Pact of Free Cities plans to create think-tank to help Ukraine’s “future reconstruction”

The Pact of Free Cities in Prague

This week Prague hosted a summit of the Pact of Free Cities, a cooperation agreement that was jointly signed nearly three years ago by the mayors of Prague, Bratislava, Warsaw, and Budapest. The pact has since grown in membership and now also includes Kyiv whose mayor, Vitaly Klitschko, was also present at the summit where support for Ukraine was at the center of focus. I asked one of the founding members of the Pact, Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski, how Central Europe’s metropolises want to help.

Rafał Trzaskowski | Photo: Platforma Obywatelska RP,  Flickr,  CC0 1.0 DEED

“Of course we are helping our friends from Ukraine by hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees. Warsaw is hosting 200,000 people. But, at the same time we are helping our sister cities in many different ways.

“In the beginning we were sending supplies such as food, medicine and so on, but now we are looking into the future. We are also sending materials to help our Ukrainian friends to preserve their historical heritage. We have sent materials to Lviv, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa and so on and so forth, but we are also preparing experts along with UNESCO in order to think how to rebuild Ukraine, so we are preparing our urban planners, architects, etc.

“We want to coordinate those efforts within the Pact of Free Cities to create a sort of small think-tank which is going to prepare for future reconstruction.”

Where will this think-tank be based?

“For now we are just planning to get all of the expertise together, so it doesn’t need to have a specific site. We can simply gather it on the internet and then meet whenever it is important, sometimes Warsaw, sometimes in Prague or Budapest.

“But we will see. If we convince others that this is a good idea, maybe we will do something more permanent.”

You were talking earlier about helping Ukrainian cities with restoring their historical heritage. Warsaw, of course, has a lot of experience with rebuilding. Could you tell us a bit more about what this help means?

Kyiv | Photo: Jana Karasová,  Czech Radio

“Of course, Warsaw was razed to the ground by a madman who decided to wipe our city from the map, also Gdansk which is another member of the Pact of Free Cities. So we have those experiences and we know how to rebuild a city from scratch. Even now there are reconstruction projects which are ongoing. So we have a certain expertise.

“At the moment we are also helping our friends in Ukraine, such as Odessa or Kharkiv, to actually apply to UNESCO for protected world heritage status. So that is what we have been doing so far, but we want to do more. We want to work with our friends from Ukraine in planning for the future.

“I will give you an example, sometimes the central government is doing infrastructure projects in the middle of Prague or in the middle of Warsaw and, afterwards, they want to bring the street to the same state as it was before the project went into operation. We sometimes discuss with them that the area should be reconstructed in a more modern way, looking into the future, more green and with a higher quality of life. Sometimes we have those difficult talks. We would love to help in reconstructing Ukraine looking into the future. Not reconstructing it as it was necessarily, but reconstructing it in a way that is going to serve people in a much better way.”

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