On the International Day of Democracy on 15 September 2021, Congress President Leendert Verbeek desired to draw attention to the situation of local and regional democracy.
In his words, this “democracy of proximity” – the first level of democracy – enables citizens to most quickly “witness their vote’s impact” and to take advantage of “numerous opportunities for commitment and involvement”. However, the President also emphasized the difficulties currently faced by local and regional elected representatives; local democracy is “threatened by the curtailing of freedom of speech and assembly during the COVID-19 pandemic [and] also sometimes the victim of mistrust on the part of citizens”.
That is why he insisted on the need to defend democratic practices at the local level: “it is, therefore, imperative to ensure the application of democratic principles at every level of governance – European and national, but also regional and local”. In this respect, the Congress’ activity is essential: the President mentioned the European Charter of Local Self-Government, and the Additional Protocol on the right to participate at public life, which promote citizen participation and cooperation between different levels of governance. Moreover, he stressed the importance of participative initiatives, such as the European Local Democracy Week.
The President concluded by reasserting his commitment to these issues: “facing the challenges of today’s democracies, the Congress is therefore assuming its responsibilities and continuing its efforts, together with local and regional elected representatives. I believe that its work will bear fruit”.