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Free cities pact, Source: praha.eu

Visegrad group capitals demand real involvement in national recovery plans

Visegrad group capitals demand real involvement in national recovery plans

For the past year, they have been united under the “Free Cities Pact”

The Mayors of Bratislava, Budapest, Prague and Warsaw issued a joint statement on 15 February, demanding that their cities be actually involved in the national recovery and resilience plans. Mayors Vallo, Karácsony, Hřib and Trzaskowski shared their disagreement with the unwillingness of their national governments to engage in real dialogue with local authorities, despite their obligation by law to do so, in order to get European money to shake off the effects of the pandemic.

The “Free Cities” are also important drivers of their national economies

The four mayors, who in December 2019, signed the Free Cities Pact, a commitment to joint actions in favour of the values ​​of democracy, freedom, human dignity and the rule of law, have recently had another occasion to voice common concerns. This time it is about the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and in particular – the national recovery and resilience plans.

These are required by the European Commission, so that Member states receive funds under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), a financial instrument worth €672.5 billion in loans and grants, aimed to “mitigate the economic and social impact of the coronavirus pandemic and make European economies and societies more sustainable, resilient and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions".

Following a long and heavy process of negotiation and lobbying, before the EU’s Multiannual Framework was adopted in December, RRF regulation now mandates national governments to actively engage and consult with local and regional authorities when designing and implementing their recovery plans. However, the “Free cities” mayors have raised the alarm that this is not the case and whenever there are such consultations, they are only symbolic.

That is why in a joint statement, they called on national governments to comply with the regulation and declared their readiness to partner up with European institutions for fair and sustainable post-pandemic recovery. For instance, Matúš Vallo, Mayor of Bratislava, pointed to the success rate of his city in managing various aspect of the coronavirus crisis.

Budapest is the EU’s ninth-largest city, home to 1.8 million European citizens. The city and its metro area produce close to 40% of Hungary’s GDP. Excluding Budapest from the recovery plan is in the interest of neither the EU nor Hungary. Let the Hungarian Government be reminded that EU funds flowing into Hungary are not to advance the economic interests of a select few, but to protect jobs and support those most in need,” said Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony on the occasion.

“Our city contributes more than 25% to the national GDP and the city is badly affected by the pandemic as it is depending on the tertiary sector of the economy. Prague has a clear vision for how to design and implement a recovery plan and we have a list of shovel ready projects from the areas which have high priority for the EU,” added Zdenek Hrib, Mayor of Prague.

In the same line of thoughts, Warsaw’s Trzaskowski, 2020 Polish Presidential runner-up, spoke of “a myopic policy that only aggravates existing problems and deepens socio-political rows in Europe.”

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