776th meeting – 6 December 2001
Current political questions
c. Forum of Cities and Regions of South-East Europe:
7th Economic Forum (Skopje, 16-18 November 2000):
CLRAE Recommendation 91 (2001)
(GR-EDS(2001)35 revised, CB20)
The Deputies adopted the following reply to Recommendation 91 (2001) of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe on Forum of Cities and Regions of South-East Europe: 7th Economic Forum (Skopje, 16-18 November 2000):
“The Committee of Ministers has examined Recommendation 91(2001) of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe and decided to bring it to the attention of governments.
The Committee of Ministers wishes to draw the attention of the Congress to the fact that several member states have made voluntary contributions to projects designed to promote “local democracy” in South-East Europe under the Action Plan approved at the Bucharest Forum in February 2000. Several of these projects have been implemented by the Directorate General of Legal Affairs, some of them in conjunction with the CLRAE. A number of activities have already been finalised and others are in the process of being carried out under the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe. Until recently, the projects have been carried out by the “Good Governance” Task Force of Stability Pact Working Table I. This Task Force was abolished in 2001, after new priorities had been given to the activities of Working Table I at the meeting in Portoroz (Slovenia, 14-15 May 2001). Several activities in the field of local democracy in South-East Europe, initiated by the Council of Europe with the help of voluntary contributions, are currently under way:
- establishment of a database on local and regional democracy;
- assistance with legislation on local and regional authorities;
- improvement of local financial management and local services;
- transfrontier co-operation, in particular the development of Euroregions;
- training for local and regional councillors and local and regional government officers;
- help with setting up national associations of local and regional authorities;
- promotion of democratic citizenship;
- expansion of existing Local Democracy Agencies (LDAs) and establishment of new LDAs, in particular in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including in Montenegro.
The Committee of Ministers recalls that the Skopje Forum and, more recently, that held in Istanbul on 2-3 November were organised with the help of a financial contribution from the Belgian Government. The Ministers’ Deputies were represented at the Istanbul Forum by the Permanent Representative of Belgium, who made several statements and reported to the Committee of Ministers on the results of the forum.
With regard to paragraph 11.b of Recommendation 91 concerning the plan for a multilateral agreement, the Committee of Ministers would stress the importance in this connection of the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities and the two Protocols to it. In this connection, the Committee of Ministers will follow developments in the work which the Istanbul Forum - in line with the conclusions of the Skopje Forum – asked the Congress to undertake with a view to preparing a multilateral agreement for transfrontier co-operation between local and regional authorities in South-East Europe.
The Committee of Ministers has taken note with interest of the positive developments since the Skopje Forum with regard to the setting up of a network of associations of local and regional authorities in South-East Europe and would point out that a voluntary contribution from the Swiss Government has made it possible to prepare and launch such a network, particularly as a result of a series of four regional seminars organised with national associations of local authorities in South-East Europe (Tivat, May 2001; Tirana, June 2001; Sofia, September 2001 and Dubrovnik, October 2001). The Committee of Ministers has been informed of the meeting of associations of local authorities in South-East Europe which is to be held in Strasbourg on 13-14 December 2001, inter alia to assess the progress of this work.
As for the Szeged process, the Committee of Ministers has taken note of the contribution of the Congress to the three conferences held in Szeged. It wishes to inform the CLRAE that, in the context of the revised Szeged process, contacts are in place between the Council of Europe Secretariat and the Hungarian authorities with regard to co-operation possibilities. The training centre for local and regional elected representatives from South-East Europe that was set up under the auspices of Szeged University receives support from the Hungarian Government. The Congress was represented at the first training session.
The Committee of Ministers has taken note of the work of the Congress over the past few years to promote partnerships or twinnings between cities and regions of South-East Europe and other European cities and regions. These activities are carried out under the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. The Committee of Ministers notes that this was the main objective of the Skopje and Istanbul Forums and supports the role of the Congress in this field in instigating partnerships between cities and regions in Europe. It stresses, however, that these partnerships and twinnings are run mainly by specialised non-governmental organisations and acknowledges that the type of help given to cities and regions in South-East Europe complements the actions of governments and international organisations. The Committee of Ministers encourages this kind of action in the field, involving co-operation between cities or regions, which helps to foster direct exchanges with the populations concerned, as discussed at the Skopje and Istanbul Forums.
The Committee of Ministers has noted that the next forum will be held in Novi Sad from 18 to 20 April 2002.”