Gathered in Amsterdam on 7 February for the second edition of the political roundtable on refugees, mayors of cities belonging to the EUROCITIES network (Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Gdansk, Ghent, Riga) kept up the pressure on the EU institutions to obtain direct EU funding for cities coping with refugee reception and integration issues, while reaffirming their willingness to play a direct role in the EU’s planned relocation system

Mayor Kaminis of Athens reiterated the principles of the Solidarity Cities initiative, mentioning the pledges taken by cities like Barcelona, Ghent and Gdansk to directly welcome asylum seekers currently stranded in Athens under the EU relocation system.

Mayors Nils Ušakovs of Riga and Pawel Bogdan Adamowicz of Gdansk confirmed that certain cities in eastern and central Europe are more than ready to play their part despite the hostility of their national government. Adamowicz said that Polish cities like Gdansk, Sopot, Warsaw, Krakow and Wroclaw have been cooperating on integration issues. In his words, these cities represent the “open society” part of Poland. “If cities can cooperate, why can’t national governments?” reacted the vice-mayor of Barcelona Jaume Asens.

The need to properly finance integration infrastructure in cities was strongly emphasised by Daniël Termont, mayor of Ghent and president of EUROCITIES, who regretted that such investment realised by cities could be cancelled by adverse national-level policies. He gave the example of refugees integrated in Ghent after one year and relocated by the government to French-speaking Wallonia. Joining him, Giorgios Kaminis, mayor of Athens, mentioned how integration projects in his city needed to be financed by private funding or philanthropies to compensate for the lack of access to public funding.
Commissioner Corina Creţu reminded city leaders of the achievements since the beginning of the refugee crisis, while the mayors responded that much more was expected at city level. Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos addressed the audience via a video message and did not announce new funding instruments for cities but mentioned other positive technical developments made, such as the involvement of EUROCITIES and its members in the next meeting of the European Integration Network and a study visit by managing authorities of AMIF (Asylum Migration and Integration Fund) to the city of Gothenburg.
The roundtable closed on the offer of the mayor of Athens to host the next edition of this meeting in his city, highlighting the necessity of an involvement of member states for a true effort at multilevel dialogue.