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Home arrow newsitems arrow CoE Chair, Armenian D. Prime Minister Gevorgyan to EuroFora: The most Important is Local Democracy !

CoE Chair, Armenian D. Prime Minister Gevorgyan to EuroFora: The most Important is Local Democracy !

Written by ACM
Tuesday, 29 October 2013
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 *Strasbourg/CoE/Angelo Marcopolo/- Invited to speak on a large variety of issues examined  by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE), during its Autumn 2013 PanEuropean Session, from Economy up to Roma People, Self Administration, Culture and/or Political Extremism, etc., COE's Acting Chairman-in-Office, Deputy Prime Minister of Armenia, and Minister of Territorial Administration, Armen Gevorgyan, replying to an "EuroFora"s Question, stressed that, in his personal view, the main point is "Local Democracy" :


- "For me, Local Democracy is the most Important of all !", among various other CLRAE issues, underlined the Armenian Deputy Prime Minister, smiling to "EuroFora".


- Particularly when "fostering Democratic societies", and "strengthen European standards on Human Rights and on the Rule of Law"; are two among the four "Priorities of the Armenian Chairmanchip of the CoE" as he recalled earlier.

- Indeed, "further Develop Local Democracy", "given its role in Modern Europe and the CoE's Agenda", is a "Major Priority", already from the previous, Andorran, as well as it "will be (also) for (the forthcoming) Austrian" Agenda, "with whom the Armenian (CoE) Chairmanship shares Common Prioriies", as Gevorgyan observed in this regard.   

- Already, "2 important Conferences", recently organized "on Participatory Democracy at Local Level", and on the "Challeng" of "Making a MetroPolis Citizen-Friendly", "provided an opportunity to reflect on how the Local Authorities can become Closer to the citizens and ensure their Increased Participation in the Decision Making Processes with regard to the local and regional issues", as well as "to Exchange Ideas about (how) the Capitals, as socio-Economic driving forces, Public Solidarity ...and ...model of ..Civic Participation" which  "generate Challenges conditioned by Intensive economic developments, ..... should ensure a(n) Urban Environment  ...for Human Habitat focused on the Citizen", as he said previously in his Speech to CLRAE's Plenary.

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The 1st gave "Benchmarks for further Development of Participatory Democracy ....and ...for Dissemination of  Principles ... as well as for Implementing them", where, "New Mechanisms for Citizens’ Participation in local Government, is especially Important given the ....Technological progress of Today", ... with "New ....Opportunities ...for Formulating a Collective Opinion ....and for making local Authorities Listen to that", by "mov(ing) forward with the Principles of local Self-Governance and ...Effective ...Model(s) ... for Practical application". The 2nd, concerning "Capitals of CoE member States", from such points of view as, f.ex., "Environment protection; ... Urban Development.... ; Infrastructure Efficiency; as well as ...public interest(s) Compatibility", focused on "Solutions" for the "Organization" of ...cities with Extra-Dense Habitation", he noted.


=> - In this regard also, "Decentralisation (is) at a Crossroads" Today in Europe, as it will be stressed at a forthoming landmark Strasbourg's seminar; co-organised by CLRAE's President Herwig Van Staa, together with the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)'s President Wolfgang Schuster, on the History of respectively 60 and 25 Years since the adoption of the "European Charter of Municipal Liberties" (1953) and the entry into force of the "European Charter of Local Self-Government" (1988).


Significantly, the event is placed at the eve of CoE's 2nd Annual  "World Forum for Democracy", scheduled for the end of November 2013, which focuses, this Year, on Exploring the manifold Potential of New Information and Communication Technologies in the ReVitalisation of Citizens' active Participation to old and new Democratic Institutions.


+ In this wider Framework,  it's Interesting to note that, already, right from the Start, CoE's Charter of Local Self-Government, had conceived Local Democracy as a way to find a "Level" where the General "Right of Citizens to Participate in the conduct of Public Affairs", as "one of the Democratic Principles .. shared by all CoE's Member States", "can be Most Directly Exercised", as the PanEuropean Charter of LocalSelf-Government states in its Preambule.


That's one more reason for which CoE Charter's Article 3, §2 clearly stated that, the provisions for Elected Assemblies of Local Representatives, don't exclude at all, nor even "affect", an eventual "recourse to Assemblies of Citizens, Referendums, or Any Other Form of Direct Citizen Participatoin , where it is permitted by Statute".
In consequence, CLRAE, ", through the different labs that it will sponsor during the" World Democrady "Forum", which is dedicated into "“Re‐wiring Democracy" by: "Connecting Institutions and Citizens in the Digital Age”, "intends to contribute "to the various debates", by "identify(ing) ..the actions, which ...will ensure their effective Involvement in the local processes", but will also "Curtail their possible Misuse for purposes contrary to the values of Human rights, Democracy and the rule of Law"; as he said to CLRAE's Plenary, speaking as Acting Chairman of CoE's Committee of Ministers.

WFD's wider aim is to face "a Decline in .. Participation, .. often viewed as a Symptom of Detachment between Citizens and Institutions", by examining the Potential of "Social media and ...networks enabl(ing) individuals to ...act and interact with Politicians ...Outside institutional systems", and by "bring(ing) together elected Politicians and civil Society leaders to discuss the impact of this technological change on Established Democratic... institutions”, as Gevorgyan noted.

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+ All this doesn't mean that CoE's Chairman-in-office, Armenian Deputy Priime Minister, Gevorgyan, would not be interested also to certain other important issues, related to CLRAE, including, among various others, also of potential "Cultural Routes"' links between CoE Member States' Cities and/or Regions with interrelated "Historic Cultural Heritage", f.ex., an idea that he "certainly support(s)", as he told "EuroFora".
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But, Questioned earlier Today by several CLRAE Representatives from various Political and National Horizons, about "Monitoring"  CoE's 47 Member States' compliance with the Principles of Local/Regional Self Administration, Gevorgyan, speaking officially as CoE's Committee of Ministers' (the PanEuropean Organisation's Highest Political body) Chairman-in-Office, also stressed that this made of CLRAE a "very Important instrument".


- Particularly when the "Format" of CLRAE's Monitoring can Never be accused of eventually being "Discriminatory", if it is "Applied Evenly to All its Member Countries", including in those who can be largely engaged on a "Post-Monitoring Dialogue", which can be an "Important" means for "Local and Regional Reforms", as well as in order to "respond to New Challenges", as he added later-on.


Gevorgyan's move Timely came at the same CLRAE Session during which the President of its Monitoring Committee, Swedish representative Lars O Molin, is presenting Tomorrow  a Threefold Report on "Updating Key Texts on Monitoring and Election Obsevation Activities", in a consolidated form, extending from Votes' checking, up to Visits for Monitoring COE Member States' Obligations and Commitments through Full Regular or Specific only Reports, eventually also "Fact-Finding Missions", added to "Post-Monitoring", etc.


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+ A fortiori when, as far as it concerns also the overall developments in Strasbourg's PanEuropean Organisation for Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law's main Role in General, "Now, it's Important to Ensure a Full and Complete Implementation" of its Standards and Values, by "ReInforcing all Monitoring Mechanisms", whose "Full Potential has Not Yet been Explored", including f.ex. the Charter of Local Self-Administration, which is one of "CLRAE's Key Assets", as CoE's Secretary General, Thornbjorn Jagland from Norway, stressed Today, launching a Call to "Improve the Follow-up of Monitoring" procedures, and to forge a "Joint Vision" enabling an efficient "Coordinated Action of various Monitoring Bodies" of the CoE.


In this regard, some among the "Hotter" Topical Issues that CLRAE has to face Today, are obviously the continuing Pre-Trial Imprisonment of some 2.000 Kurdish Mayors and other Elected Local or Regional Represetatives in Turkey, since 2009, as a Question raised by a Collegue during Van Staa's Press Conference, earlier Today, reminded, as well as, inside EU area, the persisting Threats of up to 3 Years Jail, Heavy Fine and/or Dismissal, against French Mayors who  protest, on the basis of their Freedom of Conscience, vis a vis the Obligation, imposed to them by the current "Socialist" Government, to Personaly celebrate Same Sex Marriages, which could now be followed even by "Adoption" of Childrens by Homosexuals, largely Unpopular, (See specific NewsReports), etc.   

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 imag0972_400


    Scientific innovation joined to Faith for Human Rights, Eastern Partnership and fight against the Crisis, but above all, the need to overcome the "Crisis of Trust" from EU Citizens, are the main priorities for new EU Parliament's President, Polish Jerzy Buzek, that a 555-votes-strong majority of MEPs on July 14,  Strasbourg made a living symbol of the fact that, 20 years after the fall of Berlin Wall (1989 - 2009) there is no more an Eastern or Western Europe, but only one Europe, as the head of the largest group of MEPs, ChristianDemocrats/EPP, Joseph Daul, stressed after the event.

    Speaking later to a group of Strasbourg's Journalists, including "EuroFora", the new EU Parliament's President clarified his stance on concrete topical issues, as f.ex. that of Turkey's controversial EU bid, which was one of the main issues of the June 2009 Electoral campain, clearly won by his party of ChristianDemocrats/EPP :  - "At present, Turkey does not fullfil none of EU conditions", he stressed, (See infra).

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    Buzek is well known in Strasbourg and to "EuroFora" as EU Rapporteur for the Framework Program of Scientific Research and Development of Technologies. A Natural Science Professor from the Historic and Religious landmark Polish City of Częstochowa, active in the famous Solidarnosk grass-roots social movement, he served 4 years as Prime Minister (1997-2001), before being elected as MEP in 2004 and 2009, after he brillantly won the latest EU Election at the head of his party (EPP) almost doubling the number of its MEPs from 15 to 28 !

    - "Innovation" and "Energy safety", as well as fight against the "Cimat change", but also "Eastern Partnership", the "Mediterranean", "Strategic partnerships" with Russia, the USA, etc, and the search for "solutions to the Economic Crisis" that EU Citizens "expect" from us, will be his "priorities", announced from the outset the new EU Parliament's President, reminding also that the quest for "Human and Civic Rights" played an important role in his experience with the Solidarnosc grass-roots social movement in Poland's History

    But, the most important of all, is the urgent need to overcome the "Crisis of Trust" between EU Institutions and the People he stressed : - EU "Citizens often don't understand us", denounced Buzek, launcing a call to "do anything for EU Citizens to understand our work" in EU Parliament : "We (MEPs) need to make EU Citizens involved" in "what we are doing every week, in Strasbourg and Brussels", he proposed. Pointing f.ex. to the hot "Debates" with "strong arguments" exchanged between MEPs during the preparation of their Legislative Decisions, in Committees, delivering often hard struggles between initially opposed points of view, long before forging a majority at the final vote, sometimes more than a year..

    Therefore, EU Parliament will be "open to your criticism, for discussion and exchange of views", he promissed to Journalists in Strasbourg.

    In this way, Buzek, in fact, highlighted "EuroFora"s main idea, that we strongly advocate since 1997-2007, to systematicaly and actively involve EU Citizens in public debates during the decision-making process of important EU measures, which affect their lives and the society in which they live, (and not only just a few weeks each 4 or 5 Years at the eve of EU Elections)...
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    This is related also to the symbolic gift that Buzek chose to give to the out-going former EU Parliament's President, Hans Gert Poettering, (2007-2009), his collegue in the ChristianDemocrats/EPP, who brillantly won 2009 EU Elections in Germany : A genuine statute of sainte Barbara crafted in Silesia's black Coal by Polish Miners : Those simple but strong people who fought for social change against some technocrats and bureaucrats disguissed into so-called "real-socialists" of old times. (PHOTO).

    It's enough to have seen a popular open air mass, at Warsaw's center, with many thousands of people, old and young, simple workers and intellectuals mixed together, with references to Poland's history and struggles for survival and liberty, through various ages, (as fex. that organized at the eve of CoE's 2005 panEuropean Heads of State and Government for the beatification of late Pope John-Paul II), in order to understand what such symbols mean..

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    But, overcoming the "Crisis of Trust" with EU Citizens obviously implies also to rectify any errors done in the past, fex. on Turkey's controversial EU bid, with controversial decisions taken in 1999 and 2004 to give a "candidate" status and to start EU negotiations, provoking an unprecedented series of 3 "No" to EuroReferenda and 3 Majoriy Abstentions in EU Parliament Elections : 1999, 2005 and 2009, (even if the latest one succeeded to decelerate and almost stop the drop of participation rates, opening hopes for vote's revival after an electoral campaign clearly critical to Turkey's claims in several mainstream EU countries)
    
    Therefore, Buzek was faced with manifold critical Questions on EU Enlargement, most of them citting concrete examples of certain political problems  :  But his replies were almost always given as a matter of general principle :

    F.ex. Questioned on the suspension of EU - Croatia talks because of a Border conflict with EU Member Slovenia, Buzek prefered to speak about principles :

- "We know that during Enlargement, the process can be blocked by failure to resolve this kind of issues",  This concerns also other enlargments' cases", and "these rules are always in force" he warned.


But Buzek avoided to directly reply to a queston on "French and German EPP' calls to define the Borders of Europe", as a German journalist asked him by making a reference to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and German Chancellor Angie Merkel's, critical statements on Turkey at the June 2009 Electoral campain.    

- "Concerning Enlargement, there's always the same rules : There have to be Criteria, which have to be respected if a Country wants to join the EU", he started to simply reply.

- "For my country (Poland) it took us 15 Years to fullfil these Criteria", Buzek reminded, indicating, if proportions are kept, that Turkey, fex. would have to spend some 25 years before eventually joining the EU..

- "Countries wishing to join the EU need to Change their Systems", as we (Poland and other former Eastern European Countries) did, he stressed.

- "'For me, meeting the condition of Human Rights is one of the Key conditions for membership in the EU", preferring again to speak from the point of view of General Principles, on the occasion of an untimely question on Serbia (which is not even a candidate yet)...

- "Turkey" has, "first of all", to fullfil (EU) Copenhagen criteria". Bevause, currently, none of them is fullfiled by Turkey", New EU Parliament's President, denounced, speaking later to a group of Journalists, including "EuroFora".

buzek_close_a_400 

In particular, on Human Rights :  - "We (EU) can never forget Human Rights", because "this is at the very Foundations of the EU", Buzek added.

On the contrary, when he referred to EU Enlargment for the  "Western Balkans Countries ", Buzek appeared upbeat, finding "promising situations", despite "difficulties" in the Past, since "Countries are queuing to become EU members", and this "generated changes", as he said.

As for Russia, Buzek observed that it was a "very important" country, located "in the same Continent", Europe,  "close to our borders", and "we need eachother". "But Russia' has 'differend poblems : "They claim that their system is Democratic, but rules are differend", and we must be "aware of such differencies", fex. "on Human Rights", that we can't ignore, as he said;

Concerning China, where a journalist observed that the recipient of EU Parliament's latest "Sakharov prize" for freedom of thought is "still in prison", Buzek found that since the 1999 events in Tien Amin square, "we see differencies on Human Rights still today", and expressed his "support" for those who try to ameliorate the situation.

On the contrary, speaking recently to "EuroFora" he strongly supported the idea for an EU - Ukraine cooperation, fex. between Airbus and Antonov, in order to build a  less costly but more performant than the old and problematic A400M, new Military Transport Airplane : - "They (Ukranian Antonov Company) can certainly do it. I'm sure they can. It's a good Idea, and I'd be glad if it was done", he told us. (See : http://www.eurofora.net/newsflashes/news/airbusantonov.html )


(../..)

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