Cities in the rest of Europe are prepared to help in Ukraine’s reconstruction, through city-to-city partnerships and in close cooperation with city associations.
Ever since the outbreak of war on 24 February 2022, city leaders have played a crucial role in Europe’s response to Russian aggression.
It has primarily been to cities that the more than seven million Ukrainian refugees have fled. City leaders have responded by condemning the Russian attacks, by welcoming refugees, by engaging in solidarity actions to maintain public pressure against the war, and by sending direct aid to Ukraine.
And now, following these actions, taken in response to short term needs, city leaders are coming together to prepare the ground for a longer term approach.
Eurocities 2022 – An era of new beginnings
This week, at the Eurocities Conference 2022, city politicians and representatives from Ukraine discussed ideas for the reconstruction of Ukrainian cities and the role Eurocities can play.
Participants coalesced around a need for city-to-city partnerships underpinned more broadly by a city network such as Eurocities, and coordinated in association with the Ukrainian cities.
“I believe, that if we coordinate our efforts to support the Ukrainian cities with the reconstruction here in Eurocities, we can have a greater impact. We can for example map out what each of us can contribute with, from technical expertise to financial support, and we can seek to match that with requests for support from our Ukrainian peers – for example helping to rebuild schools, hospitals, or critical infrastructure,” commented Dario Nardella, President of Eurocities and Mayor of Florence.
The Eurocities Executive Committee subsequently agreed on a set of guidelines and principles for the collaboration supporting reconstruction projects together with the Ukrainian cities, underpinning further discussions with the Association of Ukrainian Cities in the coming weeks.
Some of the current discussions points include to:
- Build on existing city-to-city collaborations with Ukrainian cities, including twinning relationships, as well as boosting new partnership as a central pillar in the effective reconstruction of cities.
- Focus on the needs of the Ukrainian cities and citizens as well as a shared interest in promoting the objectives of sustainable urban development, in the context of the European Green Deal and the New European Bauhaus.
In addition, the politicians present shared an assertion that Ukraine should be supported in its EU candidacy bid.
Cities stand with Ukraine
The steps at the Eurocities Conference 2022 follow on from our ‘Cities stand with Ukraine’ initiative, which saw more than 150 cities across Europe sharing a common voice for peace. Nardella said: “Thanks to this effort, and the relationships many of us share through our city twinnings, and in networks like Eurocities, we started a dialogue with Ukrainian national and local leaders. Our message throughout has been that we want to do what we can to help.”
Indeed, with four Ukrainian cities already a member of the network – Kharkiv, Kyiv, Lviv, and Odesa – many Eurocities members have close ties with their Ukrainian counterparts. Recently, many Eurocities members took an extra step when they signed the Mariupol call for an end to trade with Russia, which was led by the Mayor of Gdansk, Aleksandra Dulkiewicz.
Last month, the Eurocities Executive Committee – the group of 12 elected mayors who jointly shape Eurocities’ strategic compass – held a meeting with the Association of Ukrainian Cities in Florence, which led to the proposals by President Nardella to set up a joint task force to explore how best to focus on the reconstruction of the Ukrainian cities.
These actions align with many other ongoing efforts. On 18 May, in line with the publication of its REPowerEU initiative, which set out to respond to the EU’s ongoing energy conundrum, the European Commission also published a Communication on relief and reconstruction for Ukraine. It includes proposals to set up a Reconstruction Platform to coordinate efforts, including in collaboration with Ukraine, and to establish a Rebuild Ukraine Facility from the EU budget based on a mix of grants and loans.
The Commission emphasises that reconstruction will also require mobilising resources at regional and local level, including in peer-to-peer support.
With this in mind, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, has asked the European Committee of the Regions has been asked by to support reconstruction through peer-to-peer activities, and is preparing to launch a European Alliance of Cities and Regions for Ukraine.
“It’s clear that any effective reconstruction effort will need to work well at all levels of government and given the ability of local leaders to coordinate and convene different partners towards common endeavours, their efforts will be vital. We’re ready to work in unison with the EU to make this happen for the people of Ukraine, and contribute to shaping a hope for a future with peace, solidarity and democracy,” concluded Nardella.
Watch this space for more.