Ministers' Deputies / Working Parties
Ad hoc working party to study the proposal to set up a centre of the Council of Europe for inter-regional and cross-border co-operation
GT-TRANSREG(2006)CB2 addendum (English only) 3 April 20061
Statement of Mrs Svetlana Orlova, Vice-Chair of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Head of the Russian delegation to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe at the GT-TRANSREG meeting on 16 March 2006
Déclaration de Mme Svetlana Orlova, Vice-Présidente du Conseil de l'Assemblée fédérale de la Fédération de Russie, Chef de la délégation russe auprès du Congrès des Pouvoirs locaux et régionaux du Conseil de l’Europe lors de la réunion du GT-TRANSREG, le 16 mars 2006
The idea of setting up a center of the Council of Europe for inter-regional and cross-border co-operation was put forward nearly a year ago at the 9th session of the International Economic Forum in Saint-Petersburg, in which took part Mr Di Stasi, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe. For this short period of time the project has gained a serious support in Russia and in Europe as well.
This past January the Congress’ President, Mr Di Stasi paid a working visit Saint-Petersburg. He held talks with the Chair of the Council of Federation, Mr Sergey Mironov and the Governor of Saint-Petersburg, Mrs Valentina Matvienko with a view to discussing practical issues of the center’s location and its functioning. The city administration supported the project and put forward a number of important proposals. We are ready to bear a part of operational expenses of the center.
The project was not put forward in tiny offices of federal officials but in the community of regional leaders who are directly responsible for sustainable development of their territories, in the community of managers who are in charge people’s quality of life.
In our view, the viability of this initiative comes from its connection with the real needs of the territories expanding their co-operation. By today, our regions have proposed 27 concrete projects to be put into practice in various fields.
I know this issue very well, because I represent the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (upper chamber of parliament) which represents 88 subjects (constituent entities) of the Russian Federation and expresses their needs and protects their interests. I wish to stress that Russian regions and the CIS countries feel the need of having closer links with European regions.
We highly appreciate the work of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe as well as the fact that we can actively participate in its activities. The Congress adopts helpful recommendations concerning the strengthening of co-operation at local and regional level. We attach great importance to the acquis of the Council of Europe in particular in the field of sustainable development, regeneration of mining areas. For instance, I have been a rapporteur on regeneration of mining areas and made a statement about the Kemerovo Region of Russia. We have sufficient coal reserves for 12 centuries to come. And in this context we have many projects to develop.
As regards the practical implementation of these norms, we have numerous reserves. Therefore, one feels the need to have instruments for putting into practice the high standards of the Council of Europe and for bringing them closer to the consumer, for whose sake these standards are being elaborated, - I mean the 800 million Europeans.
The center could become such an instrument and help making the Council of Europe closer and more understandable to the Europeans and help increasing its output and efficiency.
The Warsaw Summit set among its priorities the task of achieving good governance. So, let us put it into effect together through encouraging interregional co-operation with the help of such a center, which could serve as a database of good practice and projects in the field of good governance, as a tool of disseminating the best practice throughout the Greater Europe. While strengthening inter-regional co-operation, it is also important to follow the provisions of the Madrid Convention.
Certainly, one may continue drawing up co-operation programs like TACIS in tiny offices in Brussels, and then be surprised that regions are not interested in such programs because they do not take into account the priorities of regional development. On the other hand, one may give a chance to territories to elaborate on their own co-operation projects in the framework of such a center. Afterwards, regions may get financial resources for realization of these programs, also from Brussels within its European Union Neighborhood Policy.
Whether we like it or not, Europe of regions and municipalities is a reality which we cannot ignore if we intend to move forward the European process. We should develop local self-government. In Russia, we actively reinforce local democracy, enlarge competence and responsibilities of authorities at sub-national level for people’s quality of life. Co-operation at this level has become today a locomotive of the European architecture. The center could become the engine of this locomotive.
The Council of Europe and the European Union as well are nowadays drawing up similar legal instruments concerning the creation and activities of euroregions, a form of co-operation gaining popularity with every passing day. Great attention is being paid to transfrontier and inter-regional co-operation, creating sustainable communities through projects of co-operation in all fields of competence of the Council of Europe. It is also important to ensure transfer of knowledge and experience from the existing structures to newly created ones which are interested in such consultations.
Today, many territories set up these structures on their own without referring to any elaborated legal base and methodology. Many would like to create similar structures, but do not know how to do this. In fact, they have nobody to apply for advice and assistance.
I could go on making a list of eventual tasks and functions to be entrusted to the center, in order to convince “eurosceptics” that may be found not only in your countries but in Russia as well. First of all, we need a political will showing if we want to back up the institutionally attractive slogans about the Greater Europe, if we want to make the Europe of the European Union closer to the rest of Europe, to level the degree of their development and mutual understanding, to promote the Council of Europe core values in everyday life, or not. Of course, we must be realists and should not think that the creation of the center will resolve all our problems. However, finding a solution to this issue represents a sort of test on having the pan-European vision, unity and solidarity for the sake of which the Council of Europe was created.
Yesterday, I really liked the Ambassador of France, Mr Bruno Gain quoting the ex President of France, General de Gaulle as saying that Europe should have no dividing lines and stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Urals. I would say, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. We must accomplish this task for the sake of future generations.
Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue. Unless the Committee of Ministers decides otherwise, it will be declassified according to the rules set up in Resolution Res(2001)6 on access to Council of Europe documents.