Final Declaration of the Conference on the participation by foreign residents in public life at local level

Strasbourg (France), 5-6 November 1999

1. The participants at the Strasbourg Conference on 5 and 6 November 1999, meeting at the joint initiative of the City of Strasbourg and its Advisory Council on Foreigners and of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe thank the organisers for the opportunity to meet almost 400 participants from more than 20 of the Council of Europe's member countries.

2. They launch an urgent appeal to the European institutions, the Council of Europe's member states, their local authorities and political parties to allow foreign residents, without distinction of nationality, the right to vote and stand as candidates in local elections.

3. Granting the right to vote at local level to all foreign residents regardless of their origin is now an inescapable requirement based on the principles of the Council of Europe's European Convention on Human Rights.

4. In this spirit the participants consider citizenship restricted to nationals of European Union member states alone to be discriminatory.

5. The participants underline the topicality and political relevance of the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level, adopted by the member states of the Council of Europe on 5 November 1992 and so far signed by eight of them and ratified by only four: Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

6. They call on the Council of Europe member states that have not already done so to sign and ratify this text and to put it into practice.

7. They further note the richness and diversity of the forms of participatory democracy found in the municipalities and regions of Europe, such as consultative bodies of foreign residents, and call on states, regions and municipalities to develop initiatives of this kind and provide the administrative and financial resources needed for them to function.

8. They call on the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE), in partnership with local authorities, to deepen mutual understanding of these various forms of participation for the benefit of all inhabitants.

9. The participants reaffirm the indivisibility of the human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Council of Europe's 1950 Convention.

10. They therefore urge the European institutions and the authorities at every level in the member states not only to grant residents-citizens the right to vote and stand as candidates in elections but also to develop policies guaranteeing to all residents equal opportunities at local level to act and participate as full citizens. This entails equal access to the law and its institutions, to the labour and housing markets, to education, culture and religion, to public health services, to social security and social services, and to all public services, and equal treatment in all these areas.

11. The participants are convinced that democracy, freedom and prosperity in Europe are only possible if all residents-citizens are committed to participating fully in the building of a democratic Europe for all.