Participants in the Pact of Free Cities Mayors' Summit pose ahead of the meeting, Source: Gergely Karácsony on Facebook

Budapest hosts first Forum for Building Sustainable Democracies

Budapest hosts first Forum for Building Sustainable Democracies

On the margins of the conference, 20 new cities have joined the Pact of Free Cities founded by the Visegrad Four capitals

The inaugural Budapest Forum for Building Sustainable Democracies is being held on 16-17 September at the Central European University in the Hungarian capital. The forum organizers - Budapest Municipality, Political Capital, and CEU Democracy Institute, aim to retrieve Budapest’s place on the region's progressive intellectual map, turning the forum into an annual event.

In the opening speech, the Mayor of Budapest Gergely Karácsony drew attention to poverty in democratic societies, which he said is not simply a failure of social policy, but a damage to the credibility of democracy.

Strategic brainstorming ground

The purpose of the conference, which is attended by Hungarian and foreign experts, journalists, activists and policymakers, is to provide a forum for strategic thinking on the cardinal political, social, economic, and environmental transformations affecting Hungary, the wider region and the entire world. Inviting thinkers to formulate innovative and bold ideas, the Forum seeks to find solutions to the challenges, rather than simply keeping an eye on them.

The first edition of the Budapest Forum focuses on cities, local initiatives, and building sustainable democracies.

During the two-day conference, the following topics are covered:

  • Democratic sustainability: rebuilding and consolidating democracy in the age of populism;
  • Social and economic sustainability: addressing inequalities during and after the coronavirus epidemic;
  • Environmental sustainability: the need for bold policies to accelerate the green transition;
  • Technological sustainability: policy responses to rapid technological change and public health challenges.

Pact of Free Cities expanded

On the margins of the conference, the Pact of Free Cities Mayors’ Summit was also held, where the pact founders expanded the city alliance brought to life in December 2019 by the Visegrad Four capitals. 

The meeting at the New Town Hall was attended by 26 cities at the mayoral level, in person or via a video conference connection. The participants adopted a joint statement in which they reconfirmed their commitment to work together for the strengthening of democracy and the rule of law, the implementation of progressive and sustainable urban policies, and against all forms of ideological exclusion.

20 new cities joined the alliance: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bécs, Gdansk, Frankfurt, Florence, London, Los Angeles, Ljubljana, Neu-Ulm, Paris, Podgorica, Rijeka, Stuttgart, Taipei, Taoyuan, Tirana, Ulm, Vienna, Zagreb.

Alliance of like-minded mayors

The Pact of Free Cities is a progressive, open city alliance founded by mayors Gergely Karácsony (Budapest), Matúš Vallo (Bratislava), Rafal Trzaskowski (Warsaw) and Zdeněk Hřib (Prague) on 16 December 2019 in Budapest. The objectives of the association are to protect the values ​​of liberal democracy, pluralism, openness and cultural diversity, to promote better access to European Union resources and to exchange experiences on good urban practices and policies.

Since its launch, the mayors of the Pact of Free Cities have spearheaded an all-European lobbying drive for directly accessible EU-funding. They also reached out to other mayors sharing the same views (e.g. London and Istanbul) to enhance cooperation and progressively expand the network.



Growing City


Smart City


Green City


Social City


New European Bauhaus




ECP 2021 Winner TheMayorEU