9 June 2010

The reform of the Congress

Bureau of the Congress

Rapporteurs: Halvdan Skard, Norway (L, SOC[1])

         Günther Krug , Germany (R, SOC)

A. Draft resolution. 2

B. Explanatory Memorandum. 3


The new Secretary-General elect of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, undertook, with the support of Member States, a profound reform of the Organisation whose purpose is to refocus the activities and mission of the Council of Europe around its core values: human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

The Congress has chosen to pursue its ongoing discussions about its own tasks and priorities in the same context, convinced of the opportunities afforded by this joint exercise. 

The report presents proposals for activities and gives high priority to its primary objective, local and regional democracy, as an indispensable contribution to the mission of the Council of Europe.

A review of structures such as the Standing Committee, the thematic committees, the working groups is proposed in order to optimise the functioning of the different bodies and, consequently, the quality of the Congress’ work.

Once discussed and possibly amended by the Standing Committee, the report will be forwarded for opinion to national delegations and national associations of local and regional authorities.

A revised report and a draft recommendation will be submitted to the Congress at the 19th session (26-28 October 2010).

A. Draft resolution

1.  Local and regional democracy and the application of the subsidiarity principle at all levels are the fundamental prerequisites for building a Europe close to the citizens on the basis of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

2.  The Congress is aware of the indispensible role of local and regional authorities at both national and European levels for implementing these values and for monitoring, defending and developing local and regional democracy. As the political assembly of local and regional elected representatives and with its activities in the 47 member states of the Council of Europe it contributes real added value to the Organisation’s work.  

3.  The Congress therefore welcomes the initiative taken by its Bureau in reviewing the Congress’ mission and political role, its place within the Council of Europe and on the European stage, its structures and its working methods with a view to making it as efficient and as relevant as possible. The respective amendments to the Statutory Resolution, the Congress’ Charter, its Rules of Procedures and the internal processes and structures of the Secretariat must aim at a higher impact, more relevance and visibility and more effectiveness and efficiency of the Congress.

4.  The Congress is aware that some elements of its reform can be decided within its own sphere while some will require amendments to the Charter, which is subject to the approval of the Committee of Ministers and consultation of the Parliamentary Assembly.

5.  It particularly welcomes this initiative given that Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, has, with the backing of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, launched a thorough reform of the inter-governmental sector of the Organisation with a view to re-focusing the Council of Europe’s activities on its fundamental values and at revitalising it as a political body and innovative organisation.

6.  As these two reforms are taking place at the same time, the Congress can take into account the Secretary General’s proposals to ensure that the renewed Congress and the Council of Europe remain perfectly in step while respecting the specific role and identity of the Congress.

7. The Congress thanks Mr. Skard and Mr. Krug for their report, for the approach they have chosen to involve the national delegations at several stages of the reform process and for the openness of their draft proposals.

8.  It therefore believes that this report is a constructive and promising step in a reform which will help to give the Congress a stronger institutional profile and more impact, confirming the importance of its role both within the Council of Europe and on the European stage.

9.  In view of the above, the Congress:

a.  endorses the Congress Bureau’s general approach to the reform and agrees with the Bureau that the aim of the reform is to give the Congress a clearer and stronger political profile by focusing resources on the activities which constitute the Congress’ political and institutional mission and are at the heart of the Council of Europe's mission;

b.  is convinced, that the Congress would have greater impact by producing fewer texts which are shorter and more political in content. Recommendations should be more concrete and not just a collection of good intentions but a basis for a political debate with the Committee of Ministers. All adopted Congress documents should be subject to clear follow-up procedures focusing on the evaluation of the impact achieved;

c.  believes that it is essential that a higher priority be given to the Congress’ statutory activities such as the monitoring of local and regional democracy and the observation of elections, and that this sector should be strengthened accordingly;

d.  believes that it is necessary that thematic issues dealing with responsibilities of local and regional authorities are clearly based on the Council of Europe’s fundamental values and the political priorities adopted by the Congress;

e.  will emphasise its activities - within the structures of the Council of Europe, with its members, the national and European associations of local and regional authorities as well as with the Committee of the Regions of the European Union and other partners - in contributing to developing democratic standards, good governance, the evolution of our societies and all matters of the future of democracy, human rights and the rule of law with a local and/or regional dimension;

f. proposes that it continue to hold two sessions per year;

g. considers that the Standing Committee should be maintained as the body acting on behalf of the Congress between the two sessions and that it should consist of the head of delegation for each member state in addition to 2 full members in the case of states with regions (1 + 2), or, for the other states, 1 full member (1 + 1);

h.recommends that it maintain its bicameral nature but keep the unitary structure of its statutory committees which would therefore only meet in plenary;

i. proposes that, since priority should be given to local and regional democracy issues, the number of statutory committees be reduced from four to two or three committees, while continuing to ensure a seat on a committee for each Congress member;

j.  decides to consult the national delegations and national and European associations on these proposals prior to the next Session;

k.  invites the Bureau to continue and finalise their discussions in the light of the debate on the report and on the basis of the delegations’ reactions, and to submit its final proposals at the 2010 October Session. For issues that need additional discussion proposals should be presented at the Session in March 2011.

B. Explanatory Memorandum


1.  In June 2008 the Congress began a review of its working methods and political role, at the initiative of Suvi Rihtniemi and the Finnish delegation. Accordingly, the Congress Bureau asked Halvdan Skard to produce a report which would permit it to examine the different proposals in the matter, and agreed for a questionnaire to be sent to national delegations.

2.  The results of the questionnaire, which was sent out in October 2008, were summarised in a discussion paper[2] which was examined by the Congress Bureau in May 2009. A more in-depth debate was subsequently held at the meeting of the Standing Committee in Brdo on 10 June 2009. A summary of the various points of view expressed in Brdo and a first list of possible steps forward were prepared for the February 2010 meeting of the Bureau[3].

3. During the 18th Session, in March 2010, the question of the reform of the Congress was again raised on several occasions. The Bureau decided to appoint Günther Krug as co-rapporteur in respect of the Chamber of Regions and to convene an extraordinary meeting on 12 April 2010 to hold a detailed discussion of a reform of the Congress in the light of the various issues to be addressed such as the Council of Europe reform, the place of the Congress in the present institutional landscape, and the current budgetary situation of the Council of Europe. On 21 May 2010 the Bureau discussed a draft report with concrete proposals which were subsequently incorporated in the document submitted to the Standing Committee on 18 June 2010.

4.  While the Congress was pursuing this preparation of its own reform, Thorbjørn Jagland was elected Secretary General of the Council of Europe. He launched a broad reform plan for the Council of Europe, with the strong support of the Committee of Ministers. This thorough reform aims at revitalising the Council of Europe as a political body and an innovative organization by concentrating its work on projects that offer the highest added value and present comparative advantages – to do what others cannot do.

5.  In this framework the Congress actively performs its own thorough reform which acknowledges its specific institutional role and political identity. The Congress will take account of the recommendations of the Kiviniemi Report[4] and its own recommendation on the "Follow-up by the Congress of the Conference of Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government".[5]

6.  With this in mind and having taken into consideration the discussions in the Bureau and in the Standing Committee the rapporteurs have presented the following proposals for the main issues that were addressed and that the Congress needs to examine, namely the place of the Congress within the Council of Europe, co-operation with external partners, the structures of the Congress, its activities and working methods, the transparency of the Congress and its communication policy. This takes into account the wish for more impact of the Congress’ activities and the involvement of Congress members in its work. All changes to the structures of the Congress have been done on the basis of the available budgetary and human resources. Once adopted by the Congress the proposals are to be implemented.

7.  Depending on the kind of provisions to be adopted the timelines may vary greatly. Changes of the Rules of Procedure may be implemented promptly while amendments to the Statutory Resolution and the Congress’ Charter require approval by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. It is indeed important that the Congress show responsiveness and readiness to match as far as possible the pace set by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and that consequently it should, where able, take decisions capable of adoption in the very near future – based on a thorough reflection and discussion within its statutory bodies.

8.  In parallel and in line with this review, the Congress will define its priorities for 2011-2012 and for the budget. All three documents have to be coherent and in line with the reform of the Council of Europe as a whole while respecting the specific role and identity of the Congress. While the document on the Budget 2011 will be discussed and adopted by the Standing Committee on 18 June 2010, the two others are foreseen for adoption at the Plenary Session in October 2010. In case of additional need for discussion on the latter, a final decision can be taken at the session in March 2011.

The place of the Congress within the Council of Europe

9.  The Congress is one of the key components of the Council of Europe. It is the third pillar of the Organization and the most important body for local and regional elected representatives in Europe. It contributes to the promotion and recognition of local and regional government and decentralization as a prerequisite and integral part of democratic governance. The Congress also has an important role in the development of multi-level governance and democracy.

10.  The Congress gains its essential raison-d'être from being an integral part of the Council of Europe with its core values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The budget of the Congress is voted by the Committee of Ministers. The participation of the Congress members in statutory meetings and monitoring activities is financed by the Council of Europe’s budget.

11.  It is essential to develop close dialogue with the Congress’ main institutional partners the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly. The recently established high level meetings between the Secretary General and the Presidents of the statutory organs (Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly) and the European Court of Human Rights, the Congress and the Human Rights Commissioner serve this purpose.

The Congress must co-operate closely with the Committee of Ministers, and in particular participate actively in the Chaves Advisory Group established at the Utrecht ministerial conference aiming at establishing a new relationship between the intergovernmental sector (CDLR) and the Congress, which should be developed into a real partnership.

12.  While the Congress provides for the input of the elected representatives from the local and regional authorities, the Parliamentary Assembly brings together elected representatives from the national parliaments of our member countries. Both political bodies reflect the different experiences and backgrounds into the work of the Council of Europe and represent the different levels of democracy in our member states. On the basis of their positive experiences, dialogue and co-operation between the leadership of both institutions including their committees and an exchange with, inter alia, the rapporteurs on documents of common interest has to be established. 

13. It is indispensable to develop synergies and good co-operation with the various partners in the Council of Europe such as the Venice Commission.

14.  Any discussion of the Congress’ political objectives must be closely tied to the priorities of the Council of Europe as a whole. It is in our interest to demonstrate our desire and willingness to remain a relevant and valued component of the larger institution. Regular bilateral high-level contacts with our main partners would raise the awareness of the value of our activities and provide the Congress with vital feedback about the impact and usefulness of these activities. This is a two-way process: increased dialogue will encourage our institutional partners to take the Congress priorities into account when setting their own objectives.

Co-operation with external partners

15.  Based on its priorities the Congress shall develop close co-operation with its external partners in the fields of a local and regional dimension of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

16.  The fields for common activities as outlined in the co-operation agreement with the Committee of the Regions of the European Union shall be fully exploited. Working relations with the European Commission for example in matters of democracy, good governance and the rule of law should be explored.

17.  European and national associations of local and regional authorities as well as NGOs can help in translating the political initiatives of the Congress and implementing the legal instruments of the Council of Europe at local and regional level and therefore are important partners. The institutional role of the Congress shall be complemented by joint activities with the associations.

18.  In many areas international organizations can benefit from the knowledge of the Congress. Concrete modalities of co-operation which also raise the profile of the Congress are to be explored.

19. In this spirit the Congress shall continue to co-operate with civil society, relevant NGOs and in particular with the Council of Europe’s Conference of INGOs.

Structures of the Congress

20.  The architecture of the Congress's bodies follows its objectives and tasks. The structures, together with improved working methods, are the fundamental tools which will lead to the success of the reform process. The reform aims at increasing the impact, relevance and visibility of the Congress and at greater effectiveness and efficiency.

21.  Two Sessions shall be held every year to discuss and adopt texts and perform its statutory functions. A political exchange among members, with the institutional partners of the Congress and with other bodies shall also take place there.

22.  The Standing Committee has the function of the Plenary Session, meeting once a year to take decisions on behalf of the Congress outside Plenary Sessions. Its role is not comparable with that of the Statutory Committees. It shall be maintained but changed in designation, composition and the organisation of its work.

To show its relevance for the Congress and to avoid confusion with the role of Statutory Committees its name shall be changed. Options for discussion are "Council of the Congress", “Standing Council of the Congress”, “Special Forum/Assembly/Session” … It shall become more representative and therefore comprise also the heads of the national delegations. Its composition shall be as follows:

"The Council of the Congress shall consist of three representatives from each national delegation. Nevertheless, States which do not have regions in the sense of Recommendation 56 (1999) shall have only two seats on the Council. Membership in the Council of the Congress does not affect participation in Statutory Committees". Members of the Bureau of the Congress and heads of the national delegations shall be included among these representatives, who shall come from both Chambers.

In addition to its present statutory tasks as a body acting on behalf of the Congress and as a forum of political debate with the respective chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, with the Parliamentary Assembly and other actors, it shall facilitate a dialogue with and among the national delegations.

The higher representativity should also result in a strengthening of the decisions of the “Council”. A submission of a report to the Session instead of treating it in the “Council” shall need a request of at least twenty-five members from at least ten national delegations or of the chairpersons of at least one third of the national delegations.

Two options deserve consideration:

Option 1:

Plenary Sessions are held in spring and autumn of each year. The “Council” of the Congress is convened in June. Every 2 years the “Council” discusses and votes the political priorities for the next Congress’ mandate and each year discusses and adopts a report and recommendation on its budget for the next year and to fulfil its other present statutory tasks.

Option 2:

Plenary Sessions are held in June and late autumn of each year. The “Council” of the Congress is convened in spring (appr. February/March) of each year, if a statutory need for the adoption of texts is given or if it is requested by the Bureau or by the heads of at least half of the national delegations. A possible date for a meeting shall be announced on the occasion of the autumn Session.

Background information:

The Standing Committee at present:

The Standing Committee unites members from all member states and acts on behalf of the Congress. It adopts texts (budget, priorities, observation of elections, monitoring of the European Charter of Local Self-government, etc.) between sessions. Being composed of 1 - 2 representatives per delegation it ensures fairly broad geographical representativeness. It meets once a year.

The Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) convenes its Standing Committee in the country holding the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. This allows an exchange of views with the country’s authorities on the situation of the country. The close partnership of the PACE with the national parliaments provides more options to organise external meetings than is the case for the Congress.

23.  The discussion about the most appropriate structures for a political organ such as the Congress showed that there is a divided attitude towards abandoning the bicameral structure. There is, however, consensus, that in any case the structure of the delegations with their local and regional members must be untouched and that working structures, where local authorities and regions can address their specific interests, be provided for. The major advantage of the Congress is that it gives local and regional authorities unique platforms. This guarantees that specific local and regional issues can be discussed according to their priorities. Nevertheless, there is a high potential for effective co-operation between both sides.

The arguments put forward for a unitary structure were effectiveness, simplification of procedures, better synergies, allowing collective exchanges on questions which – while of a local or regional nature – affect all local and regional authorities, and possible savings.

The arguments supporting a bicameral structure were: keeping special attention fixed on the questions relating only to the municipalities or the regions; preserving the institutional specificity of the Congress, averting dilution of the questions addressed which would be prejudicial both to the regions and to the local authorities.

Convening the Chambers and their Bureaux at the occasion of the Sessions and of the Congress Bureau   meetings does not cause substantial additional costs given that the bureaux of the Chambers outside the Sessions meet consecutively and therefore do not cause additional interpretation expenditure. The interpretation expenditure required for meetings of the Chambers and their Bureaux at the occasion of Sessions presently is also used for the meetings of the Committees and of the political groups.

Therefore it is proposed to maintain the plenaries and the Bureaux of the Chambers but not the Chambers in the Statutory Committees and in the “Council” of the Congress (former Standing Committee).

24.  The Bureau is the body in charge of the current political affairs of the Congress. It is also in charge of supervising the allocation of resources and proposing priorities. In order to enable it to perform its coordinating function with the committees properly, the chairpersons of the Statutory Committees and the
Presidents of the Political Groups should be granted a seat in the Bureau meetings as observers, as is already the case.

25.  The number of Statutory Committees can be decided by the Congress and the Committee of Ministers is to be informed (Art. 4.2. of the Statutory Resolution CM/Res(2007)6). Rule 36.1. of the Congress' Rules of Procedure currently foresees

- an Institutional Committee (presently 61 members, meeting three times per year, one of these meetings during Plenary Sessions)

- a Culture and Education Committee (presently 55 members, meeting twice per year, one of these meetings during Plenary Sessions)

- a Committee on Sustainable Development (presently 55 members, meeting twice per year, one of these meetings during Plenary Sessions)

- a Committee on Social Cohesion (presently 45 members, meeting twice per year, one of these meetings during Plenary Sessions).

In order to be more flexible in responding to newly arising issues – such as the current economic and financial crisis – the number of Statutory Committees could be reduced, but the number of members per committee could be increased. Flexibility could be ensured by giving committees a wide enough mandate and by appointing Thematic Rapporteurs who could draft reports on their specific areas of expertise. This would avoid the need to create subcommittees.

26.  All Congress members may sit in a Statutory Committee or a subsidiary structure (e.g. working group) and participate in missions to monitor local and regional elections. This sharing out of work shall be achieved within the national delegations. Membership in the “Council” of the Congress does not affect participation in Statutory Committees.

27.  The following options for the mandate and composition of Statutory Committees are proposed for discussion. They aim at increasing the number of meetings per year in order to establish more interaction among members and to foster the “team spirit” of the Congress. A higher number of meetings of fewer bodies should also enable members to participate more often in the Congress’s work. All decisions taken must be financially neutral at the end. This means additional requirements in one sector must be compensated by reducing costs in others. The present structure of the Group of independent experts shall be transformed into a network.

Proposed new committee structures:

Option A: three committees

Committee 1 for monitoring of the European Charter of Local Self Government and for institutional affairs

(130 members, 2 meetings outside sessions per year plus 1 during one session; to be adapted according to workload)

Committee 2 for general affairs (within the scope of the statutory mandate, e.g. governance, public finance, cross-border and interregional co-operation, e-democracy …)

(94 members, one to two meetings outside sessions per year, 1 during one session [spring])

Committee 3 for political affairs (to meet the needs for a general exchange on current thematic issues e.g. social cohesion, education, culture, sustainable development etc)

(94 members, one to two meetings outside sessions per year, 1 during one session [autumn])

Option B: two committees

Committee 1 for institutional affairs

(170 members, 2 meetings outside sessions per year plus 1 during one session)

Committee 2 for general affairs (within the scope of the statutory mandate, e.g. governance, public finance, cross-border and interregional co-operation, e-democracy …)

(94 members, one to two meetings outside sessions per year, 1 during one session [spring])

28.  Working groups’ mandates should be specific and time-limited. While acknowledging the interest of the questions dealt with in the existing groups, it is important to find an alternative to the context in which this is done at present. They could be dealt with within a Committee or by appointing a rapporteur on a specific question.

29.  The political groups of the Congress have a role of exchange and co-ordination among their members and should be political workshops for them. Therefore they should be granted more meeting time during the sessions. With a view to mastering expenditure for interpretation, we should aim to have parallel meetings of no more than two groups.

Activities and working methods of the Congress

30.  In the context of the current reform of the Council of Europe, the Congress needs to take a serious look at its main activities. The Congress devotes much of its time to preparing reports, recommendations and resolutions for the attention of the Committee of Ministers and local and regional authorities. However, many of the technical texts produced by the Congress seem to have little or no impact; the Committee of Ministers often does not see the need to react to a recommendation, other than taking note and informing the Congress of its current work that relates to the subject in question.

31.  The Congress would have greater impact by producing fewer texts which are shorter and more political in content. Recommendations should be more concrete and not just a collection of good intentions but a basis for a political debate with the Committee of Ministers. All adopted Congress documents should focus on the local and regional dimension of democracy, human rights and the rule of law and be subject to clear follow-up procedures focusing on the evaluation of the impact achieved. This kind of follow up requires additional commitment of the rapporteurs and the secretariat.

32.  The Congress needs to focus its activities on the core values of the Council of Europe and its own political priorities. The profile of the Congress as the watchdog of local and regional democracy in Europe will rise considerably by increasing the rhythm of monitoring the European Charter of Local Self-government to five years per member state and by maintaining the observation of elections. These are areas where the unique activity and the added value of the Congress show. This increased activity must be accompanied by better co-ordination with the other bodies of the Organisation working in this sector, and a reinforced and restructured secretariat. In addition to these statutory tasks the Congress can add value to the Council of Europe’s work on innovation of democracy by contributing the experiences of its members as well as by further developing the concept of multi-level governance.

33.  A human rights element shall be included in the Congress’ monitoring of the European Charter of Local Self-government. Local and regional authorities have a key role to play in ensuring that human rights are respected at local and regional level, and the Congress could and should be doing more in this respect.

34.  The biennial political priorities and the strategic work programme of the Congress should be established after involving the Bureau and the Statutory Committees. On this basis all bodies should develop biennial strategic work programmes, taking into account the budget of the Congress. Biennial evaluation reports of the results and impact of the work programmes should be presented to the Bureau and the Statutory Committees. This qualitative evaluation complements the evaluation on the basis of performance indicators as introduced for the Council of Europe’s budget for 2011 for the first time.

35.  With regard to the Bureau's constantly increasing workload, its decision-making process could be streamlined by applying the technique used in meetings of the Ministers' Deputies, where a number of decisions are presented for adoption without debate. A review of the decision making process in the different Congress bodies should be undertaken (Session, Chambers, Bureau, committees, …).

36.  The Congress cannot continue to provide support to other organisations and external activities in the form of financial grants and subsidies. Given the present financial constraints, it is strongly advisable for the Congress to concentrate its budget on financing its own activities. This should not prevent the Congress from continuing to co-operate with bodies such as ALDA, NALAS and ENTO in joint activities. On the other hand, the Congress needs to develop its capacity to obtain voluntary contributions to finance specific activities in this field.

Transparency of the Congress

37.  A political body such as the Congress not only needs to function smoothly but also needs to be seen to do so and in particular to be beyond reproach with regard to the way in which decisions are taken. Guidelines and more detailed procedures are required for many aspects of its functioning, including the appointment of rapporteurs, monitoring missions and the preparation and conduct of election observations. Concrete proposals should be submitted for adoption for the new mandate beginning in October 2010.

38.  In order to make the work of the Congress more transparent for members, simple guidelines informing them of how they may propose new issues or ideas for Congress activities shall be published by the Secretariat. These should also include information about language skills and availability required to serve as a rapporteur defending the document in CoE bodies and beyond. The guidelines should indicate the procedure and approximate timeline after examination in the appropriate organ up to the preparation of a report, a debate, a hearing or any other form of activity and include a flowchart to clarify the successive steps for the preparation of texts, the decision-making process and the follow-up after adoption.

39.  More members shall be involved in the Congress activities in particular as regards the appointment of rapporteurs, taking due account of members’ very diverse backgrounds, professional expertise and experience. Transparent and open procedures for calling for candidates and appointment of rapporteurs should be included in the guidelines mentioned above.

40.  Both the public website and the restricted site for members, shall be improved in terms of structure and ease of use as well as in terms of content.  In particular for facilitating access to documents, members should be notified when new or additional documents for meetings are posted on the website, and when a total document package can be downloaded. The website should provide more information on the state of preparation of texts and the follow-up given to adopted texts by the Congress and other Council of Europe bodies or other organisations. Compilation of follow-up reports should be presented to the Congress at regular intervals, for information and possible reaction. This will also enable members to strengthen implementation in their own countries.

41.  The criteria for deciding "who does what" need to be clearly set out, so that activities are organised in as transparent a manner as possible. The participation of Congress members in activities depends on a number of factors, some of which are political, such as their position in the Congress and need to strike a balance between political groups, while others are logistical such as their availability and the availability of interpretation at a given event.

42.  A manual of procedures, similar to that produced by the Assembly, would make the Congress a far more transparent body and avoid much of the confusion which can arise when those procedures are dispersed in a large number of documents of different types.

Communication policy

43.  The communication policy of the Congress is aimed at several different target groups. At one level it is a service for citizens and media, promptly informing them of developments which concern them.  It also functions as a service for local and regional authorities and their associations, informing them directly of the Congress activities and texts which concern them. The aim is to create clear, concise and relevant messages for each target group based on a communication strategy.

44.  Congress members are an integral part of the communication policy. The Congress needs to supply regular information to its members and delegations. For this purpose the new Internet members' database, which has already brought about a noticeable improvement in the information available to members, shall be further developed and extended.

45.  The Congress website continues to be the main communication tool of the Congress. It has been substantially overhauled in recent years, but more improvements could and should be made.

46.  European Local Democracy Week, a concrete way to implement our communication strategy, is now centred on the Congress and needs to be evaluated and further developed as a means of communicating Congress activities and standards to a wider public.

47.  In order to have maximum impact and make the best use of its limited resources, the Congress needs to work with partners who can relay and publicise its activities. National delegations and national associations are obvious natural partners in this respect, and the communication policy of the Congress should accordingly treat them as priority multipliers for disseminating information about Congress activities.


48.  In January 2010, when he launched his ambitious reform plan, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland spoke of three goals and four pillars. The goals were: to revitalise the Organisation as a political body; to concentrate work on fewer projects with added value and comparative advantages; to develop a flexible organisation that is more visible and more suited to the needs of European citizens. The four pillars were: governance; a review of activities to concentrate on impact and added value; appropriate structures and a focus on the European Convention of Human Rights.

49.  The proposed reform of the Congress should be fully in line with this vision while respecting the institutional role and identity of the Congress as a political body. The Congress should focus on improving governance and supporting participation of the citizens in the municipalities and regions through the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the Reference Framework on Regional Democracy, adapting its structures and concentrating its activities where it can achieve the greatest impact.

[1] R : Chamber of Regions / L : Chamber of Local Authorities

ILDG : Independent and Liberal Democrat Group of the Congress

EPP/CD : Group 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

[2] Document CG/CP(16)4

[3] Documents CG/BUR(17)27 and CG/BUR(17)28

[4] Document MCL-16(2009)3: "The Kiviniemi report: How to enhance the work of the Council of Europe in the field of local and regional democracy?”

[5] Document  CG(18)7