City summit of the “Pact of Free Cities in Prague”: Emergency aid for municipalities in the border regions

7. October 2022

Gunter Czisch and Ralph Seiffert as representatives of Ulm/Neu-Ulm at the city summit in Prague: In an emotional speech, Vitali Klitschko repeatedly emphasises that Ukraine is part of Europe and pleads for its rapid admission to the EU. Putin is attacking everyone in Europe with his war. For the cities and municipalities in the border regions, he said, quick and, above all, direct financial aid from Brussels was needed for the winter.

Since last autumn, the two mayors from Ulm and Neu-Ulm have been members of the “Pact of Free Cities”, which is now 33 strong. Participation in this alliance is a clear commitment to an open liberal society in a united, democratic Europe. Yesterday and the day before, on the occasion of the Czech EU Council Presidency, a city summit of the member cities of the Pact of Free Cities took place in Prague. The meeting focused on both the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine and the joint discussion on the development of cities.

The two-day event was divided into two parts. Monday was dedicated to the summit of the Pact of Free Cities, where the four new member cities, including Kiev, were welcomed and introduced. In addition, practical help for Ukraine, which was affected by the war, and the municipalities near the border were discussed and the activities of the past year were reflected upon. The second day of the event was dedicated to direct dialogue between the mayors of the EU capitals and the European Commission. The main topics were affordable housing and green urban regeneration. But the current situation in Ukraine and the practical help both for Ukraine and for the cities affected by the refugee crisis were also reflected in the dialogues.

Furthermore, it also became clear that, with reference to recent political developments in
Sweden and Italy, a joint effort is needed to actively oppose populism and nationalism.
These pose the greatest threat to democracy, freedom and peace in the EU, which can also be stated as the central message of the Pact. Since the beginning of the war, the twin city of Ulm/Neu-Ulm has also been sending a strong signal of solidarity and help in the direction of Ukraine. For example, since February, vigils for Ukraine have been held every Wednesday and both cities are doing their best to accommodate and integrate the refugees as well as possible, supported by numerous civil society institutions with various offers for the refugee children and women and direct offers of help. This commitment was also honoured in August by a visit from the Minister President of Baden-Württemberg.

Picture: Group picture of the participating representatives of the Pact of Free Cities.