We are here publishing the discourse that Cristopher Newbury, in representation of the Council of Europe/CLRAE, held in Sarajevo on the 6 of April 2002 during the promotion of the Appeal "Europe beyond the borders"
Respected colleagues, it is my honour to greet you on behalf of Mr Cuatrecasas, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.
The promotion of a 'Europe from the bottom' has been an objective of the Congress since 1959, working towards greater unity among the Council of Europe's member states - of which there are now forty-three and very soon will be forty-four.
Promotion of local democracy, institution-building, civil society, trans-border co-operation, and intercultural dialogue at local and regional levels are key issues for the Congress. It is dedicated to promoting European integration of local and regional authorities by setting standards of local democracy in a greater Europe, and by ensuring secure democratic conditions at the local and regional levels.
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has invited Bosnia and Herzegovina to join us, and there will be an official accession ceremony in Strasbourg on 24 April. This will certainly enhance the European integration of this country, severely troubled by years of conflict. We seek to integrate Bosnia and Herzegovina into the European family, sharing our principles of pluralist democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. In the field of local democracy, the Congress has already begun this process, adopting in 2001 a Recommendation on the situation of local and regional democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This proposed improvements to its legal frameworks to bring forward full compliance with the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, and especially the important principle of Subsidiarity. Bosnia and Herzegovina will sign and ratify this Charter (and others) as part of its accession process.
A national delegation of local and regional elected representatives, drawn from both entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina and representing the various political forces at the local and regional levels, will soon be appointed and will be able to participate fully in the work of the Congress in promoting local democracy at the European level.
The activities of the network of Local Democracy Agencies, under the auspices of the Council of Europe, aim at encouraging the local development and empowerment of local authorities, thanks to the co-operation of European cities and regions which commit themselves to concrete projects for building a more united Europe. Exchanges of expertise can contribute to a better life for all. Such Local Democracy Agencies are located here, notably in Tuzla, Zavidovici, and Prijedor, and they need your support to continue their good work.
The Congress will also continue its efforts to develop partnership at the next Forum of Cities and Regions of South-East Europe, to be held in Novi Sad from 18 to 20 April 2002. This will be a good chance for making contacts and for discussion among elected representatives. Special attention will be paid there to the issues of trans-border co-operation.
The Network of national associations of local authorities in South East Europe, which was set up by the Congress, will help to establish closer links between cities and regions and to activate economic, social and cultural exchanges. The associations of municipalities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and of the Republika Srpska are part of this network and will, we believe, benefit from it.
In conclusion, please allow me congratulate you on a successful conference and to encourage you to continue and redouble your valuable work to promote a peaceful and integrated Europe. The Congress will observe closely your efforts to promote "a greater Europe without dividing lines".