The Charter commits the Parties to applying basic rules guaranteeing the political, administrative and financial independence of local authorities. It provides that the principle of local self-government shall be recognised in domestic legislation and, where practicable, in the constitution. Local authorities are to be elected in universal suffrage.
Local authorities, acting within the limits of the law, are to be able to regulate and manage public affairs under their own responsibility in the interests of the local population. Consequently, the Charter considers that public responsibilities should be exercised preferably by the authorities closest to the citizens, the higher level being considered only when the co-ordination or discharge of duties is impossible or less efficient at the level immediately below. To this end, it sets out the principles concerning the protection of local authority boundaries, the existence of adequate administrative structures and resources for the tasks of local authorities, the conditions under which responsibilities at local level are exercised, administrative supervision of local authorities' activities, financial resources of local authorities and legal protection of local self-government.
The principles of local self-government contained in the Charter apply to all the categories of local authorities. Each Party undertakes to consider itself bound by at least twenty paragraphs of Part I of the Charter, at least ten of which shall be selected from among a "hard core".