- Congress of the Council of Europe
The Congress of the Council of Europe (in full, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe) is an institution representing local and regional authorities from the forty-seven member states of the Council of Europe. It has two chambers, the Chamber of Local Authorities and the Chamber of Regions. The Congress holds its plenary meetings at the Palace of Europe in Strasbourg, where its permanent Secretariat is located.
The present Congress of Local and Regional Authorities was established on 14 January 1994 with the Statutory Resolution 94(3) of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The history of the Congress reflects the already fifty-year history of the development of local and regional democracy in Europe.
The Conference of Local Authorities of Europe was first established at the Council of Europe in 1957. It held its first session on 12 January 1957 in Strasbourg presided by the prominent French statesman Jacques Chaban-Delmas, who was President of the Conference from January 1957 to January 1960. In 1975 the Committee of Ministers established the Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe that brought together also representatives of European regions, not only local authorities, thus replacing and enhancing the Conference of Local Authorities. In 1979 it became the Standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe.
Six years later, in 1985, the Standing Conference adopted the European Charter of Local Self-Government, recognizing the increasing role of the development of local democracy, which has become one of the most important achievements of the organisation. The Charter was opened for signature in 1985 and has since been ratified by almost all Council of Europe member states. In 1994 the Standing Conference asked the Committee of Ministers to further enhance its statute, and the Standing Conference was transformed into the present Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Council of Europe.
In 2005, during the Warsaw Summit, the Heads of State and Government of the member states of the Council of Europe reasserted the importance of local and regional democracy for Europe and underlined the major role of the Congress in its mission, again supporting its mandate.
The Congress is the voice of Europe’s 200,000 regions and municipalities that provide the forum for their elected officials to discuss common concerns, share experiences and develop policies. It works to strengthen democracy and improve services at local and regional level. The Congress is dealing with such specific issues as citizens’ participation, urban security, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, migrants, sustainable development of territorial communities, culture and education, history and modernity, the fight against human trafficking, and many others. The Congress’ work aims to respond to the various challenges that local and regional authorities face in today’s Europe, as well as to promote cooperation among local and regional authorities of Europe. The Congress adopts recommendations and opinions on the issues of its concern and presents them to the Committee of the Ministers and/or the Parliamentary Assembly. It also adopts resolutions, presents them for local and regional authorities of Europe and applies itself to the local and regional election monitoring in member states. The Congress fulfils its objectives with the participation of partners: National associations, international associations, observers and other partners. Within the framework of the Local democracy monitoring mission, the Congress prepares mainly two different kinds of reports :
- Monitoring reports on local democracy, which are drawn up country by country in order to keep track of the local and regional democracy in the Council of Europe member States. The monitoring exercise provides an important basis on which to enter into a constructive political dialogue with the authorities of member states in connection with local and regional democracy issues. This enables the Congress to familiarise governments, parliaments, associations, elected representatives and the media with its main conventions and legal instruments concerning local and regional institutional issues. Numerous legislative reforms have been set in motion by member states in the light of the conclusions in these reports. A new procedure which enables the monitored member States to fasten the implementation of the recommandations, has been introduced. Henceforth the countries in question must notify in writing the Congress of the measures taken to implement the recommandations.
- General reports providing an across-the-board analysis of the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in member states and countries applying to join the Council of Europe. Within the framework of the general obligation to inform about the application of the Charter in the member States, the Congress prepares transversal reports.
Within the framework of the election observation exercise the Congress prepares observation reports. It regularly observes local and regional elections in member and applicant countries, a key factor in its objective of monitoring progress towards and the state of local and regional democracy in the countries concerned. Such observation (see election monitoring) always includes an analysis of the election campaign, not just the day of voting and involves discussion at the highest level with representatives of parties and group contesting the elections, election commissions, media and civil rights groups. The mission generally conclude with a press conference and the issue of a press release. They are followed by a report, usually submitted to the Bureau of the Congress, giving an evaluation of the campaign and the conduct of the poll and containing recommendation about what improvements might be made.
According to the new Charter of the Congress adopted on 2 May 2007 by the Committee of Ministers, the Congress is formed of representatives of local and regional authorities of the member states of the Council of Europe, who are either directly elected or are politically accountable to a directly elected assembly. The membership of each member state’s delegation ensures a balanced geographical distribution of territories, equitable representation of the various types of local and regional authorities and political forces within these authorities of the member states, and equitable representation of women and men. Each member state has the right to the same number of seats in the Congress as in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Apart from representatives (full members), the member states also send the same number of their substitutes (substitute members) to the Congress, who work in the same capacity.
Within the Congress the work is organised in the two Chambers: the Chamber of Local Authorities and the Chamber of Regions. The Congress has three statutory committees which reflect changes made in October 2010: the Monitoring Committee (which deals with monitoring and ensuring the application of the charter and instutional development), the Governance Committee (responsible for affairs falling within the scope of the Congress' statutory mandate such as governance, public finance, cross-border and interregional co-operation and e-democracy as well as co-operation with intergovernmental bodies), and the Current Affairs Committee (responsible for studying the role of local and regional authorities with regard to the major challenges of our society and preparing work on thematic issues such as social cohesion, education, culture and sustainable development ). The Standing Committee acts on behalf of the Congress between its sessions, which are normally held at least once a year. The Bureau of the Congress is responsible for everyday work of the Congress and its continuity. The Congress elects its President from its members for two years (at present it is Keith Whitmore of the United Kingdom) and directed by the Secretary General (Andreas Kiefer of Austria, as from 1 April 2010).
According to its statute, the Congress consists of 318 representatives (and 318 substitutes) from each member state, as follows:
State Members State Members State Members Albania 4/4 Andorra 2/2 Armenia 4/4 Austria 6/6 Azerbaijan 6/6 Belgium 7/7 Bosnia and Herzegovina 5/5 Bulgaria 6/6 Croatia 5/5 Cyprus 3/3 Czech Republic 7/7 Denmark 5/5 Estonia 3/3 Finland 5/5 France 18/18 Georgia 5/5 Germany 18/18 Greece 7/7 Hungary 7/7 Iceland 3/3 Ireland 4/4 Italy 18/18 Latvia 3/3 Liechtenstein 2/2 Lithuania 4/4 Luxembourg 3/3 Malta 3/3 Moldova 5/5 Monaco 2/2 Montenegro 3/3 Netherlands 7/7 Norway 5/5 Poland 12/12 Portugal 7/7 Romania 10/10 Russian Federation 18/18 San Marino 2/2 Serbia 7/7 Slovakia 5/5 Slovenia 3/3 Spain 12/12 Sweden 6/6 Switzerland 6/6 Republic of Macedonia 3/3 Turkey 12/12 Ukraine 12/12 United Kingdom 18/18 TOTAL 318/318
- Council of European Municipalities and Regions
- Committee of the Regions
- European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
Council of Europe Institutions Members1 Provisionally referred to by the Council of Europe as "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"; see Macedonia naming dispute.
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