Thessaloniki, 25 May 1996

This Declaration was adopted by the almost two thousand delegates present in Thessaloniki during the closing ceremony of the XXth General Assembly of CEMR on 25 May 1996.

It was adopted with nine abstentions (of which the Norwegian and Danish delegations) and three votes against.

We, men and women, local and regional elected representatives, mayors, leading politicians of towns and municipalities, leaders of counties, districts, provinces and regions of Europe, Assembled in Thessaloniki for the XXth General Assembly of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, Firm in our belief for the need to build a strong and united Europe, Directly confronted each day with the expectations of our fellow European citizens,

  • wish to affirm our intention to build a Europe for its citizens, namely:

    • a Europe which responds to the major challenges of today's society, and first and foremost, the issue of employment, which implies, in particular, a more dynamic economic policy for the European political union and a community policy on external trade reflecting more solidarity;
    • a Europe which embodies the values of solidarity and which acts in concrete and resolute terms against all forms of social exclusion;
    • a Europe whose environmental policies lie within the objective of sustainable development;
    • a Europe of tolerance which fights against all forms of discrimination, racism and xenophobia;
    • a Europe which is based upon the active participation of its citizens and which inspires in them a sense of security.

    The revision of The Maastricht Treaty represents a decisive stage in the transformation of the current inter-governmental Europe into a Europe which is an autonomous political entity, able to speak with one voice. A truly united Europe, respectful of its differences and deeply aware of the need to safeguard and promote them, must seek the kind of Union already described in the Declaration of the CEMR General Assembly in Strasbourg.

    The role of the institutions in framing legislation should follow the principle that both the European Parliament, directly elected by the people of Europe, and the Council of Ministers, representing the States of Europe, should approve legislation, and that the Commission should act as the executive body in the implementation of Union legislation.

  • want a Europe which reflects the aspirations of women.

    We have a particular responsibility to ensure that the aspirations and concerns of women, who comprise at least half of all European citizens, are fully addressed, In this regard, we consider it essential that women have full access to the political process, and to ensure that they have the opportunity to participate equally in decision-making at all levels, in fulfilment of the principle of parity democracy.

    More generally, women and men should be given the possibility to maintain a proper balance between the requirements of professional life and the fundamental values of family life.

  • want full employment.

    Unemployment, and in particular youth unemployment, is the primary challenge which must be taken up by Europe to fight social injustice and avoid the dangers of social unrest. In this regard, we would wish to adopt as our own the declaration expressed by the President of the European Commission, Jacques Santer, who proclaimed before the European Parliament:

    "A Europe that did not concern itself over its eighteen million unemployed would be an empty construction indeed."

    It is up to the social partners and the Member States of the European Union to seek solutions to these problems. In this respect, particular attention should be paid to fighting the causes of unemployment as well as developing vocational training for the young unemployed.

    The European Union must support this process within the scope of its capacities. Existing instruments (structural funds) should give greater priority towards achieving these goals.

    We actively support the European Confidence Pact for Employment proposed by the European Commission and affirm our will to mobilise our forces to contribute to its implementation. Local and regional authorities constitute the levels best suited to developing and stimulating sources of employment, notably through small and medium-sized enterprises.

    Therefore, we will actively participate in dialogue with governments and social partners to contribute in solid terms to the implementation of the recommendations of the White Paper on Growth, Competitiveness, and Employment adopted by the European Commission in 1993.

    Hence, we express the wish that all Member States sign and ratify the Social Protocol of the Treaty on the European Union.

    Similarly, we attach great importance to public services, especially the right of access for all to high quality services at local and regional level, and wish to see recognition given to the fundamental principles in a European Charter of Public Services provided that the right of local authorities to organise their own services is not infringed upon.

  • want a strong and united Europe.

    We call for decisive progress in the European unification process, and ask that the European Union be given the capacity and the means to decide and to act, particularly in relation to future enlargement which requires a politically and institutionally strengthened European Union.

    At a time dominated by the globalisation of the economy, we believe that a move towards economic and monetary union is imperative.

    So far as economic and monetary policy is concerned, the globalisation of markets and the enormous volume of capital flows make national sovereignty increasingly illusory - only a single currency will give European States scope for independence and freedom of action.

    A common asylum and immigration policy, respecting human rights, is of utmost priority.

    We deeply hope that the Intergovernmental Conference which was launched last March in Turin, will succeed in reconciling Europe's aims and the support of citizens. In this regard, we ask for:

    • clarification of the decision-making processes of the European Union and their increased effectiveness, through the extension of majority voting and the strengthening of the co-decision procedures;
    • simplification of Treaty texts, and the recognition of transparency, effectiveness and subsidiarity/proximity as the guiding principles of Community action, in respect of the precepts of solidarity and interdependence.

    If Europe succeeds in becoming closer to its citizens and involving them more widely in the decision-making process, it will, as a natural consequence, find the trust and support of Europeans, thus taking a decisive political step.

    We therefore call for the publication of clear and comprehensive information on the state of progress of the Intergovernmental Conference activities, and consider it necessary that the future Treaty include citizens' rights of access to information on European Union policies and initiatives.

  • want a strong European Union

    A strong European Union is an integral part of the way our continent is structured, based on the principles of the respect for human rights - including respect for minority rights - and for peace and solidarity.

    It thus follows that we repudiate expansionism and all forms of extreme nationalism, and reaffirm our commitment to stability and peaceful co-existence among the peoples of our continent, and to the irreplaceable role played by the Council of Europe, the representative Institution of Greater Europe, and its Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.

    Historically, the Balkans have always been a key area of Europe and, here in Thessaloniki, we call for the development of co-operation between the different countries in this region.

    In our capacity as representatives of local and regional authorities, we will actively participate in this process and will assist in particular in the reconstruction of the municipalities of ex-Yugoslavia.

    We also reiterate the fundamental importance of direct co-operation between cities and local and regional authorities in international co-operation in particular with the Mediterranean countries in order to ensure genuine economic and social development, with a view to establishing peace, stability and mutual tolerance. This should be integrated into bilateral and multilateral co-operation and development aid programmes for which substantial resources must be found.

  • call for, and embody, the Europe of proximity.

    The principle of subsidiarity, or of proximity, was introduced into the Maastricht Treaty, to our great satisfaction, as a basic principle of European construction. We ask that it be implemented in its entirety, and not be limited to relations between Europe and the States.

    As we proclaimed in the Valencia Appeal, local and regional authorities have an essential role to play in a Europe of proximity. The hundreds of signatures of local and regional elected representatives collected to date are a clear reflection of this strong demand addressed to the Intergovernmental Conference. We wish to reaffirm that:

    • Europe - as the cradle of the fundamental values of solidarity, tolerance, democracy and respect for humanity - must avail itself of the capacity to promote such values and thus inscribe these basic rights in the Treaty, which should guarantee the right of citizens to manage a substantial part of public affairs through local and regional elected assemblies by introducing the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

    Similarly, the Treaty should make provision for:

    • a broader expression of the subsidiarity principle and its application, which recognises the place and role of local and regional authorities;
    • the foundations of a partnership between the different levels, where local and regional authorities hold responsibility for the implementation of European policies;
    • an effective basis for upholding the principle of non-discrimination;
    • an increase in structural autonomy and a guarantee of the democratic legitimacy of the Committee of the Regions and local authorities, which must become an Institution ensuring equitable and balanced representation of the local and regional authorities in each Member State, able to make an effective contribution to the process of drafting European policies.

    We emphasise that it is imperative for local and regional authorities to be involved through genuine partnership at the very earliest stages of the European decision-making process. Such a step would make it possible to improve the quality of decisions taken and to strengthen their legitimacy.

  • will restate these demands at each stage of the Intergovernmental Conference, and will stand ready to make the voice of European citizens heard. We are essential partners in a citizens' Europe.

    Every day, we make decisions which directly affect our fellow citizens.

    Numerous European or national policies inevitably pass through the local or regional level. We act in concrete terms to fight exclusion, to affirm the right to housing and to ensure sustainable development which respects the environment. We are active partners in the social dialogue in which we would stress the principles of equal opportunities between men and women.

    As our debates in Thessaloniki demonstrated, we have the will to take up the challenges presented by the information society, and to ensure the practical implementation of Agenda 21 for the sustainable development of our respective areas. We emphasise, in particular, the importance of networks between towns and cities for the dissemination of information and mutual exchange of experience.

    We will co-operate more and more each day with our counterparts in Europe, and with the Mediterranean countries - in the field of exchange of experience and cross-border co-operation. We strongly hope that the Union's means of support, destined to facilitate such co-operation, are maintained and developed. This should strengthen democratic institutions, promote economic development and improve living standards in an area of lasting peace and justice.

    We also reaffirm the importance we attach to twinnings, whose political dimension is essential in that it permits citizens to meet each other, to establish lasting ties and to develop a common sense of our European destiny. Therefore, we propose that 1998 be declared the Year of Twinnings and Partnerships.

  • want a Europe of culture.

    Europe's cultural heritage is the cornerstone of its identity. It is a powerful means for achieving unity, drawing upon centuries of exchange between its peoples.

    In the city of Thessaloniki, the Cultural Capital of Europe for 1997, we make the commitment to intensifying and strengthening relations between our communities. Twinning, schemes must continue to highlight the cultural diversity we share, thus permitting a better understanding of our past and enabling us to build a common future.

  • want a Europe which is active and present on the world scene.

    We strongly support world-wide co-operation between local and regional authorities and express our strongest hopes for a successful outcome to WACLA. We will participate in HABITAT II, the large United Nations conference in Istanbul, at which we will re-emphasise the commitment of European elected representatives of local and regional authorities to:

    • the development of local democracy in the world - one of the soundest foundations for peace and prosperity among people;
    • the promotion, within the United Nations, of the principles set down in the Charter of Local Self-Government of the Council of Europe, in particular the principle of subsidiarity in order to achieve a World Convention;
    • the implementation, as soon as possible and in appropriate ways, of a procedure enabling IULA and other representative organisations of cities and local authorities across the world, brought together in the G4, to be consulted by the United Nations Organisation.

    European elected representatives of local and regional authorities stand ready to work towards setting up a light but permanent co-ordination structure, to reinforce the growing convergence in the work of the world-wide organisations, in order to make the voice of local and regional authorities heard more strongly.