Maija Karjalainen, a student of political sciences from the University of Turku, has been awarded a prize in students’ essay competition that was an occasion of the Swiss Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers in the Council of Europe.
Over 200 students from 36 countries participated the competition and the best from each member state was invited to the International Conference on Democracy and Decentralisation held on May 3-4 at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. The conference was organised by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and the International Students’ Committee (ISC). Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, as well as many other politicians, academics and officials attended the conference, too. The issues discussed there were the strengthening of democratic institutions and the fostering of citizen-based democracy.
There were four ready given topics for the essays of which the participants had to choose one: the principle of subsidiarity, decentralisation in multi-ethnic states, own recourses and autonomy of budgetary management and the referendum at regional and local level. These themes were also debated in the workshops of the second day of the conference. Karjalainen had written her essay on the referenda in Finland on local level. In spite of her critical viewpoint she considers the Finnish system very progressive and the participative democracy developable. The other winner, Moldovan Dumitri Rusa, discussed minority issues in his essay. They both had also an opportunity to address the plenary session of the conference. The chair of the jury was Dirk Lehmkuhl, professor of European politics from the University of St. Gallen.
The essay of Maija Karjalainen: Referendum at local level – Dead letter or effective direct democracy? The Finnish case can be read here: Maija Karjalainen; essee St Gallen toukokuu 2010
Maija Karjalainen's presentation in the St. Gallen conference can be read here: Maija Karjalainen;