The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (hereinafter referred to as the Congress) is a consultative body of the Council of Europe, operating since 1994 in the interests of more than 130,000 local and regional authorities of the 46 Council of Europe member states.
The composition of the national delegation of Ukraine to the Congress for the years 2021-2026 was approved by the Presidential Decrees 54/2021 and 98/2021. It consists of 12 representatives and 12 their deputies (divided equally between the Chamber of Local Authorities and the Chamber of Regions). Deputy of the Kyiv City Council Ms Liliia Pashynna is the head of the delegation, and Ms Anastasia Yakovenko is the secretary of the delegation. The term of office of the delegation began on 23 March 2021. Two members of the Ukrainian delegation to the Congress - deputy of Rivne regional Assembly Ms Svitlana Bohatyrchuk-Kryvko and deputy of Poltava municipal Assembly Ms Oksana Derkach are the members of the Congress Bureau, which ensures coordination of activities of the Congress and its working bodies.
The priorities of the Congress are the following: to strengthen and protect the interests of local and regional authorities; to ensure their participation in the processes of European integration; to monitor compliance with the European Charter of Local Self-Government by the Council of Europe member states, and to monitor local and regional elections in these countries.
- represents European regions and municipalities;
- is a forum where representatives of local and regional authorities discuss common problems, exchange experiences and present their positions to governments;
- advises the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on all aspects of the development and implementation of local and regional policies;
- works closely with national and international organizations representing local and regional authorities;
- organizes public debates and conferences at local and regional levels in all Council of Europe member states aimed to ensuring active public involvement in decision-making process;
- prepares regular reports on the state of local and regional democracy in each member state of the Council of Europe and in the candidate countries.
Cooperation of Ukraine with the Congress
The two areas within the Congress statutory functions – monitoring of the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and election observation - are key in Ukraine`s cooperation with the Congress. They determine the context of the consideration of Ukraine-related issues within this body.
Since the beginning of the first cycles of monitoring the state of local and regional democracy in Ukraine in 1999, the Congress has called on the Government of Ukraine to reform local self-government. The need to adopt relevant legislation in conformity with the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government was also reflected in the CoE Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 1179 (1999) «Honouring of obligations and commitments by Ukraine».
The issue of local self-government reform that would lead to decentralization in Ukraine was one of the main issues of the Congress urgent debate on the situation in Ukraine held on 25 March 2014.
Amending the Constitution of Ukraine with regard to decentralization based on all available Congress expertise remains one of the most important areas of cooperation between Ukraine and the Congress, especially due to the russia's military aggression against Ukraine.
In order to monitor the implementation by Ukraine of its obligations under the European Charter of Local Self-Government the Congress undertook a number of monitoring visits to Ukraine. As a result of one of them (in two phases - 21-23 May 2012 and 22-23 April 2013), the Congress adopted on 31 October 2013 the Report and Recommendation “Local and Regional Democracy in Ukraine”.
These documents contain an analysis of the situation and pressing issues of local and regional democracy in Ukraine as well as proposals for their solution, in particular through the implementation of local government reform. In June 2014, post-monitoring cooperation between Ukraine and the Congress began, resulted in the signing on 20 March 2015 of a Roadmap for Ukraine aimed at implementation of the Congress relevant recommendations. During the last monitoring visit of the Congress delegation to Ukraine on 4-6 March 2020, a number of meetings were held with representatives of Ukrainian central and local authorities, independent institutions (in particular the Office of the President of Ukraine; Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine; Ministry of finance; Ministry for communities and territories development; Kyiv city administration; Associations of district, regional authorities and Ukrainian cities, village and settlement councils, united territorial communities, etc.) as well as academia and the diplomatic corps accredited in Ukraine. Upon this visit, the special rapporteurs on Ukraine - representatives of Norway and Austria - prepared a report on the state of local and regional democracy in Ukraine. On 17 September 2020 the Monitoring Committee of the Congress adopted this document and a draft of the relevant recommendations to the Government of Ukraine. On 23 November 2021 another visit of the Congress monitoring delegation to Ukraine took place in order to collect additional information to the said report, which should have been considered at the 42nd session of the Congress in March 2022. Due to the war unleashed by russia on 24 February 2022, the consideration of this report was postponed to a later date.
Cooperation with the Congress on the observation of local elections in Ukraine is positive. Upon the invitation of the Government, the Congress delegations carried out visits to Ukraine on 25 May 2014 and on 25 October 2015. The Congress also conducted a remote (as a temporary procedure in exceptional situation related to the Covid-19 pandemic) observation procedure regarding the local elections held in Ukraine on 25 October 2020. The Congress, according to the information, released on 27 October 2020 upon completion of this procedure, welcomed, in particular, the fact that, for the first time, internally displaced persons were allowed to vote in local elections. On 26 November 2020 the Bureau of the Congress adopted an information report on the remote observation procedure regarding the local elections held in Ukraine on 25 October 2020. The report, in particular, acknowledged the extraordinary circumstances in which the elections were held, not only in view of the pandemic, but also with regard to decentralisation and constitutional reform and the amendments to the Electoral Code of Ukraine that fundamentally changed the electoral system.
Since the beginning of the aggression of the russian federation against Ukraine and the temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea by russia, the Congress has taken a clear and consistent stance in support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. On 25 March 2014, a Declaration was adopted, in which the Congress did not recognize the so-called referendum in Crimea conducted on 16 March 2014, condemned the use by russia of armed force to change borders, and expressed support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.
On 16 October 2014, a debate on separatist tensions in Ukraine and neighbouring countries was held during the regular session of the Congress, as a result of which the relevant Declaration was adopted by an overwhelming majority of votes. In this document the Congress condemned russia's military intervention in the east of Ukraine (and, in this way, actually recognized the fact of such intervention), as well as all forms of russian pressure on neighbouring countries; noted that the security of the entire continent is under serious threat due to the russian federation's constant violations of international law, norms and principles of the Council of Europe; stressed that armed separatism supported by mercenaries and the intervention of foreign troops is “the antithesis of all that the Congress stands for”.
On 29 October 2019, the Congress adopted the Resolution "The role of local and regional authorities in the protection of internally displaced persons", one of the co-rapporteurs of which was then member of the delegation of Ukraine, Mykolaiv city Mayor O. Sienkevych. The resolution determined that the cause of the emergence of about 1.7 million internally displaced persons in Ukraine were the illegal annexation of Crimea by russia, as well as foreign armed intervention in the east of Ukraine.
On 25 February 2021, Secretary General of the Congress Andreas Kiefer took part in the meeting of the Council for the Development of Communities and Territories of Ukraine chaired by the President of Ukraine, during which, in particular, Andreas Kiefer recognized the success of the decentralization reform in Ukraine.
On 29 October 2021, A. Kiefer, in his video address to the participants of the meeting of the Bureau of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities under the President of Ukraine in Odesa, assured of the full support of Ukraine by the Congress, and also emphasized Ukraine's contribution to the Congress activities, noting the active work of the Ukrainian delegation.
The Congress is one of the Ukraine's reliable partners in the implementation of the Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine for 2018-2021 (extended until 2022). Relevant cooperation takes place, in particular, within the framework of the implementation of the project on strengthening democracy and trust at the local level, which aims to improve the quality of local democracy in Ukraine by strengthening institutional structures and supporting local self-government bodies and their national associations.
Continuation of relevant activities is provided for in the Priority adjustments to the Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine 2018-2022. This document was drafted by the Council of Europe and the Ukrainian authorities in response to the military aggression of the russian federation against Ukraine, taking into account its consequences and emerging realities. One of the main objectives of the relevant activities within these Priority Adjustments is strengthening of local democracy, good democratic governance and public administration in times of war.
Cooperation between the Congress Secretariat and the Permanent representation of Ukraine to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg is also positive. The General Secretary of the Congress personally and the Congress Secretariat provided substantial support during the formation of the national delegation of Ukraine for 2021-2026. In addition, during the dialogues with the Council of Europe member states within the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the Secretary General and the President of the Congress regularly place special emphasis on productive cooperation with Ukraine, noting the importance attached by the Ukrainian authorities to the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, as well as to the activities of the Congress of local and regional authorities of Ukraine under the President of Ukraine. The Permanent Representative of Ukraine, in turn, positively evaluates the results of the cooperation of Ukraine with the Congress, noting the comprehensive assistance provided by the Congress to Ukraine. The Permanent Representative also emphasizes that our country relies on the experience and technical assistance of this consultative body of the Council of Europe in ensuring the proper functioning of local self-government, taking into account the new realities of the war unleashed by the russian federation, as well as interconnection between success of the European integration of Ukraine and implementation of effective local reforms.
Since the beginning of the russian war against Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the Congress and its leaders have demonstrated unconditional support and solidarity with Ukraine both in the forms of public statements and practical assistance. A special page dedicated to the situation in Ukraine has been created in the Congress website. It contains:
• a series of statements by the President of the Congress condemning russian military aggression against Ukraine and kidnapping by russia of the representatives of local authorities, with calls for the support of the people and authorities of Ukraine;
• the Declaration "The russian federation`s war against Ukraine" adopted during the 42nd session of the Congress, which condemns this war and expresses support for Ukraine (President of the Congress Leendert Verbeek was the rapporteur of this Declaration);
• in March 2022 the "Cities4Cities" online platform under the patronage of the Congress was created for better coordination of necessary aid, in particular humanitarian aid, between Ukrainian and European cities.
One of the acts of solidarity and support of Ukraine was the provision by the Congress at the end of March 2022 of 24 bulletproof vests for all members of the Ukrainian delegation to the Congress, which have already been sent to Ukraine.
On June 1-4, 2022, President of the Congress Leendert Verbeek and Secretary General of the Congress Andreas Kiefer paid a visit to Ukraine at the invitation of the Association of Ukrainian cities. During this visit Chairman of this Association, Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klytschko and Leendert Verbeek signed a joint declaration calling for the reconstruction of Ukrainian communities and the restoration of the functioning of local authorities in line with the European Charter of Local Self-Government.
At the regular 43rd session of the Congress (25-27 October 2022), due to the expiration of the term of office of current Secretary General of the Congress Andreas Kiefer, a new Secretary General will be elected, who will be responsible for the proper functioning of the Congress for the next 5 years.