Declaration of the Conference on Integrating Foreign Residents into Local Public Life

Strasbourg (France), 15 October 2010

The participants in the Strasbourg Conference on 15 October 2010, meeting in the framework of the European Local Democracy Week on the joint initiative of the City of Strasbourg, its Council of Foreign Residents as well as the Strasbourg Club on the one hand and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe on the other, thank the organisers for holding this meeting of local and regional authority representatives from Council of Europe member countries, foreign residents’ councils, European experts and representatives of various municipal networks and foreign residents’ associations, and declare the following:

1. We note that our towns and cities, where citizens of all backgrounds and origins live side by side, are often affected by tensions between neighbourhoods, population groups, communities and individuals and that it is vital that we cultivate consideration for and understanding and acceptance of other groups, as key factors in establishing a sense of belonging through residence-based citizenship;

2. We believe that in towns and cities which are home to people of the widest range of cultures, foreign residents must be able to be fully-fledged participants in the life of their communities and accordingly have a say in local affairs and that the issue of the participation of foreigners in local life is therefore more vital than ever;

3. We also believe that granting voting rights at local level to all foreign residents regardless of their background is now absolutely vital on the basis of the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights;

4. We accordingly regard citizenship restricted solely to European Union nationals as discriminatory;

5. Referring in this respect to the Final Declaration of the Conference on the Participation of Foreign Residents in Public Life at Local Level held in Strasbourg in November 1999 (Strasbourg Declaration), we make an urgent appeal to the European institutions, Council of Europe member states and their local authorities as well as political parties to enable foreign residents of all nationalities to obtain the right to vote and stand for election at local level;

6. We underline the topical and political relevance of the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level, which was adopted by the Council of Europe member states on 5 November 1992 but has only been ratified by eight member states and signed by five others to date;

7. We call on Council of Europe member states which have not yet done so to sign and ratify the convention and put it into practice;

8. We therefore urge the European institutions and public authorities of all levels in the member states not only to grant foreign residents the right to vote and stand for election but also to develop policies to ensure that all residents have the same opportunities to act and participate, at local level, as fully-fledged participants in local life.  This requires equal treatment and access in terms of the law, the labour market, housing, education, culture, worship, public health services, social security, welfare services and all other public services;

9. We also note the great range and diversity of the forms of participatory democracy in Europe’s municipalities and regions, including foreign residents’ consultative councils, and refer in this connection to Resolution 92 (2000) and Recommendation 76 (2000) of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe on the participation of foreign residents in local public life and Congress Resolution 141 (2002) and Recommendation 115 (2002) on foreign residents’ consultative bodies;

10. We welcome the decision by local authorities to set up foreign residents’ councils, like the French municipalities represented at this conference, and call on other European towns and cities to follow this example;

11. We call on states, regions and local authorities to expand measures of this kind, to facilitate the establishment of consultative bodies representing foreign residents modelled on examples already in existence in many towns, cities and regions throughout Europe and to provide the administrative and financial resources required for their operation;

12. We also encourage other measures involving the integration of foreign residents, migrants and Roma communities and the strengthening of intercultural dialogue and intercultural relations for the benefit of the cultural diversity of our towns and cities and welcome in this context the activities of the Cities for Local Integration Policy Network (CLIP), the Intercultural Cities Network and the Strasbourg Club, the latter having adopted a declaration in favour of the integration of Roma in European cities and towns on 14 October 2010, on the occasion of its 8th meeting;

13. Inthis connection, we draw attention to the Final Declaration of the Conference on Foreigners’ integration and participation in European cities held in Stuttgart in September 2003 (Stuttgart Declaration) and the work done in this area by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, in particular its Resolution 181 (2004) and Recommendation 153 (2004) on a pact for the integration and participation of people of immigrant origin in Europe’s towns, cities and regions; Resolution 280 (2009) and Recommendation 261 (2009) on Intercultural Cities, calling for the development of an intercultural urban policy; Resolution 281 (2009) and Recommendation 262 (2009) on equality and diversity in local authority employment and service provision; and the Dosta!-Congress Prize for Municipalities for innovative municipal projects involving the integration of Roma;

14. We call on European local authorities to develop relevant measures, to join existing networks of towns and cities and take an active part in them and also on central governments and regions to facilitate their implementation;

15. We call on the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, in partnership with local authorities, to deepen mutual understanding of the different models of participation for the benefit of all inhabitants;

16. We firmly believe that democracy, freedom and prosperity in Europe require the commitment of all residents to take part as full citizens in building a democratic Europe for all.