It is "good politics and good economics" to include local administrations in planning and implementation of reconstruction, EU's cities and regions say.
Ukraine's local and regional governments should emerge stronger and more effective from Ukraine's recovery and reconstruction process, a representative of the European Union's cities and regions has said at the start of a landmark international conference intended to mobilise support and funding for Ukraine's recovery and reconstruction.
The Ukraine Recovery Conference, which is being held in London on 21-22 June, should build on the strengths of local government and local democracy in Ukraine to ensure that Ukraine's reconstruction is a political success and accelerates its transition to a sustainable economy, said Niina Ratilainen, speaking on behalf of the European Committee of the Regions and the European Alliance of Cities and Regions for the Reconstruction of Ukraine. She welcomed a proposal published on 20 June by the European Commission for a €50 billion Ukraine facility, and its call for the "preparation and implementation" of Ukraine's recovery plan to be carried out "in consultation with regional, local, urban and other public authorities".
Ms Ratilainen, a member of the Greens in Turku City Council, will be speaking at the Ukraine Recovery Conference on the role of regions and cities in Ukraine's recovery and reconstruction. Ahead of the conference, Ms Ratilainen said: "Ukraine's recovery and reconstruction requires both good politics and good economics. Local governments will have to be deeply involved if the politics and economics of post-war Ukraine are to be successful. Decentralisation was the most popular reform in Ukraine before the war – and the ability of Ukraine's regions and cities to continue during the war to provide basic services for citizens and businesses is a daily vindication of those reforms. Ukraine has shown when you invest politically in cities and regions, you invest in the strength, resilience and sustainability of your nation and citizens. So, the messages of EU cities and regions at this conference are simple: Resume the decentralisation reforms when possible. Increase investment in the administrative capacity of local government. Root the reconstruction process in local government and local democracy. And make the recovery and reconstruction inclusive, green and sustainable."
She continued: "Ukraine's regions and cities are where the dreams of post-war Ukraine will come to life. Many people think about reconstruction in terms of brick and mortar, money and contracts. It is about much, much more. Regions and cities will be the centres of innovation, opportunity, vitality and diversity for the new Ukraine. It is in their local communities that young Ukrainians start their social and political engagement and their businesses. To enable this, emphasis must also be placed on the reconstruction of the social infrastructure, people's physical and mental health, and the restoration of ecosystems."
Despite the war and the scale of the devastation in Ukraine, Ms Ratilainen expressed confidence that national governments and international institutions will recognise cities and regions as full-fledged partners, saying: "I was in Kyiv in April for the International Summit of Cities and Regions and it is clear that the Ukrainian government recognises that much of the foundation of the country's recovery will be laid at the local level. In May, the Ukrainian government and also the Swiss and UK governments – hosts of the Ukraine Recovery Conference in 2022 and in 2023 – backed recommendations put forward by Ukrainian and EU cities and regions at a workshop co-organised by the European Committee of the Regions. The challenges now will be to make sure that the plans are good and that, when those plans turn to action, funding is spent transparently and local administrations are genuinely empowered."
The annual series of Ukraine Recovery Conferences, which began in 2022 in Lugano, Switzerland, will be "critical" to framing, coordinating and accelerating Ukraine's recovery, she said. "The Lugano conference last year set down excellent principles. The London conference this year is spurring further cooperation and public- and private-sector funding. The European Committee of the Regions is glad to see, for example, that the European Commission plans to provide €50 billion in loans and grants by 2027 and to see that Ukraine and Japan on Monday [19 June] signed a cooperation agreement. And we hope that next year's hosts, Germany, will ensure that local and regional administrations are involved in the implementation and oversight of the recovery process, as well as the planning phase."
- Niina Ratilainen will speak at 11:35 on Thursday (22 June) at a panel entitled "The Role of the Regions in Ukraine's Recovery and Reconstruction". The session will be webstreamed. Ukrainian speakers include Oleksandra Azarkhina, deputy minister for communities, territories and infrastructure, Oleksandr Senkevych, mayor of Mykolajiv, and Viktor Mykyta, chairman of the Chamber of Regions of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. Local and regional government in the EU will also be represented by Mathieu Mori, secretary-general of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.
- In addition, Ms Ratilainen is the introductory speaker at a side event of the Ukraine Recovery Conference, on a "Sustainable Inclusive Recovery: Fostering community leadership to meet local needs". Oleksandr Kubrakov, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, will showcase the work of the Ministry for Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Development of Ukraine and its cooperation with local communities in the recovery process. The event begins at 14:00 on 22 June at the Radisson Blu Edwardian New Providence Wharf Hotel, 5 Fairmont Avenue, London. The session will be webstreamed.
- With the governments of the UK, Ukraine and Switzerland and with the European Commission and the OECD, the European Committee of the Regions on 25 May 2023 co-organised a workshop aimed at strengthening the role of local and regional governments in Ukraine's recovery and reconstruction process. The workshop "Putting the Lugano Principles into Action: Joint Workshop in view of the London Ukraine Recovery Conference 2023" resulted in a set of recommendations that can be read here. The recommendations also reflect the principles of local self-government as set out in the European Charter of Local Self-Government drawn up by the Council of Europe.
- On 24 May 2023, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed a plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions. In a video message, he thanked cities and regions in the European Union for giving shelter to Ukrainian refugees and urged the EU's cities and regions to join the work of ensuring an "effective recovery of Ukraine".
- The European Alliance of Cities and Regions for the Reconstruction of Ukraine was established in June 2022 by associations of Ukrainian and EU regions and cities together with the European Committee of the Regions, to coordinate efforts for the recovery and reconstruction of Ukraine and to facilitate contacts and cooperation with EU institutions. The Alliance is open to individual cities and regions and to public- and private-sector partners wishing to support Ukraine. Members of the Alliance will meet on 6 July in Brussels.
- Niina Ratilainen (FI/Greens) co-chaired the workshop "Putting the Lugano Principles into Action" co-organised by the European Committee of the Regions on 25 May 2023. She was also a member of the delegation of the European Committee of the Regions to the International Summit of Cities and Regions hosted in April by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The summit resulted in a declaration that identified priority areas for regions and cities that would like to contribute to Ukraine's recovery. Vasco Alves Cordeiro, president of the European Committee of the Regions, represented the European Alliance of Cities and Regions for the Reconstruction of Ukraine.