CG-Non-Paper(18)3
      14 September 2010 – 10.00

      Compendium of contributions by the members of the Congress, National Associations of Local and Regional Authorities and Observers to the reform of the Congress and the priorities for 2011-2012 (in alphabetical order)

      I – THE REFORM OF THE CONGRESS………………………….…………………………………………..2

      A – Members of the Congress 2
      1. Austria - Gudrun MOSLER-TÖRNSTRÖM (R, SOC) [13/08/2010] 2
      2. Austria - Herwig Van STAA (R, EPP/CD) [18/08/2010] 4
      3. Belgium - Marc COOLS (L, ILGD) [04/08/2010] 5
      4. Belgium - delegation [23/08/2010] 5
      5. Cyprus - delegation [16/08/2010] 6
      6. Czech Republic - delegation [19/08/2010] 7
      7. Denmark - delegation [11/08/2010] 7
      8. Finland - delegation [16/08/2010] 8
      9. Germany - delegation [12/08/2010] 9
      10. Ireland - delegation [17/08/2010] 11
      11. Italy - delegation [06/08/2010] 12
      12. Luxembourg - delegation [16/08/2010] 13
      13. Monaco - delegation [06/08/2010] 14
      14. Sweden - delegation [24/08/2010]...................................................................................................14
      15. United Kingdom - delegation [13/08/2010] 15

      B – National Associations of Local and Regional Authorities 19
      1. Austria - Association of Austrian Villages and Smaller Towns
      (Österreichischer Gemeindebund) [13/08/2010] 19

      2. Belgium - Association of Walloon Provinces [27/07/2010]………………………………………………19

      3. Germany - Federation of German Local Authority Associations (Bundesvereinigung der kommunalen Spitzenverbände) [12/08/2010]……………………………………………………………..20

      4. Latvia - Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments [25/08/2010]……………………...20

      5. Russian Federation - Union of Small Cities and Towns of the Russian Federation [17/06/2010]….21

      6. Russian Federation - Union of Small Cities and Towns of the Russian Federation [16/08/2010]….21
      7. United Kingdom - Convention of Scottish Local Authorities [09/09/10]……………...………………..24

      C – Associations having Observer status with the Congress 27
      1. Assembly of the European Regions [20/07/2010] 27
      2. Association of Kosovo Municipalities [21/07/2010] 28
      3. FEDRE [12/08/2010] 28

      D - Others
      1. Ireland - Sean O'BRIEN - Former member of the Congress [16/08/2010]…………………………….29

      II – THE PRIORITIES OF THE CONGRESS FOR 2011-2012……………………………………………30

      A – Members of the Congress 30
      1. Austria - Gudrun MOSLER-TÖRNSTRÖM (R, SOC) [13/08/2010] 30
      2. Czech Republic - delegation [19/08/2010] 30
      3. Denmark - delegation [11/08/2010] 30

      B – National Associations of Local and Regional Authorities 31
      1. Latvia - Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments [25/08/2010] 31
      2. Russian Federation - Russian National Congress of Municipalities [14/08/2010] 31

      C - Associations having Observer status with the Congress 32

      Document submitted for information to the 3rd General Meeting of the National Associations of local and regional authorities on 16 September 2010

      I – THE REFORM OF THE CONGRESS

      A – Members of the Congress

      1. Austria - Gudrun MOSLER-TÖRNSTRÖM (R, SOC) – 13 August 2010

      I welcome the opportunity for members to comment on the proposals for the future work of the Congress. Having worked in the Congress for about a year I would like to make the following remarks.

      General:

      I endorse the definition of the Congress as a political body composed of freely elected politicians and free to define its priorities within the framework of the Council of Europe's fields of activity.

      The complicated rules of procedure should be simplified. General rules should be followed by concrete stipulations for all bodies (name, task, composition, meeting frequency, specific provisions if necessary). The rules of procedure should already be amended during the October Session and a rapporteur should be appointed for a general revision of the rules of procedure to be presented to the March 2011 Session.

      Amendments shall be presented five working days before the respective meeting and made available for members immediately. This is a precondition for good work of the Congress. Deadlines for the publication of meeting documents must be respected.

      The structure of membership shall be simplified: only full members and alternates of the Congress. Chamber membership as full member or alternate follows Congress membership. Alternates in Commissions therefore only may be alternates. To have more flexibility, alternates may be chosen - from the same national delegation - on an ad hoc basis for each meeting and they should come from the same Chamber (if possible → see alternates in delegations of member states without regions).

      Ad 9.b

      Fewer and shorter but more political texts: I agree. The Bureau should exert its steering function in this regard.

      In addition to Recommendations and Resolutions the Congress must show visibility by organizing thematic conferences and enhancing cooperation and exchange among members.

      I fully endorse the statement in point 49. of the Explanatory Memorandum, which makes reference to the need to improve governance and to support participation of the citizens in the municipalities and regions. This implies offering supporting activities and cooperation with external partners as AER, CEMR, AEBR and others specialized in certain fields.

      Ad 9.c.

      Monitoring: I agree, but other thematic work must be possible as well, even though at a reduced level → but in line with 9 d.

      Ad 9.g.

      I am not convinced that the enlargement will improve the recognition of the Standing Committee, whereas the inclusion of the chairpersons of the national delegations will.

      I propose to keep the number of members per delegation unchanged , but to have the Standing Committee composed of the heads of delegations plus one more member coming from the other Chamber for delegations with regions. Membership in the Standing committee should not hinder from working in a thematic Committee.

      Name (22 of the Explanatory Memorandum): As the body is acting on behalf of the Session it should be called “Permanent Assembly” or “Delegation's Forum”. The term “Committee” should be avoided to differentiate from the Statutory Committees.

      ad 9.h.

      I agree. The two chamber system of the Congress shall be maintained, as the responsibilities of local and regional authorities may differ significantly (e.g. supervision of municipalities by regional authorities, …) and therefore their interests for or approach to specific policy fields.

      Ad 9.i.

      Three committees seem fair. See also comment to 25 – 27.

      Ad 9.j. (and 20a of the Explanatory Memorandum)

      For continuity of the work the mandate should be extended to four or even five years (as for the Committee of the Regions and many electoral periods in member states). A renewal of the leadership in the Congress, in the Chambers and in the Statutory Committees with a change between representatives of the Chambers should take ad mid-term. This means: Each body elects a president and a (first) vice-president and after two or two and a half years they switch positions. If one of them meanwhile looses its mandate, the respective Chamber shall have a right to nominate a successor, which then has to be elected.

      Ad 9 l

      The effect of the reform shall be evaluated and discussed by the session after 4 (or 5) years.

      Ad Explanatory Memorandum

      I support most of the proposals made. Some concrete comments to some points follow:

      Ad 11

      Work in the CDLR and the subcommittees: this activity should be strengthened and rapporteurs and/or members of the Institutional Committee should be regularly involved. Presidents of delegations must be made aware of their responsibility to liaise with the national representatives in the CDLR and the Congress delegation / secretariat.

      Ad 20.a.

      See above to 9.j.: four to five years.

      Ad 22.

      see 9.g.

      Ad 23.

      see above 9.h.

      Ad 25 – 27.

      I support the proposed three committees (Option A) with the mandates mentioned. Election observation should be a part of committee 1. The head of delegation has to be a member of committee 1, but mission participation should be open to all members of the different committees.

      Committees 2 and 3 should be encouraged to organize thematic conferences during or in connection with their regular meetings to be able to respond to the need of a reaction of the Congress. This reaction, however, should not be Recommendations to the Committee of Ministers, but may take the form of Resolutions or political declarations.

      29.

      The role of the political groups and their leadership structures are not evident to me. They should be invited to discuss their mission and role with all members in a preparatory meeting during Sessions.

      31.

      Yes, responsibility for the follow up of adopted documents should be given to rapporteurs.

      32. - 36.

      Yes!

      37. and 39.

      The appointment of rapporteurs should be more transparent. Like for the participation in election observation missions, members of the respective Committee must be invited in time before the respective Committee meeting to present themselves as candidates in the meeting or in writing. Regular information about the distribution of rapporteurs by delegation and political group shall provide the required transparency. Bureau members shall be appointed as rapporteurs only in exceptional cases.

      38.

      The proposed guidelines are most welcome!

      40. - 47.

      I support the proposals made.

      2. Austria – Herwig Van STAA (R, EPP/CD) – 18 August 2010

      The two-camera-structure should be upheld for the Plenary Meeting and the Bureau, but abolished in the committees.

      For reasons of continuity the mandate in the Congress should last four years. The members of the Bureau however should be elected for two years.

      In the Standing Committee each member state should be represented by the leader of the national delegation plus one member belonging to the other chamber. States without regions should be represented only by the leader of the national delegation.

      The Standing Committee should be called upon only when necessary (Option 2).

      The Congress should have three Statutory Committees. The rule that each member of the Congress has to be granted a seat in one of the Statutory Committees could be reconsidered.

      The Statutory Committees should hold their plenary meetings on the occasion of the plenary meetings of the Congress, the agenda of which should be streamlined as much as possible.

      Each Statutory Committee should elect – apart from its president - between 2 and 10 vice-presidents (local and regional well balanced). President and vice-presidents should form the presidency of that Statutory Committee that should be in charge of the current transactions of that committee. The presidencies of the Statutory Committees should be called for whenever necessary or on demand by a certain number of members in agreement with the President of the Congress.

      Each Statutory Committee should be able to establish sub-committees (for example a sub-committee for regions with legislative powers).

      Presidents of the Statutory Committees and of the political groups should continue to sit in the Bureau in an advisory capacity.

      The Congress should strengthen its cooperation with the CoR and the European Commission.

      Apart from that the proposals in the draft document drawn up by the secretariat are supported.

      3. Belgium - Marc COOLS (L, GILD) – 4 August 2010 (Unofficial translation)

      I find the proposals for the reform of the Congress interesting. I personally believe that a term of office of two years is too short. The renewal process of Congress members is complex in each country due to the various balances that must be complied with and, therefore, takes time. It also takes some time when becoming a member of the Congress to understand how it works and to be able to become effectively involved. A duration of 4 or a minimum of 3 years is therefore desirable.

      Regarding committee meetings, they should for me be limited to 3 per year (2 at the same time as the plenary sessions in Strasbourg and a third could be held if necessary, outside of Strasbourg as is sometimes the case for the Institutional Committee).

      Sincerely,

      Marc Cools

      Member of the Congress - Belgian delegation

      4. Belgium - delegation – 23 August 2010

      The Belgian delegation of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe thanks the Congress for having granted it additional time to consider proposals for the reform of Congress contained in Resolution No. 305 adopted by the Standing Committee on June 18, 2010.

      Meeting this Monday, August 23 2010 in the presence of a majority of its members, the delegation fully supported the Congress’s intention to increase the impact of its action, while optimizing the use of its resources. Greater efficiency without a doubt implies a greater focus and coordination of its activities, and in this respect, the delegation attaches equal if not greater importance to the reform of working methods than to the actual structures of the Congress.

      As for clauses that detail item 9 of Resolution No. 305, the delegation wishes to make the following comments and reservations.

      9.a It fully supports the refocusing of resources and activities on the institutional mission of the Congress.

      9.b. It supports the concentration on producing fewer, shorter texts aimed at developing a genuine dialogue with the Committee of Ministers, while ensuring that this development does not lead to the subordination of the Congress’s activity.

      9.c-d. It supports the priority given to monitoring missions and election monitoring, while extending the priority thematic activities that are related to the European Charter of Local Self-Government. It also suggests that the election observation missions be coordinated with other institutions which carry out this type of activity. To ensure strict budgetary control, the Belgian delegation also recommends that Congress fund only missions to observe elections in member countries of the Council of Europe.

      9.f. In order to speed up the Congress’s work, the delegation supports the idea of holding two plenary sessions per year, while suggesting that its committees meet on the sidelines of the sessions as much as possible, with a view to saving on resources.

      9.g. The delegation approves of maintaining the Standing Committee, considering it a measure that allows all countries to keep an eye on the workings of the Congress at an advanced stage. It suggests using the name "comité permanent" (French change only). It also supports option 1 of a spring session and another in autumn, believing it to be the most balanced in terms of temporal allocation of work. Choosing this option does not preclude,however, the possibility of having the Standing Committee meet in the interim, if necessary.

      9.h. It also approves maintaining the bicameral structure of the committees. The delegation believes, however, that it is necessary to work in plenary at this stage, given that the possibility to have recourse to working groups gives sufficient flexibility to meet local and regional specificities.

      9.i. It agrees with reducing the number of committees, but suggests sticking to three to maintain the effectiveness of the discussions whilst not increasing unduly the number of their members. The delegation is more favourable to Option A i.e. to use the designations of "institutional committee" for the first, "governance" for the second and "sectoral or thematic" for the third.

      With particular regard to the latter, the biennial priorities should be defined in dialogue with the Standing Committee and / or the Bureau. In light of these changes, the role of the Bureau should be redefined.

      The guarantee given to each member to have a seat on a committee is largely illusory, since the reimbursement by the Congress is limited to representatives A special case is when the participation of alternate members is automatically excluded because a member is ex officio President and therefore is present: the rule that stipulates that a member appointed as rapporteur is not taken into account in the calculation of reimbursements should be extended to this case.

      9.j. It approves the proposal to increase the term of office of members from two to four years to ensure greater continuity of work, provided that the appointments to the Bureau and to the Presidency of political groups and committees would remain limited to two years.

      The Belgian delegation would like to thank the Congress in advance for considering these comments and proposals.

      Bruxelles, 23 August 2010

      Marc Thoulen, Secretary of the delegation

      5. Cyprus – delegation – 16 August 2010

      The Reform of the Congress - Input from the Cyprus delegation

      The Cyprus Delegation to the Congress of the Council of Europe congratulates the initiative of the new Secretary General of the Council of Europe to open the debate regarding the reform of the Congress.

      It is our belief that the reform of organizational structures and procedural working methods within the Council of Europe is essential and necessary in order to meet the challenges ahead.

      Nevertheless, in this comprehensive reform of the Council of Europe, the Congress and its role must be reconsidered and highly developed.

      Through the excellent job of the rapporteurs, it has been repeated that the Congress is the watchdog of local and regional authorities. Consequently, the criteria of the reform should be to create an organization which is politically orientated, firm and efficient.

      We would like to thank the rapporteurs for their solid and detailed report. We share most of the ideas expressed in the documents, such as the better communication strategy of the Congress work and the dimension of human rights at a local level.

      Reforming the Congress should aim to create a stronger political profile for the institution by producing fewer stronger texts and by setting up clear follow-up procedures.

      Further to the above, the forthcoming reform process needs to be transparent.

      Specifically and concerning the various options given for the new structure of the Congress, we would like to express our support for:

      The word Standing should be maintained when it comes to renaming The Standing Committee. Therefore we support as a new name the Standing Council of Congress.

      Concerning the timetables of the meetings we support Option 2 according to which

      Plenary Sessions are held in June and late autumn of each year. The “Standing Committee” of the Congress is convened in spring (appr. February/March) of each year, if a statutory need for the adoption of texts is given or if it is requested by the Bureau or by the heads of at least half of the national delegations. A possible date for a meeting shall be announced on the occasion of the autumn Session.

      We believe that a meeting in-between the two plenary sessions is more adequate and better suited for quick responding to the needs of the Congress.

      Concerning, the Statutory Committees, we would support Option A, and the three Committees.

      Thanking you again for the entire job you have done on behalf of all of us.

      Cyprus Delegation

      Congress, Council of Europe

      6. Czech Republic – delegation – 19 August 2010

      From: Kučerová Olga [kucerova@smocr.cz]
      Subject:
      SMOCR_consultation_Reform of the Congress and Priorities 2011-12

      Dear Sir, Dear Madam,

      By email on 5 July 2010 you invited us to tell you our national association’s position on the reform of the Congress of local and regioanl authorities First of all, please accept our apologies for the late reply.

      We support the reforms of the Congress such as they are suggested in the Standing Committee documents (Resolution 304 on the Congress’s priorities for 2011 – 2012 and Resolution 305 on the reform of the Congress).

      Concerning the proposal to reduce the number of statutory committees (article 27 of Resolution 305 on the reform of the Congress), we support option A (three committees).

      Yours faithfully, 

       

      Olga Kučerová

      Secretary to the delegation of the Czech Republic

      7. Denmark – delegation – 11 August 2010

      Comments from Danish Delegation on the reform of the Congress

      The Danish delegation wish to make the following proposals on the proposed reform of the Congress (Resolution 305):

      As a general rule we wish to ensure a more effective and cost-effective organisation.

      The reform process should first and foremost be focused on reducing the administrative costs of the organisation in order to secure adequate financing of the central mission of Congress: monitoring local and regional democracy in Europe.

      Paragraph 22:

      § Abolish the Standing Committee

      The Danish delegation maintains the viewpoint that the Standing Committee should be abolished or – if changed to a “Council” as proposed in the document - it should be merged with the Bureau in order to avoid overlapping of work. We cannot see any obvious raison d'être for the Standing Committee in the new meeting structure with two annual plenary sessions. If there is a need for adopting texts in between the sessions we propose the adoption of texts by a written procedure.

      We don’t support strengthening the Standing Committee as put forward in the text.

      If it comes down to a choice between Option 1 and Option 2 we would be in favour of the latter.

      Paragraph 23:

      § Abolish the two chamber system

      Regional and local authorities differ greatly from one another but they all have one thing in common: they represent the subnational level of governance as opposed to the national level of governance.

      The Congress represents all forms of subnational governance and we are in support of abolishing the two chamber system in order to secure effectiveness, simplification of procedures, better synergies and allowing collective exchanges on questions which – while of a local or regional nature – affect all local and regional authorities.

      We find that the two chamber system should be abolished both in the plenaries and the Bureaux of the Chambers as well as in the Chambers in the Statutory Committees and in the “Council” of the Congress (former Standing Committee).

      Paragraph 25-26-27:

      § Streamline the Statutory Committees and abolish the working groups

      In a meeting structure with two annual plenary sessions we do not see the need for every member to be ensured a seat on a committee. We find that the Statutory Committees should be reduced and streamlined in line with the focus areas of the Congress and the core values of the Council of Europe.

      Furthermore, in order to enhance interaction between the Bureau and the Statutory Committees bureau members should have the opportunity to seat in one of the Statutory Committees. As it is currently, Bureau members are obliged to seat in the Standing Committee but cannot seat in the other committees which would be much more interesting in terms of interaction between the Bureau and the Committees.

      We do not support an increase in the number of meetings per year. As indicated above we wish to bring down the administrative costs and doubt the aim of keeping an increased meeting activity financially neutral.

      Yours sincerely,

      Knud Andersen

      8. Finland – delegation – 16 August 2010

      Dear Sir / Madam,

      It is a pleasure to send you proposals by the Finnish Congress members and the substitutes. The Finnish delegation welcomes the reform which aims at increasing the impact, relevance and visibility of the Congress and at greater effectiveness and efficiency.

      Most of the members of the Finnish delegation report that they agree with the thoughts, the rapporteurs, Mr. Halvdan Skard and Mr. Günther Krug, have presented. Responses call for innovation of democracy by contributing the experiences of the Congress members; most of the members take the view that the Congress needs to focus its activities on the core values of the Council of Europe and its political priorities, some suggest that the role of human rights could be expanded. Opinion is, however, divided only on few topics.

      The information has been obtained by electronic mail mainly via a questionnaire (March 2010) you will find enclosed. On wider issues the secretariat of the Finnish delegation has also taken notes based on members' ideas, proposals and comments.

      The Finnish delegation recommends, in concrete

      - to maintain the two chambers (two members proposed a unicameral system)

      - to reduce the committees from four to two (not all members support)

      - to establish working groups

      - to ensure more continuity of membership, there is a proposal to extend the mandate of members from 2 to 4 years

      - 2 Plenary Sessions held in June and late autumn of each year

      - transparent and open procedure for calling and appointment of rapporteurs and observers

      Yours sincerely,

      Helena Pihlajasaari

      Head of the Finnish Delegation

      9. Germany – delegation – 12 August 2010

      Contribution drafted jointly with the Federation of German Local Authority Associations (Bundesvereinigung der kommunalen Spitzenverbände)

      Resolution:

      1. Paragraph 5:

      The following sentence should be added: "In order to ensure a coherent image for the Congress as a whole, the Congress requests the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to engage in constructive dialogue with the Bureau of the Congress at the start of every mandate, covering the Organisation's long-term aims and the resources available for the purpose."

      2. Paragraph 9.a:

      For the sake of clarity, the words "as laid down in Article 2 of the Statutory Resolution" should be added in the final sentence after the words "institutional mission".

      3. Paragraph 9.b:

      The following new sentence should be inserted after the second sentence: "Texts produced by the Congress should as far as is possible highlight the state of discussions in the Committee of Ministers and diverging views of the Congress.". In addition, the following sentence should be added: "Key budget data should be disclosed and discussed in plenary session.".

      4. Paragraph 9.c:

      This paragraph contains a voluntary limitation of the area of activity. It could be deleted, as the Congress' mission is defined in the Statutory Resolution and should not be altered. Priorities and budget provisions provide information about practical implementation and scope. The mission should encompass not only election observation and investigations of democracy, but also "best practice" at local and regional level in accordance with relevance to citizens. This should be explicitly included, if the paragraph is not deleted.

      5. Paragraph 9.c, d and e:

      Paragraph d should be placed first, as it is the major premise leading to the other two.

      6. Paragraph 9.d:

      The whole paragraph should be rewritten as follows, as the Congress is responsible for working out the local and regional substance of the fundamental values of the Council of Europe: "believes that it is necessary to align its study of substantive subjects with the fundamental values of the Council of Europe and to make clear the scope of the duties and powers of local and regional authorities in respect of these fundamental values. In this context, account should be taken in particular of the political priorities adopted by the Congress.".

      7. Paragraph 9.f:

      The following sentences should be added: "Two plenary sessions take place each year, in May/June and in October. The Standing Committee in principle meets in February each year. During plenary sessions there should be a current affairs forum during which each member state is allowed a maximum of three minutes' speaking time.".

      8. Paragraph 9.h:

      In order to guarantee a structure with separate chambers for local and regional authorities, the following sentence should be added: "The Chambers of Local and Regional Authorities in principle meet separately, but may also, if necessary for the subject concerned, hold joint sittings if so decided beforehand by a majority in both Chambers.".

      9. Paragraph 9.i:

      It should first be made possible to acquire experience with a number of committees greater than two, so that at a later date, according to "best practice", and in so far as a structure involving four committees cannot be retained anyway, either three committees are retained or the number is reduced to two; consequently an amendment should be made to read : "… be reduced from four to three or two committees …".

      10. Paragraph 9.j:

      So that elected representatives can contribute more to the work of the Congress thanks to longer experience, the term of office should be four years, not two.

      11. Paragraph 9.l:

      The following sentence should be added: "Five years after a decision on reform of the Congress has been taken in a plenary sitting of the Congress, an evaluation should be carried out".

      Explanatory memorandum:

      1. Paragraph 6:

      In the first sentence, the list of the main issues should be amended, inter alia to reflect their order of importance: "… the place of the Congress within the Council of Europe and co-operation with the other organs, the focal points of its activities, the structures of the Congress, its working methods, the transparency of the Congress and its communication policy, and co-operation with external partners.".

      2. Paragraph 9:

      Because of actual practical conditions, the final sentence should read as follows: "The Congress also has an important role in the development of multi-level governance, integrated administrative networks and democracy.

      3. Paragraph 16:

      In the second sentence, for reasons relating to the distribution of responsibilities, the full stop in the final sentence should be deleted and a comma inserted, followed by the phrase: "in so far as the Commission is responsible for matters of local and regional democracy or EU policies have direct or indirect effects on the local and regional levels.".

      4. Paragraph 22:

      a. The fifth sub-paragraph in its entirety should be deleted, because members of the Congress should in any case be given an opportunity to express their views on individual reports during the concluding plenary debate, particularly if they are rapporteurs.

      b. In respect of the seventh sub-paragraph (Option 2), see above comment No. 7 on the resolution.

      5. Paragraph 23:

      In respect of the fifth sub-paragraph, see above comment No. 8 on the resolution.

      6. Paragraph 26:

      The fifth sentence should be deleted, as this division prevents the requisite flexibility and does not allow substitutes to take part in vertical working structures.

      7. Paragraph 27:

      See above comment No. 9 on the resolution. Provision should be made for the Bureau to decide on responsibility for individual issues in case of doubt or dispute, and for a review clause to be included in the Rules of Procedure relating to the allocation of responsibilities on the basis of initial experience.

      8. Paragraph 31:

      See above comment No. 3 on the resolution.

      9. Paragraph 33:

      The first sentence should be worded as follows, in order to avoid limiting the human rights element to monitoring: "A human rights element shall be included in the Congress’ activities, particularly its monitoring of local and regional democracy.".

      10. Paragraph 34:

      The first sentence should be amended as follows: "The political priorities adopted in each case for a two-year period and the relevant strategic work programme shall be decided by the committees on the basis of a Secretariat draft and communicated to the Bureau. On this basis the Congress shall decide, on the basis of a proposal by the Bureau, on a strategic overall programme for the Congress, in each case for two years.".

      11. Paragraph 38:

      The following sentence should be added: "After each term of office has begun, the Secretariat shall draw up a list of each individual member’s special interests on the basis of a compilation by the individual delegations. This list shall be solely indicative and will help when rapporteur duties are allocated, taking account of the specific experience of the Congress members concerned.

      10. Ireland – delegation – 17 August 2010

      As Secretary to the Irish Delegation I wish to contribute the following points that might be considered in the reform process:

       

      1. That the term of office be extended from 2 to 4 years. In Ireland we have a five year local authority term. It makes no sense that we have to review our delegation twice within that period. In addition the current two year term is too short for delegates to learn the business and practical aspects of participation in the Congress.

       

      2. That a full briefing be given to all new delegates when they arrive first to Strasbourg on the way in which the CLRAE is organised and structured and on the practical issues relating to participation in the business.

      Liam Kenny, Director
      Association of County & City Councils
      Office Unit 10 Manor Mills Maynooth
      Co. Kildare
      Email: councillors@gmail.com
      Web: www.councillors.ie
      Tel: 01 6106100  Fax 01 6106640

      11. Italy – delegation – 6 August 2010

      Pag. 2, Paragraph 9

      e. …with a local and/or regional dimension. To achieve these objectives, strengthening the role and autonomy of national associations of local and regional representatives is a prerequisite;

      g. ... in the case of States with regions with legislative powers (1 + 2), or, for ...

      i. Keep four committees, but (if reduction is required) reduce to no less than three

      j. ... 4 years (keeping the criteria for the loss of mandate)

      Pag. 4 11.

      Doubt about the political and institutional meetings between the Secretary General and the Presidents of the statutory bodies. Such meetings can only be between civil servants.

      ... between the intergovernmental sector (CDLR) and the Congress ...

      It would be a step forward, but there remains an imbalance of political and institutional representation

      12. … including their committees and political groups, and an exchange with - ...

      Pag. 5 22.

      Confirms the opinion of a Committee which is of little use. A name change will not strengthen it, rather the possibility of a Commission as a "forum" for political debate will only make it lose its institutional decision-making character and it will be even less attractive

      Pag. 6 - Option 1

      A Standing Committee which meets every two years is already defined as useless, therefore to be discarded

      Option 2

      Option 2 is to be rejected because it does not make sense - just think about the preparation time - two sessions closer together - June and October – thus putting the Standing Committee in February-March

      23.

      Reflect on the effectiveness and usefulness of the separate meetings of the Bureaux of the two Chambers

      26.

      Should be deleted as it is not applicable to large delegations (that all members should have a seat on a committee)

      27.

      Option B: two committees

      Cancel

      29. … they should be granted more meeting time and resources during sessions. With a view to...

      12. Luxembourg – delegation – 16 August 2010

      Subject: Opinion on the planned reform of the Congress

      Dear President,

      With reference to your letter inviting members of the Congress and national associations of local authorities to give their views about the plans to reform the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, it is our honour to send you herewith the joint opinion of the Luxembourg delegation to the Congress and the Association of Luxembourg Towns and Municipalities (SYVICOL), the national association representing all municipalities in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

      We should like first to welcome the participatory approach adopted by the Congress, enabling its members and the national associations to involve themselves directly in work on reform of the Congress. We also wish to thank the rapporteurs, Mr Halvdan Skard and Mr Günther Krug, for their exemplary preparatory work prior to the reform process.

      We are keen to express our full support for the aims of the reform of the Congress, intended to improve its profile and its role, both within the Council of Europe and on the European stage, through concentration of its activities on its prime institutional missions.

      In response to your request, we have the honour of forwarding to you our proposals relating to the different paragraphs of Resolution 305 (2010) and the explanatory memorandum on which discussion has been invited.

      Resolution 305

      Paragraph 9.i

      In order to ensure that the statutory committees work efficiently, and for reasons of good governance, and also bearing in mind the strengthening of the role of the Standing Committee, we propose that the number of statutory committees be reduced to three.

      Paragraph 9.j

      In order to ensure greater continuity in the performance of Congress members' mandate, we suggest that their term of office be increased to four years.

      Explanatory memorandum

      Paragraph 22

      We support the Congress' wish to make the Standing Committee more representative so as to give its decisions greater force. Since the Standing Committee will continue to discuss and vote on political priorities for the period that lies ahead, and to adopt a report and a recommendation on the following year's budget, it seems to us more reasonable and appropriate for the Standing Committee to meet in June. We therefore prefer the first of the two options proposed in the document.

      Paragraph 25

      We refer to our proposal to reduce the number of committees to three, while ensuring that they work efficiently and effectively.

      Paragraph 27

      There is good reason to wonder whether the reduction in the number of committees and increase in the number of meetings will prove to be financially neutral.

      Paragraph 28

      Were the working groups to be retained, which we doubt, strict deadlines would have to be imposed on them for carrying out their tasks.

      Paragraph 29

      Allowing more time for meetings of the political groups of the Congress during sessions will make it necessary to reorganise session agendas accordingly, while ensuring budgetary balance.

      Finally, we particularly wish to draw your attention to the importance of following up the recommendations issued by the Congress. We therefore fully support the Congress' wish to adopt clear follow-up procedures focusing on the evaluation of the impact achieved by recommendations; this will make it vital to intensify links with the Congress’ institutional partners, namely the European Committee on Local and Regional Democracy (CDLR), the Ministers' Deputies, the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly.

      We feel certain that reform of the Congress will enable new impetus to be given to its roles as the guarantor of local and regional democracy and guardian of local self-government.

      Yours, etc.

      Dan Kersch - President of SYVICOL

      Jean-Pierre Klein – Chair of the Luxembourg delegation to the Congress

      13. Monaco – delegation – 6 August 2010 (unofficial translation)

      Dear Madam,

      After a careful reading of the documents relating to the reform of Congress, I have the honor to inform you that they require no particular comment from members of the delegation of Monaco.

      On the contrary, we fully agree with the terms of the reform and believe that they will fit perfectly into the future role and functioning of the Congress.

      Yours sincerely,

      Ms. Elodie MINIONI + 377 93 15 28 11

      SECRETARY-GENERAL - CITY HALL OF MONACO - http://www.monaco-mairie.mc

      14. Sweden – delegation – 24 August 2010

      The Swedish Delegation to the Congress welcomes today’s reform process. The basic ideas on the working methods of the Congress were already put forward in the answer to the questionnaire in November 2008. The Swedish Delegation stated that:

      o A strong focus in Congress’ work adds to political visibility and to Congress strength

      o Country monitoring reports are the most important ones and the follow-up procedure of those reports should be strengthened

      o Duplication of work should be avoided – committees must have enough responsibilities and the decision making procedure must be transparent.

      As indicated during the Standing Committee discussion on the reform of the Congress in June 2010, the Swedish Delegation believes the statutory committees to be the basis for the political work of the Congress, on the same time as the political focus in a more obvious way should be oriented towards country monitoring and institutional affairs. The number of committees could be reduced. However, to play their important role the committees must be of a manageable size in order to produce good political discussions and decisions. This would not be the case with committees consisting of 94, 130 or 170 members. The crucial participation of the members should be promoted in different and complementary ways, but the guarantee of giving each member a seat on a committee should be abolished.

      15. United Kingdom – delegation – 13 August 2010

      The reform of the Congress

      UK response to the Standing Committee Report

      UK POSITION PAPER

      This response to consultation is submitted by the UK Political Group Leaders on behalf of the UK Delegation.

      The UK Delegation supports the broad lines of the reports presented to the Congress Standing Committee by Rapporteurs Skard and Krug on 18 June 2010.

      The Delegation acknowledges the difficult institutional and budgetary context in which this review is being undertaken.

      The Delegation recognises that overall, reform must contribute towards greater cost effectiveness and produce some economies, whilst at the same time improving the effectiveness of the organisation.

      Cllr Keith Whitmore (Manchester)

      Leader, UK Delegation to Congress

      Leader, UK, Group of Independents and Liberal Democrats

      Chair, Institutional Committee

      Cllr Sandra Barnes (South Northamptonshire)

      Leader, UK Conservative Group

      Chair, Social Cohesion Committee

      Cllr Mehboob Khan (Kirklees)

      Leader, UK Labour Group

      1. MANDATE

      Standing Committee proposal

      · Mandate: possible extension to 4 years [UK agree]

      The UK Delegation effectively operates an informal four-year mandate by running together two consecutive mandates (2006-8 + 2008-10). Members are nominally renominated to Congress after two years to respect the formal Congress process, but changes are made only to reflect change of political balance or member resignation.

      Thus the UK would have no problem with implementing a formal four year term, but is prepared to continue on the current two-year basis.

      2.STRUCTURES

      Standing Committee proposal

      · ·Plenary: maintain two sessions [UK agree]; possible change from March/Oct to June/Autumn

      · ·Standing Committee: maintain [UK disagree]; comprising head of delegation + 2 members, not counting against committee allocation

      · ·Bureau: unchanged (6 per year) [UK agree]

      · ·Chambers: maintain two chambers [UK disagree]

      · ·Committees: reduce to 2 or 3 [UK disagree]

      · ·Working groups: specific and time-limited [UK agree, possibly remove]

      · ·Political groups: strengthen, with more meeting time in plenary [UK agree]

      Standing Committee

      The UK delegation considers that with the introduction of the second plenary session – which we continue to support notwithstanding the heavy cost implications – the Standing Committee has lost much of its raison d’etre. We believe that the functions of the Standing Committee can be adequately discharged by the Bureau (see below).

      However we acknowledge that there are important discussions and decisions to be taken between the two plenary sessions where it would be desirable for all national delegations to participate and 'own' the decision: decisions on budget and future priorities come to mind. For these strategic decisions, which can be focused on a single Bureau meeting (eg in June), the UK recommends that each delegation not otherwise represented on the Bureau be permitted to send a delegate to that enlarged Bureau with full speaking and voting rights.

      Bureau

      The Delegation believes that the Bureau is of about the right size to function efficiently and effectively. We agree that Political Group Leaders and Chairs of Committees should participate as non-voting observers; Political Group Leaders should have unrestricted speaking rights, whereas Committee Chairs are normally restricted to subjects relevant to the Committee or their function as Chair.

      We recommend that the largest countries (France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey, UK) should have guaranteed presence on the Bureau, either ex officio or by nomination of the delegation. The remainder of the Bureau should be geographically spread with at least one representative from each of the main geographical areas (Scandinavia, SE Europe etc). The CEMR Executive Bureau provides a functioning model in this respect.

      The Bureau and other statutory meetings should normally meet in Paris or Strasbourg (noting that for most participants Paris is both more convenient and cheaper to access).

      Where meetings are held outside these two places, they should be at locations that are easily accessible. Moreover the meeting time should not be excessively devoted to the affairs of the host country.

      The current frequency is sufficient (six times annually).

      Chambers

      The UK Delegation considers that the bicameral structure no longer serves useful purpose. The distinction is increasingly redundant in an English context where there is an increasing move towards unitary authorities below the central government tier, where such authorities provide a wide range of functions. In some countries a service may be provided at the local level where in other countries it may be provided at regional level (or even by the state).

      However we would not oppose the distinction continuing in the selection procedures of the member states with the aim of ensuring a broad balance in the composition of the Congress.

      Statutory Committees

      We share the view that the Congress should focus on its core functions; these are generally acknowledged to be those currently covered by the remit of the Institutional Committee. However this focus should not be to the complete exclusion of other thematic areas, where the Congress provides an important and unique forum for sharing experience, ideas and solutions to issues that confront our local and regional authorities. The proposal to reduce the number of committees implies the creation of ever larger and therefore more unwieldy meetings where the ordinary member will have fewer opportunities to contribute: an institutional committee of 170 members approximates more closely to a plenary session.

      For these reasons we propose that the number of committees remains at four.

      We feel that each full member should have the opportunity to engage with Congress through its committees on a quarterly basis (ie on the eve of each plenary and once between sessions). These will make membership more rewarding, improve members expertise in the areas covered and hopefully improve participation and effectiveness.

      Alternate members do not have much exposure to the Congress, unlike the Committee of the Regions where full members are allocated two committees and will often dedicate the second committee to their alternate. The structures of Congress do not permit this fuller engagement. It is therefore important that alternates maintain connection with the Congress through rapporteurships and election observation missions. This is already permitted, but should be further encouraged.

      3. WORKING METHODS

      Standing Committee proposal

      · Reports: fewer texts, with more political content, and better follow-up and evaluation of impact [UK agree]

      · Priorities: higher priority for statutory activities (monitoring local democracy; election observation) [UK agree]

      · Evaluation: biennial evaluation and impact reports [UK agree, possibly annual]

      Some of the improvements sought in earlier presentations have been achieved (summary paragraph on the front of report; recommendations and resolutions attached to reports; increased brevity). However some reports are still lengthy and require more editorial control. Moreover they are sometimes over-academic and removed from the 'day job' of our local and regional authorities. Making our reports shorter, more political and more relevant should be our objective, making the process easier for all to engage with and making the work of the Congress more relevant and easier to profile to the outside world.

      The UK Delegation supports the view that the fundamental core mission of the Congress is to support local and regional democracy as its contribution towards the core values of the Council of Europe. In this regard, the Congress provides genuine addedvalue and a distinct role from other international local government organisations.

      4. TRANSPARENCY AND COMMUNICATIONS

      Standing Committee proposal

      · Transparency: greater clarity and fairness in allocation of rapporteurships [UK agree]

      · Website: to be improved [UK agree, propose most items be unrestricted]

      · Communications: improve flow of info to members, delegations and associations [UK agree]

      · External bodies: improve links with CoR and other EU institutions; national associations [UK agree]

      The Congress media effort is excessively event and personality-focused; terminology is too rich in jargon and insufficient effort is made to relate the message to the needs and interests of our constituency (being local and regional authority members and officials; citizens; national civil servants).

      Much of the current work of the Congress committees is shrouded in a security blanket, it is inaccessible and invisible to the outside world who can access only a calendar of meetings, but not meeting agendas or draft reports. This lack of transparency is not only unnecessary, it is against trends elsewhere towards greater openness (for example, the EU Committee of the Regions – by no means an exemplar when it comes to its website – publishes for open access all documentation for its Bureau meeting, as well as committee reports and agenda).

      Congress members want to be kept informed of developments in their institution beyond the committee on which they sit, but are unlikely to have the time or inclination to regularly visit the Congress website. Some delegations such as our own have a regular newsletter. Congress should aim to have a short, regular (2-monthly?) newsletter that digests all developments in lay terms. Such information would help members to become ambassadors for the Congress in relaying its activities to colleagues and civil society in their region.

      For the UK, as a member state of the EU, it is important to distinguish the role of the Congress and the CoE generally, from the Union and its bodies (notably the Committee of the Regions). Both parties have unique functions and can play these in ways that are complementary, whilst avoiding duplication and competition.

      Congress needs to ensure that the work programme of Congress is further aligned with that of CoR, to enable Congress to further influence and benefit from the policy and political work carried out by local representatives within the EU (and would increase relevance of Congress work to councillors coming from EU member states).

      For its part, a stronger cooperation with Congress will allow CoR to further influence and disseminate its work to a wider European audience, as the Council of Europe membership is far larger than that of the EU.

      Similarly, an even greater coordination with the international work of the national and European associations of local government will allow the important work that is being carried out by Congress to be better understood and deployed at local level, whereas those umbrella bodies could benefit further from the pan-European forum that the Congress is.

      B – National Associations of Local and Regional Authorities

      1. Austria - Association of Austrian Villages and Smaller Towns (Österreichischer Gemeindebund) – 13 August 2010

      The Association of Austrian Villages and Smaller Towns (Österreichischer Gemeindebund) comments the questions arising from the reform process in the CLRAE as follows:

      1. An extension of the mandates from 2 to 4 years should be supported. Reason: Continuity, members need not be nominated and confirmed all the time and can get used to subjects more easily.

      2. The reduction of the committees should te backed too. 2 Committees (with 170 members each) is thought nothing of. So the number of committees should be reduced from 4 to 3, each of them with 130 members. If we start from the assumption that about 50 % of the members participate in the meetings, this would lead to a number of members where you can discuss perfectly.

      3. More time for the meetings of the political groups should be appreciated. Interpretation however should be guaranteed too.

      Best regards

      Andreas Greiter

      2. Belgium - Association of Walloon Provinces – 27 July 2010 (translation)

      Namur, 27 July 2010

      Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe

      Proposed Resolution 305 (2010) on the reform of the Congress –

      Consultation document containing adopted resolution and explanatory memorandum amended following Standing Committee discussions

      Opinion of the Association of Walloon Provinces (Belgium)

      The Association of Walloon Provinces notes the Congress' constant wish to strengthen its working relations with the national associations of local and regional authorities in Council of Europe member states, inter alia through the holding of the General Meeting of National Associations.

      The Association welcomes the Congress' initiative of organising a consultation exercise to ascertain the expectations of national associations concerning the Congress' role, priorities and reform plans.

      We emphasise the Congress' wish to refocus its activities on the fundamental values of the Council of Europe while at the same time strengthening its role as a political organ and a forum for Europe’s local and regional elected representatives.

      We fully subscribe to the objective of the reform, which is to give the Congress a stronger and more effective political profile within the Council of Europe and on the European stage. This exercise presupposes a new focus for the Congress on its roles in the institutional sphere and in promoting local democracy in Europe, and on the production of fewer, shorter texts with a stronger political content giving the work of the Congress greater impact.

      The Association of Walloon Provinces emphasises the special place held by authorities at intermediate level in Europe and regrets that their specificity is not sufficiently taken into consideration by the Congress.

      Existing in over 60% of the countries of the European Union and in more than half of Council of Europe member states, local intermediate authorities play a vital part in supporting local initiatives and implementing innovative policies in areas larger than municipalities.

      It is characteristic of local intermediate authorities that they are in great proximity to the grassroots level and are of sufficient size to be able to carry out large-scale activities in fields as varied as education, health, social affairs, culture, tourism, sustainable development, etc.

      This proximity to the grassroots level means that citizens' specific expectations can be met more accurately than is possible at regional level, while the necessary resources are available to provide services which municipalities, especially the smallest ones, are unable to offer.

      Local intermediate authorities thus provide a vital link between citizens' concerns and the need to develop areas harmoniously in the European spirit of social, economic and territorial cohesion policies.

      In this context, local intermediate authorities create a link between urban and rural, prosperous and developing areas, while guaranteeing solidarity between residents benefiting from services of equivalent quality, wherever they live and whatever their socio-economic situation.

      This specific role of local intermediate authorities enables them to play a very significant part in disseminating and implementing the policies pursued by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

      However, notwithstanding the undeniable advantages of greater involvement of authorities at our level, the Association of Walloon Provinces notes that Congress initiatives are mainly directed towards municipalities, without the specific character of local intermediate authorities being taken into consideration. Whether it be the introduction of the Strategy for Innovation and Good Governance at Local Level or the organisation of European Local Democracy Week, projects are essentially designed to be applied to municipalities, and subsequently perhaps to provinces, departments, etc.

      In conclusion, the Association of Walloon Provinces subscribes to the objectives of reform of the Congress because it believes that these will take the Congress towards greater effectiveness and transparency and give greater political weight to its initiatives.

      At the same time, we take the view that the Congress should give particular attention to the specificity of local intermediate authorities and increase opportunities for co-operation with this level, particularly through involvement of the Confederation of European Local Intermediate Authorities and national associations in the work of the Congress.

      3. Germany – Federation of German Local Authority Associations

      (Bundesvereinigung der kommunalen Spitzenverbände) – 12 August 2010

      Contribution drafted jointly with the German delegation – see page …

      4. Latvia – Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments – 25 August 2010

      ...

      Regarding the Consultation Document (Resolution 305 (2010) on the Congress’ reform and amended explanatory memorandum), we have several comments and proposals:

      1. In the point 1 there is stated:

      “Local and regional democracy and the application of the subsidiarity principle at all levels are the fundamental prerequisites for building a Europe close to the citizens on the basis of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

      We propose to include and mention in this paragraph also the application of the proportionality principle, which is as much important as the principle of subsidiarity already mentioned.

      2. As to the “Structures of the Congress”, the point 22 regarding the Standing Committee, we would support Option 2, namely, that: “Plenary Sessions are held in June and late autumn of each year. The “Standing Committee” of the Congress in convened in spring (appr. February/March) of each year (..).”

      3. As to the “Structures of the Congress”, the point 27 regarding the mandate and composition of Statutory Committees, we would propose Option B with two committees, but with the condition, that all 318 members of the Congress can participate in the work of committees (not 264 as proposed in the Resolution): e.g., 159 members in Committee 1 for institutional affairs and 159 members in the Committee 2 for general affairs.

      We consider, that the Option B of the two proposed in the Resolution 305 (2010), which is leaving 54 members of the Congress out of participation in the Congress’ committees, will not succeed more thorough involvement of the members in the Congress’ work. On the contrary, it will alienate those excluded members’ active engagement in the topical issues considered in the Congress, which are likewise important for the local and regional authorities.

      5. Russian Federation - Union of Small Cities and Towns of the Russian Federation – 17 June 2010

      Dear Andreas Kiefer,

      The Union of Small Cities and Towns of the Russian Federation supported the proposals of the report "The reform of the Congress" and offers a complete text of the following position:

      "Congress is actively involved in its activities in various forms all formally valid in the countries of the Council of Europe unions and associations of cities and local authorities and include them in their working groups. The representatives of these unions and associations (regardless of their number in any country) should be included in the official delegations of each country, directed at the sessions of Congress."

      With best regards,
      Evgeny Markov
      President, Union of Small Cities and Towns of the Russian Federation

      6. Russian Federation - Union of Small Cities and Towns of the Russian Federation – 16 August 2010

      From: Eugene M. Markov, President of the Union of Small Cities and Towns of Russia

      Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe and national associations of local authorities - problems and ways of co-development

      I am honored to represent the first in the history of Russia national association of local authorities of small towns in our country - the Union of Small Towns of the Russian Federation, which was established in the most democratic way - by the gathering of heads of small cities in the country on their own initiative in 1991.

      In a few months our Union will celebrate 20 years of continuous activity. All these years, it was aimed at addressing the complex set of problems of economic and social development in this category of populated areas, to strengthen institutions of local self-government and uphold the principles of local democracy in the Russian provinces.

      At the time of the creation of our Union, Russia had no experience of these national associations, and we were forced to seek their own ways. But the principles of organization and activities of our association were very similar to the approaches of our colleagues in Western Europe.

      In our work we have from the start relied heavily on the European Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and in his documents. Acquainted with the European Charter of Local Self-Government, in 1992 we appealed to the President and the Parliament with a proposal to ratify this important document. In 1994, the first official Russian delegation was formed to take part in the session of the Congress, with wide participation of representatives of our Union. And I happened to be the first speaker at the Congress from Russian local authorities.

      Today, we have accumulated a great experience, but the role of the Congress, its materials, its initiatives, the role that was tangible in the first years of our activity, has recently become almost imperceptible. The spirit of democracy, which prevailed in the Congress earlier, is increasingly disappearing. We think that Congress begins to be guided in its work not so much by the content as by the form, not using its opportunity to be a working platform on a European scale, to create conditions for dialogue among the local authorities of all national associations without exception, to exchange experiences of the municipal development and development of local democracy in different countries. Our surveys show that local authorities and heads of small cities in Russia are familiar with the European Charter of Local Self-Government and rely on it in their work, but have no information about the Congress as a whole. We think that the representatives of the Congress are not always able to correctly understand the situation with the local government in one country or another, and to give adequate advice. This could be avoided if the Congress worked closely and permanently with all national associations, if the bodies of the Congress established a direct ongoing link with them. If the Congress sets itself a task to know the situation in the sphere of local government and local democracy on the ground, and to bring the results of its work to local authorities, it is necessary to use different forms and methods for accomplishing this task, including by involving the machinery of national associations.

      We, in turn, would like to know more about the work experience of similar associations in other countries of the European continent, the principles of their activities and relationships with public authorities, about their financial possibilities, and about ways in which the composition of their delegations to the Congress are formed, and by whom. How is the existing system of local government taken into account during this process? The Congress could seriously help us and other national associations to better understand these issues and thereby improve our performance. But, unfortunately, this is a job it is not doing yet.

      Yes, today, the Congress recognized the importance of national associations of local authorities and agrees that they should in one form or another to participate in the Congress. But in reality, this is not always the case. The complexity of the situation is in that in a number of European countries there exist and successfully operate not one but several national associations. Their creation, as our experience shows, is due to many objective factors. For example, in Russia there were unacceptably large differences in levels and real possibilities of development of towns and cities, which often leads to significant differences between the interests of their local authorities, including at the national level. So when in 1996 on our proposal the Government approved the Federal program for small and medium-sized cities, prepared by our Union, many mayors of large cities in the country expressed their disapproval of this decision and argued that the program should be the same for large and small cities. But when, in 2001, the Federal program for the revival of historical cities (both large and small) was adopted, almost all funding for this program was aimed at one of the largest cities in the country. These and many other similar examples again and again confirm the need for the existence of our two different unions - the Union of Small Towns of Russia and the Union of Russian (large) cities. In addition, since the late 90s, there were attempts to create in our country one single association of local authorities. First, the Congress of local authorities of Russia was created, then it was dissolved and, based on the provisions of the new federal law on local self-government, a completely different, but similar organization was formed.

      Which of these associations to choose as partners of the Congress? We believe that the Congress should draw on all national associations without exception. And it should determine its attitude towards them depending on the degree of activity and performance of each of the associations. Such an approach will significantly enhance the capacity of the Congress both in improving the feedback from local authorities, and in implementating its communication policy in general.

      Today the desire of governments to centralize control is strongly expressed in some countries. As a consequence, they sometimes find it expedient to reduce the number of national associations of local authorities. It is very important to determine the position of the Congress on the role of administrative factors in the formation of local self-government, in the development and strengthening of local democracy, including in the formation of national associations. In Russia for twenty years, together with the networks of local authorities democratically established on their own initiative, there were also the association established on the initiative "from above", including on the decisions of our Parliament. Thus, the Federal Act No 131 ordered local authorities to create their associations within each subject of the Federation. What is the position of the Congress on this issue? It is unknown to us.

      In July this year, the lower chamber of our Parliament adopted on first reading a bill that abolishes the executive bodies of local self-government in towns that are centers of metropolitan regions. Most local authorities assessed this decision as the elimination of local government in many hundreds of localities. Does this law conform to the spirit and letter of the European Charter? On this matter of principle for the national associations it is also important to know the position of the Congress.

      There are, in our opinion, other highly topical issues on which I would like to know the opinion of the Congress. Among them, the question of what is true democracy at the local level? In what forms should it be expressed? Is the main criterion for local democracy only if the election of local authorities?

      The next question is the relationship between State public administration and local self-government. How should these forms interact? Based on what principles should the structure of multilevel governance be improved?

      It is also important to question the role of national specifics and traditions in the construction of local government in different countries. We cannot not take into account the fact that the problems of local government, the terms of the local authorities and their associations in various countries are significantly different. And I would like the Congress to take into account more carefully these differences in their activity by interacting with the various national associations.

      What could be the specific form of this interaction? They are diverse. Among them, we propose to:

      - Include the elected leaders of associations into national delegations, the various working bodies and the Standing Committee of Congress. (It is exactly them who may become permanent and interested stakeholders in the dialogue. To do this they need a certain status and authority within the Congress. It is them on whom the Congress and its staff could rely in their activities, including in promoting the decisions of the Congress and providing the feedback from local authorities to the Congress);

      - Seek ways to overcome language barriers, which are very difficult for interaction between the parties in the Congress;

      - Involve all the national associations in the elaboration of the Congress documents and (or) send these documents to the associations to get feedback on them; include representatives of national associations in their working groups, expert panels and commissions;

      - Charge national associations with preparing draft documents of the Congress;

      - Conduct cross-national exchanges of experience of national associations, including the exchange of their delegations;

      - Organize joint work of several national associations (grouped by thematic, geographic or other grounds) on any document of the Congress;

      - Organise days of national associations in the Congress, with a demonstration of their work experience;

      - Charge national associations with carrying out certain work in accordance with the work plan of the Congress;

      - Respond positively to requests from national associations to assist them in addressing the various issues important to the association;

      - Organize broadcasting information about the activities of the Congress through the executive organs of the national associations;

      - Hear reports from national associations during the sessions of the Congress (if there are 2-3 of them in the country, then from each of them);

      - Provide support for various initiatives and activities of national associations (on their proposals), to participate in their preparation and conduct.

      To improve the effectiveness of the Congress, it would be more appropriate to have representatives of national associations address the sessions were, not just individual members of the delegations.

      In general, it is desirable to single out the theme of national associations, for which the Congress could ideally be a native European home, as a separate priority of its work.

      I would hope that the Congress will carefully consider the outlined proposals. We appreciate the work of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe and are interested in close cooperation with the Congress, although for many years we have been solving our problems without any support from the Congress, and do not have our representatives in its composition. But if the Congress wants to increase its influence on processes in the countries - members of the Council of Europe, its leadership and its working bodies will have to pay serious attention to the problems outlined above and proposals of national associations in general.

      7. United Kingdom – Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA – Brussels Office) – 9 September 2010

      The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) is the representative voice all 32 Scottish municipalities both nationally and internationally. COSLA nominates and provides the secretariat for two Scottish councilors, Cllr James McCABE and Cllr Helen OSWALD who have been confirmed as our Congress nominees on 25 June – their appointment going through the UK instances at the moment. We welcome this opportunity to contribute to a general reflection on the future of Congress and more specifically on the engagement with the national associations.

      Reform of Congress

      Cllr McCabe has expressed in previous meetings of the Standing Committee where this issue was discussed a number of proposals:

      · There is need to ensure that the work programme of  Congress is further aligned with that of CoR that would enable Congress to further influence and benefit from the policy and political work carried out by local representatives within the EU. (and would increase relevance of Congress work to Councillors coming from the EU MS)

      · Conversely, a stronger cooperation with Congress will allow CoR to further influence and disseminate its work to a wider European audience, as the Council of Europe membership is far larger than that of the EU.

      · Similarly, an even greater coordination with the international work of the national and European organisations of Local Government (such as CEMR) will allow the important work that is being carried out by Congress to be better understood and deployed at local level, whereas those umbrella bodies could benefit further from the pan European forum that Congress is.

      · On the role of the Standing Committee, that is the fact that it is the only EU wide body where all Member States have an equal number of local and regional government representatives. Therefore a possible avenue for reform would be  re-focus the  work of the Standing Committee to those highly institutional matters that affect local and regional government across the board. Perhaps issues such as regionalization/devolution, multi-level governance, financial self sufficiency, benchmarking and performance management, local accountability etc.

      Taking stock of the above the COSLA Convention agreed on 25 June that “concerning the review of Congress that is currently taking place, the Convention [endorses] the general view that, while efficiency, value for money and simplification of it are welcome proposals, we should oppose any change that would undermine the effective and distinctive representation of Scottish Local Government and the Scottish Devolution arrangements in the Congress structures. "

      In view of that, the Skard Report, particularly recommendations g, h and i as discussed in the last Standing Committee, are positive ones.

      In reflection of the above points there also needs to be recognize the great scope for efficiencies for this institution, let alone to make it more focused as the Skard report indicated , while keeping the current structures.

      A possible way forward could be to simplify back office and secretarial services to both chambers (and indeed this would ensure more effective work) . Empirical evidence shows that much paperwork could be reduced, as the Skard report indicated whith more focused and shorter papers. Similarly moving to electronic tools such as the recently introduced online registration process is very much welcome.

      Engaging with national associations

      Clearly, considering the frecuency of Congress meetings it is essential to ensure direct, fluid and frequent exchanges between the secretariat and the national associations , particularly, as it is our case, when they are also nominating bodies of Congress members.

      Doing so would benefit both sides, given the experience on the ground that the national associations have. Very frequently, as our experience shows, national associations are at the forefront of the structural changes affecting local government, either institutional, financial, managerial or on policy changes.

      Therefore an early exchange with between congress and the national associations in jointly looking at and drafting the Congress priorities for each year and term would be of mutual benefit to ensure the relevance of congress work and ownership of the local authorities. Certainly to a certain extent this already happens, however engagement is rarely as good as it should be. Part of it is that in most cases officers dealing with Congress correspondence also service other EU or international bodies, which limits scope for reaction.

      Without prejudging a given solution at this stage it would be useful to instituionlise having meetings of national associations (not not to confuse with the member state secretariats which as in our case are different organisations) and the Congress secretariat in the margins of Congress meetings. It is understandable that particularly at plenary meetings this would be difficult. However such frequent face-to-face meetings would allow a more precise understanding on the priorities and constraints of both sides.

      Serafin Pazos-Vidal

      Head of Brussels Office

      Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)

      serafin@cosla.gov.uk

      C - Associations having Observer status with the Congress

      1. AER (Assembly of European Regions) - Strasbourg, 20 July 2010

      Dear Mr President,

      In response to your letter from 30 June, I am pleased to send you below the Assembly of European Regions’ comments to the planned reform of the Congress.

      First of all, we are happy to see that our call to abandon the merging of the two Chambers of the Congress1 has been heard. A merger of the two Chambers would have constituted a step backward and a return to the situation which prevailed before 1975 and Resolution 75-4 of the Council of Europe which officially opened the Conference of Local Authorities to the Regions. Regionalauthorities would have lost again all visibility within the Congress. In our opinion, the existence of an ad hoc Chamber of the Regions is a necessity in order to meet the demand for legal standards and good governance which arises from the regionalisation processes in which Europe is engaged today in countries such as Portugal, Greece, or FYROM.

      As for the other proposals concerning the structure of the Congress, we indeed share your views that the number of Committees could be reduced. You may know that AER went through the same process four years ago, and by doing so, we were successful in enhancing our efficiency and visibility. Concerning the name of the Standing Committee, due to its nature and tasks, I would personally favour the suggested option ‘Council of the Congress’ rather than ‘Special Forum’, which sounds more like an ad hoc event, or ‘Assembly’, which could lead to misunderstandings with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

      We welcome the clarifications provided by the consultation documents on the future priorities of the Congress. To raise its profile within the Council of Europe 1 See our letter to Secretary General Andreas Kiefer, 9 April 2010, and on the European stage in general, we indeed think that the Congress should focus on its core issues, i.e., promoting local and regional democracy. This includes for us not only the monitoring of the Charter of Local Self Government and its implementation, but also that of the Reference Framework for Regional Democracy adopted in November 2009 in Utrecht, in line with the Kiviniemi report and the Recommendation CG(18)7 which you mention in par. 5 of the explanatory memorandum CG 18(16).

      Eventually, we think that more synergies could be found within the Council of Europe in general to promote the interests of local and regional authorities, which are key actors in our democracies. In the spirit of the Kiviniemi report, we can therefore only urge the Congress to work more closely with the Council of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly but also with ad hoc structures of the COE dealing with local and regional issues, such as the CDLR. In that context, we welcome the presence of a CDLR Secretariat representative at the next working group meeting on interregional cooperation to be held on 13 September.

      The Congress, as underlined in items 17 and 19 of the memorandum CG18(16), would also gain efficiency and visibility by opening itself to the outside, through strengthened links with European and national associations of local and regional authorities and relevant NGOs. The AER is already promoting Council of Europe charters, as well as positions and studies of the Congress among Regions, and can play a key role in their actual implementation.

      Last but not least, let me reassure you of the willingness of the AER to cooperate with the Congress to strengthen the voices of regional authorities in Europe.

      I would be pleased to meet with you to further discuss our comments and I wish you the best in your pursuit of reform,

      Best regards,

      Klaus Klipp - AER Secretary General

      2. Association of Kosovo1 Municipalities – 21 July 2010

      Dear President Micallef,

      Thank you for the opportunity to be consulted on the reform of the Congress.

      May we first state that our engagement with the Congress is enormously valuable and has assisted the municipalities of Kosovo to understand and takes steps to adopt the European values shared by the Members of the Congress.

      We are supportive of the reform steps that you are taking and believe it is particularly important to introduce a new dynamic in the monitoring of the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

      In relation to the specific areas of consultation it is our view that:

      · Meetings of the plenary session should take place in spring and autumn of each year and with the Standing Committee convening in June; this model has a greater regularity and can be better managed into planning cycles;

      · A reduction to 3 Statutory Committees is the preferred option (not 2) as this maintains a specific focus on the monitoring of the Charter.

      In relation to the preparation of texts we consider it is helpful to have a clear separation between texts that are of a political nature and address contemporary experience of local and regional authorities, and those texts that set a definitive standard of practice within a thematic area. We have some concern that a focus only on shorter political texts would reduce the historic and educative quality of Congress materials.

      The reform proposals do not alter the role of the Partners to the Congress. In our status as Observer we would hope to continue a role of being able to comment on issues of discussion, particularly where they are relevant to the Kosovo situation. We also seek to play our part (article 47 of the explanatory note) to relay and publicize Congress activities.

      Thanking you again for your consultation.

      Best regards,

      Sazan Ibrahimi

      AKM Executive Director

      3. FEDRE (Foundation for the Economy and Sustainable Development of the Regions of Europe) – 12 August 2010 (Unofficial translation)

      Effectiveness

      A strengthening of the effectiveness of the Congress is certainly a good thing with, as proposed, a focus on statutory activities and more concrete recommendations, more political, less numerous and shorter and more powerful texts. FEDRE hopes that this goal of efficiency (which it shares) does not conceal another one which is to save money. In the same vein (p.4), one should avoid referring to the Congress as the "third pillar" of the Council of Europe, which implies a hierarchy, and instead say "one of the three pillars" of the Council of Europe.

      On the 4-year term

      This is consistent with greater efficiency, and FEDRE also shares this proposal.

      On the Standing Committee

      Concerning the change of name (which we support because the current title sounds "bureaucratic" and there are also a lot of "committees" which makes it confusing), we prefer "Permanent Council". Having it strengthened by the presence of heads of national delegations is a step in the right direction, as is the proposal that its members can be members of a statutory Committee which seems to be a matter of common sense.

      On the single-chamber nature of the Standing Committee and the statutory committees

      Our experience, including political, encourages us to support this measure of rationalisation. Indeed, in some countries at least, the border between "local" and "regional" is difficult to pinpoint (eg with the proliferation of various forms of groupings of municipalities, or the existence of large cities), and the matters dealt with are often very similar. Moreover, today, entities such as the départements in France or the Kreise in Germany, considered by them to be local, could quite easily be regarded as regional in other countries.

      On options with 2 or 3 committees

      FEDRE strongly favors the option with 3 committees. Having only 2 committees would be too detrimental to certain activities which are "peripheral" to the Congress, but very useful, such as what is done – and in which we are highly interested - in the context of sustainable development (this is just an example). In this regard, we note that the concept of “urbanity”, developed by the two successive Urban Charters of the Congress, is very interesting and promising. It also reflects the greater proximity that exists today (see above) between the local and regional dimension on a number of issues.

      For the FEDRE (Fondation Européenne pour le Développement durable des Régions):

      Claude HAEGI, President, former President of the Congress

      François SAINT-OUEN, Executive Secretary

      D – Others

      1. Ireland – Sean O’BRIEN – Former member of the Congress – 16 August 2010

      I would recommend that Observers for Local and Regional Elections should not be confined to current members of CLRAE.  Those with previous of observing and reporting on elections should offered the opportunity even when they are not members, but are still a member of a National Association.   This particularly relevant for Countries who have a small delegation to Congress.   I personally would like to still be a member of Congress but because of the small delegation and the rules for chosing the delegation I am not now a member but I have a lot of experience of observation, report writing and presentation of reports to congress.
       
      Councillor Sean O' Brien, 83 Whitehall, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, Ireland. 00353 86 3892854

      II – THE PRIORITIES OF THE CONGRESS FOR 2011-2012

      A – Members of the Congress

      1. Austria - Gudrun MOSLER-TÖRNSTRÖM (R, SOC) – 13 August 2010

      Comments to the document on the Priorities of the Congress for 2011-2012

      I welcome the clear proposals, which are also in line with the spirit of the reform of the Congress and I endorse the mission to develop local and regional democracy. I would be happy to see concrete supporting measures and a n intensified exchange and cooperation among Congress members to achieve these goals. The work of the Congress should not limit itself to the routine of meetings, but encourage cooperation among local and regional authorities and among Congress members. Here the specific needs of members from non-EU countries must be taken into consideration accordingly.

      2. Czech Republic – delegation – 19 August 2010

      From: Kučerová Olga [kucerova@smocr.cz]
      Subject:
      SMOCR_consultation_Reform of the Congress and Priorities 2011-12

      Dear Sir, Dear Madam,

      By email on 5 July 2010 you invited us to tell you our national association’s position on the reform of the Congress of local and regioanl authorities First of all, please accept our apologies for the late reply.

      We support the reforms of the Congress such as they are suggested in the Standing Committee documents (Resolution 304 on the Congress’s priorities for 2011 – 2012 and Resolution 305 on the reform of the Congress).

      Concerning the proposal to reduce the number of statutory committees (article 27 of Resolution 305 on the reform of the Congress), we support option A (three committees).

      Yours faithfully, 

       

      Olga Kučerová

      Secretary to the delegation of the Czech Republic

      3. Denmark – delegation – 11 August 2010

      Comments from Danish Delegation on the Congress priorities 2011-2012 (Resolution 304)

      We support the priorities as outlined in the resolution.

      B – National Associations of Local and Regional Authorities

      1. Latvia – Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments - 25/08/2010

      The Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments agrees with the priorities of the Congress for 2011-2012 elaborated during the Standing Committee of 18 June 2010 and stated in the Congress’ Resolution 304 (2010).

      ...

      2. Russian Federation - Russian National Congress of Municipalities -
      14 August 2010

      In our opinion, the Congress’ control and monitoring function on the one hand and its activity on developing practical cooperation in strengthening local and regional democracy and building a big Europe without dividing lines on the other, remain unbalanced in the proposed draft resolution.

      First of all we should be guided by the interests of our voters who are primarily concerned about quality of life, ecology, employment, security, availability of public services, development of education and culture.

      The Congress activity should be versatile, should cover all aspects of life at the level of local and regional authorities and all issues of ensuring our citizens’ life, promoting good governance at the local and regional level and fostering interregional and cross-border cooperation.

      In case the Congress does not actively participate in facing new challenges of the XXI century and limits itself to mere monitoring and elections observation, its value will reduce. These functions can be successfully transferred to the other bodies of the Council of Europe, such as PACE or CDLR. That’s why it is essential to retain the unique role of the Congress as a platform for exchange of views and practical cooperation between the local and regional authorities of the Council of Europe.

      I believe that contributing to the core values of the Council of Europe does not mean to mechanically copy the activity of the other bodies of the Council of Europe. The Congress should make its contribution using its own methods and mechanisms and its unique long experience of developing cooperation in various spheres between local and regional authorities.

      It is utterly important that the Ministers Conference of the Council of Europe in Utrecht in November 2009 has, through the questionnaires, worked out the urgent priorities for all countries to implement them at local and regional levels. These priorities should be taken into account in our work because the local and regional authorities act not in vacuum but in the framework of policy pursued by the relevant ministries and governments of the member-states.

      That is why we propose a new edition of point 15 of the Appendix to the draft Resolution on the priorities for 2011-2012 and suggest to support it.

      Amendment

      Article I. A new edition of point 15 of the Appendix B is submitted:
      “The Congress will specify its thematic activities within its statutory committees in accordance with the core values of the Council of Europe and the competence of these committees, focusing on local and regional aspects of the Council of Europe’s priorities, reflected also in the priorities of the Utrecht Agenda (November 15-17, 2009), including promoting good governance, interregional and cross-border cooperation, social cohesion, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue.

      A new edition of point 15 is submitted in accordance with Article 2 of the Statutory Resolution CM/Res(2007)6 and aimed at enhancing the role of the Congress in the development of practical cooperation between local and regional authorities, participation in achieving the ideal of European unity and implementation of the priorities of the Utrecht Agenda, adopted by the Conference of Ministers of the Council of Europe member-states responsible for local and regional government (Utrecht, Netherlands, 15-17 November 2009), and further development of the unique experience of the Congress.

      Russian National Congress of Municipalities – President S. Kirichuk

      C - Associations having Observer status with the Congress

      None

1 All reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, in this context shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo



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