A challenge for the States and Regions of Europe
Novi Sad, Vojvodina (SRB), 2 March 2005
‘European democracy must be built from the bottom-up. The regional and the local authorities are the levels of government closest to the citizen, providing key services and acting as the main interface between the citizens and the state. However, regions cannot operate effectively unless they are provided with adequate financial resources and a legal and constitutional framework that assists them in exercising their rights and carrying out their responsibilities in an optimal manner’, declared Riccardo Illy, President of the Assembly of European Regions (AER) and of Friuli Venezia Giulia-I.
This was the key message of the conference organised by the AER in partnership with the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, in Novi Sad (Serbia and Montenegro), on 1 and 2 March. The conference, which also featured contributions from the Council of Europe, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), explored how an effective framework for regional democracy could be created in Europe. The focus was upon the financing of regional authorities, the elaboration of regional competencies and the national legal and constitutional framework for regional and local democracy.
The conference was attended by 120 top-level representatives of regions and other interested parties from 15 countries, who compared the effectiveness of the financial and legal frameworks for regional self-government in their respective countries. Specific emphasis was placed upon using best practice in Europe to improve the conditions for regional democracy in Serbia and Montenegro. President Illy met with Bojan Kostres, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of Vojvodina, and a number of preeminent academic experts and practitioners to discuss the way in which the Serbian Constitution can best protect and promote regional democracy. Drawing upon the expertise of the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s body of experts on constitutional matters, these key players were able to undertake an in-depth exploration of constitutional issues and explore ways in which the new Constitution can ensure the proper functioning of regional democracy in Serbia. Participants will now try to identify concrete ways in which to implement the recommendations developed during the conference.
‘Regions must be provided with adequate financial resources and a proper constitutional framework within which they can exercise their competencies and serve their citizens’ concluded President Kostres. ‘We have seen today that, both in Serbia and in the rest of Europe, regional democracy is the key to the creation of vibrant, democratic societies in which citizens can exercise their rights and participate fully in political processes’.
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