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.
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).
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.
Monitoring: I agree, but other thematic work must be possible as well, even though at a reduced level → but in line with 9 d.
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.
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.
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:
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.
See above to 9.j.: four to five years.
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.
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.
Yes, responsibility for the follow up of adopted documents should be given to rapporteurs.
32. - 36.
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.
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).
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.
Congress, Council of Europe
6. Czech Republic – delegation – 19 August 2010
From: Kučerová Olga [email@example.com]
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).
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.
§ 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.
§ 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).
§ 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.
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
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)
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".
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
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 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
Reflect on the effectiveness and usefulness of the separate meetings of the Bureaux of the two Chambers
Should be deleted as it is not applicable to large delegations (that all members should have a seat on a committee)
Option B: two committees
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
We refer to our proposal to reduce the number of committees to three, while ensuring that they work efficiently and effectively.
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.
Were the working groups to be retained, which we doubt, strict deadlines would have to be imposed on them for carrying out their tasks.
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.
Dan Kersch - President of SYVICOL
Jean-Pierre Klein – Chair of the Luxembourg delegation to the Congress
13. Monaco – delegation – 6 August 2010 (unofficial translation)
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.
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
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.
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]
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.
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).
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.
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.