“More than 5 million refugees, of who 2 million are children have reached the European Union (EU), with numbers rising every day. We cities and regions are providing first aid and shelter to our European friends and want to listen more to learn how we can help.” Olgierd Geblewicz, President of the EPP-CoR Group and President of West Pomerania Region (Poland) made these remarks during a debate on the war in Ukraine held during an EPP-CoR Group meeting ahead of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) Plenary session. Geblewicz called for a long-term vision which goes beyond emotions and emergency response. He said that this must include reconstruction, which must be carried out with the participation of European local and regional authorities (LRAs) – and possibly with the help of sister cities in the EU.
Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the CoR and President of Central Macedonia (Greece) said “The CoR strongly supports President’s Zelenskyy’s idea of ‘patronage’. So, building on the already established relations of cities across Europe, like Marseille and Warsaw with Ukrainian Cities, we are ready to work with you to rebuild and reconstruct the cities of Ukraine. Moreover, together we can build a network of the best experts coming from the regional and local level of government, creating a pool of expertise at your disposal.”
Tetiana Yehorova-Lutsenko, Chairwoman of the Kharkiv District Council (Ukraine) spoke on the humanitarian problems being faced in various regions of the country and the attacks on humanitarian actions/corridors. “All of this has been done intentionally to terrorise the population.”. She added “Millions of citizens were forced to leave the country and local governments had to face the burden of this crisis and thus deserve a special thanks.” Yehorova-Lutsenko also remarked that private buildings have been destroyed along with hospitals and public infrastructure. She stressed “Now it is important to look at how to rebuild the country.”
Serhiy Tereshko, Deputy Head of the Mission of Ukraine to the EU thanked LRAs for making everything possible to help Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war. He said “Ukrainians are fighting not only for their freedom but also for their European future and identity. I appreciate the engagement of the EPP during the last years.” Tereshko added that regional and local authorities have been capable to pursue their work and perform their duties despite this situation, because they are applying best European practices thanks to the support of many EU regions and cities. He pointed out that decentralisation and local communities have proven to be essential in resisting to the invasion.
War on values and democracy
Alexandra Dulkiewicz, Mayor of Gdansk (Poland), and Chair of the CoR Working Group with Ukraine said that there is currently no chance for people in Russia to listen to free press. She said “We need to address this and support Russia’s opposition. We also need to support NGOs to document war crimes.” She also pointed out that Ukrainian people still need humanitarian aid.
Marek Wozniak, President of Wielkopolska Region (Poland) said “This is a war about values and not resources. Russia is afraid of having a neighbouring country with EU values as it may shake the Russian dictatorship.” He called for further support to the Eastern partnership.
Franz Schausberger, Representative on Salzburg (Austria) said “In Ukraine there are democratically elected mayors that were captured by the Russians. It is unacceptable that we have human victims, environment and cultural destruction that cannot be rebuild and restored.”
Cities and regions need help to support refugees
Adrian Teban, Mayor of Cugir (Romania) said “After speaking with my colleagues, mayors from the cities located close to the Ukrainian border, Siret and Isaccea, I can say that they cannot support all the cost of transportation or accommodation of all the refugees transiting these cities. We need a simple facility as president Tzitzikostas proposed in order to support border towns.”
Michael Murphy, Mayor of Clonmel Borough District (Ireland) spoke on how the local level had been mobilised to offer financial, practical and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine on the ground. He also referred to the Mayoral Ukrainian Fund raising funds for Ukraine though various events and initiatives such as art auctions.
In this intervention, Ricardo Rio, Mayor of Braga (Portugal) stated that it is important to mobilize cities from all over the Europe to host refugees from Ukraine and to distribute refugees in bordering cities to other regions in Europe. To do so he suggested further coordination between the hosting cities, NGOs and local authorities at the border.
Dănuț Groza, Mayor of Sânnicolau Mare, Timiș County (Romania) spoke on efforts by local administrations to collect humanitarian aid. He said that many private companies got involved and collected funds.
Roman Linek, Vice-President of Pardubice Region (Czech Republic) said ” Pardubice Region, immediately delivered to Ukraine medical supplies and gasoline generators, plus tens of trucks filled with humanitarian aid donated by Czech citizens. The Czech nation has swiftly grown some three, four percent and meeting refugees´ elementary needs will be demanding.”
LRAs call for energy independence
Emil Boc, Mayor of Cluj-Napoca (Romania) and former Prime Minister of Romania said “Trading with dictators promotes dictatorship not democracy. We have to work together to eliminate as soon as possible dependency on Russian gas and oil. By standing united in Europe and by standing with Ukraine we will win.”
Sari Rautio Chair of board, Häme health care district (Finland) said “It is important to work on energy issues very quickly, and give support through weapons. We need to ensure a better future after this terrible war by rebuilding. None of us can do this alone, one of the biggest European values is to work together and stand together.”
József Berenyi, Vice – Chairman of Trnava Self – Governing Region (Slovakia) stressed the need to get out of the energy dependence. “Slovakia is dependent on gas and on oil. We rely on the EU to find a joint answer to this.”
Mark Speich, Secretary of State for Federal, European and International Affairs, North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany) spoke on the need to end Europe’s gas dependence as soon as possible.