Local and regional authorities at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic
The UfM Secretariat and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development discussed with EU mayors and other local and regional authorities the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
17 April 2020. The UfM Secretariat participated in an online discussion organised by PLATFORMA, the pan-European coalition of towns and regions, along with their national, EU and global associations that are also active in city-to-city and region-to-region development cooperation. This online meeting was held to discuss the actions of the EU and the local governments, municipalities and regions to address the challenges presented by COVID-19, as they represent some of the main authorities acting on the front line to manage the pandemic.
Different mayors across Europe and Africa shared their views on the response and preparedness needed at local level. They agreed that the rapid outbreak of the pandemic has shown gaps in the medical healthcare systems of certain countries and that countries across the globe must build solidarity in order to fight this pandemic while ensuring that no one is left behind. They underlined the importance of channelling all the required resources in a timely manner and pointed out that Africa, having been hit by Ebola, has important lessons to share with other countries.
Aida Liha Matejicek, Head of the Unit for Culture, Education and Health from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, presented the EU’s global response to COVID-19 in line with the communication released by the European Commission on 8th April.
She stated that the European Commission is adapting its priorities and programmes with a view to helping the most vulnerable and affected partner countries address the crisis. Consequently, the EU is mobilising more than €15.6 billion for its emergency response to tackle immediate needs, both on a humanitarian level and in the health care sector. The initiative seeks to strengthen the health, water and sanitation systems of partner countries, support research programmes and address the economic and social consequences. The EU’s response is in line with Team Europe’s policy framework, which combines resources from the EU, its Member States and other financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to support each partner country.
The UfM representatives recalled the relaunching of the regional dialogue on civil protection, which targets the preparedness and response to similar crises as one of the priority areas of cooperation among the UfM Member States.
Among those who shared their views were Rolan Ries, Mayor of Strasbourg; Pilar Diaz, Mayor of Esplugues de Llobregat (Barcelona); Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary-General of United Cities and Local Governments for Africa; and Kelmend Zajazi, Executive Director of the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe. They all agreed that reinforcing local and national institutional capacity as well as sharing data, expertise and lessons learned will be essential in facing the magnitude of this challenge.