Recommendation 76 (2000) 1 on the participation of foreign residents in local public life

The Congress,

1. Having regard to:

- the stand taken on numerous occasions by the CLRAE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe over the past twenty-five years and, in particular:

– CLRAE Resolutions 85 (1976) and 93 (1977) on “the measures to be taken to assist migrant workers concerning housing, schooling of their children and civil and political rights” and “the extension of civil and political rights to immigrants”, respectively;

– Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 799 (1977) on “political rights and the position of aliens”;

– CLRAE Resolution 236 (1992) on “a new municipal policy for multicultural integration in Europe and the Frankfurt Declaration”;

– the CLRAE European Urban Charter;

– the Council of Europe Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level, open for signature by member states since February 1992;

– the Council of Europe’s European Convention on Human Rights and its additional protocols;

2. Thanking the City of Strasbourg and its “Conseil Consultatif des Etrangers (CE)” (Foreigners’ Advisory Council) for having organised, in conjunction with the CLRAE, the conference “What participation by foreign residents in public life at local level?”, held in Strasbourg on 5 and 6 November 1999;

3. Considering the Strasbourg Appeal adopted at the close of the conference by almost 400 participants from 120 European towns in twenty-four countries;

4. Convinced that respect for the right of foreigners to participate in the political life of their town of residence stems directly from the principles of human rights and democracy which are the attributes of the Council of Europe;

5. Convinced that enjoyment of this right is essential for social cohesion in towns, lasting tolerance and peace in our societies;

6. Judging the continuing distinction between nationals of the European Union and those of countries which are not members of the European Union to be discriminatory;

7. Strongly convinced that the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union should not contradict these basic principles;

8. Noting that there are large numbers of foreign residents living in European countries, including certain central and eastern European countries, either because state borders have been redefined in the course of history, or as a result of migration for economic or political reasons, or following the conflicts which have raged in several parts of our continent and elsewhere in the world;

9. Convinced that migration will continue, even if it is regulated, and that the future lies in open multicultural communities;

10. Convinced that the fundamental principles of human rights and democracy require that foreign residents who have legally settled in European states on a long-term basis should not be excluded from political life at local level;

Calls upon member states to:

11. Sign and ratify as soon as possible, if they have not already done so, the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level and to take advantage of the range of measures proposed by the Convention in gradually granting political rights to all foreign residents who have settled in their countries on a long-term basis, in accordance with residence criteria compatible with the spirit of the Convention and the democratic principles of human rights, without distinction as to race, religion, ethnic group or origin;

12. Give their support to associations of foreign residents which make a vital and democratic contribution to their integration and to the fight against intolerance, racism and discrimination and thereby work towards achieving social cohesion in towns and enabling different cultural communities to live there in harmony;

13. Facilitate the setting up by local and regional authorities of advisory bodies representing foreign residents, drawing inspiration from examples that already exist in a large number of European towns and regions;

14. Consider, as soon as possible, the possibility of granting these foreign residents the right to vote in local and regional elections, drawing inspiration from the positive experiences of countries which already apply this policy;

Invites the Committee of Ministers to:

15 Forward this recommendation to the directorates general concerned within the Council of Europe and, in particular, to DG I (Legal Affairs), DG II (Human Rights) and DG III (Social Cohesion), inviting them to take it into account, together with the conclusions of the Strasbourg Conference and its Appeal, when drafting their future programmes of activity in order to contribute to the exchange of experience, the shaping of opinions and the spread of good practice on residents-citizens’ full participation in local democracy, whatever their country of origin;

16. Consider this recommendation when preparing the Council of Europe’s contribution to the Year against Racism declared by the United Nations in 2001;

Invites the Parliamentary Assembly to:

17. Give widespread publicity among its members and in national parliaments to the concerns of the Congress and of the participants in the Strasbourg Conference, as expressed in the Appeal adopted by them;

18. Ask its competent committee(s) to take action such that the measures proposed in the Council of Europe Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level are better known and applied and that the spread of good practices in this field is promoted, in co-operation with the competent CLRAE committee(s);

Calls upon the European Union to:

19. Ensure that the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union currently being drawn up is consistent with the spirit of the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level; that it recognises the citizenship through residence of all foreign residents, whatever their country of origin, and that it grants them the right to vote and stand in local elections, on the basis of common criteria governing conditions of residence.

1 . Debated by the Congress and adopted on 24 May 2000, Second Sitting (see Doc. CG (7) 5 draft recommendation, presented by Mrs H. Lund, rapporteur).