The Congress and Ukraine: A Shared Destiny

With Ms Liliia Pashynna, President of the Ukrainian Delegation to the Congress. “Thank you, Ms Pashynna, for welcoming me so warmly in Kyiv. Thanks to the dogged determination of the Ukrainian delegation that you lead, the Congress has access to direct and precious information that enables its members to continue the political mobilisation of cities, regions and public opinion in favour of Ukraine.”
With Mr Serhii Chernov, Vice President of the Ukrainian Delegation to the Congress. “I admire the mobilisation of the association of districts and regional councils over which you preside during this time of war. Alongside all of the regional governments, down to even the smallest ones, you play an essential role in keeping the country on its feet.”
With Mr Vitalii Klytchko, Mayor of Kyiv. “The mayor of Kyiv and all of Ukraine’s local and regional representatives have shown the entire world just how crucial a role local and regional governments play in times of crisis. This new awareness calls us to take on even more responsibilities on the international stage. The Congress is ready to rise to the occasion.”
With Mr Oleksandr Slobozhan, Executive Director of the Association of Ukrainian Cities. “I wish to express all of my admiration for the association of Ukrainian cities, mobilising itself to liberate the kidnapped mayors, helping with the humanitarian aid flowing in, assisting in reconstruction efforts in partnership with the national government and remaining vigilant with regards to the evolution of the decentralisation process.
With Mr Kyrylo Tymoshenko, Deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine. “Over the course of just a few weeks, the Ukrainian government has been able to very precisely identify, with the help of is local and regional governments, its reconstruction needs through the ‘fast recovery plan’. All international actors are encouraged to financially do their part to help get the country back on its feet.”
With Mr Viacheslav Nehoda, Deputy Minister for Communities and Territories Development. “War time does not pose an existential threat to local democracy. As soon as the conflict ends, the Congress will be there to help Ukraine’s regional governments pursue the very positive reforms put in place before the war to foster decentralisation and local democracy.”
With Mr Valentyn Skuratovski, Head of the department for international organisations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The Congress has been an enormous help over the last couple of years in supporting Ukraine along the path to local democracy. The cities and regions have demonstrated the entirety of their helpfulness during the war, which should reinforce the role of the Congress in the Council of Europe. The post-war era will require a strong Congress within a Council of Europe that is more legitimate than ever.”

Reflections Over My Trip to Ukraine

“I travelled to Kyiv from August 24 to 26 this year, on the occasion of Ukraine’s Independence Day. Several reasons motived this trip, including my desires to demonstrate my dedication to standing in solidarity with the country, to continue pursuing the strong, committed collaboration that has existed between Ukraine and the Congress for several years now, and to meet with certain key figures from local and regional authorities to better understand their new reality and their expectations.


The next Secretary General of the Congress will need to quickly and thoroughly understand what is at stake for local democracy in each of its 46 member states. In the case of a country at war, being immediately ready and able to take action is not merely a professional duty; it is also a political and moral obligation.


To ensure a meaningful trip, it was necessary to meet with the right people. I was able to do so, and for that, I would like to thank profusely both the Ukrainian delegation to the Congress and the Permanent Representation of Ukraine to the Council of Europe. From very early on, they believed in my initiative and have assisted me without any hesitation. I would also like to thank the Permanent Representation of France to the Council of Europe and the French Embassy in Ukraine for their assistance both before and during my visit.


During my trip, I had the opportunity to meet with local and regional elected representatives, regional associations and different national representatives, from offices ranging from the Ministry of Territories and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Ukrainian Presidency. See the end of this article for a complete list of those with whom I met.


Here’s what I learned from my visit.


Since the launch of the 2014 decentralisation law, Ukraine has gradually moved away from a previous, less efficient centralist governance model. It is primarily thanks to the additional liberties that its cities and regions have acquired since 2014 that the country has been able to tackle head-on the consequences of the war. Without these new and effective local and regional powers, the country would have been less able to adapt to the new reality that the war has imposed upon it.


The start of the war and the subsequent passing of emergency laws have unfortunately halted the previously significant advancement of this decentralisation process, which the Congress’ monitoring has recognized and encouraged.


From the very beginning of the conflict, Ukraine’s local and regional representatives have shown the entire world the courage and efficacy of their actions. Too many of them have died, and seven are still held prisoner, having been kidnapped by the aggressor.


Demonstrations of solidarity, unanimous condemnations of the acts of aggression against the country and reminders of the common values that unite the members of the Council of Europe are vital for the Ukrainian people.


Many of those with whom I spoke also view the Congress as an essential conduit for sharing information related to the situation in Ukraine. In order to prevent European public opinion from tiring of the subject of the war, all of Europe’s local and regional representatives must encourage their constituencies to continue supporting Ukraine.


The bilateral aid facilitated through existing partnerships and platforms such as “cities4cities” is precious, though Ukraine’s needs far surpass what they are able to provide. The “fast recovery” program, launched by the Ukrainian presidency in order to already begin rebuilding schools, hospitals, housing, and public buildings, currently estimates that it will take $17.4 million USD to complete the reconstruction projects. International aid from countries, public investment banks, cities and regions will be imperative for a smooth and timely reconstruction process.


Despite all of these difficulties, I was incredibly impressed by the Ukrainians’ desire to think ahead and start planning for the post-war era.


The desire to continue the decentralisation process that the war and emergency laws have brought to a halt is unanimous among the leaders I met. They expect the Congress to accompany the country  on this path after the war.


Another major expectation is that the Congress will accompany Ukraine in its areas of expertise towards ever higher standards, which will facilitate its incorporation into the European Union.


After seven months of war, tens of thousands of deaths and numerous major challenges to overcome, I was very positively surprised by the vision, determination and courage of those with whom I spoke.


I was happy to see that despite the extraordinary circumstances, debates between local and national representatives are continuing to take place. These debates are necessary and vital for preparing the post-war era.


The Congress is doing indispensable work for local democracy, and the Ukrainians hold high expectations of us. Let’s continue proving ourselves worthy of their confidence, and work together to meet their expectations!”