Significant Progress in Local Democracy in Azerbaijan, Says Head of Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
France, Strasburg, 3 December / Trend corr. A.Maharramli/ Interview with Yavuz Mildon, chairman of the Council of Europe (CE) Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.
Question: How do you assess local democracy in Azerbaijan?
Answer: I am sure that there is important positive progress in Azerbaijan's local democracy. The Council of Europe has only one rule. In accordance with this rule, municipal unifications should be established in countries to cooperate with relevant states. Our task includes establishment of municipal unifications, new self-government bodies, as well as establishment of regional municipal unifications. Azerbaijan did not have such unification several years ago. However, Azerbaijan has realized several important programs and united these unifications in the Association of Local Self-Government Bodies within three stages. At present the CE is cooperating with Azerbaijan in this field. We have good relations with the Azerbaijani Ministry of Justice. Our Azerbaijani brothers cooperate not only in issues on Azerbaijan, but also in issues on activities on democratization in Europe. We have close friendship relations with Anar Ibrahimov, head of Azerbaijani delegation, and other members. They systematically participate in meetings of the congress.
I have a full confidence in work targeting to meet the CE standards and to develop self-government bodies in Azerbaijan with the adopted laws.
Major problem of the Azerbaijani self-government bodies is a fact of the Armenian occupation of 20% of the Azerbaijani territories, which the CE recognizes, as well. Naturally, we cannot speak about activities of the Azerbaijani self-government bodies in these territories. I am sure, this conflict will be settled through international documents, which the Azerbaijani President signed, and as a result, Azerbaijan can return its own territories. After it, it will be possible to develop local democracy in all territories of Azerbaijan. Finally, I want to stress that we regret for absence of local self-government bodies in 20$ of the Azerbaijani territories and the CE, as well as our Congress are prepared to their best in this issue.
Question: What can you say about the fact that Mayor of Baku no is not appointed through elections? Do you any recommendations on this matter?
Answer: Every country has its own peculiarities. It is not observed only in Azerbaijan. For instance, the Queen appoints mayors on the Netherlands. Main thing is that standards and principles of government meet international documents, signed by Azerbaijan. Our rapporteurs are interested in state of affairs. If there is a problem in the issue, we will openly speak about it and want Azerbaijan to take necessary measures. I do not want to speak very much about it, because our rapporteurs and the Institutional Commission are occupied with these issues. The CE is open to receive any complaints on this matter. It was my general opinions concerning local democracy in Azerbaijan. At the same time, I want to say that if any problem of private character arouses, we want them to be solved within a short period of time.
Question: Is the report on situation of local democracy in Azerbaijan being developed?
Answer: No report is being developed on Azerbaijan at the moment. We develop reports on each country, but not every year. We do it if there are certain complaints. We usually develop reports during election period. During this period we assess the country as a whole. In 2009, Azerbaijan will hold municipal election. Our delegation will visit Azerbaijan at the invitation of the parliament.
Question: On what issues Azerbaijan should lay a special emphasis in the sphere of institutions of local governing?
Answer: Local governing is relatively new sphere in Azerbaijan. It would be wrong to say on what issues Azerbaijan should attach more importance. In Europe, institutions of local governing account for already 70% of budget expenditures. Financial independence of municipalities is of great significance. If we want to develop institutions of local governing, their financial independence should be ensured, in other words, they should be able to finance their activities. If they are financed by the government to a great degree, they act as representative of authorities. Of course, it does not mean that institutions of local governing should hold responsibility for everything. Financial independence should meet Self-Governing Charter of CE and rules indicated in other documents. In this respect, each country has its peculiarities. It is wrong also to fully finance budget of the institutions of local governing by the central government. The work we will carry out in this sphere in Azerbaijan and other countries in future will help institutions of local governing to receive independent financial resources. Only in this case we can speak of the activities of true municipalities.
Question: When will you pay a visit to Azerbaijan? What is the goal of your visit?
Answer: I can not say exact date of my visit. I can only say that it will take place in spring of 2009. I will visit not only Azerbaijan, but also other South Caucasian countries. I have already received proposals from Georgia and Armenia. But want to trip to Azerbaijan soon. As you know, I am also head of the Turkish delegation. I consider Azerbaijan to be a fraternal state.
Question: The Congress adopted the draft of Resolution on Georgia on December 2. What is your assessment of discussions?
Answer: Resolution entitled Results of Georgia-Russia Conflict on New Level: Assistance of Institutions of Local Governing of Europe was adopted unanimously. There were some points which dissatisfied representatives of Georgia and Russia. There can also be points dissatisfying us as well. The important point is that the document was finally adopted with landslide. This is success of the Council of Europe.