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Ukraine's regions and cities take further steps towards EU  

​Enlargement conference includes Ukraine for the first time, and Lviv opens representation in Brussels.

Ukraine has taken further steps towards integration into the institutional structures of the European Union, with the opening of the first representative office of a Ukrainian city in Brussels and with Ukrainian cities and regions for the first time joining local and regional authorities from the western Balkans and Türkiye to discuss the challenges of the accession process.

Lviv, the seventh most populous city in Ukraine, will manage its outreach to the EU institutions from office space provided by the European Committee of the Regions. Speaking on 4 May at the opening of Lviv's representation to the EU, Deputy Mayor Serhii Kiral said that the city is willing to serve as a "front office" for other Ukrainian sub-national authorities as well. 

Deputy Mayor Kiral was in Brussels to attend the Enlargement Day conference organised annually by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR). The CoR champions the importance of involving regions and cities in the enlargement process, noting that local and regional administrations have a role in implementing roughly two-thirds of EU laws. 

Anna Magyar (HU/ECR), the CoR's rapporteur on enlargement, said: "This year's Enlargement Day comes in the wake of historic decisions such as Ukraine, Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina all receiving EU candidate status. Likewise, the first ever EU-Albania and EU-North Macedonia Stabilisation and Association Councils took place in March, providing new momentum for the enlargement process. As the CoR's spokesperson for enlargement, I am building on that new impetus with my opinion reaffirming the EU's local and regional authorities' commitment to a merit-based accession, which contributes to peace, democracy, prosperity, security and stability in Europe."

Ms Magyar, who is a member of the Council of Csongrád Megye, continued: "The EU must re-energise its enlargement process to retain geostrategic relevance and credibility in these turbulent times by setting a clear roadmap and timeline, providing more meaningful incentives to spur the necessary reforms. We need to make the best use of peer-to-peer capacity-building instruments in order to help institutional development and capacity building in our partner countries, especially at the local level, which will truly favour gradual multidimensional integration."

Antje Grotheer (DE/PES), vice-president of Bremen City Parliament and a member of the CoR's Working Group Ukraine, said: "There is now a clear understanding at all political levels – at the EU, national, regional and local level – that enlargement of the European Union will strengthen security, stability and prosperity in Europe. We also now have a moral and political duty to contribute significantly to the reconstruction of Ukraine, its regions and cities. But the EU will need fresh money for that. We urge national governments to respond to the extraordinary challenges of the present by agreeing to increase the EU's budget and consider for that purpose through a financing scheme similar to tthe one used for the EU's own recovery plan."

Ms Grotheer, who chairs the CoR's Working Group Türkiye, also highlighted the humanitarian challenges faced by Türkiye, saying: "The humanitarian efforts after the devastating earthquake might be an opportunity to revitalise the EU-Türkiye relations."

The European Commission is expected to publish a mid-term review of the EU's long-term budget – its 2021-27 Multiannual Financial Framework – this summer. Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine is putting significant pressure on the finances of the EU, which has absorbed exceptional costs in support of Ukraine and EU member states affected by the war. 

The war in Ukraine has resulted in an increase in international cooperation between cities and regions, including through the European Alliance of Cities and Regions for the Reconstruction of Ukraine. The Alliance, which was created in June 2022, is bringing together local and regional associations from the European Union and Ukraine, as well as individual cities and regions, with the aim of coordinating joint efforts for the recovery and reconstruction of Ukraine and facilitating contacts and cooperation between its core partners and EU institutions. The CoR is serving as the secretariat of the Alliance. In April, the CoR's president, Vasco Alves Cordeiro, represented the Alliance at the International Summit of Cities and Regions in Kyiv, where he met Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. On 25 May, the CoR and the Alliance will hold a joint workshop with the European Commission, the OECD, as well as the governments of Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland  with the purpose of underlining the importance of the role that local and regional authorities can play in Ukraine's recovery and reconstruction process and on the path toward EU membership. The workshop intends to produce recommendations for consideration at the Ukraine Recovery Conference, due to take place in London on 21-22 June. The London conference will focus on mobilising international support for Ukraine's economic and social stabilisation and recovery from the effects of war, including through emergency assistance for immediate needs and financing private-sector participation in the reconstruction process.

Notes to the editor: 

  • The past year has brought a new impetus in the enlargement process, with the EU granting three countries candidate status – Ukraine, Moldova and Bosnia and Herzegovina – and starting negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. The EU has also decided to grant citizens of Kosovo visa-free access to the EU, starting in early 2024.
  • This year's Enlargement Day conference coupled discussions about political developments and the progress towards EU accession with a specific focus on practical concerns highlighted by regions and cities in the enlargement countries. The Working Group Türkiye discussed the cooperation between local authorities on civil protection, crisis management and reconstruction process following the earthquakes that hit the south-east of the country in February. Enhancing skills was the focus of the other meetings, as 2023 is the European Year of Skills: in the Working Group Western Balkans and the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) with Montenegro, the attention was on improving labour-market skills; the Working Group Ukraine and the JCC North Macedonia discussed how to boost the capacity of local and regional administrations; while the JCC Serbia addressed the challenge of improving public-private partnership skills at the local level.
  • The CoR will in July adopt its opinion on the Enlargement Package 2022, the European Commission's annual review of progress on reforms associated with EU accession. As in previous years, the CoR is expected to endorse the EU's policy focus on economic development and the Green Deal, and to emphasise the importance of reforms to improve the rule of law, democratic institutions, anti-corruption and public administration. It will also likely to call for additional efforts to embed the economic growth, job creation and Green Deal agendas at the sub-national level. The draft opinion recognises efforts made to deepen preparations for accession at the local and regional level, through the expansion of a network of EU integration contact points at municipalities and the extension of the EU's technical support – Technical Assistance and Information Exchange Instrument (TAIEX) – to include local and regional administrations.
  • The CoR's involvement in mobilising support for Ukraine's reconstruction and its offer of office space to Lviv and other local and regional authorities in Ukraine are among a 10-point package of support for Ukraine's cities and regions. Among other requests made by Ukrainian local and regional authorities is a call for EU public authorities to host summer camps for Ukrainian children. The regions of Podkarpackie and Bavaria and the cities of Athens and Tampere were among the hosts in 2022. Background information is available here and here. For further information, please contact​

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