Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

      Madrid (Spain), 12 May 2009

      Speech by Ian MICALLEF, President a.i. of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities

      Delivery version

      Mr Chairman,

      Ministers,

      Excellencies,

      Ladies and Gentlemen,

      It is a privilege and also an advantage to be one of the last speakers in this meeting, since I have been able to listen to the voice of the governments. Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like you to hear a different and unique voice. It is the voice of the local and regional authorities, the voice of your communities, of our communities.

      For some 60 years now, with decentralisation, the governments of Europe have recognised first the legitimacy and then the usefulness of local and regional governance.

      Even if the good health of local democracy and the quality of local governance still varies in Europe, even if there is much room for improvement - and the Congress is there to ensure this through its monitoring of the European Charter of Local Self-Government - local democracy today is an accepted fact, it is the object of strong consensus in our member states .

      The immense movement of decentralisation is underway. It still has some way to go, but it is unstoppable.

      This is why I would like to use these few moments to underline another role that is still unknown, or insufficiently well known, of our 200,000 local and regional authorities.

      The serious crisis that we are experiencing today will be solved neither by national knee-jerk reactions, nor by turning our back on globalisation. The way out of this crisis will be global and the world of tomorrow, the post-crisis world, will also be global. But that does not mean that our local communities will become obsolete. Far from it. We will need to relocalise our societies. Paradoxically, the era of globalisation will also be the era of "small is beautiful" - the era of the local community.

      The economic revival, for instance, that we have put high on our political agendas invites us to relocalise. Local authorities are at the heart of these revival policies, public investment in many of our countries is largely carried out by local authorities.

      Sustainability, the other wing of the new policy to find a way out of this crisis, will also be largely the work of local authorities.

      Local authorities, your local authorities, are the central actors for improving the quality and the sustainability of our life-styles.

      And so, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen, in the toolbox that is the Council of Europe, you have a tool that is tailor-made for tackling these problems: it is the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. It is committed to joining its activities more closely with your own activities in the Committee of Ministers.

      Following the good example of the dialogue that we have enjoyed with the Spanish Chairmanship and which we wish to continue with the coming Slovenian and Swiss Chairmanships, I will be submitting a proposal to create a structure to continue the dialogue between the Committee of Ministers and the Congress.

      Give the Congress the chance to show what it is capable of and do not cut short its ambitions by a lack of means.

      We are entering an era where imagination and good governance are needed as never before.

      They are needed in our local and regional communities.

      They are needed in our governments.

      They are needed in the Council of Europe.

      It is up to you as the decision-making body of the Council of Europe to weigh up the stakes and make best use of our assets. As for the Congress, it is firmly with you and ready to play its part.

      Thank you.



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