Antonella Cagnolati: "The Congress reform will consolidate the role of local and regional authorities »

By deciding to reform its own working structure and review its priorities, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe intends first and foremost to "do less, but better".  Congress Director Antonella Cagnolati stresses in an interview that its aim is to help local and regional authorities work more effectively and consolidate their influence and role.

Interview – 09.07.2010

Question: The Congress is preparing to review its structures and reorient some of its activities, at a time when, like the Council of Europe as a whole, it faces a very challenging budgetary situation.  What is the thrust of this reform?

Antonella Cagnolati: The importance of the role of local and regional authorities, both at national and European level, makes the Congress a unique political assembly which has real added value for the Council of Europe. Of course, the Congress has to work with a budget 10 times smaller than that of the European Union's Committee of the Regions yet it has some genuine assets, namely the responsibility of upholding the European Charter of Local Self-Government.  This mission assures a unique mandate, encompassing monitoring, election observation and the supervision of grassroots democracy.  The aim of the rationalisation of our activities is to focus on greater effectiveness and our specific expertise, but it will also free up indispensable additional resources.

Question: In practical terms, are you going to drop certain activities or alter your working methods?

Antonella Cagnolati: While mayors rightly take an interest in matters such as global warming, migration and public transport, we must nevertheless remain realistic: the Congress is not a technical centre of expertise designed to issue instructions to elected local representatives.  It is, however, well-equipped to help towns and cities to work on these subjects, and to encourage them to make their needs and expectations heard.  In other words, we must provide cities and municipalities with the methods and political tools that will enable them to achieve their goals so that they may fully satisfy their role.  We shall of course continue to express our views about matters of general interest, but we must be more incisive and, to sum up, "do less, but better".

Question: The Congress also wishes to introduce a stronger human rights dimension into its activities: what will this mean in practical terms?

Antonella Cagnolati: The promotion of intercultural dialogue and the encouragement of "city diplomacy", as well as the combating of exclusion, are areas where human rights come into play at local level, and these activities will be continued and developed.  Similarly, the promotion of ethical conduct by local elected representatives and the prevention of corruption are also priorities essential for reconciling citizens with politics … and to encourage them to start voting again.