European mayors consider long-term partnerships with their counterparts to rebuild Ukraine –

European city leaders are working to support Ukrainian local and regional authorities through peer-to-peer programs as subnational leaders seek to rebuild the war-torn country.

Mayors of European cities have been among the strongest supporters of putting more pressure on Russia as it continues its devastating war in Ukraine.

On Wednesday April 28, 300 mayors, including leaders from 15 European capitals, joined in the call for an immediate full embargo on Russian energy exports.

“Not at the end of this year but immediately,” the mayors said in a joint statement. video message.

In the meantime, European cities are helping their Ukrainian partners with donations. The Lithuanian district of Šiauliai was one of the European municipalities that sent humanitarian and material aid worth around €100,000 to Dolyna in western Ukraine. However, they do not intend to stop there.

“I think that in a short time the war will be over, and even after that various forms of support will be needed,” Mayor Antanas Bezaras told EURACTIV.

Bezaras now plans to swap visits with Dolyna to map local forms of self-government and develop a long-term partnership with the city his administration met in November 2021 through a project intended to increase cooperation and exchange of good practices, knowledge and skills between municipalities in Ukraine and the EU.

Šiauliai is one of many European municipalities considering offering long-term support to their colleagues in Ukraine as they begin to develop plans to rebuild the country devastated by Russia’s brutal invasion.

“In my to see, the should be a team of experts that whole with our specialists will be To start up for rebuild from ashes our Infrastructure, considering everything the principles of modern European urban planning,” Vadym Boychenko, mayor of Mariupol, told his European counterparts via video link on Wednesday (April 28).

Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, Mayor of Mariupol’s sister city, Gdańsk in Poland, agreed that collaboration between local levels would be crucial for Ukraine’s reconstruction.

“I deeply believe that this idea of partnerships is extremely important, she says,I think that this is Something what we really can To do.”

The creation of long-term partnerships has also been launched at the national level, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calling for the twinning of EU cities and regions with counterparts in his country in need of reconstruction.

Expressing his support for the idea, European Council President Charles Michel said that “EU local and regional leaders… are best placed to understand your needs and offer practical, concrete and operational expertise. “, and thus represent an “essential local link for reconstitution”.

“Cooperation between peers at all local and regional levels will allow us to speed up the reconstruction of Ukraine”, acknowledged the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

“Think of architects, companies, bankers and experts from the European Union and Ukraine, all working together. We will exponentially increase the number of towns and regions twinned between our two peoples,” she added.

Meanwhile, local EU leaders have already started coming up with innovative ways to help rebuild Ukraine.

Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri said the Italian capital is considering adopting a Ukrainian school destroyed by Russian bombs and rebuilding it.

Addressing his peers in the Committee of the Regions, a 329-member strong EU consultative institution made up of regional or local elected representatives, he said “it would be good if a large number” of local authorities “are doing the same, each adopting a Ukrainian building, town or village to rebuild with local Ukrainian authorities”.

Support Ukrainians in Europe

Meanwhile, to help cities cope with the influx of refugees from Ukraine as the war continues, the bloc has relaxed rules governing the EU’s long-term structural investment policy.

Under the Cohesion Action for Refugees in Europe (CARЕ), Member States will now be able to use remaining EU cash from the previous budget period of 2014-2020 to feed, clothe, house, employ and educate people fleeing war.

The logic of extending funds for EU cohesion policy, an investment program intended to reduce disparities between regions in the bloc, is not new. It follows a similar decision by the Commission following the coronavirus outbreak.

Then the EU executive relaxed the bloc’s cohesion policy rules, which account for around a third of the EU budget, to allow unspent funds from the 2014-2020 funding period to be rebudgeted to make in the face of the immediate fallout from the pandemic.

“So Once again, cohesion Politicsis called for cheek the role of first answering machine. Again, we to have long term Strategies, but we to have been also work as firefighters,” EU regional policy chief Elisa Ferreira said on Wednesday 28 April.

However, the countries on the front line for receiving Ukrainian refugees say that this money will not be enough, a fact recognized by the Commission.

Others worry that the money, originally intended for development in lagging regions that need investment, will now be used for different, albeit noble, purposes.

Christophe Rouillon, mayor of Coulaines in north-west France, said that “the emergency mobilization of cohesion policy funds was a good thing, but in a way it is a misuse of procedure “.

“We cannot strip cohesion policy and deprive local and regional authorities of long-term investments aimed at reducing wealth inequalities and stimulating environmentally friendly growth,” he added.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

Michael J. Chiaramonte