During the first day of the Summit, the Pact of Free Cities officially expanded with 6 new members, namely the cities of Kiev, Berlin, Riga, Vilnius, Brussels and Hamburg, whose mayors signed a declaration of accession to the Pact. The Mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, said on the occasion: "Ukraine is striving to become a full-fledged part of Europe, and Kiev joining the Pact of Free Cities, which provides assistance to our country, is another step towards this goal. Cooperation is extremely important for all of us at this time - not only in the defence of Ukraine, but also in the defence of democratic values and other European countries." As he further indicated, he would like to host the next Pact of Free Cities Summit in a free Kiev.
The afternoon part of the summit, which was open to the public and took place at Prague's Centre for Architecture and Metropolitan Planning (CAMP), also discussed aid to Ukrainian cities damaged by the war with Russia. The City of Prague, for example, together with the Prague City Transport Company, is donating 20 trams to the city of Kharkiv and two buses to the city of Khmelnitsky. Representatives of the cities also shared their experiences and specific examples. They agreed on future cooperation within the framework of the Pact of Free Cities – on building expert teams that will be at the disposal of Ukrainian cities in planning sustainable post-war reconstruction.
"Three years ago, together with the mayors of Bratislava, Budapest and Warsaw, we founded the Pact of Free Cities. Today, the number of member cities has grown to a remarkable 33, with whom we will work together not only to increase our own energy self-sufficiency or to cope with the impact of the climate crisis, but also in the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine. This will not only consist in repairing buildings, but also in promoting education and democratic values. As a result, assistance to Ukraine at city level will also contribute to managing the refugee situation in our cities. The sooner Ukrainian cities get back on their feet, the sooner people will be able to return to them and start living again without war and Russian aggression," said Zdeněk Hřib, the Mayor of Prague.
11th Direct Dialogue between EU Capitals Mayors and the European Commission
On Tuesday the 27th September, the summit focused on direct dialogues between EU mayors and the European Commission with saving energy and helping citizens through winter; scaling up sustainable solutions in cities; direct financing being at the forefront.
"European cities must engage in a common dialogue with the European institutions and innovate in the way they approach the redistribution of funds and the handling of current crises. We want to see cities given direct funding and more power on these issues because they can offer quicker, more direct and more localized solutions than central governments. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, inflation and energy crisis do not only affect us economically, they also support the rise of populism, opinion polarity and extremism in our democratic countries. We believe that by giving more authority to municipalities, which are in close contact with their citizens, we can fight against this direction, minimize Russian influence and create smart cities which will save our financial resources as well as create good environment for the future generations." said Rafal Trzaskowski, Mayor of Warsaw and one of the founders of the Pact of Free Cities at the summit.
The European Commission was represented by Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission, who stated at this occasion: “The ongoing Russian occupation does not only affect Ukraine, it challenges democratic values in the whole EU and polarizes opinions across European societies. Our goal is to create steps to minimize the Russian influence and also face the reality of energy poverty the crisis creates. We need to make profound changes in our approach to sustainable development and implementation of the Green Deal for Europe to show our citizens that these are in their long and also short term interest. We have to become energy self-sufficient and find ways to save energy efficiently while keeping a high standard of living. The only possible way to complete this goal is by researching, innovating and implementing the usage of renewable energy sources.”
The representatives also shared their solutions, examples and practices during a discussion, with one of them being Anni Sinnemäki, who shared Helsinki's vision of becoming carbon neutral by 2030: “We are in a time when small steps towards sustainable development are not enough, European cities are in need of complex and long term solutions. In Helsinki, we were able to make a change by e. g. changing the transport infrastructure, installing LED lights, lowering temperatures in our buildings, innovating air ventilation systems and giving our citizens the opportunity to get free consultations regarding sustainable renovations and living.”
About the Pact of Free Cities
The Pact was founded in 2019 in Budapest by the mayors of the Visegrad Four cities of Prague, Warsaw, Bratislava and Budapest. In three years, the Pact has grown into a global network of 33 member cities that espouse values such as progress and a pragmatic approach to problem solving versus nationalistic populism. The members subscribe to the values of freedom, democracy and equality, emphasising cooperation and sharing examples of good practice. The Pact of Free Cities was created to highlight the growing importance of cities in preserving and protecting democracy and an open society. The vision of the Pact is to build a network of mayors that is guided by these values, adapts flexibly to the ever-changing political environment and brings about meaningful change.
Learn more about the Pact: www.pactoffreecities.com/
The summit is organized by the City of Prague and CAMP with the support of Eurocities.