AER’s unique community of regional stakeholders is focusing minds to support Ukraine’s recovery
AER’s Focus Group on Ukraine has continued work in earnest in the three months since its first meeting in Cluj-Napoca, Romania in late March.
At the second meeting in Barcelona on 28 June, co-organised with the Government of Catalonia, the Focus Group was proud to welcome delegations from Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Kryvyi Rih, Odesa, Poltava and Transcarpathia.
The Government of Catalonia, shared the extensive work being undertaken in the region itself to support Ukrainians in the region. Equally important were presentations on enterprise partnership opportunities for Ukrainian regions, and insights on the work of the Foreign Ministry to support Ukrainian regions during the reconstruction.
From the EU perspective, Focus Group members were introduced to the political support of the European External Action Service (EEAS), and gleaned insights on EU funding opportunities for Ukrainian members within the INTERREG programme.
Finally, the General Assembly formally ratified the membership requests of four Ukrainian regions: Rivne, Transcarpathia, Dnipropetrovsk and Ternopil.
AER welcomes Ukrainian Parliament members to Brussels
Over two days on 7 and 8 July in collaboration with Andrea Castagna from the Institute of Innovative Governance, the Focus Group welcomed a delegation from the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to Brussels. The study visit—their first to Brussels—was organised by the Centre for Legal and Political Reforms and U-LEAD with Europe.
A key aim of this visit was to glean insights on the importance of decentralisation; how robust regional governments serve citizens at home and at European level.
It is no secret that strong regions with a presence in Brussels are well-placed to support Ukrainian regions on a peer-to-peer level by sharing expertise, opening-up investment opportunities, and working together to influence decision-making. This point underlined by AER Vice President, Lukas Mandl MEP, who introduced the work of AER to the delegation at the European Committee of the Regions. This message was echoed by Vice President, Jean-Luc Vanraes at the meeting of the Alliance for the Reconstruction of Ukraine later that day.
During the morning session, AER Secretary General, Christian Spahr and Member Relations Coordinator, Justin Sammon set out how AER’s Focus Group itself goes about it work, and AER’s broader agenda of support for Ukraine. Delegates learned about a successful blueprint for regional partnership; between AER members Burgenland (AT) and Transcarpathia (UA), led by Governor Victor Mykyta and Rainer Winter, Head of Burgenland’s EU Liaison Office.
Regional Minister Madeleine Jonsson and EU Policy Advisor, Alexandra Schafhauser highlighted the role of strong regional governance in effective service delivery in Västra Götaland (SE), and presented how the regional office in Brussels works with European institutions to shape policies that have an impact on the region.
Opportunities were not limited to institutional work. Regional collaboration in strategic industries like govtech, IT, and green energy were discussed with Ukrainian delegation at the Government of Catalonia’s Brussels HQ by Ignasi Centelles, Representative of the Government of Catalonia to the European Union.
Supporting Ukraine’s path to the EU—meeting the institutions
Of course, charting the path toward membership of the European Union for Ukraine was the other major focus of this first visit to Brussels. Complementing meetings at the European Committee of the Regions, on day two, the delegation held high-level introductory meetings with the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS).
Delegates shared perspectives with DG NEAR on the accession process and new funding instruments supporting reconstruction, before learning about European funding opportunities available to Ukrainian regions at DG REGIO. The visit ended at the headquarters of the European External Action Service, where Petra Gombalová Kyslingerová, head of the Ukraine division, met with the delegation and provided updates on the EU’s support at the political level.
The AER would like to sincerely thank all our member regions and institutional partners for their ongoing support to Ukraine. If you would like to get involved in the work of the AER Focus Group on Ukraine, please contact AER Member Relations Coordinator, Justin Sammon.