Local democracy in Luxembourg and Turkey, electoral observation in Georgia and Armenia, fake news and pressure on mayors, rural youth and democratic pluralism on the program of the 42nd session

Addressing members of Congress on the second day of the 42n/a Session, on 23 March 2022, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Tiny Kox, welcomed the Congress Declaration on the War of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. He lamented that Russian citizens are no longer protected by the ECHR and stressed the need to support human rights defenders, democratic forces, free media and independent civil society in the Russian Federation. He also asked for a 4and Council of Europe Summit with the contribution of the Congress. “I have always firmly believed that democracy begins at the local and regional levels. It is implemented, defended and safeguarded by the essential work that you, the local and regional elected representatives, carry out on a daily basis and with the complex challenges that you face”, he said, referring to his previous functions as an elected representative. local. “Building and building democracy is not a top-down process, but the complete opposite – it has to come from below,” he concluded.

The Presidents of the Chamber of Local Authorities and the Chamber of Regions, respectively Bernd Vohringer and Harald Sonderegger, also expressed support for Ukraine. They underlined the important consequences for all levels of governance, in particular for the level closest to citizens and life in our cities and municipalities.

A point of view shared by President of the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies (CALRE) and President of the Walloon Parliament, Belgium, Jean-Claude Marcourt. Addressing the Chamber of Regions, Mr Marcourt stressed the importance of vigorously reaffirming European values, embodied in the European Convention on Human Rights, and adopting strict sanctions. “We must not only condemn the invasion ordered by a ruthless Russian regime, but also show our solidarity with our partners and the people of Ukraine,” he said. President of the European Committee of the Regions Apostolos Tzitzikostas, as did 3,000 regional and local leaders, from 240 regions and 90,000 municipalities across Europe, at the recent Summit of Regions and Cities in Marseille . He also pointed out that disinformation, “fake news” and “propaganda” are “one of the greatest threats against our democratic societies”.

In the context of a debate in the Chamber of Local Authorities on “Fake news, threats and violence – pressures on mayors in the current crises in Europe“, Wilma Delissen Van Tongerlo, co-rapporteur (Netherlands, ILDG) presented a report being prepared by the Congress Governance Committee. This report aims to take stock of the current situation, based on the experiences of local and regional elected representatives in member countries in order to assess the real extent of the phenomenon and identify tools and strategies to combat hate speech and fake news online. A study on the phenomenon entitled ” COUNTERFAKE – A Scientific Basis for Policy Against Fake News and Hate Speech” has just been completed based on a collaborative research project of five academic partners, supported by Congress.

On the same day, the Congress adopted reports on local self-government in Luxemburg and Turkey. The report on Luxembourg was presented by the co-rapporteurs Christine Chevalley (Switzerland, GILD) and Marjorie Crovetto (Monaco), and was followed by an exchange with Taina Bofferding, Minister of the Interior and Minister of Equality between women and men, Luxembourg. The report on Turkey was presented by the co-rapporteurs Vladimir Prebilic (Slovenia, SOC/G/PD) and David Eray (Switzerland, EPP/CCE). The members of Congress also adopted the observation reports of the last local elections in Armenia and Georgia. They also held a discussion on the use of deliberative methods in European municipalities and regionsattended by the mayor of the city of Mostar, Mario Kordić.

Additionally, a report on Rural youth and the role of local authorities was adopted in plenary. Highlighting the geography-specific challenges faced by local young people, the report calls on local and regional authorities to address them in their policies. In addition, the adopted report urges the authorities to improve the services provided to rural young people and to support rural youth organizations in this process. Finally, the authorities should promote the participation of young people, paying particular attention to young people from vulnerable and minority groups.

Furthermore, the Chamber of Regions held a debate on democratic pluralism in regional governance: relations between the majority and the opposition. During this debate, members of the Chamber of Regions opened a discussion on how to combat the tendency towards majoritarianism in regional governance. Highlighting the complexities of balancing democratic pluralism and the extreme fragmentation of the political landscape, members insisted on avoiding overly strict restrictions on the participation of independent and opposition candidates, particularly at local and regional levels where they constitute an important alternative to the established parties.

Members also discussed the representation and integration of diaspora communities in host countries and regions, particularly through diaspora associations, as well as their political representation in their regions of origin. Indeed, diaspora communities offer an opportunity to build constructive relationships between European countries and their countries of origin that can be beneficial on many different topics. Therefore, members explored the potentials and challenges of diaspora representation, as well as the role of diaspora associations in engaging these communities.

Finally, during a speech in plenary session, Stefano Bonaccini, President of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), presented the TERRI Study (Territorial Governance, Powers and Reforms in Europe) which lists the evolution and quality of territorial and governance reforms in Europe over the past 10 years, seen through the eyes of CEMR’s national associations. This publication, which is scheduled to be updated every 4 years, allows local and regional governments to compare and contrast their roles across borders, providing an important source of knowledge.

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