorities to amend the Constitution of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and that of the Canton of Sarajevo in order to extend the area of powers specific to the capital city of Sarajevo and to establish a special status for the city of Banja Luka in the Republika Srpska, while allocating the two cities powers and resources commensurate with their particular situation. The Congress strongly encourages the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to conduct a population census without delay once the Law on the census of population, households and housing units has been definitely passed. Lastly, the Congress urges the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to consider, in the near future, signing and ratifying the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority.
Procedure for the election of the Secretary General of the Congress
Presentation by the Rapporteur: Halvdan Skard, Norway (L, SOC)
After adoption by the Statutory Forum, the procedure for the election of the Secretary General of the Congress will become an appendix to the new Rules of Procedure of the Congress.
II. REPORTS SUBMITTED TO THE CHAMBER OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Making cities resilient
Presentation by the Rapporteur: Per Bodker ANDERSEN (Denmark, SOC)
The objectives of this report are:
- to give a brief and general overview of the state of cities with respect to global trends in climate and other factors such as demographics and urbanisation;
- to analyse the factors that make a city resilient and the arguments for moving cities in this direction, providing brief best practice cases;
- to present the UNISDR Making Cities Resilient Campaign as a vehicle for cities to enhance their resilience.
The report suggests that cities be encouraged to join the UNISDR ‘Making Cities Resilient’ campaign, and recommends action in a series of areas including knowledge development and sharing, funding mechanisms, addressing different types of cities, and an integrated and multi-level governance approach to resilience building.
Local democracy in Lithuania
Presentation by the Rapporteurs:
Irène LOIZIDOU, Cyprus (L, EPP/CD) and Gudrun MOSLER-TÖRNSTRÖM, Austria (R, SOC)
This is the second monitoring report on the situation of local and regional democracy in Lithuania since the visit carried out in 2001. The report praises the guarantees given in the constitution to the right to self-government for local authorities and takes note of the progress made in consultation procedures as well as of the quality of the debate on the direct election of mayors. On a less felicitous note, it cites the insufficient financial resources available to local authorities, the reduced powers of municipalities in certain areas such as territorial planning and land ownership, the termination of county administrations without a suitable replacement to palliate its adverse effects, and low citizen participation in local affairs.
It is recommended to Lithuanian authorities that they ensure the allocation of sufficient resources to local authorities, enshrine the principle of subsidiarity in the law on local self-government and to encourage citizen participation at local level. The Government is also encouraged to resume the discussions on the status of the capital city and to give the Association of Local Authorities of Lithuania the right to represent all municipalities before courts. Finally the report calls on Lithuania to ratify, in the near future, the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority (CETS No. 207) which was signed in 2009.