Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe

Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (Congress), (https://www.coe.int/en/web/congress) is an institution of the Council of Europe responsible for strengthening local and regional democracy in its 47 Member States and assessing the application of the European Charter on Local Self-Government. As a voice of European municipalities and regions, it works to facilitate consultation and political dialogue between national governments and local and regional authorities through cooperation with the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

The Congress consists of two chambers – Chamber of Local Authorities and Chamber of Regions. It includes 324 elected representatives of local and regional authorities and the same number of their substitute representatives. Their term of office is 5 years. Together they represent over 150 000 local and regional authorities. Delegates (representatives and substitutes) of the Congress may form political groups and become members of these groups. A political group must consist of at least 20 delegates drawn from at least six national delegations to be recognised as a political group by the Congress. There are four political groups within the Congress. Group of European People’s Party EPP/CCE, Group of Socialists, Greens and Progressive Democrats SOC/G/PD, Independent and Liberal Democrat Group ILDG and European Conservatives & Reformists Group ECR.

President of the Congress, elected for a period of 2 years is Mr. Anders Knape (Sweden, EPP) and held this post since November 2018. President of the Chamber of Local Authorities is Mr. Xavier Cadoret (France, the Socialist Group) and President of the Chamber of Regions is Mrs. Gunn Marit Helgesen (Norway, EPP). Each of the Chambers has seven vice presidents. Secretary-General of Congress since 2015 is Andreas Kiefer (Austria) for a period of 5 years.

Congress meets twice a year. Plenary sessions and meetings of  two Chambers are usually held in March and October Congress Session at the Palace of the Europe in Strasbourg. Congress adopts more than 40 recommendations, resolutions and opinions annually, prepare reports, and monitors the implementation of the principles of the European Charter on Local Self-Government. It also monitors local and regional elections.

The Congress’s work is organized with three committees: Monitoring Committee, Governance Committee and Current Affairs Committee.

Monitoring Committee -  (The Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by member States of the European Charter of Local Self-Government) is responsible for monitoring the application of the Charter and its additional Protocol. Prepares reports on the state of local and regional democracy in the member states concerned and monitors specific issues related to the local and regional democracy. Conducts observation missions in local and regional elections (since 1990 more than 100 observation missions have been carried out). Contributes to the post-monitoring dialogue and develops, as appropriate, targeted assistance programmes on issues of common interest identified during the monitoring visits, in order to provide concrete assistance to local and regional authorities and to ensure the effective follow-up of its recommendations.

Governance Committee - responsible for good governance and democracy at local and regional level, as well as for activities supporting the development of legal instruments and recommendations of the CE in the field of local and regional democracy. It also deals with issues related to governance, public finances, cross-border and inter-regional cooperation and e-democracy, as well as cooperation with other CO and EU organisations.

Current Affairs Committee - is responsible for exploring the role of local and regional authorities in terms of the major challenges of our society and preparing work on thematic issues such as social cohesion, education, intercultural and interreligious dialogue, youth participation, integration of migrants, protection of children, and gender equality from the point of view of the Council of Europe’s core values. Recently, new challenges have surfaced, as elaborating coherent and credible policies for preventing radicalisation, for the management of migration and the improvement of integration policies.

Since 2014, youth delegates from member states have participated in Congress session. The Bulgarian delegation so far had 4 youth delegates.

Besides number of accompanying initiatives held during the sessions, Congress also conducts many other ones at the local level, one of which is the European Week of Local Democracy (EWLD). It is held every year in October with parallel public events and forums in all Member States to foster democratic participation at local level and promote the fundamental values of the CE, democracy and human rights.

Every two years the DOSTA contest is held! - a reward for municipalities and regions for innovation and effective action for the integration of Roma communities. Lom Municipality in 2009 won a third prize for implementing a successful integration policy. 

The Bulgarian national delegation is composed of 12 delegate members 6 representative and 6 substitutes. Head of delegation for 2016-2020 mandate is Mr Dilyan Mlazev, mayor of Elena municipality.