President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a meeting with representatives of Eurocities headed by Mayor of Florence, Italy, Dario Nardella.
The event was also attended by Head of the President's Office, Chairman of the Presidium of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities Andriy Yermak and Deputy Heads of the President's Office Andriy Sybiha and Kyrylo Tymoshenko.
The President welcomed the Eurocities delegation to Ukraine and emphasized the importance of such visits at this difficult time, when our country is fighting against the Russian invasion. Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the governments and peoples of European countries for their support of Ukraine and our citizens.
"When we talk about aid and support - humanitarian, military, political - it is also important not to forget about help in rebuilding our cities and communities. And it is important that reconstruction should begin not after the war, but right now. It is necessary to provide humanitarian measures that will allow people in Ukraine to return to normal life," the Head of State said.
The President thanked European cities for the shelter they provided to Ukrainian citizens who were forced to flee the war. At the same time, he noted that he seeks to create conditions for the return of Ukrainians to their homeland. That is why it is so important to restore the work of schools, kindergartens, universities and simply help people repair their houses destroyed as a result of Russian aggression.
"Now it is very difficult for us, for our budget. Because we spend almost all our funds on strengthening the army. So we will be grateful for your help," Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
In the presence of the Head of State, Chairman of the Presidium of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Head of the Office of the President Andriy Yermak and President of Eurocities, Mayor of Florence Dario Nardella signed a Memorandum of Understanding to support the sustainable rebuilding of Ukrainian cities.
Andriy Yermak said that the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, which was created on the initiative of the President of Ukraine by analogy with the European institution, is a unique platform for communication between all branches of government: the President, the government, deputies of the Verkhovna Rada and representatives of local self-government - even from the smallest towns.
"This is especially important today, during this terrible full-scale war with Russia. Because it is the Congress that has become one of the rallying points of our entire society and takes an active part in the presidential program for the restoration of Ukraine," said the Head of the Office of the President.
For his part, the President of Eurocities emphasized that the Association stands in solidarity with Ukraine during the difficult times of the war and provides support to Ukrainian cities and communities, as well as people who were forced to temporarily leave the country.
The President of the Association emphasized that the signed Memorandum will become an effective tool for supporting Ukrainian cities.
"We want to start this cooperation as soon as possible, to create the largest program of interaction between cities that we have ever seen in the history of Europe," he said.
Dario Nardella emphasized that Eurocities is ready to share its expert experience for the reconstruction of Ukrainian cities.
Secretary of the Presidium of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities Kyrylo Tymoshenko expressed his gratitude to the European partners for supporting initiatives in the framework of the Memorandum.
"I am convinced that with the help of our partners, after reconstruction, Ukrainian cities will not be inferior to many European cities in terms of convenience, modernity of architecture and innovations," Kyrylo Tymoshenko emphasized.
According to the signed document, mayors and leaders of European and Ukrainian cities condemn the Russian war in Ukraine and call for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops and the restoration of peace.
The memorandum states that the signatories seek to join forces to prepare and ensure the rapid and sustainable reconstruction of Ukrainian cities destroyed by the Russian invasion, which began on February 24, 2022.
“Our peer-to-peer support will speed up the rebuilding of urban areas, aligned with the objectives of the European Green Deal and values of the New European Bauhaus,” the document reads.
Under the Memorandum, Eurocities will rally together more than 200 of Europe’s large cities, standing in solidarity with fellow Ukrainian cities, for the implementation of reconstruction projects; pool and organize resources, including technical knowledge and expertise, best practices according to the requests for support from Ukrainian peers; provide assistance in identifying EU funding for the implementation of reconstruction projects, etc.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities under the President of Ukraine, according to the Memorandum, will provide a list of the relevant critical reconstruction projects in Ukrainian cities destroyed during the Russian war; provide a convenient and transparent mechanism for financing reconstruction projects; promote the legislative initiatives needed to rebuild Ukrainian cities, etc.
The document stipulates the establishment of a joint taskforce comprising political representatives from Eurocities and Congress of Local and Regional Authorities under the President of Ukraine. The taskforce will oversee the development and implementation of this collaboration initiative and ensure coordination, including with the European Alliance of Cities and Regions for Ukraine.
The Memorandum of Understanding is valid from August 20. It will be assessed and renewed annually.