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Resolution 23 (1995)1 on the Topical Issues Report of the Chamber of Regions

The Chamber of Regions of the CLRAE:

I. Background

1. Having regard to the report of the President of the Chamber of Regions, Mr Claude Haegi, Rapporteur on topical issues;

2. Having regard to the new structures provided for local and regional authorities by the Council of Europe within the framework of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, under Statutory Resolution 94 (3) of the Committee of Ministers;

3. Having regard to the new structures set up within the European Union in the form of the Committee of Regions, granting local and regional authorities the right to participate in Community activities on a consultative basis;

4. Having regard to Resolution No. 8 on "regionalisation in Europe – evaluation and perspectives" and the progress of decentralisation policies since the Geneva Conference in 1993;

5. Having regard to the work undertaken since that Conference with a view to drawing up a Charter of regional self-government;

6. Having regard to the commitment of the Regions to strengthen co-operation between regions in Western Europe and Central and Eastern Europe, in political, administrative and legal terms as well as in the economic and environmental spheres;

7. Having regard to the heightened interest of the Parliamentary Assembly in developing regional representation within the Council of Europe;

8. Recalling its earlier work aimed at promoting the real advantages of a decentralisation and regionalisation policy in European States and the efforts to create networks based on solidarity and mutual assistance;

II. Initial evaluation

1. Notes that the new structures set up under the Statute of the Congress – and in particular the two Chambers – are working well during this experimental phase;

2. Notes that the work undertaken by the representatives of the Regions within the CLRAE, and more specifically within the Chamber of Regions, its Bureau and its working groups, reflects their commitment to inter-regional co-operation and their devotion to European construction and the development of a democratic and mutually supportive society in Europe;

3. Expresses the wish that suitable infrastructures and technical facilities be provided in order to improve its members’ working conditions and that the Secretariat be reinforced in order to better accomplish its new tasks;

4. Is keenly observing the work of the Committee of the Regions within the European Union, welcomes the links already forged and hopes that they can be strengthened;

5. Hopes that technical co-operation with Community institutions will be developed, particularly under programmes of assistance designed to establish and strengthen democratic structures for regional and local authorities in Central and Eastern Europe;

III. Co-operation with Central and Eastern Europe

1. Stresses the importance of developing programmes to provide assistance, advice and training with the aim of creating democratic structures in Central and Eastern European regions and municipalities, such as the DEMOSTHENES and LODE (local democracy) programmes of the Council of Europe;

2. Wishes to become more fully involved in encouraging and helping Central and Eastern European countries to create regional structures with their own powers and elected bodies and to participate in the LODE programme in this connection;

3. Gives its full backing to plans to organise the first East/West Economic Forum of the Regions of Europe in Geneva and stresses the importance it attaches to inter-regional economic co-operation as a major complement to intergovernmental and international co-operation;

4. Urges all regional authorities to become involved in inter-regional economic co-operation in Europe by drawing on their own experience to devise new joint initiatives in the future within the framework of the Chamber of Regions;

5. Requests the Congress to set up a database bringing together information on interregional co-operation in Europe and especially such information concerning co-operation projects with Central and Eastern Europe;

IV. Southern and Baltic Europe

1. Believes it necessary to develop new initiatives to strengthen inter-regional co-operation among Regions bordering the Baltic and in southern Europe, around the Mediterranean basin and in south-eastern Europe, particularly in the Danube basin and around the Black Sea;

2. Voices its concern over the continuing armed conflict in the regions of former Yugoslavia and calls on the representatives of the Regions to create twinnings and partnerships with their counterparts in these regions and to contribute actively to efforts to find political solutions and restore peace, so that inhabitants and elected representatives can return to their towns, municipalities and regions;

V. Minorities and tolerance

1. Recalls that the Council of Europe has drawn up instruments of international law dealing with the protection of minorities and their languages, namely the Framework Convention for the protection of national minorities and the European Charter for regional or minority languages, and asks the representatives of the Regions to urge their respective governments to rapidly sign and ratify these two texts and, in particular, to remember that their accession to the European Charter for regional or minority languages entails specific undertakings with regard to the linguistic rights of members of minorities;

2. Believes that the cultural policy of Regions is an important element, enabling citizens to become aware of their regional identity as they develop roots in an environment on a human scale and take on active responsibility for participating in the different regional administrative bodies;

3. Encourages the competent regional authorities, in this connection, to initiate regional cultural programmes, geared to young people in particular, with a view to raising awareness of the idea of regions and regional cultural diversity which, together, constitute a most valuable part of European heritage and the knowledge of which contributes to the creation of a spirit of tolerance and solidarity;

4. Condemns all declarations or interference attempts aiming at a solution of ethnic minority problems by the use of force;

VI. Regional economic development

1. Notes that unemployment and economic development are now top priority concerns at regional level (as indeed at national and European level) and stresses that the Regions should develop within their competencies and with the political and administrative instruments at their disposal, new initiatives especially for trade, craft and small- and medium-sized businesses geared to regional economic recovery and job creation, to complement the various initiatives pursued at national and European level;

2. Proposes the joint examination – through the Working Group "Unemployment/Employment: new activities and professions" – of opportunities for stimulating economic activity at regional level, particularly where small and medium-sized businesses are concerned;

VII. Transfrontier co-operation

1. Stresses the importance of fostering transfrontier co-operation in both Western Europe – where political integration is progressing – and Central and Eastern Europe – where frontiers are still major obstacles – and hopes, in this connection, that the Regions will urge their governments to follow up the proposals set out in CLRAE Recommendation No. 9 concerning the results of the 6th European Conference of Frontier Regions;

2. Notes that regional and local transfrontier co-operation in Europe has developed satisfactorily over recent years and has intensified through the creation of Euroregions, and asks, on the basis of this development, the drawing up of a report on the current situation and to study possibilities of integrating in the elaboration of a European Charter for regional self-government the criteria for the creation of transfrontier regions (Euro-regions);

3. Believes that new problems have arisen at regional level following the implementation of the Schengen Agreement on freedom of movement in the signatory States and hopes that co-operation will be developed between Regions with a view to taking joint action against crime and insecurity with a view to ensuring security of the citizens and the States which form an essential part of democracy;

VIII. Future activities

1. Selects the following as potential topics for a future work programme aimed at greater inter-regional co-operation:

a. as a matter of priority, the promotion of regionalisation in all member countries and particularly in Central and East European countries, where the establishment of regional structures is currently under discussion – if need be, through the preparation of national reports;

b. examination of current problems in relations between Regions and local authorities on the one hand and between Regions and national authorities on the other, and consideration of measures to reduce conflicts of structure and procedure between the different levels of state administration;

c. analysis, on the basis of exchange of experience, of modern methods of managing Regions’ administrative departments, with a view to achieving greater efficiency and rationalisation;

d. study of the experiences and policies of Regions with a view to entrusting certain public sector tasks to private enterprise and consideration of the financial implications;

e. framing of a new policy for integrated spatial management by regional authorities, of a natural resource management policy in line with the Rio Conference’s Agenda 21 at regional level, and of a proper regional policy for waste processing;

f. the strengthening of regional identity through the setting up of regional forums for young people, to make them more aware of the social, cultural, environmental and economic problems of their regions and to familiarise them with regional institutions by instilling in them a real democratic awareness;

IX. Towards a European Summit of the Regions

— Instructs the Bureau of the Chamber of Regions to examine the proposal to hold a Conference of Heads of government or Executive bodies of the Regions of Europe on the future outlook for developing regionalisation in Greater Europe and the means required to deepen inter-regional co-operation.

1 Discussion and approbation by the Chamber of Regions on 30 May 1995, and adoption by the Standing Committee of the Congress on 1st June 1995 (see Doc. CPR (2) 1, Part. I, Res. revised, Resolution presented by Mr Claude Haegi, Rapporteur).

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