19th Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
Strasbourg, Plenary Session – 26 October 2010
Speech by Keith Whitmore, newly elected President
dear fellow members of the Congress,
It is a great honour for me to have been elected President of our Congress, and I wish to thank all of you for the trust you have placed in me. I see it as recognition of my efforts as a member of this institution and President of its Independent and Liberal Democrat Group, and approval of my work as President of the Institutional Committee of the Congress that I had the privilege of leading for the past four years.
It is also a great responsibility. Tomorrow the Congress will cross over to a new era of its history when we act on the proposals for its reform, a reform that has been taking shape for two years. It is my duty as President of the Congress to take the reform process further, to advance it beyond this session and to make sure that our decisions are fully implemented for the benefit of this great institution.
It is a great pride for me to be able to see the reform through its implementation stage, to steer a new, reformed Congress for the next two years, and to reaffirm and strengthen its role as the voice of our cities and regions and the guardian of local and regional democracy in Europe. I am grateful to you for giving me this opportunity.
I am deeply convinced that the Congress is unique in the European political architecture. It is unique as the only one with a legal mandate to watch over the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. It is unique as an institution with direct access to individual national governments, and whose recommendations these governments are obliged to heed. Furthermore, it is unique as a truly pan-European forum for dialogue and co-operation of local and regional elected representatives from – think about it – forty-seven European countries and more than 200 thousand territorial communities. It is a force to be reckoned with. And, finally, we are the voice of local and regional government towards the 47 member states of the Council of Europe. The Congress puts forward proposals for improvements of the legal framework for local and regional democracy – based on the experiences from us, elected mayors, councillors, members of regional assemblies and parliaments as well as governments. In unity we represent the diversity of regional and local authorities in Europe!
Today, we must harness this force for a greater benefit of our communities, of democratic governance, of national and European policy-making. With its pan-European outreach, with its more than fifty years of experience, with its toolbox of legal instruments and proven methods, finally, with its access to both the grassroots and to the top level of power, the Congress gives us unprecedented means for succeeding in our mission – the mission of building democracy from the bottom up, in our cities and regions, in our towns and villages.
It is a great challenge to be President of the Congress in this crucial moment of its history, and I am standing up to it with pride and audacity, with an open heart and an open mind. I pledge to work with all of you. I count on your commitment and your active participation in making our mission a success. Because besides our differences, we are united in our desire to make our European continent, our common home, a better place for all.