Bridges of Trust forum: strengthening ties between Ukrainian and EU municipalities

10 January 2022

Over 100 representatives of local government from Ukraine and the EU gathered virtually on 10 December 2021 to discuss how to create and revitalise partnerships between Ukrainian and EU municipalities. This unique online forum was the scene of both lively discussions and the exchange of practical recommendations and best practices.

The event was moderated from both Brussels and Kyiv and was organised by the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), PLATFORMA and the U-LEAD with Europe Programme.

Municipal partnerships: a driver of democratisation and reform

In the morning, the participants were greeted by four speakers. Viacheslav Nehoda, Ukrainian Deputy Minister for Communities and Territories Development, emphasised the importance of learning and applying the best practices of EU municipalities. He cited in particular the areas of education, healthcare, land management, community involvement and investments.
Xavier Camus, Head of Co-operation Section 1 — Good Governance and Rule of Law of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, argued that municipal cooperation is an important component of EU-Ukraine relations.

This was echoed by CEMR Secretary General Frédéric Vallier, who noted that local and regional governments are well positioned to drive Ukraine’s democratisation and reform processes, and to bring EU policies and projects in the country closer to the people. 

Bastian Veigel, GIZ Director of U-LEAD with Europe, stressed that EU-Ukraine municipal partnerships are important for the implementation of decentralisation reform.
During the forum, participants learned about the objectives and planned activities in the framework of the “Bridges of Trust” initiative. Virtual meetings between partner-municipalities have already started to take place. The main focus of these meetings is on identifying mutual interests, outlining the scope of joint actions and agreeing on the goals and modalities of the study trips and internships to the EU municipalities to be held in 2022. 
study of existing EU-Ukraine municipal partnerships, which was carried out within the initiative, was also presented to the participants. The study contains key success and failure factors of international municipal cooperation and many useful recommendations to those municipalities who would like to start or improve an existing partnership, as well as to the third actors who support EU-Ukraine municipal cooperation.

Lively online discussions

There were lively debates during a a panel discussion on how to build successful partnerships, with numerous exchanges both between the panelists and the participants via an online chat. Yuliia Noskova, Director of Shyroke Municipality’s Development Agency (Ukraine), and Olena Ovcharenko, Project manager at Engagement Global, shared practical tips and examples.
Roma Žakaitien?, Director of the Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania (ALAL) and Lyudmyla Damentsova, Deputy Executive Director of the Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC), provided examples of how national associations support municipalities in their international cooperation efforts. 
During the afternoon, the 20 municipalities of the Bridges of Trust initiative were presented through an original and memorable “Eurovision of municipalities” presentation. They are:
1. Kakhovka municipality (Ukraine) and Narva (Estonia)
2. Novohuivynske municipality (Ukraine) and Lazdijai district municipality (Lithuania)
3. Fastiv municipality (Ukraine) and Druskininkai municipality (Lithuania)
4. Chuhuyiv municipality (Ukraine) and Kuld?ga municipality (Latvia)
5. Zboriv municipality (Ukraine) and Joniškis district municipality (Lithuania)
6. Henichesk municipality (Ukraine) and Wieliczka (Poland)
7. Korosten municipality (Ukraine) and Ukmerg? district municipality (Lithuania)
8. Solotvyno municipality (Ukraine) and Sol’ village (Slovakia)
9. Dolyna municipality (Ukraine) and Šiauliai district municipality (Lithuania)
10. Polyanytsya municipality (Ukraine) and Polanica-Zdroj (Poland)

Partnerships for people

Local leaders also shared their motivations for joining the partnerships. Mayor of Ukmerg? Rolandas Janickas said in a video: “I have no doubt that by developing a friendship with Korosten, we will become stronger together.” For her part, Mayor of Chuhuiv Halyna Minaeva affirmed that “The initiative will help the municipality find new opportunities to grow, learn and apply the best practices of European colleagues in their own work.”
In his closing remarks, Durmish Guri, Director of External Resources and Knowledge Strategy at CEMR, expressed his hope that the 20 municipalities would make the most of their upcoming exchanges and study visits.
We hope that Ukrainian municipalities will use the knowledge that they will receive during these activities and will apply it in their communities, to improve a specific service or a general organisation and management of the municipality”, Guri said. “And let’s not forget that the ultimate beneficiaries of all of these activities and of your international partnership should be the citizens of your communities.
For more highlights from the Forum, consult the exchanges on Twitter under the hashtag #BridgesofTrust.
This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union and its member states Germany, Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Estonia and Slovenia. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of its authors and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the U-LEAD with Europe programme, the European Union and its member states, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Estonia and Slovenia.
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