In Warsaw, Budapest, Prague and Bratislava ruled by the young, progressive mayor. They intend to enter into an unofficial Alliance to fight for democratic principles and for the money from Brussels.
A convincing victory for Rafal Trzaskowski in municipal elections in Warsaw in November last year was a sensitive blow for the ruling Polish party “Law and justice” (PiS). The candidate of the liberal Civic platform succeeded in the first round to win mayor. His opponent supported “Law and justice”, was defeated.
The same was the result of the election in Budapest in October: opposition politician görgey Karachi was able to push the candidate of the almost all-powerful in Hungary, the Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and climb to the top city post.
The first international telephone conversation Caracol spent with Trzaskowski. In the course of it the idea of a “Pact of free capital” – the distinctive format of cooperation of the Metropolitan mayors of the four Visegrad countries: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Prague and Bratislava recently also run by the young and progressive politicians with a similar vision of a modern, European city: it needs to be tolerant, open and environmentally friendly. What still unites them is often tense relations with the Central governments that run their countries based on the ideology of the right or left populism.
To achieve money from the EU, bypassing the Central government
“Populism, with which we are dealing in many countries, encourages us to cooperate. On the one hand, this Covenant is the symbol that politics is important, but we are talking about specific things that we want to implement,” said Rafal Trzaskowski in an interview with DW. Four of the capital plan, first of all, to work together to achieve in Brussels additional financial support that they want to obtain directly, i.e., bypassing the Central government. “I spoke about this in Brussels with the European Commission, with senior politicians – it’s real,” adds the mayor of Warsaw.
Trzaskowski strongly condemns the policy of the party “Law and justice” related to municipal self-government in Poland, representatives of which, according to him, are treated as enemies. “This government was not satisfied with everything at least to some extent independently criticized it. – Started with steps against judiciary and civil service, is now the target of attacks, we become”. Trzaskowski causes and concrete facts: “We get less tax, but are subject to additional fees – for example, in school reform. Added to this are the attempts to limit our ability to pursue their own policies”.
What is the capital of the Visegrad group intend to seek EU subsidies directly, not like the Central authorities of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. And yet it is the right initiative, I am sure Rafal Trzaskowski: “the Best representation in the European Parliament – this is a representation of Bavaria. Regions, cities fighting in the EU for their own interests, it has always been, and will remain so. This is a step not against the state, and in addition”.
“Small” Visegrad format
Meanwhile, in the “Pact of free capitals” it’s not just about money. Policy at the municipal level from Warsaw, Budapest, Prague and Bratislava plan to share experiences and to set priorities in the field of environmental technology “smart city” and to advocate for values such as tolerance, the rule of law and freedom of expression. In particular, Poland and Hungary in recent years has been criticized by the European Commission for the measures taken in these areas. In respect of both countries excited the so-called “procedure of the 7th article.” Brussels accuses the authorities in Poland and Hungary in violation of the rule of law and basic values of the European Union.
Last Friday the mayors of the four Central European capitals have met in Berlin. On the sidelines of the celebrations to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, they discussed the initiative, which is informally called “the Covenant of free capitals” or “small Vysehrad” – as opposed to the “big City”, the unification of the four countries in which the tone is set by politicians like Viktor Orban or Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Yet, this Pact of cities is an idea, a General Declaration is prepared. “But it’s becoming more concrete,” says Rafal Tchakovski.