The introduction of the “European refugee status” into national legislation, a proposal of the Council of Europe, was suggested, inter alia, by the Regional Governor of Attica, Ms Rena Dourou during the meeting of the Current Affairs Committee of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg. The members of the Current Affairs Committee reviewed a draft report on “border regions facing migration phenomena”, prepared by the Regional Governor of Attica. Indeed, Ms Rena Dourou has placed particular emphasis on “a strong political will” to deliver a solid regulatory framework for the promotion of a “comprehensive approach to the integration of refugees and migrants, on the basis of cross-border cooperation” as well as “networking at European and national level”.
“In that light, borders should become neighbouring lines rather than dividing lines”, stressed, among other things, the Regional Governor of Attica, while she highlighted “the urgent need to effectively tackle the increasing diversity of migrant populations, for at least two reasons: firstly, for countering hate speech and xenophobia in Europe and secondly, for turning the migrant/refugee issue into an asset for our societies”. The report that is based on the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities, invites Member States to “establish a reliable legal framework for cooperation between all levels of government” which is necessary “for integration policies specifically targeted towards migrants, as well as policies facilitating integration and providing access to education and housing”. The report also highlighted the need for “adequate financial support to local and regional authorities” as well as for institutional measures to be taken. In this respect, the report invites Member States as well as local and regional authorities to work together by taking initiatives and exchanging good practices in order to achieve a comprehensive approach to the integration of migrants/refugees in the European societies. The same text states that, given the “inefficiency of the Dublin mechanism”, a system of “fair sharing of responsibility” is needed. The final version of the Report is expected to be adopted in June with a view to its presentation in the Plenary Session in June this year.
At the same time, during the 34th Plenary Session of the Congress, where “Rights-based Governance at local and regional level” was on the agenda, the Regional Governor of Attica intervened in the presentation of the “Handbook on human rights at local and regional level”, stressing that “we are a long away from meeting the critical challenge of fighting discriminations”, whilst she underlined the role that could be played by local and regional authorities as they are “closer to the problems and concerns of the citizens” and therefore could “set an example of democracy in practice”.
During the presentation of the Report on the role and responsibilities of local and regional authorities with respect to unaccompanied minors, the Regional Governor of Attica observed that “making this Congress Report a key tool in ensuring the future of unaccompanied minors, away from red-tape, depends on our political will”.
Finally, an exchange of views took place between the President of the Committee of the Regions of the European Union, Mr Karl-Heinz Lambertz and the Congress with regard to the signature of the revised cooperation agreement between the Committee of the Regions and the Congress. In that context, the Regional Governor of Attica took the floor to emphasize “the common aim of deepening local democracy”, while Mrs Rena Dourou stressed the need for “a support initiative” such as the drafting of an EU country roadmap, with the main guidelines set out by both institutions, with a view to engaging all relevant actors in concrete initiatives to consolidate local democracy in practice’.