· Yavuz Mildon (Turkey, R) and
· M. Owen Masters (United Kingdom, R)
The Forum held in Istanbul (Turkey) took place on 2 and 3 November 2001 and the one in Novi Sad (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) only a few weeks ago, ie from 18 to 20 April 2002. These two Forums are the 2nd and 3rd Forums of Cities and Regions of South-East Europe and are part of a series of economic forums organised since 1996 by the CLRAE, in co-operation with the Foundation for the Economy and Sustainable Development of the Regions of Europe (FEDRE)).
The Istanbul and Novi Sad Forums, which followed the Skopje Forum (16-18 November 2000) are part of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe. Although the Congress organised other important activities in South-East Europe in 2001 and plans to organise further activities in 2002, these two Forums were its main contribution to the Stability Pact in 2001 and 2002.
The rapporteurs wish to point out that the Istanbul and Novi Sad Forums, like the Skopje Forum, were organised by the Congress, with the help of a financial contribution granted by the Belgian government under the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe, for activities in the "Local Democracy" sector. The rapporteurs wish to thank the Belgian authorities for this contribution which was very useful in organising these Forums and ensuring that they were a success.
Organisation of the Istanbul and Novi Sad Forums
The rapporteurs wish to thank the Mayors of the two host cities and pay tribute to their personal commitment and to that of their staff, who ensured that these Forums were held in the best possible conditions.
Preparation of the Istanbul and Novi Sad Forums
As in the case of the Skopje Forum, the preparation of the Istanbul and Novi Sad Forums was supervised by the Congress Bureau.
The Istanbul Forum was prepared at a "Meeting of local and regional representatives of countries of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe" held in Strasbourg on 1 June 2001 (CG/Forum Turkey (8) 7). This meeting took place on the day after the Congress debate on the Skopje Forum, in which Mr Gürtuna, Mayor of the Metropolitan City of Istanbul took part.
A meeting to prepare the Novi Sad Forum was held in Strasbourg on 6 February 2002. This meeting, held in co-operation with the authorities of the host country, provided the opportunity to clarify the draft programme and to request that several sessions be held simultaneously to increase the amount of time for discussion and give closer consideration to the economic problems encountered by local and regional authorities in South-East Europe.
Follow-up to the Skopje Forum ( November 2000)
Following the Skopje Forum (November 2000), the Congress adopted Recommendation 91 and Resolution 111 (2001) at its 8th Plenary Session (May 2001). The Ministers’ Deputies adopted a reply to Recommendation 91 (See Appendix ) in December 2001.
Mr Cardon de Lichtbuer, Permanent Representative of Belgium to the Council of Europe, who attended the Istanbul Forum, reported to the Ministers’ Deputies on the outcome of the Forum, before they adopted their reply to Recommendation 91.
The Istanbul and Novi Sad Forums in the framework of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe
The main objective of the three Forums (Skopje, Istanbul and Novi Sad) was to develop partnerships with cities and regions in South-East Europe. As already pointed out in the explanatory memorandum on the Skopje Forum (Rapporteurs: Mr Claude HAEGI (Switzerland) and Mr Yavuz MILDON (Turkey): CG (8) 8 Part II – 23 April 2001), this was one of the projects presented by the Council of Europe under the "Action Plan for promoting local and regional democracy in South-East Europe", approved at the Bucharest Forum (23-24 February 2000).
As the priorities of Working Table I of the Stability Pact have since been redefined, especially at the meeting in Portoroz (Slovenia) in June 2001, the Congress has done its utmost to ensure that activities to promote local democracy in South-East Europe continue to be a priority for Stability Pact donor countries and organisations.
The Rapporteurs wish to thank the Stability Pact administrators who took an active part in the Istanbul and Novi Sad Forums. In Novi Sad, Mr Busek, Stability Pact Special Co-ordinator, presented a lengthy statement at the opening session, clearly affirming the fundamental role to be played by local and regional authorities in developing democracy and thereby promoting stability in the countries of South-East Europe. Mr Zeldenrust, Director of Working Table I, took part in the Istanbul and Novi Sad Forums, as well as in other recent Congress activities on South-East Europe.
Each of these Forums was attended by some 300 participants (400 at the opening session of the Istanbul Forum).
Besides the Mayors of the two host cities, Mr Gürtuna for Istanbul and Mr Novakovic for Novi Sad, several prominent figures honoured the two Forums with their presence. As it is impossible to name them all, the Rapporteurs wish to thank all those who attended and addressed these Forums.
We would nevertheless like to mention that the Forums were attended by:
- Mr Cuatrecasas, President of the Congress (both Forums),
- Lord Russell-Johnston, President of the Parliamentary Assembly, who attended the Istanbul Forum and Mr Kurucsai (Member of the Committee on the Environment and Agriculture) who was present in Novi Sad;
- Mr Arslani, the Macedonian Minister for Local Authorities (Novi Sad),
- Mr Busek, Stability Pact Special Coordinator (Novi Sad) and Mr Zeldenrust, Director of Working Table I (both Forums).
The programmes of both Forums, appended to this report, show the wide range of participants and speakers:
- Representatives of governmental and national authorities and both European and international organisations,
- Mayors and regional leaders as well as members of national associations of local and regional authorities in South-East Europe,
- Members of the CLRAE,
- Representatives of non-governmental organisations including the FEDRE, the Association of Local Democracy Agencies (ALDA) and the European Network of Training Organisations for local and regional authorities (ENTO).
Most of these representatives made statements at both Forums and this gave each organisation, region or municipality the opportunity to talk about its experience and problems. Indeed, the ultimate aim of these Forums is to enable a large number participants directly concerned and involved in promoting local democracy in South-East Europe to put forward their point of view and describe their experience, thus establishing a network of the main local and regional agencies in South-East Europe. The rapporteurs believe that, in this respect, the Istanbul and Novi Sad Forums clearly attained their objective.
Main conclusions of the two Forums
The main conclusions of the two Forums are set out in the Istanbul and Novi Sad Declarations, each of which was unanimously adopted by the participants at the closing sessions, chaired in Istanbul by Mr Chenard, Past-President of the Congress (in the presence of Mr Gürtuna, Mayor of the Metropolitan City of Istanbul) and in Novi Sad by Mr Masters, Member of the Congress (in the presence of Mr Novakovic, Mayor of Novi Sad).
The main themes emerging from these Forums will be reiterated in the draft Recommendation and draft Resolution to be submitted to the Congress for approval at its 9th Plenary Session. They are as follows:
1. Ad hoc Congress working group of local and regional elected representatives from south-east Europe
The proposal to form such a group was put forward at the Istanbul Forum and confirmed at Novi Sad. The rapporteurs therefore propose, on the basis of Article 10.2 of the Congress Charter (adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 15 March 2000), asking the Bureau of the Congress, as an exceptional measure, to form an ad hoc working group common to both chambers. This group, composed mainly of members of Congress from south-east Europe, would be particularly responsible for monitoring Congress activities in south-east Europe, especially under the Stability Pact. It could also, with the agreement of the Stability Pact, become a vehicle for dialogue and expert appraisal of Pact programmes concerning “Local Democracy”, in the same way as the existing “Parliamentary” Task Force (in which the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the OSCE Assembly and the European Parliament participate).
This ad hoc group, which has already met informally in Strasbourg, on 1 June 2001 (the day after the 8th plenary session of the Congress), and, in much smaller numbers, on 22 March 2002 (after the Standing Committee), could supervise Congress activities in this field (see below), make preparations for future Forums and represent the Congress at certain meetings of the Stability Pact.
2. Development of the network of national associations of local and regional authorities of south-east Europe
This project, launched at the Skopje Forum, took shape at Istanbul and has developed since.
A most fruitful preparatory meeting was held on the eve of the Istanbul Forum (1 November 2001, doc. CG/SP (8) NET 2) and a second, more technical meeting took place in Strasbourg on 13-14 December 2001 (doc. CG/SP (8) NET 5 prov.).
Since then, several specialised seminars have been organised with financial support from the Swiss government (Sofia, 25-26 January 2002), the Greek association of municipalities (KEDKE) (Thessaloniki Seminar, 8-9 March 2002) as well as co-operation with the ENTO network (Budapest Seminar, 25-27 March 2002) (with the support of the Swiss authorities). A meeting of « liaison officers » of this network was also held at the Novi-Sad Forum and another is planned for the 9th plenary session of the Congress. Its purpose is to foster exchanges of experience between national associations and, during the first stage, to improve the training of association staff. The network also maintains close links with the Association of LDAs.
The rapporteurs regard this as one of the most tangible results of the three Forums and ask the Stability Pact donor countries and agencies to maintain their financial support for this project, which is now regarded as a priority by Working Table I chaired by Mr Rondos.
The next meeting of this Working Table is scheduled for 12-13 June 2002 in Istanbul. The Congress should make known to the Stability Pact the importance it attaches to development of this network.
The network also needs to develop further co-operation with the associations of « regions » of south-east Europe, particularly the Association of Regions of Albania.
3. Developing partnerships with cities and regions of south-east Europe
This initial objective has been common to the three forums and has changed over time.
In Skopje, with the help of the main associations and bodies involved in co-operation with cities and regions of south-east Europe, the Forum was able to take stock – though incompletely – of existing partnerships with towns of south-east Europe.
In Istanbul, these activities were addressed more fully, offering an opportunity for direct dialogue between mayors or officials of partner towns. Barcelona and Sarajevo were an excellent example of dialogue established in this way.
In Novi Sad, the organisation of two parallel sessions enabled the experience of existing partnerships to be presented on a thematic basis (environment, transport, energy, etc…). These exchanges highlighted the needs of the towns and regions of south-east Europe, the problems encountered by partner towns in implementing concrete projects, and made it possible to determine prospects for the future. In addition, at Novi Sad, a fuller picture of existing partnerships was presented by Ms Valmorbida, Director of the Association of Local Democracy Agencies (ALDA). She also proposed further development prospects for the future. The question put by at the end of the Forum by Mr Martini, President of the Association, bears reflection : "When shall we have a real data base on these partnerships ?". According to the rapporteurs, a continuously updated data base of partnership needs and proposals would be very useful. The Congress should take the initiative and look into available possibilities in co-operation with the relevant non-governmental organisations and seek the support of Stability Pact donors.
4. Developing transfrontier co-operation between local and regional authorities in south-
The proposal for a multilateral agreement between the governments concerned, put forward at the Conference of Border Regions in Timisoara in 1999 and repeated at the Skopje and Istanbul forums, took shape in Novi Sad.
The procedure proposed in Novi Sad by the President of the Congress and supported by by Mr Arslani, Macedonian Minister of Local Government, involved proceeding step-by-step. To begin with, the Novi Sad Declaration proposes having the governments concerned adopt a political declaration (gentleman's agreement) and, at a second stage, preparing a multilateral agreement.
The rapporteurs support this procedure and ask the Bureau of the Congress to instruct the above-mentioned ad hoc group (see para 1 above) to supervise this important mission entrusted to the Congress in co-operation with the relevant Council of Europe committee of experts (Select Committee of Experts on Transfrontier Co-operation : LR-R-CT).
Needless to say, this activity will be based on the principles stated in the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities and its two protocols. Account will also ned to be taken of the report presented at the 9th plenary session by Mr Tschudi (Switzerland) on " Promoting transfrontier co-operation - an important factor for democratic stability in Europe ". Mr Tschudi moderated the Novi-Sad Forum’s session on this theme.
In this context, the Congress should also welcome the proposal made in Novi Sad by Ms Hrustanovic, Mayor of Belgrade, to organise a conference of Danube cities of south-east Europe. Bearing in mind the importance of the Danube as a channel of communication in this part of Europe, it is obvious that, symbolically and politically, the complete re-opening of the Danube to unimpeded navigation would have a great impact on the neighboring towns and regions, economically, but also culturally and socially.
5. Developing co-operation with the Association of Local Democracy Agencies (ALDA)
and the ENTO Network.
These two forums also enabled the Local Democracy Agencies (LDAs) to make themselves better known, to develop contacts with potential new partners and enabled LDA delegates and partner towns to confer.
At each Forum, the President of ENTO, Mr Fontaine, presented the possibilities offered by his network. The Istanbul and Novi Sad Declarations asked ENTO to develop training programmes for the staff of local and regional authorities of south-east Europe. Co-operation was established during the Forums between ENTO and the Associations Network.
6. Developing cooperation with the Council of Europe Development Bank
There was a strong call from the Novi Sad Forum for the Bank to channel loans to local and regional authorities of south-east Europe. The Congress should organise an information seminar with this in mind.
The Istanbul and Novi Sad Forums were an undisputed success, in terms of both the number of participants and the quality of the papers presented.
The rapporteurs believe that the Congress must follow up the various projects mooted at the three previous forums. The following forums should adopt a geographically more limited format and concentrate on proximity economy themes.
They accordingly urge the Congress to accept the invitation to organise a future forum in Prijedor (Republika Srpska) . They also note the project submitted by the Town of Kotor.
In accordance with the requirements of Stability Pact officials, the rapporteurs believe that these Forums must increasingly lead to concrete micro-projects which have a measurable impact and are designed in conjunction with leaders of civil society.
Appendix 1 - NOVI SAD DECLARATION adopted unanimously on 20 April 2002
Appendix 2 - ISTANBUL DECLARATION unanimously adopted on 3 November 2001