13th Plenary Session of the Congress 30 May-1 June 2006

ACTIVITY REPORT OF THE OUTGOING PRESIDENT Giovanni DI STASI, Italy, Chamber of Regions, Political Group : SOC


Over the past two years, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has made substantial progress in achieving its objectives in accordance with the priorities set in November 2004 – helping to reposition the Council of Europe in the new European institutional context, promoting territorial democracy, developing transfrontier and interterritorial cooperation, contributing to solving political problems and responding to major social challenges, and strengthening relations with European and international organisations. The Congress has evolved to become a true watchdog of territorial democracy on our continent and a political partner in the dialogue with the governments concerning its reinforcement. It plays a key role in accelerating the process of the decentralisation of power towards the regional and local level, which has been recognised as an important element in the development of democracy. Today, we are well on our way of creating a Europe of territorial communities, a Europe of sustainable communities, a Europe of citizens.

We have been advancing with the setting up of associations of local authorities and their networks. In 2005, the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe (NALAS) was created, which brought together local authorities representing 60 million people. In South Caucasus, we set up the National Association of Local Authorities of Georgia (NALAG) and are currently working on a similar project in Azerbaijan.

The Congress has been pursuing several projects on inter-regional cooperation, aimed at establishing Euro-regions of a new generation – Euro-regions bringing together national, regional and local authorities from both EU and non-EU member states. The first such Euro-region, the Adriatic Euro-region, was launched in February this year, and the work has begun to prepare the Black Sea Euro-region. Another important initiative – which is gaining wider and wider support, as the session of the Committee of Ministers showed less than two weeks ago – is the proposed Centre on inter-regional and transborder cooperation, to be established in St Petersburg. Its main objective will be to promote greater political, economic and social cohesion among European regions.

The Congress continued its activities to monitor the state of regional and local democracy, by adopting recommendations, having follow-up exchanges of views with government officials, and observing regional and local elections. On 21 May, the Congress delegation to observe the referendum in Montenegro included, for the first time ever, members of the Committee of the Regions of the European Union, with which we signed a Cooperation Agreement in April 2005. The cooperation with the Committee was boosted by the decisions of the Warsaw Summit last year, and recently by the report on relations between the EU and the Council of Europe prepared by Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, who also supported our initiatives mentioned above.

The Congress has become one of the main pillars of our Organisation and the genuine representative body of European territorial communities. Its role in promoting territorial democracy was acknowledge by the Heads of State and Government during the Warsaw Summit, and today it is actively participating in the Forum on the Future of Democracy set up by the Summit. The range of issues with which the Congress is dealing is impressive: citizens’ participation, urban security, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, integration of migrants in our cities, sustainable development of territorial communities, culture and education, history and modernity, fight against trafficking in human beings.

The Congress has been working on developing innovative approaches to respond to the changing needs of our globalising, knowledge-based society and implementing the Lisbon strategy. However, any innovations must be aimed at pursuing the same unchanging strategy – advancing democracy and improving our societies for the benefit of 800 million Europeans.

The membership of our Congress will be renewed at this session. We will set new priorities for the two years ahead of us, in the light of the decisions of the Warsaw Summit, Juncker’s report and the resolutions of the Ministers responsible for territorial communities. It is certain that these new priorities will build on what has already been accomplished and will strengthen the role of the Congress in the European process.


2.1 Plenary session of the Congress (31 May – 2 June 2005)

2.1.1 Summary of the work of the Plenary Session

The Session debated reports and adopted recommendations and resolutions on a wide range of issues, including in particular the revision of the Congress Charter, the 20th anniversary of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, the role of cities and regions in the fight against trafficking in human beings and their sexual exploitation, regeneration of mining and industrial areas, the follow-up to the Forum of Cities and Regions of South-East Europe (Budva, Serbia and Montenegro, 11-12 October 2004) and the development of the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe (NALAS), as well as new monitoring reports on local and regional democracy in Sweden and in Denmark.

Russian Regional Development Minister Vladimir Yakovlev and Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee on Local Self-Government Vladimir Mokry participated in the discussion of the follow-up to the Congress’ Recommendation 143 (2004) on local and regional democracy in Russia, with a particular emphasis on the recent reform of the procedure for election of regional governors. Giorgi Baramidze, Georgian State Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, and Vano KhukhunashviliDeputy Chairman of the Georgian Parliament’s Committee on Regional Policy, Self-Government and Mountainous Regions, took the floor during the debate on the follow-up to the Congress’ Recommendation 157 (2004) on local and regional democracy in Georgia. The Session also discussed an information report on local and regional democracy in the Netherlands, with the participation of Paul Van Kalmthout, Deputy Director General of Kingdom Relations and Governance from the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.

On Wednesday 1 June, a round table was held dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, whereas the morning sitting on 2 June featured a special session on the 3rd Summit and priorities of the Council of Europe. Eduardo Cabrita, Portuguese State Secretary of Local Administration representing the Chair of the Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly President René van der Linden and Secretary General Terry Davis addressed the Session on this occasion.

A special debate was devoted to the developments in South-East Europe, with the participation of Goran Svilanovic, Chairman of Working Table 1 of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe, Miodrag Vlahovic, Foreign Minister of Montenegro (Serbia and Montenegro), and Lutfi Haziri, Minister for Local Administration of Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions of Self-Government.

2.1.2. Summary of the work of the Plenary Session of the Chamber of Local Authorities

On 31 May, the Chamber of Local Authorities debated reports on local authorities facing natural and industrial disasters, their role in dealing with major oil spills, and their initiatives and responsibilities concerning intercultural and inter-faith dialogue. Recommendations and resolutions were adopted following each debate. Manuel Fandino Dominguez, Local Councillor of Muxia (Spain), and Maria Isabel Deu del Olmo, President of the Convivence Award Foundation and Local Councillor of the Autonomous City of Ceuta (Spain), took part in, respectively, debates on oils spills and on intercultural dialogue.

On 1 June, Jeremy Smith, Secretary General of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), Goran ANgelov, Acting President of NALAS, addressed the Chamber during the debate on the consultation of local authorities in implementing the European Charter of Local Self-Government, and Rizvan Sulejmani, Minister of Local Self-Government of the “former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, participated in the discussion on the state of local democracy in that country. The Chamber also adopted a new recommendation on local democracy in Luxembourg.

2.1.3. Summary of the work of the Plenary Session of the Chamber of Regions

The Chamber of Regions began its Session on 31 May by electing Zaza Begashvili (Georgia, ILDG) as its Vice-President. The Chamber adopted a recommendation and a resolution on regional media and transfrontier cooperation, and discussed the implementation of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, with the participation of Sigve Gramstad (Norway), President of the Committee of Experts of the Charter. The Session also heard statements by Higini Clotas i Cierco, Vice-President of the Parliament of Catalunya (Spain) concerning the activities of the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies (CALRE), and by Lluis Maria de Puig (Spain, SOC), Parliamentary Assembly Rapporteur on Regionalisation, focusing on the Assembly’s action on regional self-government.

Jene Gabbe, Secretary General of the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR), took the floor during the discussion of new challenges and prospects in transborder cooperation following the EU enlargement. At the end of the sitting, Congress President Giovanni Di Stasi informed the Chamber about the progress in creating the Adriatic Euroregion.

On 1 June, the Session discussed a report on the role of regions in youth education for sustainable development, with the participation of Giuseppe Porcaro, Chair of the Council of Europe Advisory and Joint Council on Youth, and adopted a recommendation and a resolution. Another debate dealt with a report on outermost regions as a challenge to the balanced and sustainable development of European territory. Vyacheslav Shtyrov, President of Russia’s Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Alberto Joao Jardim, President of the Regional Government of Madeira (Portugal) and Xavier Gizard, Secretary General of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR), contributed to the discussion, following which the Chamber adopted a recommendation.

At the end of the Session, Jean-Claude Cauwenberghe, Minister-President of Wallonia (Belgium) and President of the Congress Working Group “Regions with legislative power”, informed the Chamber about the action of regions with legislative power in the European cooperation and integration process.

2.2. Autumn Institutional Session (8-9 November 2005)

2.2.1. Summary of the work of the Autumn Institutional Session in plenary

Meeting in plenary, the Congress debated a report on local and regional democracy in Turkey and adopted a recommendation. The follow-up to adopted monitoring reports on Spain (Recommendation 121 (2002)), Sweden (Recommendation 163 (2005)) and Denmark (Recommendation 164 (2005)) was also discussed. The Session heard statements from Manuel Zafra Victor, Director of Local Cooperation from Spain; Johan Höök, Director for Local Government Affairs of the Swedish Finance Ministry and Deputy Director Henrik Källsbo; and Hans B. Thomsen, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Danish Interior and Health Ministry, accompanied by another Deputy Permanent Secretary, Thorkil Juul.

During the Session, a Pro-Merito medal was presented to former Congresss Vice-President Claude Casagrande, former member of the French delegation.

2.2.2. Summary of the work of the Autumn Institutional Session of the Chamber of Local Authorities

The Chamber of Local Authorities debated reports and adopted recommendations on local democracy in Cyprus, including its northern part, and in Moldova, as well as on the state of local finances in the Netherlands. The Session also discussed the follow-up to Recommendation 172 (2005) on local democracy in Luxembourg, with Jean-Marie Halsdorf, Minister of the Interior and Local and Regional Planning. Other reports discussed dealt with the European Urban Charter and with public participation in local affairs and elections, with respective recommendations.

2.2.3. Summary of the work of the Institutional Session of the Chamber of Regions

Discussions in the Chamber of Regions focused on issues related to interregional cooperation and regionalisation in Europe. Ivan Jakovcic, President of the Regions of Istria (Croatia) and Vice-President of the Assembly of European Regions (AER) made a statement on interregional cooperation in the Dreatic Sea area and the establishment of the Adriatic Euroregion, while Angelo Pollina, President of the European Affairs Committee of the Assembly of Tuscany (Italy) presented new initiatives of the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies (CALRE). The Chamber was also informed about the creation of the Institute of the Regions of Europe in Salzburg (Austria), by Dr Franz Schausberger, President of the Institute’s Board of Directors.

Stefan Stefanec, President of the Region of Trencin (Slovak Republic) and Beata Balkova, Administrator responsible for European Affairs, presented the results of the international colloquy on regional democracy in the Slovak Republic and the process of strengthening regional authorities. Alexander Uss, Chairman of the Legislative Assembly of the Krasnoyarsk region (Russia) made a statement on regional policy and the development of federal relations in his country, using as an example the Siberian Federal District.

Miljenko Doric, member of the Croatian National Parliament and of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, described recent developments in the process of regionalisation in South-East Europe. At the end of the Session, President of the Chamber Yavuz Mildon provided information on the current state of the Council of Europe draft Convention on Regional Self-Government.

2.2.4 Summary of the work of the Standing Committee

In addition to formally adopting recommendations and resolutions approved by the Chambers, the Standing Committee, meeting on 9 November, debated a report and adopted a recommendation and a resolution on issues of cultural identity in peripheral urban areas: the role of local and regional authorities. A debate was held on principles, practices and observations of free and fair local and regional elections, with the participation of Luc Van den Brande (Belgium, EPP/CD), representative of the Parliamentary Assembly’s Monitoring Committee in the Council of Europe for Democratic Elections; Pierre Garone, Head of Division of Elections and Referendums of the Venice Commission; and Ian Micaleff (Malta, EPP/CD), Congress representative in the Council of Europe for Democratic Elections.

The Committee also discussed, among other things, the follow-up to the 3rd Summit, including the Congress’ participation in the Forum on the Future of Democracy and the Centre of expertise on local government reform, and granted observer status to the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities (APLA) and the European Roma and Travellers Forum.

2.3 Spring Session (16-17 March 2006)

2.3.1 Summary of the work of the Spring Session in plenary

The Spring Session, held jointly with the Committee on Culture and Education, discussed the Committee’s work and priorities, presented by Committee President Hilde Zach (Austria, L, EPP/CD), as well as new instruments in favour of the European cultural diversity: Council of Europe Framework Convention on the value of cultural heritage for society and UNESCO Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expression. Ambassador Christian Ter-Stepanian, Permanent Representative of Armenia to the Council of Europe and President of the Committee of Ministers’ Group of Rapporteurs on Culture (GR-C), contributed to this debate, among others.

The Session also debated a report on the North-South Centre: contributions of local and regional authorities to promote the efficiency of the work of the Centre. President of the North-South Centre Claude Frey addressed the Session on this occasion. A resolution and a recommendation were adopted.

The Congress also heard statements by Liviu Radu, Secretary of State for the Reform of the Public Administration of Romania, representing the Romanian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, and by Alvaro Gil-Robles, outgoing Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

During the Session, Pro-Merito medals were presented to three former Vice-President of the Congress: Hans Martin Tschudi, formerm member of the Swiss delegation; Frantisek Dohnal, former member of the Czech delegation; and Calin Catalin Chirita, former member of the Romanian delegation.

2.3.2. Summary of the work of the Spring Session of the Chamber of Local Authorities

The Chamber of Local Authorities debated a report on young people and new information technologies: a new opportunity for local democracy. It adopted a resolution following the debate. The Chamber also heard the presentation of the review of the European Year of Citizenship through Education (2005) and prospects for the future, made by Chair of the Ad hoc Committee of Experts (CAAHCIT) Krzyztof Ostrowski.

A general debate was held on cultural diversity in the municipality, with presentations on intercultural and interfaith dialogue by Brith Fäldt (Sweden, SOC) and on integration through sport by Suzanne Eisenmann, Deputy Mayor of Stuttgart.

2.3.3 Summary of the work of the Spring Session of the Chamber of Regions

The Chamber of Regions debated a report on regional typical products faced with globalisation, during which Pascal Jan, Director of the Association Alsace-Qualité, made a presentation on the promotion of regional typical products. A resolution and a recommendation were adopted.

A round table was held on regional and minority languages, with the participation of Karl-Heinz Lambertz (Belgium, SOC), Minister President of the German Community of Belgium, Farid Mukhametshin (Russia, ILDG), Chairman of the State Council of the Republic of Tatarstan, and Albertes J. Mulder (Netherlands, SOC), Provincial Executive of Friesland. At the end of the round table, Rapporteur Anissa Temsamani (Belgium, SOC) presented conclusions.

The Chamber also organised a hearing on the contribution of universities to regional cultural development. Jacques Sparfel, Secretary General of the European Confederation of the Universities of the Upper Rhine (EUCOR) and Professor Dr Yuksel Dincer of the University of Galatasaray (Istanbul, Turkey) participated in the hearing, the conclusions of which were presented by Rapporteurs Farid Mukhametshin (Russia, ILDG) and Ömür Aybar (Turkey, EPP/CD).

At the end of the Session, Mr Farid Mukhametshin awarded medals “In commemoration of the Kazan Millennium” (Kazan being the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan) to President of the Chamber Yavuz Mildon, Vice-President Günther Krug and Congress Chief Executive Ulrich Bohner.

2.3.4 Summary of the work of the Standing Committee

The Standing Committee met on 17 March 2006. In addition to the formal adoption of resolutions and recommendations approved by the Chambers, the Committee discussed the implementation of the Congress priorities, preparations for the 13th Plenary Session and activities of the Statutory Committee and Working Groups. It also granted observer status to the Standing Committee of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership of Local and Regional Authorities (COPPEM). Claude Nicolet, President of the decentralised cooperation network for Palestine, made a statement on the observation of the 4th phase of local elections in the Palestinian Territories (15 December 2005).


In 2005, the Congress observed partial local elections in Moldova (on 10 July 2005) which were subsequently repeated three times (on 24 July, 27 November and 11 December 2005). The results of the elections were invalidated each time because the voter turnout was below the threshold set by the electoral law. The Congress observed each of the repeat elections.

The Congress also observed two phases of local elections in Armenia (25 September and 16 October 2005), as well as constitutional referendum in this country (27 November 2005).

In addition, the Congress was represented in the joint fact-finding mission with the Parliamentary Assembly to the Chechen Republic, Russian Federation, during parliamentary elections there (27 November 2005), and observed the fourth phase of local elections in the Palestinian Territories (15 December 2005).

On 26 March 2006, the Congress observed local and regional elections in Ukraine, held at the same time as the legislative elections observed by the Parliamentary Assembly. On 21 May, a Congress delegation observed the referendum in Montenegro (Serbia and Montenegro).


4.1 Institutional Committee

Since the 12th plenary session, the Institutional Committee held two meetings, on 7 October 2005 and on 21 April 2006, both in Strasbourg.

Country reports

The areas covered a range from mobilisation of young people in schools, urban neighbourhoods, sports clubs and theatre workshops and various other cultural activities to parliamentary approaches, children and youth councils and youth parliaments.

The Conference brought together some 280 participants from 32 European countries and the United States of America, representing 123 cities altogether. The right mix of government officials and experts, local and regional elected representatives, academicians, researchers, representatives of civil society and, last but not least, youth activists created a potential of input and interaction to present credible and successful initiatives in disadvantaged areas of urban centres, which are too often only in the centre of political attention when despair leads to violent behaviours.
It looks as if violence, brought via mass media, TV, radio, newspapers, into the homes and rooms of a so-called normal citizen, attracts the attention of the decision-markers and becomes areas of a political concern only at this very difficult moment The willingness to put additional financial and human resources into these areas seems to grow proportionally with a media coverage, and once this attention decreases, the means and the political will to keep up the proposals and promises made also shifts away.
The participants of this conference have not hesitated to elaborate on alternative concepts and new strategies when reacting to a daily up rise in the suburbs. They understood the importance of a long term presence in these areas, building of confidence, interacting directly with the citizens concerned.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, and in particular, its Culture and Education Committee, together with Directorate of Youth and Sport, in close cooperation with the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and the French Ministry for Youth and Sport and Associative Life, have pulled their resources and expertise together in order to make headway and develop programmes for young people in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. The German Government already initiated this process in 2000 and subsequently has broaden the scope of cooperation with other European cities and institutions, and launched the so-called Berlin Process at a conference in November 2004 which led to this European conference in Strasbourg.
In the framework of five working panels appropriate approaches and actions have been discussed and elaborated in order to renew hope, provide for a fresh start and to improve the future opportunities of children, young people and their parents, whose life chances are reduced by the simple fact that they live in such areas of poverty, marginalisation and exclusion, which very often cut them off from the development of the rest of the mainstream society.
The working panels focused on the participation and involvement of young people in public life at the local level, cooperation of public services with NGOs and civil society, promotion of tolerance in communities, non-formal education and employment prospects of disadvantaged young people, and the need for a new dialogue between youth research, youth policy and youth work.
There is no ideal form to be found, like a recipe, but there was plenty of good will and motivation and a lot of experience to be shared among cities and their various players. This conference was designed to be part of a process, the Berlin process, and all the players involved agreed that the continuity of the efforts made so far, the medium term and long term programmes rooted in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods, securing the necessary funding to pursue their activities on the local level, is the only real chance to overcome segregation within our societies. We need this close interaction of all players concerned, we are convinced that only a holistic approach can provide for a sustainable solution.
Investing in children and youth is investing in the future of our society, and the conference made a successful attempt to pave the way and to show ways and means as how to move form disadvantaged neighbourhoods to more solidarity within our cities and among the cities. Learning from each other, creating networks and practice-based cooperation, these are the bricks to build up new neighbourhoods within our cities.

In order to structure this dialogue the participants already identified a few basic principles to be applied which stem from the principles and values enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights and more particularly with reference to Article 14 of the ECHR.
The inter-religious and intercultural dialogue should be based, according to the participants, on the commonly agreed principles and shared values such as: the principle of freedom, implying, the freedom of expression, including the freedom to transmit beliefs, while respecting the beliefs and convictions of the others and taking care not to let this force the others to adopt and share the same beliefs.
The principle of proportionality, inbuilt in our legal system, the need to strike a balance between different positions, laws in force within the host country and the cultural and religious expectations, requests and claims put forward by various communities should be inspired by mutual respect. The participants agreed that it is of the utmost importance to strike a balance between the different aspirations of the cultural and religious minorities and those of the majority population of the host country in order to make it possible for a fruitful dialogue to develop.
Beyond the necessity to identify commonly shared principles and values for those willing and able to engage into a dialogue, local authorities would also need to get practical advice on how to identify reliable partners for a structured form of inter-religious and intercultural dialogue.

It was felt that making it possible for local authorities which were “in the know” to have available “accurate information”, reliable data, which presupposes to have the necessary access to expert knowledge about different cultural and religious groups and communities and their actual situation.
Therefore access to databanks, the centralised information system at the Ministries responsible for internal and religious affairs, (the Ministries concerned differ in different Council of Europe member states according to their national tradition and division of responsibilities, terms of references etc) would be most helpful.

Promoting urban security

Participation in the Task Force to Combat Violence Against Women

In 2006, the Congress will deal with urban policies in a broader manner, pursuing its work on the European Urban Charter. We believe in the Urban Charter as a reference tool setting out a series of principals to provide local authorities with a valuable assistance in meeting the challenges of today’s urban society.


Appendix 3

Appendix 5

Appendix 6

Institutional Committee

Appendix 7

Appendix 8

Appendix 9