16 May 2012

Congress position paper

on the

UK Chairmanship proposals:

Council of Europe local and regional democracy activities,
a roadmap for greater collaboration and cooperation

(distributed by the UK Chairmanship on 9 May 2012
for the 2nd High-Level Meeting on 14 May 2012)

Document adopted by the Congress Bureau on 15 May 2012

1.         In the framework of the reform of the Council of Europe, implemented by Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, there has been a reorientation of priorities, in keeping with the refocusing of the Council of Europe's activities, to concentrate on the core competences of the Council of Europe.

2.         This reorientation has had an impact on most sectors of the Organisation.  The Congress had already adopted its new priorities for 2011 and 2012 in October 2010 and then went on to reform its structures and working methods. The Parliamentary Assembly has also reformed its structures, and the Committee of Ministers has given new terms of reference to its steering committees including the European Committee on Local and Regional Democracy (CDLR) for 2012 and 2013.

3.         Furthermore, the Congress notes with satisfaction that the field and scope of local and regional activities in the Council of Europe has considerably increased and evolved over the last two years. Examples are action plans developed with the Member States concerned and implemented by all parts of the secretariat of the Council of Europe, including the Congress.

4.         The Congress considers all these developments to be positive. Over the years it has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to achieving greater consistency and impact in the actions carried out by the Council of Europe. The Congress stated this commitment clearly at the Ministerial Conference in Kyiv in November 2011 and at the High Level meeting in London on 13 February 2012, and has reaffirmed it whenever the issue has been raised. 

5.         The Congress therefore applauds the noticeable increase in interaction between the various actors. The constant strengthening of relations between the Congress and other actors such as the Committee of Ministers, its Rapporteur Groups and the Conference of European Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government and the Parliamentary Assembly is a clear example of these new working relationships. 

6.         The Congress is pleased that local and regional democracy has been a priority under the Chairmanships of Ukraine and United Kingdom and that this will continue under the Albanian Chairmanship.  The Congress wishes to express its thanks to the UK Chairmanship for stimulating discussion amongst the institutional partners of the Council of Europe as to how to improve the cooperation and impact of the local and regional democracy activities of the Organisation.

7.         The Congress is particularly satisfied that the increase in cooperation and interaction between the different actors has enabled a greater clarification of their respective roles, responsibilities and specificities, while acknowledging that there is room for further improvement.

8.         A good example of this way of working in synergy through dialogue and interaction was the process of discussion and preparation of the report by Minister Chaves, which culminated in an important political document, outlining a strategic vision for local and regional democracy at the Council of Europe, a vision unanimously endorsed by the member states at the 2011 Ministerial Conference in Kyiv.  The Congress renews its commitment to implement the Agenda in Common immediately.

9.         A key proposal of the Chaves report is to have a structure, representing at least the three actors – the Committee of Ministers, the organ representing the governments of Member States, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress – to maintain political dialogue, to prepare and jointly decide the joint themes and activities of the Agenda in Common, oversee their implementation and evaluate them, subject to approval in principle by the Committee of Ministers. This forum for political exchange would complement the existing permanent structures and channels in Strasbourg between the Committee of Ministers and its structures, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress.

10.        The intra-institutional meeting, initiated by Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, could serve this purpose. It brings together the Chairman in office of the Committee of Ministers, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the President of the Congress, the President of the European Court of Human Rights and the Human Rights Commissioner, as well as the heads of the respective administrative entities.