Swiss government supports stronger local rights

The direct democratic system would be consolidated at a local level if Switzerland decided to sign additions to a European charter on local autonomy Keystone

Greater protection for the rights of direct democracy in Swiss municipalities and for democracy generally at the international level –this is why the government of Switzerland wants to ratify the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe’s Charter of Local Self-Government.

This content was published on July 9, 2015 - 14:00

A three-month national consultation process on the matter began in mid-June.

The Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authorityExternal link is “the sole legally binding document of the Council of Europe with regard to participative democracy”, the government says.

Its call for submissions is addressed to the country’s cantons, parties and concerned organisations.

For the government it is a good idea that Switzerland should sign up, for several reasons.

Boost democracy

It says that “a Swiss ratification would increase the significance of the protocol; it would contribute to strengthening democracy at the international level and in particular of the work of the Council of Europe in this important area; it would further allow this country to state its views at the international level as regards democracy.”

As well, joining would contribute to “strengthening bonds between Switzerland and other states and our position in the multilateral institutions”.

The rights enshrined in the protocol are already protected and guaranteed in this country.

So by joining, Switzerland would not need to make any changes to existing legislation.

Core principle

These conclusions were reached by the government after an in-depth analysis.

It was prompted by Senator Thomas Minder, according to whom ratification would guarantee for the future the “core Swiss principle” of active participation of citizens in local democracy.

Before asking for ratification from parliament, the government wanted to consult the cantons, since the protocol affects their sphere of responsibility too.

The consultation process, which also involves political parties and associations, is to wrap up in three months.

European charter

The Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority took effect on June 1, 2012.

It has so far been ratified by 12 member states of the Council of Europe and signed by a further six.

With inclusion of the right of every citizen to join in running public affairs of local government, it completes the European Charter of Local Self-GovernmentExternal link which Switzerland ratified in 2005.

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