800th meeting – 20 and 24 June 2002
Democratic stability through transfrontier co-operation in Europe -
Draft reply to Recommendation 85 (2000) of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe
(CLRAE REC_85 (2000), CM/Del/Dec(2002)799/12.2)
The Deputies adopted the following reply to CLRAE Recommendation 85 (2000) on democratic stability through transfrontier co-operation in Europe:
“The Committee of Ministers has studied with interest CLRAE Recommendation 85 (2000) on democratic stability through transfrontier co-operation in Europe. It fully shares the Congress’s opinion that transfrontier co-operation plays a very important role in promoting democratic stability in Europe. The Committee of Ministers wishes to provide the Congress with replies to its recommendations point by point:
As regards paragraphs 29 and 34 of the recommendation, it should be noted that the Council of Europe has promoted the Local Democracy Agencies (LDA) Programme, in particular in South East Europe, since 1993. Most of these Agencies are located in border areas, their aim being to promote harmonious inter-ethnic relations within a specific country or between two or more neighbouring countries. Given the particular importance of the LDAs’ contribution to the promotion of transborder co-operation between local authorities and representatives of the civil society, the Council of Europe will sign an agreement on co-operation with the Association of the Agencies on 5 June 2002.
Some of the LDAs’ projects are financed by the Council of Europe Confidence-Building Measures Programme (CBM). In 2002, 13 of the projects approved by the CBM Steering Group are to be implemented in a transfrontier context, mainly in South-East Europe; one project will concentrate on countries of the Caucasus region (see Appendix 1 to this reply).
As regards paragraph 30 of the recommendation, the “Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent”, adopted by the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (CEMAT) (Hanover, 7-8 September 2000) and by the Committee of Ministers through its recommendation to member states on the same subject, represent a policy reference document for numerous spatial development measures and initiatives for the European continent, in particular in the field of transfrontier co-operation.
As one of the follow-up activities to the Hanover Conference, the Council of Europe - CLRAE’s Chamber of Regions and the CEMAT – organised on 15-16 May 2002 in Dresden, jointly with the German Land of Saxony, a European Conference on the role of local and regional authorities in transnational co-operation in the field of regional/spatial development. The main objective of the Conference was to discuss experiences made by local and regional authorities with regional development projects and their implementation on the basis of the CEMAT Guiding Principles. The Conference highlighted the political importance of transnational co-operation at local and regional level in Europe for economic and social integration.
Also, a CEMAT transfrontier co-operation project on Sustainable spatial development of the region of the Tisza/Tisa River Basin, grouping Hungary, Romania, Slovak Republic, Ukraine and Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, is currently being developed through negotiations.
As regards paragraph 31 of the recommendation, the Council of Europe is actively contributing to the new priorities of Working Table I (WTI) of the Stability Pact (i.e. local government and transfrontier co-operation). Within this context, the Council of Europe will prepare for the forthcoming meeting of the WTI, in Istanbul on 12-13 June 2002, a “mapping out” of transfrontier co-operation initiatives in the region. In addition, the Secretariat has brought the proposal for a regional agreement between the countries of South Eastern Europe on transfrontier co-operation between local and regional authorities to the attention of the Committee of Advisers on the Development of Transfrontier Co-operation in Central and Eastern Europe and the Committee of Experts on Transfrontier Co-operation. The Secretariat will use the momentum created by more recent events such as the Forum of Cities and Regions of South-East Europe, held in Novi Sad (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) on 18-20 April 2002, at which this proposal was also discussed, to further explore the latter’s feasibility and elaborate a political platform on which the discussions aiming at the conclusion of an agreement could be started.
As regards paragraphs 32 and 36 of the recommendation, the Committee of Ministers has assigned ad hoc terms of reference to its Steering Committee on Local and Regional Democracy (CDLR) to be carried out by the end of June 2002. In this regard, the Committee of Ministers draws the Congress’ attention to the CDLR’s statement on the “State of transfrontier co-operation in Europe”, which appears in Appendix 2 to this reply. The CDLR has completed part of the terms of reference and adopted the “Report on the current state of the administrative and legal framework of transfrontier co-operation in Europe” (Addendum 3 to CM(2002)10) and the “Report on the progress in implementation of the European Outline Convention on transfrontier co-operation between territorial communities or authorities” (Addendum 4 to CM(2002)10). Both reports are public.
As for the second aspect of these terms of reference concerning the specific problems of towns and cities divided by national frontiers, it is currently being studied by the CDLR’s subsidiary Committee – the Committee of Experts on Transfrontier Co-operation (LR-CT).
As for paragraph 33 of the recommendation, the Committee of Ministers has recently approved new terms of reference for the LR-CT, which is entrusted with, inter alia, the following tasks: to implement the activities of the Intergovernmental Programme in the field of transfrontier co-operation and propose follow-up activities thereto; to monitor the implementation of the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities and its protocols; to make proposals, at intergovernmental level, to encourage and facilitate transfrontier and inter-territorial co-operation.
The Committee of Ministers also held an exchange of views on transfrontier co-operation on the basis of the first Annual activity report for 2001 of the Committee of Advisers on the Development of Transfrontier Co-operation in Central and Eastern Europe, at which the importance of the activities on transfrontier co-operation was highlighted and their relevance for the pursuance of the goals of the Council of Europe was restated. As regards the activities conducted in 2002 under the authority of the LR-CT, these cover the following subjects: the interterritorial co-operation of local authorities, the learning of the neighbour’s language in border regions and the mobility of local elected representatives and staff in the framework of transfrontier co-operation.
As regards paragraph 35 of the recommendation, the Secretariat has continued, with the backing of the Committee of Advisers, to support the setting up of Euroregions across borders between Albania, Greece and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (Ohrid-Prespa) and between Bulgaria, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Serbia (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) (the so-called “Sofia-Skopje-Niš triangle”) while also working towards the establishment of a Euroregion embracing parts of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). As regards the Caucasus, the Secretariat is working towards a regional conference on transfrontier co-operation, possibly to be held in Yerevan in September 2002, which could also discuss goals, modalities and practical measures towards the establishment of Euroregions in the area. The relevant Council of Europe texts and instruments are customarily translated into the languages of the country or countries where the specific events take place.
As regards paragraph 37 of the recommendation, the European Union is regularly associated with transfrontier co-operation activities involving candidate countries for European Union membership. Following a suggestion of the Committee of Advisers, the Secretariat is considering the organisation of a conference with the European Commission on the role and place of transfrontier co-operation in the wake of the impending enlargement of the European Union. It should be noted that the European Commission was represented at two seminars on transfrontier co-operation organised by the Council of Europe in Kaliningrad on 11-12 October 2001 and in Vilnius on 22-23 November 2001, respectively. In addition, the European Commission is participating in the work of the CEMAT, mentioned in paragraph 3 of this reply.
In conclusion, the Committee of Ministers would like to inform the Congress that it has forwarded Recommendation 85 (2000) to its member states, to the European Commission, to the OSCE, to the Committee of Senior Officials of the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (CEMAT) for information, and to the CDLR for action.”
Projects financed by the Council of Europe Confidence-Building Measures Programme (CBM)
At the fourteenth meeting of the Steering Group on Confidence-building Measures (CBM), a total of 46 projects were approved for the year 2002, 30 of which could be financed from the Council of Europe budget and the remaining 16 would be open to voluntary contributions.
In 2002, 13 of the approved projects are to be implemented in a transfrontier context, mainly in South-East Europe:
Group A1 (projects financed by Council of Europe budget):
CBM (2002) 05
Interethnic cooperation between persons belonging to the same professional groups in a transfrontier perspective (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia)
CBM (2002) 06
No borders! – Training programme for leaders of NGOs (Belarus, Lithuania, Poland)
CBM (2002) 12
Greek, Turkish, Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot Media Dialogue (Cyprus, Greece, Turkey)
CBM (2002) 25
Stability and Confidence-Building – Reconciliation and Dialogue between countries as a new phase in regional relations (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Federal republic of Yugoslavia, Hungary and Romania)
CBM (2002) 27
Romology Studies – Summer School: Identity and Integration of Roma (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Slovenia and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”)
CBM (2002) 26
Heritage Education Workshops in South-East Europe (Bulgaria, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Greece, Moldova and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”)
CBM (2002) 28
How to build confidence and tolerance among young people (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)
CBM (2002) 29
School of Human Rights of National Minorities (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)
CBM (2002) 30
Reconciliation and confidence building between Niksic and Dubrovnik
(Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)
CBM (2002) 31
Bridges of dialogue over the barricades (Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)
Group A2 (open to voluntary contributions):
CBM (2002) 41
Multinational project on confidence-building (Croatia and Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)
CBM (2002) 42
Bridges (Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)
CBM (2002) 43
Actors, not audience (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Hungary and Romania)
State of transfrontier co-operation in Europe
Transfrontier co-operation in Europe is progressing apace, as can be seen from the growing number of intergovernmental agreements, regional or local arrangements or programmes and projects implemented in this field.
To assess this progress in terms of quantity and quality, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has instructed the Steering Committee on Local and Regional Democracy (CDLR), with the assistance of the Select Committee of Experts on Transfrontier Co-operation (LR-R-CT), to study the current situation of transfrontier co-operation among member states.
Accordingly, two questionnaires were sent out, one to central government or federal authorities and the other to local and regional authorities concerned by such co-operation.
The purpose of the first questionnaire, the principle of which was approved at the 17th meeting of the LR-R-CT on 12 October 1998, was to take stock of the legal basis for transfrontier co-operation between local and regional authorities in the various countries, to assess the impact of such intergovernmental agreements and regional or local arrangements and, finally, to take stock of the practical obstacles to transfrontier co-operation and the steps taken to overcome them.
The second questionnaire, for which the Committee of Ministers assigned terms of reference to the CDLR on the basis of decision CM/719/06092000, sought the opinion of local and regional authorities on the possibilities provided by their national legislation, the practical obstacles encountered and the measures taken to eliminate them and, finally, on prospects and trends not only in transfrontier but also in inter-territorial co-operation.
The replies to the two questionnaires have been summarised by the Council of Europe Secretariat, the first of which concerns “the current state of the administrative and legal framework of transfrontier co-operation in Europe” and the other “the state of implementation of the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities”.
The general conclusions that can be drawn from these two documents show that there is indeed substantial growth, both qualitative and quantitative, in transfrontier co-operation, in particular between local and regional authorities, particularly as regards the level of integration of the transfrontier projects and programmes that are implemented. This trend towards greater commitment also shows that almost all political leaders at all levels are prepared to foster transfrontier co-operation activities. This political will most often takes the form of intergovernmental agreements or regional and local arrangements, which logically strengthen the legal basis, i.e. local and regional authorities’ “right to transfrontier co-operation”. Finally, although the Council of Europe does not have the same capacity for co-financing as the European Union, for example, its work in promoting transfrontier co-operation is generally recognised.
This overview draws attention to the obstacles to local and regional authorities’ participation in transfrontier co-operation, some of which seriously hinder its development. The problem is sometimes that the legal basis of such co-operation is not sufficiently flexible and too restrictive and sometimes that the powers devolved to local and regional authorities are insufficient. Another problem that is often raised by local and regional authorities is that of the insufficient appropriations earmarked for co-operation activities or difficulties in managing such funds. Language barriers are now beginning to disappear but are still one of the main obstacles to communication and exchange. There therefore seems to be a great need for training and expertise not only in this field but also in many other (legal, technical and financial) areas of transfrontier co-operation. Finally, many practical difficulties (political and administrative differences, customs formalities, lack of infrastructure, intercultural misunderstandings, etc) are still very much present. These require practical solutions and the pooling of examples of good practice across the European continent.
The Council of Europe’s task is therefore to assist these developments in transfrontier co-operation, from the promotion of legal instruments (such as the Outline Convention and its additional protocols) to providing practical and technical assistance to transfrontier programmes and projects wherever possible and necessary.