Bratislava hosted the Pact of Free Cities


Several European mayors and city representatives gathered in Bratislava on Monday (27 May 2024). The event took place as part of the Pact of Free Cities summit, which was hosted this year by Bratislava’s mayor Matúš Vallo. The mayors and representatives of Budapest, Warsaw, Paris, Tirana and others, including the mayor of the Ukrainian city of Lviv, travelled to the capital to discuss democracy and its protection in the European area. One of the summit’s important conclusions was the accession to a joint declaration condemning any politically motivated violence against individuals or groups. The Pact of Free Cities was also expanded by three new cities, including Kharkiv, Ukraine, during Monday’s Bratislava summit.

The Pact of Free Cities was founded in 2019 by the mayors of Bratislava (Matúš Vallo), Budapest (Gergely Karácsony), Prague (Zdeněk Hřib) and Warsaw (Rafał Trzaskowski) and is currently an informal alliance of the mayors of more than 30 European cities. The aim of the Pact is to protect and promote the common values of freedom, human dignity, democracy, equality, respect for rights, social justice, tolerance and cultural diversity, as well as to point out the most pressing challenges of society and speak out against populism.

“For me it is a great honour to host the Pact summit in Bratislava this year. At a time when, even here at home, we are asking ourselves many questions about the quality of public political debate, about trust in public institutions and political representatives, when we are faced with unexpected violence as a result of a polarised society, I sense the basic idea of our Pact as being even more relevant,” said Matúš Vallo, the mayor of the capital city of Bratislava.

Along with the discussion of the current situation in the member cities and the exchange of information on city projects in the field of the protection and development of democracy, the content of the working part of the summit also included the adoption of the so-called Bratislava Declaration.

The declaration names current threats to the development of democracy – populism, misinformation and people's distrust of institutions. Pact members also resolutely condemned any politically motivated violence against individuals or groups.

“I am convinced that cities can be on the front line in overcoming all the crises we face today. If people experience a sense of trust at the municipal or local level, if they see trustworthy and transparent public institutions and politicians in their cities, if they can identify with democratic leaders in the cities where they live, then this is the best thing we can do for the future of democracy and the general level of trust in democratic institutions. In places where governments fail, it is specifically cities and regions that can still stand on the side of the people and democracy. And this is the mission that I share today with my colleagues from all over the world in the Pact of Free Cities," added Matúš Vallo.

One of the main topics discussed by the mayors during the summit was the situation in Ukraine and assistance to our eastern neighbours. The Pact has been working closely with Ukrainian cities since before the Russian invasion, particularly with Kyiv and other larger cities. At the beginning of 2022, on an invitation from the four founding members of the Pact, the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, became a member. Kharkiv also became a new member of the Pact at the Bratislava summit, though the city’s mayor Igor Terekhov could not come due to Russian missiles again striking the city on Saturday. The mayor of Lviv, Andriy Sadovyi, spoke on behalf of the Ukrainian Pact member cities at the press conference on Monday. “Thank you for your support of Ukraine and Kharkiv, which are fighting today for our common democratic future. I believe in our common victory. Glory to Ukraine,” Sadovyi said in a short speech.

In addition to Kharkiv in Ukraine, the Pact has also grown with the addition of Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, and Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.