- The Council of European Municipalities and Regions originated out of two essential prerequisites:
- local democracy is the basis of all States' democratic public life: deeply attached to the principle of democracy, CEMR may only accept as members local and regional authorities resulting from free universal suffrage;
- because, as one of the founders of CEMR, Edouard Herriot, Mayor of Lyons, asserted, "everything divides States and everything unites municipalities", local authorities have an essential role to play in the achievement of the European Union. Indeed, they provide popular support incited by local leaders, as the elected representatives closest to the citizens.
In a world which has become extraordinarily interdependent, towns and regions are therefore called upon to co-operate with their counterparts from other countries. The exchanges of experiences and transfers of know-how in the most varied fields are of the greatest interest to them. However, in order that this co-operation be successful, they must have their own tools available at the national level and set up joint structures with the local authorities of other countries.
It was in response to this need that the Council of European Municipalities (CEM) was founded in 1951 in Geneva, becoming the Council of European Municipalities and Regions in 1984.
The idea which formed the basis for the foundation of CEMR was sufficiently strong so that today CEMR brings together almost 100,000 local and regional authorities in Europe, from Lisbon to Göteborg;, Brest to St Petersburg, Oslo to Palermo, federated through 38 large national associations of local and regional authorities in 27 European countries. Hence, CEMR, since its fusion with IULA (International Union of Local Authorities), is by far the most representative association of local and regional authorities in Europe.
CEMR is an organisation largely inspired by the federalist philosophy. Since its inception, it has held strongly to the principle of subsidiarity, according to which whether it be an individual citizen or all Europe, no level delegates to a superior level (municipality, region, State, European Union) that which it can do itself.
For CEMR, the principle of subsidiarity should not only regulate relations between States and the European Union, but based on the Citizen, all relationships in the pyramid of public authorities.
CEMR was at the origin of the European Charter for Local Self-Government, which has become a Protocol of the Council of Europe, now signed and ratified by a majority of the Member States.
An organisation of local and regional authorities, CEMR argues in favour of European citizenship, particularly in seeking to promote the participation of Europeans in the various elections which affect them.
While remaining faithful to its founders' European commitment, CEMR is henceforth an organisation providing services for its members, the local and regional authorities.
The popular base of CEMR's action nevertheless remains the remarkable network of twinnings which it initiated: over 9,000 European twinnings are the fruit of the vitality of a movement unique in the world. CEMR succeeded in obtaining the setting up of a financial structure by the European Parliament, adapted to the support and encouragement of twinnings: the fund of Community Aid for Twinnings established in 1990 in support of the thousands of twinning events in Europe.
- CEMR is a federation of National Sections which gather together:
- either one or several national representative associations of the various local authority categories;
- or the local authorities of a country directly a member of the National Section;
- or both one or several associations and their direct members.
These National Sections delegate a certain number of their representatives, depending on the size of their country's population and in accordance with the CEMR statutes, in a General Assembly (called the Assembly of Delegates).
This Assembly then elects a set number of representatives of each country to the Policy Committee. The latter then elects the president, vice-presidents and secretary-general, and appoints a special Executive Bureau.
All of these statutory bodies set CEMR's policy positions, its position with respect to the process of European unification and particularly the representation of local authorities with the official European institutions in order to defend their interests there in the best possible conditions. It decides on the activities to be undertaken in this context.
The status of CEMR members
The Policy Committee examines and gives an opinion on the candidatures of Associations which then make up National Sections. It judges their representativeness: the National Sections must represent at least a third of the population of one or several local authority categories existing in the country, or at least a quarter of its population.
Membership of CEMR takes effect after the Section whose candidature is accepted has paid its affiliation fee.
CEMR only recognises the National Sections of European countries which hold local free elections as full members (with the right to vote) and they must also fulfil the democratic conditions of the Charter of the Council of Europe.
The National Sections of States not members of the Council of Europe and the European groupings of local and regional authorities may become associated members of CEMR.
At national level
Each National Section sets its policies as it sees fit and organises its dialogue with its central government as it considers appropriate. It may also take inspiration from examples of other European countries, and sees to it that its government adopt and respect the entirety of the Council of Europe's European Charter of Local Self-Government, drawn up due to the impetus of CEMR members. The Charter has now become a Convention, ratified by 21 European States.
At European level
- CEMR supports all the National Sections and all their members upon request in the establishment of twinnings between two or more European country local authorities:
- it negotiates the material support which the European institutions, in particular the European Union, may provide for twinning activities;
- it requests that twinned municipalities solemnly sign the CEMR Twinning Oath, by which the municipalities commit themselves to the European Union;
- it provides local authorities with all useful information in order that they develop their twinnings in the areas wished for by their partners: cultural, social, economic, technical (transfers of know-how);
- it organises training seminars for the twinning officers and organisers, gathering them together every three or four years in the framework of the large 'European Twinnings Congress';
- it ensures the dissemination of its Practical Twinning Guide and the Directory of European Twinnings.
CEMR encourages interregional co-operation in supporting local and regional authorities in their search for Community funding set aside for programmes set up by the European Union.
CEMR constantly encourages co-operation and exchanges between local and regional authorities. This work, which was always undertaken by CEMR and which local and regional authorities had financed alone for a long time, has benefited for a number of years now from significant support from the Commission through Article 10 of the ERDF:
- CEMR thereby manages exchange of experience programmes and co-operation networks which have until now lead to the redistribution of more than 30 million ECU to over 1,500 European local and regional authorities spread fairly evenly amongst the various member States of the Community;
- it supports local and regional authorities when dealing with the European Union, which has decided to help most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in this area;
- it proposes to organise specialised symposia for local and regional authorities, for the promotion of exchanges of experience and transfers of know-how in all sectors of local management - financial, administrative and technical.
CEMR works for the federation of the defence of local and regional authority interests within the official European institutions.
CEMR has always taken an active stand so that local and regional authority interests be taken into account by European authorities, particularly through a true institutional representation.
Various structures have been progressively set up, through the decisive impetus of CEMR: Standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (Council of Europe) and Consultative Council of Regional and Local Authorities (European Community).
The Maastricht Treaty was a very important step in the process of the recognition of local and regional authorities, with the establishment of the Committee of the Regions of the European Union, set up in March 1994.
CEMR - the former President of which, Pasqual Maragall, is President of the Committee of the Regions and of which many of the leaders of the Committee of the Regions are members - is particularly attentive in order that this consultative authority's work make an essential contribution to the process of institutional democratisation, by giving a voice to European territories. The study undertaken by and experience of CEMR allow the Committee of the Regions' members' work to be improved, and to reflect the opinion of the 70,000 local and regional authorities of the European Union, and members of CEMR.
The same applies to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, established in May 1994, which underlines the essential role of the Council of Europe as the representative institution of the Wider Europe to be stressed, particularly by associating the territorial elected representatives of Central and Eastern Europe.
Alongside the work done within these two bodies, CEMR will continue its action in support of subsidiarity, particularly requesting that the judicial conditions of the application of this principle in favour of local and regional authorities be defined and running a campaign for the ratification of the European Charter of Local Self-Government by European States. Hence, CEMR launched a wide-scale campaign in view of the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference, to be channelled through a Policy Follow-Up Committee on the reform, made up of well known figures from the European local and regional arena. An appeal adopted in Valencia in December 1995 was put forward to be signed by European local and regional elected representatives and has already received thousands of responses. CEMR presented a Resolution to the Italian Presidency of the Union in Turin, in March 1996, and on Friday, 14 June 1996, the first 2,500 signatures of the Valencia Appeal were handed over to Romano Prodi, President of the Council of the Union. The text of the Appeal and a certain number of signatures were published in some European newspapers in December 1996.
CEMR supports the European study by local and regional authorities of all community dossiers concerning the management of local and regional authorities.
It thereby regularly informs local and regional authorities of both community proposals and national initiatives which could be used as the basis for European regulations.
It organises local and regional authority delegations to the responsible authorities of the European institutions (European Parliament hearings, for example).
CEMR supports local authority exchanges of experience by organising specialised symposia and by disseminating guides and other publications.
Lastly, through committees or conferences organised at the European level, CEMR encourages local and regional authority study in fields such as the environment, transport, and more generally all areas linked to local and regional authority action. CEMR organises meetings on a regular basis in Brussels or in other European towns, of its Working Group on the Environment, its Working Group on Transport, its Committee of Women Elected Representatives of Local and Regional Authorities and its Employers' Platform.
5 CEMR works for intermunicipal co-operation in Central and Eastern Europe.
Following the upheavals in Central and Eastern Europe, these countries' local authorities have joined CEMR as soon as free and democratic municipal elections were held in each country.
CEMR helped the local and regional authorities to freely organise their local authority associations, making them sufficiently strong and able to deal with their central State, along the lines of Western European associations.
Our aim is to prepare these authorities to enter the European institutions as soon as possible, by associating them in our fight for the political union of Europe.
CEMR strives to organise the transfer of know-how and the necessary technology for good municipal administration, in response to the towns' request. Central and Eastern European elected representatives do indeed wish to manage their local and regional authorities democratically, provide efficient services, stimulate their local or regional economies, and finally study and take decisions in accordance with sustainable development. Hence, CEMR runs the ECOS-Ouverture programme jointly with Glasgow City Council, destined to support the exchange of experience and know-how with the towns and regions of Central and Eastern Europe. This programme, which is very successful, has just been widened to include the countries of the CIS, the Baltic area and the Mediterranean non-member countries. It is expected that 100 million ECU will be granted over the next four years.
CEMR is heavily involved in interregional co-operation within the European Union through the PACTE programme.
- CEMR strives to contribute to the Euro-Arab dialogue, in particular through holding Euro-Arab towns conferences, the second of which took place in September 1994 in Valencia.
- In order to promote its point of view in favour of the construction of the European Union, CEMR frequently acts at the national level with governments and organises important meetings and gatherings, particularly on the occasion of "summit meetings" and intergovernmental conferences.
Every three years CEMR organises a large congress in a European city, bringing together several thousand local elected representatives - the General Assembly of European Municipalities and Regions which, to this day, still remains the largest "mass" event dedicated to developments in the process of European construction. The XIX General Assembly, held in Strasbourg from 20 to 23 October 1993 (in the presence of François; Mitterrand, Bronislaw Geremek and Catherine Lalumière;) led to a manifesto being adopted by the delegates - "The Europe We Want". With Jacques SANTER attending, European elected representatives of local and regional authorities met in Thessaloniki for the XXth General Assembly of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, 22-25 May 1996, the debates of which focused on the role of local and regional authorities in the Intergovernmental Conference, an information society and Agenda 21. The XXIst General Assembly will be held in Oulu, Finland, in June 2000.
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