Russian Senators attend the 36th Session of the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities

The Russian delegation included Zinaida Dragunkina, Oleg Melnichenko, Svetlana Goryacheva, and Yelena Perminova.

A Russian delegation led by Leningrad Region Governor Alexander Drozdenko took part in the 36th Plenary Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (CLRACE) held in Strasbourg, France, from 1 to 4 April.

The delegation included Chairperson of the Federation Council Committee on Science, Education and Culture Zinaida Dragunkina, Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Federal Structure, Regional Policy, Local Government and Northern Affairs Oleg Melnichenko, First Deputy Chairperson of the Federation Council Committee on the House Rules and Parliamentary Governance Svetlana Goryacheva, and Deputy Chairperson of the Federation Council Committee on the Budget and Financial Markets Yelena Perminova.

Zinaida Dragunkina reported that the theme suggested for the CLRACE session was MAYORS SAFEGUARDING DEMOCRACY. The Congress focused on CLRACE role in the Council of Europe, open governance at the regional level, the fight against corruption, how to bridge the gap in development levels between urban and rural areas and defend social rights of young people.

The participants considered and approved recommendations on the state of democracy at the local level in Poland and Moldova and the results of local elections in Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Slovenia. They also signed a memorandum on cooperation between the CLRACE and the Kingdom of Morocco.

The Congress members expressed concern over the institutional and financial crisis in the Council of Europe. Unlike what was the case at the previous session, a number of important CLRACE members, including those from Germany and Italy, made public statements to the effect that PACE had been wrong to restrict the rights of the Russian parliamentary delegation and that its actions were at variance with the Charter of the Council of Europe, which says that its mission is to preserve European unity and that all member-countries of the Council of Europe have equal rights.

The delegation members were active in commenting on all key issues on the agenda as they addressed plenary meetings and meetings of committees and political groups. They also engaged in dialogue with PACE President, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and a representative of the Finnish Presidency of the CE Committee of Ministers.

Their remarks were heeded and included in the conceptual report on the CLRACE contribution to the future of the Council of Europe, which had been drafted for the CE foreign ministers’ meeting in Helsinki in May 2019.

The Russian delegation had a meeting with the CLRACE rapporteurs for Russia and the CLRACE Secretariat to discuss the performance of the two CLRACE monitoring missions on the state of democracy at local and regional levels in the Russian Federation in October 2018 and March 2019.

According to Ms Dragunkina, a key event at the session was the ceremony during which Accounts Chamber auditor Svetlana Orlova, since 2004 a frequent CLRACE Vice-President and Bureau member and former Head of the Russian delegation, was made a Congress Honorary Member.

The session showed that the Congress representing over 200,000 local and regional authorities in 47 member-countries of the Council of Europe retained its constructiveness in the current difficult international situation.