On the anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, local and regional leaders gather to agree on long-term support to Ukraine in Gdańsk, the European city most associated with solidarity.
At a meeting held on 24 February – exactly a year after Russia attempted to seize Kyiv and force the capitulation of Ukraine – members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) pledged to provide ongoing humanitarian support and emergency supplies, as well as to support the reconstruction of Ukraine's cities and regions and the country's preparations for accession to the EU. The meeting was also attended by a number of associations, governors, mayors and local councillors involved in the European Alliance of Cities and Regions for the Reconstruction of Ukraine, whose work is being coordinated by the CoR.
The day began with a ceremony to commemorate the victims of the invasion at Heroic Mariupol Square, recently renamed by the City of Gdańsk in honour of its twin city Mariupol, which has been laid waste by Russian forces. Local and regional leaders from the EU and Ukraine then met for discussions at Gdańsk's European Solidarity Centre, whose name invokes both the legacy of the anti-authoritarian Solidarity movement in Poland and the municipality's commitment to the principles of solidarity and freedom.
Vasco Alves Cordeiro (PT/PES), President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: "Gathering in Gdańsk today has a special meaning, because of the date, but also because of the location, as this city represents the fight for freedom and solidarity, for our common values."
He continued: "From the first day of Russia's full-scale invasion, the European Committee of the Regions has stood by Ukraine's people and local and regional authorities. Our support is two-fold: we are helping Ukraine as a European country at war, with initiatives like the European Alliance of Cities and Regions for the Reconstruction of Ukraine, but we are also supporting Ukraine in its path to become member of the EU, by launching capacity-building initiatives for Ukrainian local and regional authorities. Institutions like ours are an instrument to work for and achieve a better future for those people who had their hopes and lives shattered by this war."
Aleksandra Dulkiewicz (PL/EPP), Mayor of Gdańsk and chair of the CoR's Working Group Ukraine, said: "We are gathered here today on a tragic and sad occasion: exactly one year after the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops. The historic events that are now taking place in Ukraine are no less important than those that happened in Gdańsk. Let me remind you that it was in Gdańsk that the Second World War began on 1 September 1939. Last year's decision to grant Ukraine the status of a candidate country for the European Union had great symbolic significance. Although the accession itself is a long-term and political process, the reforms carried out on the road to it will bring unquestionable benefits to the country. The fundamental criterion in this case is the rule of law with an emphasis on transparency and the fight against corruption. This is the topic of our meeting today. Corruption at the local level, especially in times of war, is an issue of great concern and requires the attention of all of us."
The meeting was addressed by video by Mayor Andriy Sadovyi of Lviv and by Oleksandr Slobozhan, executive director of the Association of Ukrainian Cities. Ivan Slobodianyk, chief executive officer of the All-Ukrainian Association of Communities, and Ivan Fursenko of the Ukrainian Association of District and Regional Councils, were both present in Gdańsk to reflect on the past year and the challenges that Ukraine's local and regional authorities now face.
Other speakers included Janusz Lewandowski, member of the European Parliament and former European Commissioner, and the acting director of the European Commission's Ukraine service, Anna Jarosz-Friis.
Gdańsk and many other cities and regions in the EU have over the past year provided homes for Ukrainians displaced by the war as well as emergency support to local and regional administrations in Ukraine. Participants at the meeting had an opportunity to visit a warehouse to see how the City of Gdańsk is collecting and despatching power generators and other emergency material to Ukraine and to observe the work of its UNICEF-supported Social Integration Centre for Ukrainian refugees.
The European Alliance of Cities and Regions for the Reconstruction of Ukraine was launched in June 2022, bringing together many Ukrainian and European local and regional associations and authorities, of which the Association of Ukrainian Cities, the All-Ukrainian Association of Communities, the Ukrainian Association of District and Regional Councils, the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), and the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies (CALRE) were present in Gdańsk.
At the 24 February meeting in Gdańsk, the President of the Committee of the Regions, together with the presidents of the political groups in the CoR and members of the CoR's Working Group Ukraine discussed a ten-point plan of support on the part of the CoR for Ukraine's regions and cities. The plan focuses, on the one hand, on solidarity measures with a country at war and on sustainable reconstruction efforts, and, on the other hand, on capacity-building measures to support Ukraine's efforts to become a member of the EU.
President's spokesperson, European Committee of the Regions
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