Implementation of the Council of Europe policy towards neighbouring regions
      122nd session of the Committee of Ministers

      23 May 2012, Strasbourg (France)

      Speaking notes for President Keith Whitmore Congress of Local and Regional Authorities Council of Europe

      Mr Chair,

      Ministers,

      Excellencies,

      Ladies and Gentlemen,

      First of all, I would like to congratulate the United Kingdom on the successful completion of its Chairmanship, and to express gratitude for, in particular, stimulating discussion on local and regional democracy activities of the Organisation.

      Speaking of the neighbourhood policy, I am pleased to say that the Congress has been involved at the very early stage in designing and implementing this policy, together with the intergovernmental sector and the Parliamentary Assembly, in the spirit of the reform of this Organisation launched by Secretary General Jagland, which we fully support.

      I would like to take the specific examples of Morocco and Tunisia in this moment of historic changes. The Congress is proposing two types of intervention:

      - an immediate assistance to help establish an adequate legal framework for a real local and regional democracy to take root;

      - in a second stage, to support initiatives on democratic governance and co-operation with newly elected local representatives based on the know-how and experience of the Congress elected members.

      Our immediate assistance will be based on the relevant Council of Europe standards, mechanisms and instruments for enhancing local and regional democracy. In Morocco, building on our experience with this country, the Congress will continue its assistance with the new legislation on regionalisation, following their request made in 2010. We are organising an exchange of views between a delegation of the Congress and members of the Specialised Committee of the Moroccan Parliament, to take place in Rabat.

      For Tunisia, we will be contributing to the work of the National Constituent Assembly and will share experience with the future Parliament in drafting legislation on regional and local self-government.

      We are also offering expertise to accompany the electoral processes and will possibly be observing local and regional elections in both countries. We will also be developing initiatives aimed at raising leadership capacities of newly elected representatives, building confidence and creating conditions for setting up national associations of local authorities.

      Last but not least, the Congress is also considering offering a “special partner status” for Moroccan and Tunisian local and regional elected representatives and their associations.

      Our action for the southern Mediterranean is built on our long-standing experience in the region, dating back to 1988. Today, we are proceeding with this action in close co-operation with other actors and Council of Europe bodies to ensure its coherence and that it is driven by demand from the neighbouring countries themselves.

      In conclusion, I would like to welcome the ascending Chairmanship of Albania. We are pleased that local and regional democracy will continue to be a priority as it was for the previous Chairmanships of Ukraine and the United Kingdom. I know that we already have a rich and concrete programme of activities for this Chairmanship, which I fully welcome. Thank you.



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