Polish and Ukrainian local leaders plan cooperation and reconstruction efforts
More than 170 representatives of local governments met online at the Poland-Ukraine Local Solidarity Forum on 14 June. The participants discussed how to help Ukrainian partners, listened to Ukrainian mayors whose towns have been affected by Russian aggression and outlined prospects for the future cooperation.
The Forum was co-organized together with the U-LEAD with Europe programme and the Association of Polish Cities, in the framework of CEMR’s Bridges of Trust project.
Vyacheslav Nehoda, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister for Communities and Territories stressed that cooperation at the local level will be crucial, especially for reconstruction and the restarting of economic activities.
These comments were echoed by Tomasz Ostropolski, representing the EU Delegation in Ukraine, saying: “During the reconstruction of Ukraine, the municipalities will be integrated and take an active part as pillars and catalysts of development.”
EU municipalities also have a prominent role to play in supporting Ukraine. Zygmunt Frankiewicz, President of the Association of Polish Cities, noted that Polish society is uniting to help Ukraine and that cooperation between the two countries’ local government bodies will only improve, particularly with respect to reconstruction.
Lilia Furtus, First Secretary of the Embassy of Ukraine in Poland, thanked Polish local governments and the Polish people for the determination with which they are helping Ukraine. She stressed that “we must join efforts to end this war, we need military aid, humanitarian aid and support in the reconstruction of Ukraine.”
Support can also come in the form of multi-stakeholder projects involving local governments. Bastian Veigel, GIZ Programme Director of U-LEAD with Europe, added that this project provides much-needed tools to communities affected by Russian aggression and will help in the post-war reconstruction of the country.
Ukrainian cities: living with war
In the second part of the meeting, the mayors of two Ukrainian cities shared their perspectives. Volodymyr Shmatko, mayor of Chortkiv in the Ternopil region of western Ukraine, reminded that in the process of decentralisation, Ukrainian local government officials have benefited greatly from Polish experience.
Since the intensification of Russian aggression, nearly 3,000 internally displaced persons have arrived in Chortkiv, a city of 30,000. The local government has received humanitarian aid from various sources, including the Polish city of Lezajsk. More than 100 tonnes of aid has been split between Chortkiv and to municipalities in the Sumy and Kharkiv regions.
The mayor of Irpin, Kyiv region, Oleksandr Markushyn, emphasized the need for international support for the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine. He also noted that projects for such reconstruction are already being prepared by the city. “Irpin will not be able to cope with the problem of reconstruction by itself“, he said. “Before the war, our city was prosperous and one of the richest small cities of Ukraine, a pro-European city, very beautiful. Today, it is very painful to watch when 50% of our city is in ruins.“
Polish cities stand with Ukraine
The third part of the meeting was devoted to examples of activities undertaken by Polish cities. Kamil Czyz, Director of the Department of City Brand, Economic Cooperation and Tourism of Rzeszów, outlined the scale of assistance provided to newcomers from Ukraine. The city received the honorable title of “rescuer city” awarded by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Chelm, a city of 60,000 people, has received nearly 25,000 Ukrainians. Great importance was attached to providing psychological support to people from Ukraine after traumatic experiences. Dorota Cieslik, Deputy Mayor of Che?m, explained the new task of helping transfer people who decide to return to Ukraine.
The last guest of the Forum was Pawel Kost, Director of the International Solidarity Fund PL in Ukraine. The Fund has been operating in Ukraine for 10 years. After 24 February, the organisation re-evaluated its activities and is now focused on providing humanitarian aid and also building capacities in social, educational and healthcare services.
At the end of the event, Ukrainian municipalities were encouraged to leave their contact information if they are looking for partners in Poland. This information was shared during the World Urban Forum (WUF) in Katowice and on the website of the Association of Polish Cities.