"Through the twinning between the cities, we want to help our European friends in Ukraine as much as possible," has been said in an interview with the president of the Association of Austrian Municipalities
Mr. Riedl, how do Austrian communities react to the Russian military invasion of Ukraine?
The Austrian Association of Municipalities has already condemned the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine several times. Since February 24, the 2,093 municipalities in Austria have stood by to help refugees from Ukraine and to organize humanitarian aid for Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war, we have already taken in and provided for more than 70,000 people from Ukraine. We have already organized and delivered numerous truck trains with relief supplies and rescue vehicles to the war zones. In many talks with the Ukrainian ambassador in Vienna, we have also coordinated cooperation and support for the reconstruction of Ukraine. Through town twinning we want to help our European friends in Ukraine the best we can.
What is the purpose of your visit to Kyiv on June 20? Have you been able to visit the territories liberated from the occupation? What are your impressions?
The goal of the trip to Kyiv, Lviv and Transcarpathia was the exchange with representatives of the Ukrainian authorities to discuss humanitarian support and reconstruction aid directly on site. Particularly harrowing for me was the visit to Butcha and the conversation with Mayor Anatolij Fedoruk. Witnessing the extent of the destruction for myself and talking to the mayor about the suffering, worries and fears of the population encouraged me to continue to push the support of the Austrian communities for the reconstruction of Ukraine. I also became aware of how bad the situation must be further east, where fighting is currently taking place.
Today Ukrainian communities are finding their counterparts in the face of municipalities in various foreign countries to jointly overcome the challenges posed by the war. Are twinning relations (Sister Cities) being built between Austrian and Ukrainian communities?
In addition to providing humanitarian aid, housing refugees and organizing rescue and fire-fighting vehicles, we as the Austrian Association of Municipalities have called on our municipalities to engage in inter-municipal cooperation with Ukrainian municipalities. Town twinning is intended to bring people and regions together and thereby support the reconstruction. Our municipalities want to contribute to peace, security and stability in Ukraine. Ultimately, town twinning is also an important part of the European integration of our European friends in Ukraine. The establishment of contacts, the understanding between our countries and municipalities is meant to support Ukraine's way into the European Community.
A Congress of all Austrian mayors is scheduled for the end of June this year in Wels.
Is the issue of developing relations with Ukrainian communities on the agenda?
As already mentioned, we have already started a few weeks ago to further deepen the relations with the Ukrainian municipalities through the mediation of the Ukrainian Embassy in Vienna, and also on the initiative of Minister Chernyshov. First town twinning projects are already in the planning stage. The cooperation with the Ukrainian municipalities will be a key topic at our congress of mayors.
What exactly would you like to say to Ukrainian communities today?
I would like to express my fullest solidarity and appreciation to the Ukrainian communities, mayors and all citizens, for their brave dedication to their country. They have been fighting since February 24 not only for freedom in their country, but for all of Europe. I hope that the war will end soon and Ukraine will be strengthened again with reconstruction. As Austrian municipalities, we want to support our European friends in Ukraine as much as possible and help where we can.
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