European cities ready to help rebuild Ukraine (by D. Nardella)

We are moving towards the third month’s war and we see no sign of real peace. With every little diplomatic step forward comes the news of a new battle, of new civilians killed, of new horrors. The attention of Europe and Italy continues to bring aid to the Ukrainian people. And European cities will also make their concrete contribution to reconstruction.

This is the commitment that Eurocities has made in Florence in recent days, the largest network of medium-sized and large European cities that I have chaired for two years. In Florence, on the occasion of the European Festival, we promoted a meeting between Eurocities in the presence of EU Commissioner for Cohesion and Reform Elisa Ferreira and Minister for Southern and Territorial Cohesion Mara Carfagna.

But it was not a routine meeting of the many engaging Eurocities. In the same room next to some European mayors (including Warsaw, Oslo, Tallinn, Braga, Leipzig) were Ivan Fedorov, mayor of Melitopol, and Anatoliy Fedoruk, mayor of Bucha, two cities symbolizing war.

Fedorov and Fedoruk have reconstructed the most dramatic phases of the conflict in their cities. Fedorov was kidnapped and held captive for six days shortly after the Russian invasion. His city is now occupied. He holds a series of meetings in various European countries to promote initiatives in favor of Ukrainian cities.

“Ukraine, with its victim, acts as a shield for the whole of Europe and defends the homes of European citizens,” he stressed. “It must be clear to everyone that Russia’s war is not only against Ukraine, but against the whole of Europe. and Finland in danger. And we Ukrainians, with the basic help of the European Union, want to return to living a peaceful life in our country. “

Fedoruk, on the other hand, is the first citizen of a city that has become notorious for the massacre of civilians that took place a few weeks ago. In Bucha, the rebuilt mayor, 456 people were killed during a month-long Russian occupation, and this number includes children, mothers, young people. “Now – he added – we do not need humanitarian aid, there is enough food, but we need technical assistance. We desperately need these funds to bring our cities back to normal, we need infrastructure.” .

It was a hard and touching testimony. We have assured the Ukrainian mayors of all Eurocities support. European mayors are ready to formally commit to this reconstruction plan and to launch a priority selection program. Cities are at the forefront of providing technical and design support together with the European Commission, so that this cooperation between European cities and Ukrainian cities is managed and follows a clear plan to help Ukraine recover once the hostilities have ceased.

The meeting with the Ukrainian mayors showed that Europe was once again the main character in Florence. Thanks to the festival of the same name, the city hosted more than 40 events in one week thanks to a project from the municipality, co-financed by the European Parliament and the European Commission and carried out in collaboration with the Tuscany region, the city of Florence, INDIRE – Erasmus + Agency, University European Institute, University of Florence, Chamber of Commerce of Florence and CR Florence Foundation and with the special cooperation between the Teatro della Toscana and the European Commission Representation in Italy.

Among the main events was The State of the Union, scheduled for May 5 and 6 between Palazzo Vecchio and Badia Fiesolana, organized by the European University Institute. Many guests at an event that marked the return to near-normal after Covid, including EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola, EU Commissioners Ferreira and Suica, Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in the EU Union.

This year, the festival also took place along with the conclusion of an important European initiative, the Conference on the Future of Europe, the largest experiment in participatory democracy ever conducted in the EU. The conference was one of the most important steps in recent years towards a common citizenship, also thanks to the involvement of young Europeans, a generation that feels more attached to the idea of ​​a united Europe than those who preceded it. Just a few days ago, the plenary of the conference adopted its proposals, which will be presented to the joint presidency. There are many calls for reform, based on the assumption that EU decisions are increasingly relevant to the lives of European citizens: reforms aimed at strengthening the European democratic space; promote the better functioning of the institutions; strengthen the economy, social justice, employment.

It’s not time to hesitate. We need to define a coherent economic policy for the eurozone as a whole, moving from a focus on fiscal discipline and stability to a comprehensive approach that emphasizes sustainability, growth, social preservation: an approach that is appropriate to challenges in the current situation. , where the effects of the pandemic have not been overcome, while new dramatic difficulties have been caused by the invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, the EU must strengthen its ability to influence its security environment, especially in the neighborhood, by tackling the problem of building a European defense. We must equip the Union with new and more effective strategic tools for its external action.

While I call on the Joint Presidency to consider the possibility of extending the deadline for the Conference on the Future of Europe in order to give European citizens more time to share their reflections and proposals on the new phase we are going through, I would like to emphasize the importance of listen to the concerns of our citizens and appreciate their suggestions. We can not waste an opportunity like this: it would be frustrating and counterproductive. If we want to consolidate European construction, we must give the outcome of the conference the importance it deserves, also through an ambitious and courageous revision of the Treaties, which has already been launched by a resolution of the European Parliament in recent days.

Only in this way will Europe truly be a union of peoples and not of nations, a melting pot not only economically but also socially, ideally, morally and supportively. A truly united continent that speaks with one voice and that does not give in to selfishness and sovereignty, but aims to be a true unity where the voices of local communities can also gain a new weight.

There is a common thread that binds Florence more and more to Europe, and which for some months has seen the city’s protagonist with initiatives such as the Mediterranean Forum of Bishops and Mayors in February and the demonstration for peace in Piazza Santa Croce in recent months in March. , and now the Festival of Europe.

Our city, also thanks to Eurocities, is ready to do its thing.

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