Reykjavik Summit: European leaders show strong commitment to local and regional democracy
The Summit of the Council of Europe in Reykjavik gathered 46 Heads of State and Government on 16 and 17 May at a historic turning point for European democratic development.
Responding to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, democratic backsliding and growing authoritarian trends, the Heads of State and Government have renewed their commitment to the Council of Europe’s democratic values and principles, pledging to work through its Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly and Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.
European leaders have recognised the important role of grassroots elected representatives in upholding democracy, human rights and the rule of law in their communities. This recognition gives a new momentum for local and regional democracy and self-government as one of the landmark features of the European democratic model.
In the Summit’s Final Declaration, the European leaders committed to support the essential role of multi-level governance in delivering the organisation’s vision; they also acknowledged the role of the Congress in implementing the European Charter of Local Self-Government – a key Council of Europe treaty for local democracy – as an important part of an “early warning” system to signal possible ‘democratic erosion’ in member states.
The Reykjavik Principles of Democracy, adopted at the Summit, stressed the joint responsibility of national, local and regional authorities in strengthening democracy and good governance and in enabling democratic participation. They recognised grassroots authorities as being part of the system of checks and balances, to prevent any excessive concentration of power. The European leaders also acknowledged local authorities’ responsibility – together with national governments, courts and parliaments – for implementing the European Human Rights Convention and complying with the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. They called for stronger co-operation and political dialogue between national, local and regional authorities in executing those judgments and better protecting human rights.
The ongoing work of the Congress in protecting human rights linked to the environment also received appreciation of the Heads of State and Government as they supported the vital role of cities, regions and local communities in the environmental protection, along with other stakeholders. In addressing the consequences of Russia’s war against Ukraine, they also underlined the need to intensify efforts, at all levels of governance, for the effective protection of the rights of Ukrainian children.
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