Final conference of the CLIP Network, “Six years CLIP – Moving beyond city level” , Fourth Round of Discussions: From CLIP towards a European Integration Policy, A European Pact for Integration (Stuttgart, 26-27 November 2012)

Speech by Vice-President John Warmisham, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Council of Europe

Check against delivery,

Mr Chair,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

I would like to make several points to contribute to this discussion.

First of all, we in the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities fully agree that there is a need for a European Pact for Integration, involving both EU and non-EU member states and their grassroots communities. We are pleased in this regard with the steps already taken, both at national level – such as the German National Action Plan – and within the EU, such as the Second EU Agenda for Integration, the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility and the Communication on the Integration of Third Country Nationals. We support in this regard the emphasis on employment, education, active inclusion and active citizenship as crucial components of integration.

However, we believe that a broader approach is needed when developing any future integration framework. Integration at local and regional level, which offers a way towards better social cohesion and greater citizen participation, should be seen as a response to the major challenges to European democracy today, both in terms of the growing cultural diversity of Europe and the current crisis – not only economic and financial but also a crisis of democratic institutions and representative democratic model as a whole.

This crisis is characterised by a growing gap between the institutions and the citizens, the feeling of exclusion from decision-making, a lack of public trust in democratic institutions and representative figures, and people’s disillusionment with democratic processes as a whole. The crisis is taking place against the background, on the one hand, of increasing migration flows into and within Europe. On the other hand, we are witnessing today a surge in people’s activism outside the established institutions of governance – through civil society, voluntary activities, social networks and protest movements, for example.

These factors compel us – public authorities – to act on finding new ways of engaging citizens and providing for their better and more meaningful participation in decision-making, governance and power-sharing. A European Pact for Integration would therefore constitute an integral part of our efforts to build a new model of participatory democracy in Europe, and we must necessarily involve the already established local community in this process.

This model, combining representative and direct democracy, must be based on two underlying principles. First, it should be designed as a process in which all persons, not just nationals, are involved at all times, not just during elections, in the conduct of public affairs at local, regional and national levels. Secondly, participatory rights of Europeans must be extended and enlarged, and should no longer be linked to citizenship, but to the length of residence.

In this regard, the 1992 Council of Europe Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level provides for the right to vote and to stand in local elections for everyone who has lived in a given community for five or more years. Today, more than 20 European countries effectively grant foreigners the right to a local vote. The Convention also provides for setting up consultative councils of foreign residents as local and regional representative structures for migrants – a practice that has been spreading across Europe. The right to a local vote, the right to stand in local elections and local political representation are major steps for local integration and participation of migrants, and should be part of any integration framework.

Furthermore, we in the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities are convinced that any such framework must involve several key sets of measures, aimed at:

- fighting prejudice against migrants, raising public awareness of their cultures and contribution to the local community, and communicating the advantages of diversity in order to change the perceptions of the local population;

- ensuring equal access of migrants to social rights and public services, which may involve affirmative action and special efforts to remedy the inherent disadvantages, and which must include access to employment, education, housing and health care, among others;

- fostering interculturalism through local intercultural policies, intercultural and interreligious dialogue, etc.;

- and promoting active citizenship through, among others, education on national laws and local regulations, education for democratic citizenship and human rights education.

Active democratic citizenship in particular should be a major part of any framework for integration.  We need citizens who are well informed of their rights and civic duties, and who are capable of exercising these rights, fulfilling these duties, and taking an active stand in defending democratic values. Education for democratic citizenship should be embedded in particular at the grassroots, which is why the 2010 Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education places a special emphasis on the role of local and regional authorities in fostering such education.

Finally, another component of a framework for integration would be strengthened and broadened inter-municipal and inter-regional co-operation across Europe, and in particular co-operation between EU and non-EU municipalities and regions. The initial framework for cross-border cooperation, based on the 1980 Madrid convention for transfrontier cooperation and its protocols, is already in place and should be developed further.

Today, cross-border co-operation already allows for dialogue within Europe between towns and regions from the countries of origin, transit and destination of migrants. As for external migration, today’s policies of the European Union and of the Council of Europe towards neighbouring regions should also be aimed at engaging the countries of migrants’ origin in dialogue on migration modalities, involving especially the local and regional level.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to conclude by emphasising that the factors I have just mentioned highlight the need for a European Pact for Integration. Cultural diversity and the necessity of integrating cultural groups is certainly a transnational, pan-European issue, and to a very large extent, this is a local and regional issue. The culture of acceptance and integration of ethnic and religious minority groups must be promoted at European and national levels, but it is nurtured and practiced first and foremost in families and communities, and this must be duly reflected in any future pact or framework for integration.

Thank you.