27 May 2010
The resources of the Congress and its 2011 budget
Bureau of the Congress
Rapporteur: Jean-Claude FRECON, France (L, SOC)
In 2008, the Congress decided to hold annual debates, at the Standing Committee meeting in June, on its budgetary resources, its development prospects, the resources needed and the choices to be made.
At this historic moment, the Congress believes that it is important to support the efforts to reform the Council of Europe proposed by the Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland, by making the effort to accept a 2% reduction in the 2011 budget and that, in this context, it is also important for it to optimise the impact of its action by concentrating its resources on priority activities and reviewing its structures and working methods.
The Congress budget for 2011 will therefore have to take account of three major factors:
1) The reform of the Council of Europe;
2) The state of preparation of the Congress’ priorities for 2011-2012;
3) The ideas on the working methods and political role of the Congress currently under discussion.
The Congress is convinced of the important role which a Council of Europe refocused on its priorities can play in the European arena and hopes that the reform and the sacrifices made by the various players will generate fresh momentum that will also enable bodies like the Congress to play their full part within the Organisation and in the European institutional arena.
1. On the initiative of its Secretary General and with the full support of the Committee of Ministers, the Council of Europe is currently undergoing a far-reaching process of reform affecting both structures and activities.
2. The aim of the reform is to refocus the Organisation’s activities on the fundamental values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, which lie at the very core of the Council of Europe’s mission, so as to give it the high political profile it should enjoy.
3. For its part, the Congress – fully aware of local and regional authorities’ increasing role in the European construction process and of its own role within the Council of Europe – has been reviewing its remit, activities and working methods since 2008.
4. The reform initiated by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe therefore gives the Congress an opportunity to shape its own review and reform process in a manner that will enable it to develop the best synergy possible within the Organisation while clearly asserting its institutional role.
5. Unfortunately, these reform processes aimed at the essential optimisation and political refocusing are also taking place against the particularly difficult background of the current financial crisis, which is imposing major reductions in resources on governments.
6. The Secretary General was therefore obliged to ask the various bodies within the Council to draw up 2011 budgets that are sharply down on the previous year. For its part, the Congress was asked to prepare a 2011 budget with a 2% reduction.
7. The Congress endorses the position of its Bureau, which agreed to the request for a reduction in the budget when consulted on the matter.
8. The Congress believes that it is important to support the efforts to reform the Council of Europe by making an effort concerning the 2011 budget and that, in this context, it is also important for it to optimise the impact of its action by concentrating its resources on priority activities and reviewing its structures and working methods.
9. The Congress is convinced of the important role which a Council of Europe refocused on its priorities can play in the European arena and hopes that the reform and the sacrifices made by the various players will generate fresh momentum that will also enable bodies like the Congress to play their full part within the Organisation and in the European institutional arena.
10. The Congress will therefore draw up a budget for 2011 showing a reduction of 2%, in keeping with the request by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and focusing on the areas deemed to be priorities such as the monitoring of commitments regarding local democracy and the observation of local and regional elections.
11. Given the challenge which the reform represents for the Council of Europe and in the absence of additional budgetary resources for expanding and strengthening its role, the Congress hopes that the synergy of activities and the enhanced dialogue within the Organisation, in particular with the Committee of Ministers, will enable it to continue developing its political role regarding local and regional democracy on the European arena.
12. In the light of the above, the Congress asks the Committee of Ministers to:
a. take note of the total willingness of the Congress to co-operate and ensure the full success of the processes of reforming the Council of Europe and the Congress itself;
b. involve the Congress fully in the discussions concerning the future of the Organisation and afford it its rightful place in this connection;
c. pay due attention to the monitoring by the Congress of the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the recommendations it makes following the observation of local and regional elections in certain member countries;
d. study the possibilities for developing regular dialogue between the Committee of Ministers and the Congress at the level of the chairs/presidents or bureaux.
B. Explanatory memorandum
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe offers local and regional authorities in the Council of Europe’s 47 member states a unique platform for exchanges and dialogue, both inside and outside the Organisation.
As guardian of the principles of local self-government enshrined in the European Charter of Local Self-Government further to the mandate assigned to it by the Committee of Ministers in Resolution CM/Res(2007)6, the Congress is responsible for monitoring member states’ compliance with their commitments regarding local democracy.
Given the increasing role played by local and regional authorities in Europe in terms both of local governance and of the European construction process, the Congress is therefore a platform for political co-operation of vital importance which brings added value to the Council of Europe’s remit and the building of a Europe based on democracy and law.
In 2008, the Congress decided to hold annual debates on its budgetary resources, its development prospects, the resources needed and the choices to be made. Given the timetable for the Council of Europe’s budget discussions, it was agreed that the debate should be held at the Standing Committee meeting in June.
The aim here is to enable the Congress to hold an exchange of views about the financial resources available and the priorities which the Congress must establish for using those resources.
Moreover, against a background of budget austerity that is unlikely to end in the near future, choices have to be made in the use of resources and the opinion of the Congress is essential in this respect. A debate about the use of resources, the possible options and the very function of the Congress is therefore necessary.
In this regard, the Congress also wished to be able formally to adopt a recommendation to the Committee of Ministers on its funding requests. The Congress is pleased to have been able to begin dialogue with the Committee of Ministers on the subject and to have had the opportunity to put across its view of the activities of the Congress and the resources it wishes to have at its disposal.
Lastly, this dialogue with the Committee of Ministers offers another key advantage, the importance of which the Congress fully appreciates: the possibility of ascertaining the various positions within the Committee of Ministers regarding the Congress, as well as the ministers’ expectations and views of its current activity and any proposals they have for the future.
I therefore cannot but welcome this new practice and would call for the positive dialogue initiated with the Committee of Ministers on the matter to be stepped up still further.
2. 2009 BUDGET AND ACTIVITIES – STOCK-TAKING
The year 2009 saw the introduction of strict budget control of expenditure. Monitoring the use of funds on a daily basis while at the same time carefully managing any unexpended balance were all the more necessary since, in 2009, for the first time, a second plenary session of the Congress was held and funded through more efficient management of the available resources.
This new practice proved effective as regards control of expenditure in real terms. The prudent use of the 2009 budget enabled the Congress to implement all its statutory activities, including the second plenary session held in October, and also to make additional efforts for other priority activities.
Among these other priority activities, particular efforts were focused on the monitoring reports and the observation of local and regional elections. It should also be noted that 2009 saw expansion of the European Local Democracy Week.
Unfortunately, because of the difficult year for the Council of Europe’s general budget, the Congress was unable to manage the balance as it would have liked. An unexpected and unforeseen request by the Secretary General in June for a reduction in the Congress’ budget stopped the execution of the budget and therefore delayed the implementation of activities, a development which was only partially made up for when the rate of activities resumed.
3. 2010 BUDGET AND ACTIVITIES – INITIAL ANALYSIS
The 2010 budget was drawn up according to the same procedure as for 2009. Continuing the effort to prioritise the monitoring activities, the Bureau decided, in particular, to carry out monitoring in 15 countries in 2010.
The current year, 2010, is marked by the implementation of some of the reforms at the Council of Europe, which will clearly reduce our current resources, pending a subsequent upturn.
However, 2010 will probably also be marked by the process of reflection that has been under way in the Congress for almost two years regarding its priorities and structures, which should lead to changes in the latter and the adoption of new priorities in line with those guiding reform of the Council of Europe.
4. 2011 BUDGET – PROSPECTS
For the 2011 budget, the Secretary General asked the Congress for a 2% reduction with respect to 2010. Having been consulted on the matter, the Bureau of the Congress held an exchange of views and, recognising the importance of the reform of the Council of Europe to the future of the Organisation, agreed to the Secretary General’s request.
As has been underlined several times, the Congress budget for 2011 will therefore have to take account of three major factors:
3) The reform of the Council of Europe;
4) The state of preparation of the Congress’ priorities for 2011-2012, which will probably be approved in October, on the occasion of the biennial renewal of the Congress;
5) The ideas set out in the document on the working methods and political role of the Congress (Rapporteurs: Mr Krug and Mr Skard).
The Congress wishes to contribute to and co-operate actively in the process of reforming the Council of Europe on the basis of the proposals by the Secretary General, supported by the Committee of Ministers, aimed at strengthening the Council’s political role and consolidating its action in achieving democratic security and greater unity in Europe.
In January 2010, when he launched his ambitious reform plan, the Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland, set out three goals: to revitalise the Organisation as a political body, to concentrate work on fewer projects and to develop a flexible organisation that is more visible and more relevant for the citizens of Europe.
These three major goals are to be pursued on the basis of four pillars: better governance, a review of activities to concentrate on impact and added value, appropriate structures and a focus on the European Convention on Human Rights.
It is in this context that the Congress will have to focus in particular on improving governance through monitoring of implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the widest possible application of the Reference Framework for Regional Democracy.
Moreover, the Congress will have to use appropriate structures to develop its functions and concentrate its activities on areas where it can make the greatest impact.
In a spirit of co-operation, and also because it believes that this is now essential, the Congress will continue its efforts to refocus its activities on the Council of Europe’s three core areas – democracy, human rights and the rule of law – and modernisation of its working methods.
In focusing its activities on the Council’s core values, the Congress will probably decide to intensify the monitoring cycles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the observation of elections, areas in which its added value is recognised.
The Congress will also have to step up its activities concerning election observation and the implementation of the reference framework on regionalisation, and incorporate the human rights dimension in the monitoring of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. Local authorities have a key role to play in ensuring that human rights are respected, and I believe that the Congress could and should be doing more in this respect.
With regard to the budget choices for 2011, at this particular juncture in the history of the Council of Europe, the Bureau of the Congress has agreed to the Secretary General’s proposal of a 2% reduction in its budget for 2011, while recognising that this will have inevitable consequences for the activities of the Congress and the objectives which it can reasonably set for next year.
The Bureau of the Congress agreed to these sacrifices given the far-reaching reforms now being carried out at the Council of Europe, in the hope that its efforts, like those of all the other sectors, will be rewarded with fresh dynamism for the Council of Europe. It hopes, too, that the revitalisation of the Council of Europe will go hand in hand with renewed dynamism in its future financial resources.
I strongly believe that an increase in financial resources would enable the Congress to achieve the critical mass needed for it to perform the crucial role that falls to it in the Council and beyond, with an expansion in its activities in the area of local and regional democracy.
The Congress is willing actively to engage in reforming its structures, priorities and working methods. It is also willing to play a full part and support the Secretary General of the Council of Europe in the reform of the Organisation which he has undertaken.
It believes that these processes can bring the Council of Europe and its organs fresh impetus and a stronger and higher-profile political role.
In this spirit, the Congress also believes that it is important for the various Council of Europe organs and bodies to develop real synergy so as to ensure a strong political presence for the entire Organisation.
For its part, the Congress is determined to step up dialogue with the various organs and bodies of the Council of Europe. It wishes to give particular priority here to dialogue with the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly.
 L: Chamber of Local Authorities/R: Chamber of Regions
ILDG: Independent and Liberal Democrat Group of the Congress
EPP/CD: Group of the European People’s Party – Christian Democrats of the Congress
SOC:Socialist Group of the Congress
NR:Member not belonging to a Political Group of the Congress
 Preliminary draft recommendation approved by the Bureau of the Congress on 21 May 2010
Y. Mildon, President of the Congress , I. Micallef, President a.i of the Congress and President of the Chamber of Local Authorities, L. Sfirloaga, President of the Chamber of Regions, D. Suica, G. Krug, A. Knape, S. Rihtniemi, H. Zach, I. Borbely, J-C. Frécon, S. Orlova, F. Pellegrini, K. Andersen, E. Yeritsyan, I. Michas, O. Van Veldhuizen, and N. Romanova
N.B : The names of members who took part in the vote are in italics
Bureau Secretariat: D. Rios, Linette Taesch