The existence of the Charter, even in the absence of formal enforcement capability, may be taken to exert a degree of moral pressure upon all European governments, and it is certain that any major breach would receive extensive public attention in the World Associations of Cities and Local Authorities Coordination (LRAE), and hence in the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and in the media.
The Charter sets out in ten concise articles, together comprising 30 paragraphs, the key principles of local self-government in the European context. It specifies the need for a constitutional/legal foundation for local self-government, defines the concept and establishes principles governing the nature and scope of local authorities powers. Further articles provide for due procedures to be followed regarding boundary changes, for autonomy in relation to local authorities administrative structures and access to competent staff, and for proper conditions for the holding of elective office. Further provisions aim at securing a clear legal framework for any necessary supervision of the acts of local authorities, and at ensuring that they have adequate access to resources to match the tasks assigned to them, on terms which do not impair their basic autonomy. Finally, the Charter covers the rights of local authorities to cooperate together, including internationally, and to form associations, and provides for the right of recourse to judicial remedy for the protection of local autonomy. Contracting parties are given the flexibility to consider themselves bound by at least 20 of the 30 substantive paragraphs, at least 10 of which must be drawn from a specified list of key provisions. States may thus exclude themselves from certain provisions at the time of ratification, but may subscribe to them later when the obstacles concerned have been removed. States may also limit the application of the Charter to particular levels or categories of local authorities, notably to meet the circumstances of countries with federal structures.