Cities of Kyiv and Mariupol highlight the benefits of reform, as EU
develops city partnerships to tackle corruption.
The transfer of more powers and funds to local government – coupled with
specific efforts to improve efficiency, transparency, and accountability –
have boosted public trust and made possible significant increases in
investment in public services in Ukraine, leaders of local-government
associations and city mayors told the European Committee of the Regions on
The annual meeting of the Ukraine Working Group, created – as the Ukraine
Task Force – by the European Committee of the Regions in 2015, came against
the backdrop of rising tensions in the east of Ukraine and a build-up of
Russian forces on the border. "The prospect of a military invasion is
(PL/EPP), mayor of Gdańsk and chairwoman of the meeting.
"The mayors of Ukraine shared with their counterparts in the EU their
deepest concerns regarding the intimidation they are currently suffering
from Russia, and which has intensified in the last days and weeks," said Ms
Dulkiewicz. "We will echo their concerns to the highest political level in
the EU. We stand together with our Ukrainian partners, particularly with
cities and regions close to the war zone."
The meeting, however, focused on the progress of decentralisation and on
the rebalancing of administrative and financial powers between the
different levels of governance in Ukraine, as well as on the scheduled
adoption of legislation on public consultations. The meeting also came at a
point when the CoR is working with the European Commission to develop city
partnerships to support anti-corruption efforts by Ukrainian cities.
, the mayor of Kyiv and head of the Association of Ukrainian Cities,
praised the move from a "Soviet system" of governance that was "large,
corrupt and inflexible" to a system based on "self-government", which he
described as "a fundament of democracy in every country". While "I have the
feeling that sometimes [the government] is trying to roll back
decentralisation", he said that "we are changing the system to make it more
effective and work for our citizens". The benefits have included cost
savings, which he estimated at 11 billion hryvnia (366 million euros) over
the past six years in Kyiv alone.
"There is no alternative to decentralisation, local self-governance and
broader empowerment of local governments if we want to see Ukraine as an
efficient and mature democracy," Mr Klitschko said.
The European Union has been providing political, financial and technical
support for the process of local-government reform, including
of Transparency International Ukraine
said that the pandemic has been a challenge, as "it closed the doors of
many city halls and not every city was able to adapt", but he remained
optimistic about the overall long-term dynamic of change. While practical
progress is currently concentrated in a vanguard group of 20 cities that
have "a vision, strategy and plan", 40 to 45 of 100 cities are now "very
active", with efforts typically being driven by the mayor.
of the EU Anti-Corruption Initiative in
Ukraine (EUACI) noted the scale of the challenge – Ukraine is placed 117 th in Transparency International's ranking – but was optimistic
that Ukraine as a "great future". EUACI is currently implementing an
initiative, Integrity Cities, that will partner five cities in Ukraine with
cities in the EU, to help the transfer of ideas on how to lead change, how
to tackle corruption, and on which tools and technologies to use to improve
the transparency and quality of local government. The project includes
assessments of corruption risks and municipal enterprises, the adoption of
municipal integrity plans, and the development of e-governance tools. The
five Ukrainian partner-cities are: Mariupol, Chernivtsi, Zhytomyr, Nikopol,
The transformation that governance reforms can make on the perception and
fortunes of a city were brought into focus by the city of Mariupol. Once
ranked 57th in public perceptions of transparency, Mariupol is now viewed
as the most transparent city in Ukraine.
from Mariupol City Council said that the reforms and a large increase in
funding made available to the city since 2014 had the development of
community-driven projects – in areas such as housing and education – and
international cooperation in sectors such as water, waste, and transport.
"Mariupol is the most open and transparent city in Ukraine, due to our
cooperation with the EU," Ms Sukhova said.
, Ukraine's Deputy Minister for Communities and Territories Development,
said that "strengthening democratic and transparent governance in Ukraine
is one of the achievements of decentralisation of power in Ukraine", and
that decentralisation enjoys the support of over 80% of the public.
Reformist politicians are also winning support – Ms Sukhova said that the
level of trust in the mayor of Mariupol, Vadim Boichenko, is now over 80%.
Similarly, participatory approaches encouraged by the reforms are proving
popular. "People want to have an influence and they are very happy to have
this opportunity," said Mr Borovyk of Transparency International Ukraine.
, president of the Ukrainian Association of District and Regional Councils,
described the seven years of reforms as a "joint achievement of Ukrainian
authorities and external stakeholders", but emphasised the need now for
constitutional changes to support other legislative reforms.
The next major stage in reforms is expected to be the adoption of a law on
public consultation. Antonella Valmorbida,
secretary-general of the
European Association for Local Democracy
(ALDA), argued that the draft law, which she described as "very ambitious",
needs to focus on "feasibility and inclusiveness", in part by ensuring a
strong connection to economic development. ALDA, which is supported by the
EU and the Council of Europe, has created local-democracy agencies in a
number of Ukrainian cities, including Mariupol.
, secretary-general of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of
the Council of Europe, told the working group that "the consultation of
local authorities by higher levels of government needs to be further
improved and strengthened". Recent actions include the creation of a
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Ukraine. While "inspired by
the Congress of the Council of Europe", Mr Kiefer noted that the Ukrainian
Congress "has a different setup, composition, leadership, self-organisation
and tasks" and said that the Council of Europe is currently assessing the
new institution's "representativity, inclusiveness and usefulness".
In 2013, the Council of Europe drew up a roadmap to improve local
self-government and decentralisation that identified three main areas for
action. One related to constitutional changes. The second called for a
transfer of competences to the local level as well as financial autonomy
for local authorities. The third focused on the need for a permanent
systematic consultation mechanism with national associations of local and
In addition to Ms Dulkiewicz, CoR members present at the Ukraine Working
(PL/ECR), president of the Podkarpackie Region and president of the ECR
(DE/Greens), member of Schleswig-Holstein State Parliament and co-president
of the Green group;
(PL/EA), mayor of Terespol;
(LV/RE), member of Auce municipal council; and
(CY/PES) from Strovolos Municipal Council.
EU cities interested in joining the Integrity Cities initiative are invited
to contact the CoR secretariat (firstname.lastname@example.org).