On Friday, 19 August, Mayor of Helsinki Juhana
Vartiainen travelled to Ukraine along with the mayors of Riga, Oslo, Lyon, Marseille, Florence, Athens and Tirana. During their stay, the group of mayors visited the capital of Kyiv as well as the cities of Bucha and Irpin and the town of Borodyanka, which were badly affected by bombings.
The visit was arranged by the Office of the President of Ukraine and the network of European cities known as Eurocities. The visit had been scheduled to take place on an earlier date, but the local organiser was forced to postpone it. The Mayor of Helsinki was invited to join the trip by the Eurocities President, Mayor of Florence Dario Nardella.
Eurocities is a network of large European cities that works to promote the economic, societal and social development of its member cities. The Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv, Kyiv, Lviv and Odesa are members of the Eurocities network.
European Mayors support rapid reconstruction of Ukraine
The visiting mayors met with several people, including the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and the Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko. During the trip, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed, in which the Eurocities members condemned the Russian war in Ukraine and committed to support the sustainable rebuilding of Ukrainian cities.
“Helsinki and the other members of the Eurocities network want to be involved in supporting Ukraine with the creation of a sustainable, safe and equal society after the end of the war. This feeling only grew stronger when we saw the shocking aftermath of Russia’s war of aggression with our own eyes. The Memorandum of Understanding is an important signal that we haven’t forgotten the people of Ukraine, that we are already thinking about the best possible way that we can help Ukrainian cities recover from the ongoing humanitarian crisis,” Mayor Vartiainen said.
The Memorandum of Understanding emphasizes building back a living environment that is eco-friendly, energy efficient, safe and pleasant. The cities in the Eurocities network promise to share their expertise and support with the cities of Ukraine in acquiring, for example, technical know-how and financing. The specific measures will become clearer after the actual needs of the Ukrainian cities in question are established.
It is important to make the united voice of the cities heard, for example, with regard to European Union funding, so the aid earmarked for reconstruction will be targeted to the greatest need. The EU has already promised to help Ukraine obtain financing to build back.
Seeking concrete measures to enhance cooperation
The signed Memorandum of Understanding is an important message of Helsinki’s and other European cities’ strong intent to support the rebuilding of Ukrainian cities in a concrete way. The agreement was signed and its implementation will be monitored by the Eurocities network and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, which represents all of Ukraine’s local and regional authorities.
“Cities in Europe have long enjoyed cooperation with cities in Ukraine, but now this collaboration will be intensified and new relationships will be established, which is a very special thing. Already in the 1990s, Helsinki signed its first cooperation agreement with the city of Kyiv. Now it’s time to raise this agreement to the next level, and this visit was the first step in this direction. Nevertheless, we want to come up with concrete measures for closer cooperation, so the agreement becomes more than just words on paper. Our team in Helsinki will work with the City of Kyiv’s personnel to identify the proper tangible measures,” Vartiainen said.
The visit was considered a great success and everyone that participated was satisfied that the agreement was signed.
Helsinki Mayor Vartiainen travelled to the meeting together with the other Eurocities mayors by train from Poland. The Office of the President of Ukraine was responsible for the timing, arrangements and safety of the visit. The visit was not announced beforehand for security reasons.