The presidents of Bratislava, Budapest, Prague and Warsaw signed the Pact of Free Cities in the Hungarian capital. They pledged in it to defend democratic values and collectively seek European subsidies directly for their local government bodies.
“Together with the Mayors of Prague, Bratislava and Budapest, we signed the Pact of Free Cities. We want to respond to the major challenges of today, be close to people, and make decisions based on common experience and facts, far from ideology,” said Rafał Trzaskowski, the Mayor of Warsaw.
“Priority will be granted to efforts for direct access of local government bodies to EU funds. This is a chance for greater independence, but also an opportunity to more effectively fight problems which are overlooked by governments, such as the struggle with the climate crisis. We want to share experiences and learn from each other, therefore one of the crucial ways of functioning of the Pact will be regular consultations of our experts and officials. We will also organise youth exchanges. Our desire is to strengthen the position of local government bodies in the international arena, which is why we invite all cities that share our values to cooperate within the Pact. Together we are able to do more,” emphasised the Mayor of Warsaw.
Hosts of Visegrad capitals met in Budapest on 16 December at the Central European University. The university was established in 1991 on the wave of democratic changes in Central and Eastern Europe. The idea behind the George Soros-funded university was to establish an academic institution dedicated to research on the challenges posed by modern democratic systems, to disseminate the phenomenon of an open society, to facilitate inter-regional cooperation and to train future leaders of democratisation processes in all regions of the world.
In spring 2017, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán decided to close down the university, starting in 2018. Against this background, on 3 December 2018, the Central European University announced its move to Vienna, where its second campus is being built. The Budapest-based university finished its activities in September 2019, with the understanding that students undertaking their studies in Hungary will be able to complete them locally.