Mayors of Mariupol, Kyiv, Melitopol, Lviv and
Kharkiv describe the challenges facing their
cities; EU local leaders demand "robust sanctions"
and immediate release of kidnapped elected
During a debate with Ukrainian regional and local
leaders on 27 April, the European Committee of the
Regions (CoR) called for “robust sanctions against
Russia", demanded the "immediate release of
Ukrainian mayors and civil servants kidnapped by
Russian occupation forces", and offered the
expertise of EU’s regions and cities to help
Ukraine's local and regional authorities in
reconstruction efforts. This message was later in
the day shared by CoR President Tzitzikostas with
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky at the
Ukrainian Congress of Local and Regional
(EL/EPP), president of the CoR and Governor of Greece's
region of Central Macedonia, said: "We condemn the
Russian atrocities committed against innocent civilians
and every local leader. The EU's local and regional
governments will not stop providing humanitarian aid
and welcoming the millions of Ukrainians who have fled
war. We are ready now to help re-build Ukraine. Our
institution is ready to pool experts in spatial
planning, urbanism and sustainable development from
across European regions and cities. We call on the EU
and its member states to increase and facilitate access
to funds to help rebuild Ukraine."
, mayor of Kyiv and – since March – an honorary member
of the CoR, called for the immediate withdrawal of
Russian troops, but cautioned people from returning,
because of ongoing missile attacks, "unexploded
munitions" and widespread destruction of some of the
most densely populated parts of the city.
The focus of
the debates over three hours
– including with European Commissioners Elisa Ferreira
and Janez Lenarčič – was, however, firmly on the
experiences of Ukrainians.Vadym Boychenko, mayor of Mariupol,Ivan Fedorov, mayor of Melitopol, Tetiana Yehorova-Lutsenko, chairwoman
of the Kharkiv District Council, and Andriy Sadovyi, mayor of Lviv, shared
their experiences and pleas for support during the
CoR's plenary session.
During the debates, CoR members from
across the EU spoke how their regions and
municipalities are helping refugees and the challenges
they face. Around 5.2 million Ukrainians have fled
Ukraine, the UN says.
The accounts by local leaders were complemented by a
discussion on how to improve support from the EU in
Elisa Ferreira, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reform, said:
"The testimony of the Ukrainian mayors was very moving.
They have our full solidarity and unwavering respect
for their bravery and determination. This unprovoked
aggression by Russia is not just an attack on Ukraine;
it is an attack on our European values of peace and
democracy, and the right of free peoples to choose
their own path. From the very first day, Cohesion
policy has been, and will continue to be, at the
forefront of Europe’s support to the refugees,
assisting in their temporary or permanent integration."
Janez Lenarčič, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, said: "I
appreciate the rapid response of the EU's local and
regional leaders to the crisis in Ukraine, most notably
the immediate mobilisation of resources and
organisation of emergency aid collection centres. Each
day the humanitarian situation only gets more dire, and
its spill-over effects in the neighbourhood continue.
It is time this unjustifiable Russian military
aggression against Ukraine ends. Until then, the
European Commission will continue to provide emergency
support to Ukrainians, Moldova and any EU Member State
affected. We should never forget – Europe’s response is
stronger when all of us act in solidarity."
President Tzitzikostas called for the creation of a
"'EU Ukrainian Refugees Local Facility', not as a new
fund, but as an operational tool to cut red tape and
fast-track local leaders' access to current funds".
Members discussed a
highlighting the role of past decentralisation reforms
in ensuring Ukraine's survival and calling for a
"reinforcement of the European perspective for Ukraine"
as well as the "establishment of a concrete
reconstruction plan for Ukrainian cities and regions".
The CoR has been working with Ukrainian cities and
regions since 2010, setting up a task-force on
decentralisation in 2015 and later a working group. The
working group, which is headed by
Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, mayor of Gdańsk, last met on 30 March. CoR actions
since Russia's invasion on 24 February include the
creation of a
Help Ukraine: Info-Support Hub, which also connects transit regions and overburdened
local and regional authorities with those from other EU
member states that have capacities to help.
The debates can be
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