18th Plenary Session of the Congress

Strasbourg, 18 March 2010

Interview with Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland

Thorbjørn Jagland: “The Congress should be an integral part of the Council of Europe’s reform”

On 17 March 2010, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland presented his reform of the Organisation to the 18th Congress session. The Congress should be an integral part of this reform, with a particular emphasis on the efficiency of its monitoring procedure, he says in an interview.

Question: As part of your reform package for the Council of Europe, how do you see the reform of the Congress?

Thorbjørn Jagland: The Congress is an integral part of the organization and therefore should also be an integral part of the reform of the organization. Acting President Ian Micallef recently spoke strongly in favor of our reform in the Committee of Ministers. Now I am looking forward to your concrete measures that will follow from the Acting President’s approach. In addition you have just elected Mr. Andreas Kiefer as new Secretary General of the Congress. His knowledge of local affairs and rich professional experience will certainly put new impetus in the activity of the Congress.

Question: Monitoring is one of the tools of the Council of Europe to make sure that democratic principles are respected in member states. How do you see the role of the monitoring done by the Congress in this context? What, in your view, would make it more effective?

Thorbjørn Jagland : The monitoring connected to the European Charter of local self government is a very important undertaking and has been recognized as such since long. In terms of efficiency of the monitoring procedures, this is a responsibility of the Congress secretariat and the member states to take on. What is clear is that the monitoring has to be on a regular basis to be effective and have long-term impact. The communication of the monitoring result is also a very important, and I expect the Congress to put sufficient emphasis into this.

Question: In your opinion, what is the role played by municipalities and regions in today’s Europe? What is their place in the European political architecture?

Thorbjørn Jagland : Local and regional politics are at the heart of our democracies as they are situated at the closest level towards citizens. Therefore, municipalities and regions play a crucial role in building European and national democratic identity and coherence among citizens. I think this is one of the reasons for why the local and region level of government has grown, and rightfully so, in importance and is now solidly incorporated in the European architecture.