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Opposition mayors of the capitals of the V4 countries: Gergely Karácsony, the recently elected Mayor of Budapest, Matúš Vallo from Pozsony (Bratislava), Rafał Trzaskowski from Warsaw, and Zdeněk Hřib, Mayor of Prague, wrote a joint article scheduled for the V4 summit titled: “How grassroots democracy can cure the ills of central Europe.”

In the article, the mayors state that over the last 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the economies of the V4 countries “have grown out of the shock of these systemic changes, becoming some of the most vibrant and competitive in Europe,” but the transition is far from perfect. They added that

Our societies are beginning to exhibit ills that we view with great alarm. Inequality is high and rising. Our healthcare systems are under strain. Too many of our young people have left in search of opportunities elsewhere”

In their view, these “troubling trends” can be tackled effectively by “grassroots democracy” and “smart and inclusive governance,” as well as cooperation.

From left to right: Matúš Vallo (Pozsony), Gergely Karácsony, Zdeněk Hřib (Prague), and Rafał Trzaskowski (Warsaw). Photo via Gergely Karácsony’s Facebook page.

The opposition mayors are concerned that “populists have dominated the political landscape” in recent years in many countries in the region just as elsewhere, adding that “they exploit societal discontent for personal and political gain, without providing real answers. They claim to represent the nation but ignore the concerns of a substantial number of our citizens, not least those living in multicultural cities. They have whipped up our region’s historical grievances and are spreading the kind of xenophobic nationalism that twice engulfed Europe in war in the previous century.”

The mayors wrote that since they “speak to our fellow citizens every day,” they are listening to the people in their respective cities and „thrive on civic association and civic engagement – not on the suppression of civil society.” They added that they believe “in an open society based on our cherished common values of freedom, human dignity, democracy, sustainability, equality, the rule of law, social justice, tolerance, and cultural diversity.”

The mayors claimed that their cities are “the engines of growth and innovation in the region” however, they face the same challenges and they have decided to tackle these together in the future and “to this end, we are proud to establish the “Pact of Free Cities.”

From left to right: Gergely Karácsony, Matúš Vallo (Pozsony), Rafał Trzaskowski (Warsaw), and Zdeněk Hřib (Prague). Photo via Gergely Karácsony’s Facebook page

This Pact is a “progressive network of dynamic cities and empowered citizens that promotes pragmatism and inclusivity,” which they envision as a forum, open to other cities to join and cooperate with, and share best practices for „transparent, smart, evidence-based, and socially aware city management.”

Their main aims with the alliance are to tackle challenges and problems in areas such as “sustainable city planning, the climate crisis, housing, and public transportation.”

In the featured photo(from left to right): Zdeněk Hřib (Prague), Gergely Karácsony, Matúš Vallo (Pozsony), and Rafał Trzaskowski (Warsaw).  Photo via Gergely Karácsony’s Facebook page