In the margins of the Budapest Forum for Sustainable Democracies, the Mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony, convened a global group of mayors united to build a value-driven city network to rebuild and reinforce democracy, stand as a bulwark against the erosion of the rule of law, and fight corruption, state capture, racism and populist nationalism.
At the City Hall meeting, Paris, London, Vienna, Barcelona, Zagreb, Gdansk, Los Angeles and 13 other cities joined the Pact of Free Cities – a city alliance to protect democracy by the Visegrad Four capitals (Budapest, Bratislava, Prague and Warsaw).
Speaking about the alliance, Karácsony said, “The Pact will stand up for free and fair elections and democratic movements worldwide, push back against electoral fraud, unfair electoral practices, cyberattacks and dis- and misinformation campaigns aimed to undermine electoral processes and facilitate the democratic participation of marginalized communities.”
“It will also protest human rights abuses, xenophobia, antisemitism, anti-feminism, racism, islamophobia, anti-LGBTQI rhetoric and action, attacks on civil society organizations, and any other discriminatory practices designed to alienate and exclude from the democratic process.”
“I am very pleased that more and more cities are embracing democratic values and becoming a real epicentre of change. I feel that more open and professionally managed cities can bring a lot of positive results for all of us,” Matúš Vallo, the mayor of Bratislava, posted on Facebook.
Addressing the Forum, European Values and Transparency Commissioner Vera Jourova said the EU was a “union of values”.
When disbursing funds under the next EU budget, she said the Commission will ensure that use of EU funding respects fundamental values, and that EU funds are protected against potential misuse and corruption or use of “the political key for distribution”.
The Pact of Free Cities is a progressive, open city alliance founded by mayors Gergely Karácsony (Budapest), Matúš Vallo (Bratislava), Rafal Trzaskowski (Warsaw) and Zdeněk Hřib (Prague) on 16 December 2019 in Budapest. The objectives of the association are to protect the values of liberal democracy, pluralism, openness and cultural diversity, to promote better access to European Union resources and to exchange experiences on good urban practices and policies.
Since its launch, the mayors of the Pact of Free Cities have spearheaded an all-European lobbying drive for directly accessible EU-funding. They also reached out to other mayors sharing the same views (e.g. London and Istanbul) to enhance cooperation and progressively expand the network.
The full list of cities joining the Pact include Amsterdam, Vienna, Barcelona, Florence, Frankfurt, Gdansk, Los Angeles, Paris, London, Podgorica, Rijeka, Stuttgart, Taipei, Taoyuan, Tirana, Ulm, Neu-Ulm, Zágreb, Ljubljana.