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tv   European Mayors Testify on Democracy  CSPAN  January 27, 2022 11:18am-1:02pm EST

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get c-span on the go, watch the day's biggest political events live or on demand any time, anywhering on our new mobile video app. c-span now, access top highlights, listen to see pan radio and discover new podcasts all for free. download c-span now today. next the mayors of brad sla va, buddha pest, prague testify before the house foreign affairs subcommittee on europe.a va, buddha pest, prague testify before the house foreign affairs subcommittee on europe.s va, buddha pest, prague testify before the house foreign affairs subcommittee on europe.s va, buddha pest, prague testify before the house foreign affairs subcommittee on europe.l va, buddha pest, prague testify before the house foreign affairs subcommittee on europe. va, buddha pest, prague testify before the house foreign affairs subcommittee on europe. va, buddha pest, prague testify before the house foreign affairs subcommittee on europe.l va, buddha pest, prague testify before the house foreign affairs subcommittee on europe.a va, buddha pest, prague testify before the house foreign affairs subcommittee on europe.v va, buddha pest, prague testibr prague testify before the housep >> i see we do have a quorum. thank all the members here. i recognize myself for an opening statement. pursuant to notice, we're holding a hearing today entitled "innovative leadership in
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central europe, founding members of the pact of three cities." i want to thank you all for being here, thank our witnesses given the time zone issues we have for their participation. it's extremely important. as many of you know, this month is an important month for the biden administration as they hold the summit for democracy. this event will bring together nations of similar values and principles to bring together democratic resiliency. many nations have made great strides including those in central and eastern europe. after the fall of the berlin wall 3 years ago, the countries of central and eastern europe made the transition from communism to democracy, developed market economies and integrated into the trance atlantic community. these countries are now members of the european union, a union founded on economic integration bound by common values such as freedom of the press, rule of law and an independent
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judiciary. together they've sought to protect the basic human rights of their citizens while working to ensure access to the fundamentals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. in addition, these countries have become strong national security partners of the united states and other members of the north atlantic treaty organization. as much, congress continues to develop and support these security alliances and work together with our european partners to address joint security challenge. this is the one advantage we all have together in the face of more malign activities in the world today. in addition, these countries have become strong national partners. unfortunately, however, in recent years, many of my colleagues and i in the transatlantic community including civil society organizations like freedom house which assesses levels of democracy around the world, have become increasingly concerned
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with some policies and rhetoric that emerged in central europe. slovakia, freedom house notes that, quote, while civil liberties are generally protected, democratic institutions are hampered by entrenched discrimination against the roma community and growing political hostility against refugees. they note that political corruption remains a problem. in the czech republic, freedom house asserts that several corruption scandals and political disputes have, quote, hampered normal legislative activity and that, quote, illiberal rhetoric and influence of power for business entities in the political arena are becoming increasingly visible. in poland, the rapid economic growth experienced since 1989 has benefited some parts of the country more than others. freedom house believes this disparity in wealth has contributed to, quote, a deep divide between liberal and pro european parties and those
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purporting to defend national interest and traditional polish catholic values, unquote. the law and justice party which has led the government of poland since 2015 has encouraged anti lgbtqi plus policies and attitudes, politicized the judicial system, threatening to reverse much of poland's democratic development and increase in nationalist homophobic and anti-semitic fueled concerns about the safety of minorities in the country. while freedom house yanks the czech republic, slovakia and poland as "free countries," there's no doubt there's work to be done to protect marginalized communities, hold down the rule of law and crack down on corruption activities. finally and most concerning since 2019, freedom house classified hungary as, quote, unquote, partly free. hungary is the first eu member state to ever be designated as partly free, following the election of prime minister or
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ban in 2010 there's been constitutional and legal challenges that have allowed the party doing what freedom house describes, to consolidate control over the country's independent institutions. these changes also, according to freedom house, hammer the operation of opposition groups, journalists, universities, non-governmental organizations criticizing the government. in recent years, the central european university has forced to find a new home in austria. employees of the moscow-based russian international investment banks were given diplomatic status. independent journalism has been threatened by de facto government control over much of the media, and the government has adopted legislation restricting the rights of transgender individuals, to name a few.
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concerning policies we've seen in hungary. malign influence in the region particularly from russia and china encourage democratic back sliding to slip further and further away from the ideals of our transatlantic alliance. although the scope is different in the u.s. than it is in europe, we're also dealing with threats to our democracy through a malign influence campaigns, disinformation and more only together as a transatlantic community can we tackle many of the problems facing our democracies. to meet these challenges and many others, our four witnesses here today launch the pact of free cities. the pact launched in 2019 as an alliance of central european
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mayors has pledged to protect and advance liberal democracy, recognizing the challenge of democratic development in the region and establishing joint initiatives to solve climate, housing and many other social issues that face these cities. the pact has since expended from four capitals to include over 20 cities from los angeles to taipei who have joined in the fight to solve the world's challenges. recognizing the progress being made in the pact today i've invited the founding four members of the group, matus a vallo, from bud pift, from practicing, raffo javkovsky of warsaw. i've invited them to share the policies and programs they have initiated in their home cities. we're so proud to have you as
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witnesses here today. as we saw during the covid-19 pandemic here and around the world, local leadership is critical in times of peace and times of crisis to respond and prepare for emergencies as well as to develop initiatives in innovative solutions to local and global challenges. for example, in the united states during the previous administration our country moved away from climate change commitments, but local leaders here in the u.s., from state and municipal governments rose to the occasion and undertake environmental ichbishives to environmental initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint. as such, like many of our people listening here today, i read a lot about the local policies and programs developed by these mayors, these leaders, and i'm eager to hear from them directly.
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i'm proud to have the mayors here today. here are their successes and their failures. with that, i welcome an opening statement from our ranking member, mr. brian fitzpatrick. then we'll call on the mayors in alphabetical order to present their testimony. i now turn to ranking member ryan fitzpatrick for his opening remarks. >> good morning and thank you chairman keating. thank you to our witnesses for joining us today. the cornerstone of this committee is the defense of democratic values around the world. we do so by supporting the rule of law, independent media, peaceful assembly, religious freedom and the ability to participate in the political process. these democratic values form the background of the transatlantic bond between the united states and the european allies. we're inextricably linked with the strength of our democracies. as recognized in the new brussels summit, autocrats in china and russia are actively leveraging predator investments and hybrid tactics to subvert western institutions.
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nair coercive policies stand in stark contrast to the fundamental western values we all share. our like-minded allies and partners need to prove that democracy, not autocracy can provide more for the citizens of the world. i'm encouraged by some of our witnesses' efforts to stand up to the chinese communist party and their bullying and denouncing the threat it and vladimir putin pose to all of our democracies. i'd like to hear more from mr. gee. accomplished many topics we have covered in this very committee, meeting with civil society leaders to defending uighur survivors of the ccp, concentration camps. your efforts have included some of the most pressing issues on the planet. particularly your efforts to strengthen issues with taiwan are incredibly commendable.
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we thank you for that and encourage you to do that. both the czech republic and slovakia have welcomed taiwan's foreign minister in open tie log to bolster strategic cooperation. please keep this going. with that, i'd like to hear more about your decision making in standing up to the intimidations of the chinese communist party and what more the transatlantic alliance can do to stand united in the face of their coercive behavior. mr. karacsc, when the proposed construction of china's university threatened to spread china's influence at the expense of taxpayers, you took a strong stand in opposition. i'd like to hear from you on what motivated you to take these strong stances. poland and mr. trzaskowsky have spoken out on nord stream 2. i agree with your assessment that gas must never flow through nord stream 2.
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please continue to do that. they've spoken out on putin's project, nordstream 2. i agree with your condemnation of russia's increaingly aggressive postures. we encourage that and support that. firm opposition and clear out recognition to the authoritarian threats are necessary to ensure free tom and democracy prevail around the globe. these goals must not be a partisan issue. destabilizing actions from moscow and beijing and the threat they pose to democracies across the globe demand and deserve our full attention. i look forward to hearing from you all today on these pressing matters, particularly as it relates to the existential threats posed by the chinese president and the vladimir putin regime.
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with that, mr. chairman, i yield back. >> thank you, ranking member. i'll introduce our witnesses. again, thank you for being here and thank you for your commitments to democracy. first mr. matus vallo is the mayor of britslava in slovakia. he served in that position since 2018. he's an architect by trade and an urban activist, someone who has brought those skills to his position. welcome. mr. gergei kershawn has served as the mayor of budapest, hungary, since 2019. he previously served in the 14th district as well as a member of the hungarian parliament. i want to note for the record that he'll speak in english for his opening statement but use simultaneous translation for the
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question and answer portion of today's hearing. the mayor of prague czech republic since 2018, a member of the czech party and the first member of the party to be elected as mayor in the czech republic. mr. rafal kaz cow ski is the mayor of warsaw, poland since 2018. in 2020 mr. trzaskowsky was a civic platforms candidate for the presidency in poland. in 2014 he served as deputy minister of foreign affairs for poland. in 2013 as minister for administration and digitalization. i now recognize each witness for five minutes. without objection, your prepared written statement will be made a part of the record. mr. vallo, you're now recognized for your opening statement. >> thank you very much.
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i hope you can hear me chairman keating, ranking member fitzpatrick, me and my colleagues, mayors from central european capitals, we are honored to be here today and discuss the information in central europe and our cities and present our collaborative activities. the four of us here today created the pact of free cities two years ago from a very specific moment. voters in our four capitals ex-prepared a clear wish for an alternative to their corrupt and populist national governments. we realized -- exceed the boundaries -- then we became -- then we became standard bearers for democratic hopes of many in our countries. that's a mission we take seriously. we have teamed up so as to share experience to encourage each other but also to jointly
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represent the hopes of our countries abroad as we are doing today. we are speaking to you at the moment of rising anti democratic sentiment -- public trust -- weakened partly because our democratically elected leaders are failing to lead. central europe is in the eye of the storm. our democracies are young, and therefore more vulnerable to then countries with strong democratic institutions as centuries of democratic tradition. we're still searching for a new identity that will define us in 21st century. we're no longer countries in transition. we're no longer defined by being -- but what kind of societies exactly do we aspire to be that has not been settled yet.
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western liberal democrats should be -- western democrats themselves are under pressure from populists at home. countries with much longer democratic traditions than ours have fallen victim to the populist block. when you no longer have a clear beacon to follow, it becomes easier for populists to peddle alternatives. when democrats sell the idea of a positive future, but that is often too distant -- far right leaders sell the idea of hate which is immediate, almost tangible. they say that when the going gets tough the tough gets going. that's what the mayors on the screen in front of you have done. we believe that the best way to represent democracy through direct experience and people experience stress and freedom at
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a local level, it ceases to be the distant destination which may never be reached. it is here and now. if it can work in a city, why not a country? where the nations and governments are failing, the cities continue to be island of freedom and democracy, not only serving the citizens, but serving as an example to others in our nation. honorable members of congress, only through our intertwined history and culture we can stand together stronger as the mayors of free cities in central europe and offer each other solidarity, mutual support and collaboration in good times and bad. we in slovakia closely watch
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difficult situation of our colleagues of hungary and poland who have to stand for the basic pillars of democracy because we know democracies are fragile everywhere and we must stand up for it together. we almost stand together. in 2020 general election slovakia people voted for change after the murder of a journal itsist and his fiance. the slovak people clearly rejected the city government with its close ties to corruption. the new ruling party has declared war on corruption and is committed to high standards of transparency. unfortunately, the reality of governance especially in the covid pandemic is proving that the anti-corruption agenda itself, however sincere is not enough for effective leadership of the country. the crisis needs first of all leaders who can stand up together and fight for the common good. if they don't, any political program can slip into the empty
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and dangerous -- that's why i strongly believe it is mainly the building of trust that lead us through the tough times, and it's's extremely important to invest in. our cities could immediately implement the cultural change since the imminent threats, a climate crisis or democratic process, can be only overcome through a completely new political culture and pro found changes to the way of life and thinking of our societies. let's stand in this uneasy fight for democratic and positive future together. thank you very much for your attention. >> thank you mr. vallo. i'll now turn to mr. karacsc. you're now recognized for your opening statement.
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>> distinguished members of subcommittee, i am honored to speak with you today on behalf of the people of budapest. today i'll speak about the decline of democracy in hungary and also speak about the mayors in hungary and internationally to safeguard democratic principles, it's very hard in hungary. social discontent -- new form of regime between democracy and autocracies. the government forced through new constitutions changed the electoral law, crushed civil society and occupied the media. informing policy, the government broke with hungary's pro european and transatlantic orientation.
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it's declared an opening to the east and drastically increased cooperation with russia and china. hungary's two most public investment projects both serve the interest of these countries. the budapest railway out of the belt and road initiative is being financed by a chinese loan. similarly the nuclear power plant is financed by russia serving russian interests. details of both contracts are kept secret. the government also employs putin's nationals. last year the speaker of the national assembly thought hungary intelligence services that the opposition is the greatest national security threat in hungary. yet, the actions speak just as loud as their words.
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from 1918, spyware has been used against hungarian journalists, businessmen and opposition politicians, and there is no sign that intelligence operations have stopped. honorable members of congress, there is hope. i assure you that the hungarian government values do not mirror those of hungarian society. millions of my fellow citizens embrace a very different political agenda. in 2019 these voters made their voice heard, then the democratic on sis won key positions in budapest and in many other cities and towns. running these cities and towns became more difficult because the central government chose to financially squeeze opposition led local governments. yet we managed to showcase once more the value of democratic, respectful and inclusive governance model to hungarian citizens.
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this together with the democratic opposition, running together from the first time in the more than a decade, provide us with a unique opportunity to defeat orban's populism into the next year and restore hungary's rightful position in the trance atlantic alliance. lastly on the pact of three cities we believe cities where democracy was born have a responsibility to protect it and improve it. we are proud to represent a broad spectrum to say know to tribalism and illiberalism -- recognizing the values and challenges that our initiative is based on in the central eastern european region, we decided to expand our alliance and cities worldwide are answering our call.
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earlier this year, 21 city leaders from all over the world signed to the new pact of three cities declaration, and more mayors will be joining soon. the pact stands ready to work with american cities and u.s. congress to address all that threatens to undermine our democracies. thank you for your attention. >> thank you for those very significant statements. we look forward to questions as we go forward. now i'll turn to mr. hrib. you're now recognized for your opening statement. >> chairman keating, ranking member fitzpatrick and distinguished members of the subcommittee, it is a great honor for me to have been
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invited to speak at this plarm alongside my colleagues from central european capitals. i'm happy to provide a few remarks on the state of from ce. i'm happy to provide a few remarks on the state of democrats in the czech republic, the role of the cities in defending global democratic principles and human rights. considering the increasing urbanization worldwide, it's inevitable that cities are important stakeholders in defending freedom and democracy. this brought prague, budapest, bratislav and warsaw together to establish the pact of three cities in 2019. another driving force was our shared concerned over the state of democracy in our respective countries. to name a few examples from the czech republic, in the previous decade, the government of the business tycoon andre babich was accompanied by an unprecedented conflict of interest. his ways of governing and
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scandals undermined the rule of law, suppressed freedom and other crucial democratic values. the czech foreign policy experienced a diversion from human rights agenda. the fear of migration became a new political topic misused by populist politicians. i became the mayor of prague in 2018, representing the czech private party. one of my aims was to restore prague's reputation as an open-minded, liberal, democratic and progressive city which is a stronghold of human rights and local leader in tackling climate change. i have been strongly promoting these values domestically in opposition to the government. i have expressing concerns over violations of human rights abroad. this is a moral duty of liberal, democratic politicians. for instance, prague has been
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supporting the belarusian democrat, opposition. we've formed a brilliant relationship with taiwan and taipei, the capital of taiwan. just a few weeks ago, the general assembly of the world uighur congress, and i had the privilege to meet uyghur survivors from the zin xinjian concentration camps, and i was horrified to hear what they hadn concentration camps, and i was horrified to hear what they hadn concentration camps, and i was experienced. i would like to use this opportunity to call on the international community to work towards ending these concentration camps, the forced labor, forced organ harvesting and uighur genocide. i would like also to emphasize my belief that truly democratic and liberal cities should not be -- to countries such as china and russia which try to exercise their business related and political influence also on the municipal level. currently the czech republic is going through a crucial
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political change. the populist government of andre babich is being replaced. the new coalition is pledging to restore democratic principles and the rule of law in the country, and i would like to emphasize, this is a positive development in the czech republic. it does not mean that prague would be less dedicated to the mission of the pact of three cities. on the contrary, our experience with the previous populist government was a reminder of the fragile nature of democracy. there is a lot of work ahead in order to strengthen the vital values in our society. prague is ready to keep supporting our partners. so in addition to the original aims, i see an important task for the pact nowadays. we should promote the link between human rights and the crucial contemporary global challenge of climate change. so in september 2022, prague
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will be hosting the pact of three cities summit during the czech republic's eu presidency. this will be an opportunity to bring all the member cities of this growing alliance together and to voice our readiness to fight for democracy, human rights and the fairer, greener and more resilient society. before i conclude, i would like to quote the former mayor of denver. he said the 19th century was a century of empires. the 20th century was a century of nation states, and the 21st century will be the century of cities. i would like to slightly modify this great quote by adding that we need to strive for a century of responsible, sustainable and truly democratic cities. this is how we make a real difference and help the world. thank you for your attention.
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>> thank you, mr. hrib. i will now turn to mr. trzaskowsky. you're now recognized for your opening statement. >> chairman keating, ranking member fitzpatrick, distinguished members of the subcommittee, on november 1989, addressed congress with the we the people speech. today the government in poland is trying to write its own version of history and wipe him out from the history books. can you believe that? it is only because of the courage of our teachers that polish children still learn about our historical hero. poland has not been yet turned into an undemocratic regime thanks to the strength of the parties of the parliamentary opposition and the courage and dynamism of our civil society. as the opinion polls demonstrate, if the opposition were to be united, it would win the next parliamentary election. honorable members of congress, poland is a battlefield between freedom and authoritarianism, between democratic society and
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the populist government that tries to penalize or politicize the independent institutions meant to control the excesses of unbridled governmental power. in times when the international context in poland's neighborhood is so volatile, amassing troops on the ukrainian border, the kremlin has policy and the migratory crisis on our eastern border, the transatlantic community cannot afford to have a weak link in our part of europe. regrettably i must confirm the negative developments taking place. regardless of what the populous government in poland claims, the knowledge of these developments is well known and is a source of concern for the friends of polish democracy. i, therefore, confirm that most importantly the constitutional tribunal has been turned into a partisan political buddy which rubber stamps the illegal actions of the government. the government unleashed a
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vicious media campaign against the lgbtqi community and is trampling over women's rights promoting a draconian anti-abortion law. moreover, the constitutional try bum has issued a controversial ruling undermining our membership in the european union. they are trying to limit the freedom of independent media. the government also restricts the prerogative of local communities excessively centralizing power in its hands. honorable members of congress, poland still is a democracy because the overwhelming majority of pols have not given up their fight. we've seen protests against the government. the measures described above have been met with a staunch position of the civil society. the iron will of the freedom loving pols has not been broken.
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we'll fight for an open free society which cherishes common values and diversity. honorable members of congress, i would like to appeal to you and everyone in the u.s. government, sustain your commitment to poland, countries of the region and europe as a whole. keep promoting the values of democracy and human rights, support civil society, ngos and local governments' initiatives. above all, don't lose hope for poland because the democratic forces will be back. honorable members of congress, ill liberal democracy is an oxymoron. you either stay true to the common values of democracy or slide into authoritarianism. we must protect the common values of democracy together. the u.s. engagement in europe and poland guarantees our peace, freedom and democracy. the chairman is absolutely right. if a vacuum is created in our part of europe, it will be filled by malign influence from russia and china.
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we all need a strong eastern flank of the northern alliance and, most importantly, inoculated against manipulation and propaganda. we see our membership in the european union and nato as well as strong relations with the united states of america as a guarantee of our independence. that is why we treat the commitments to overall security of the continent and the world so seriously. but solidarity of all partners is required in the face of serious threats. therefore, i strongly urge the u.s. congress to prevent russia from having a leverage against the eu and nato members in the form of nord stream 2 and introduce further sanctions on the russian regime. honorable members of congress, regardless of what happens in poland today, do not lose hope. i remain confident that poland will be back as a strong, proud and democratic member of the transatlantic community. we remain committed to uphold the democratic values, protect minorities, fight for
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tolerance and transparency and realize the goals of the western communities. whatever the government is not doing, we are doing it. we teach tolerance at schools. we prioritize women's rights. we support independent cultures and ngos. we seriously fight for climate change because that's what the proud citizens of warsaw and of poland expect from us. thank you very much. >> thank you very much. be assured, we are not giving up on poland. be assured we understand in all your countries how important our relationships are in a transatlantic way. be assured, too, that all of your testimony here and the common thread of making sure basic democratic freedoms are our core and our strengths.
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we certainly have security needs together, under greater threats than we've seen in decades. yet, democracy and our security needs don't travel in different lanes. they travel together and will strengthen together. your opening statements of all of you indicates how important that is going forward. so i thank you for your testimony. i'll recognize members for five minutes each. pursuant to house rules, all time yielded is for the purpose of questioning our witnesses. because of the virtual format of this hearing, i'll recognize members by committee seniority alternating between democrats and republicans. if you miss your turn, please let our staff know and we'll circle back to you. if you seek recognition, you must unmute your microphone an address the chair verbally. i'll now recognize myself for five minutes with questions. i thank all of you for the work you're doing.
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you are terrific examples of how the importance of major cities, municipalities and obviously their importance to the surrounding communities of cities, how important that is. and you've raised issues of transparencies, contracts, freedoms of the press, basic human rights issues, all to what we're dealing with and you understand in all of your roles that this isn't -- these aren't issues that end at the city barriers. they transcend not only the cities, the suburban areas, through the country as a whole, but globally. and along those lines, i've noticed your work on climate change. here in our own country, during
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the last four years, we reneged on some of our commitments in the u.s. globally, which we've now moved forward to reconstruct. but so many of our states and cities move forward during this period so importantly. i would ask all of you if you would like, just to jump in to talk about the work you have done on climate change and how your work has been so important and transformative and how it translates to the people you represent. maybe, perhaps, i'll start with mr. vallo, and the others can jump in. >> i'm having a lot of support in the united states. our members in the city leadership initiative and
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we're taking a lot of know how from different cities and this organization as well, and one of the main things, of course, for us to fighting climate change is everything is green. we have this program called 10,000 trees. i know it's not a million trees like in new york city. but we have 10,000 trees and we're planting a lot of trees and, of course, we know the effect of trees today. it's not only -- database effect. we know what is happening to rain water and co2, but it's very important for the health of our cities and this is just one of the programs we are working in a lot of public space. that's something we kind of having this problem of completely renewable public space. in bratislava it's very important for us. very important agenda, again, our minorities. we have every city in the world today, we have people who are spending a lot of energy of
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trying to ensure everybody can own their own bed for the night, own house, and that's very important for us. so we're trying to go with this already tested and already working agenda of other cities which might be a little bit more years in the game and trying to follow with examples. that is important for us. >> thank you so much. i would just like to see if mr. trzaskowski might want to add to this. here in this committee, we had a witness just a couple of years ago. and i saw him connect to younger people here as he did back home, so importantly. and the climate change issue also connects generation. what have you been doing? >> yes, indeed.
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i was working at the capitol hill for a month with john dingell. when it comes to what you're doing when it comes to fighting climate change, i mean, our government, the conservative governments of poland, of law and justice is very lukewarm towards the idea of global warming. unfortunately, of course, they've taken some commitments, but, unfortunately, they're not very diligent in implementing them. it's, again, the cities have have to do it on our own. and i've declared that warsaw will be carbon neutral by 2050 even with our very difficult energy mix. we're raising awareness, prioritizing public transportation, we invest billions of euros in public transportation. we're greening our city. we're eliminating coal powered stoves. we're helping our citizens in using renewables. we're paying for that. we're doing a lot to actually meet the priorities of the
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european union and of the world because we have to take some of that responsibility ourselves. >> thank you. and i make note of the fact that our secretary of energy for the united states, senator grantholm, one of our stops informs poland and it opens for important cooperation between the u.s. and all of your -- our transatlantic allies which will create not just a greener environment, but also more jobs and more independence from other powers that don't share our values. there's a tremendous opportunity in this area for mutual growth and i wish i could go to everyone, but my time has expired, and hopefully some of other members will follow up with questions in this regard.
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i'll turn for questioning to representative meuser. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i appreciate it. and to ranking member fitzpatrick. thank you very much, mayors, for joining us this morning. incredibly interesting and informative. thank you. in the -- your cities over the course of the 20th century, survived nazi occupation, soviet communism, we saw uprisings in hungary and prague in 1968, solidarity movement in poland. the revolution in 1989. so today, freedom is, again, under threat. china continues to crack down on hong kong's autonomy and threatens taiwan. russia is cracking down on opposition and threatening various sovereignties of its neighbors. and the militarization of the ukraine border.
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so, mayor hrib, you've been a strong supporter of taiwan and tibet, hosting tibet and taiwanese officials and replacing beijing as prague's sister city with taipei. mr. mayor, how has beijing responded to these actions? >> well, thank you very much, representative meuser, for this question. well, the fact is that, of course, they are trying to threaten us and the logic or narrative -- actually, it's not mainly the narrative that will be -- would be told by them. they are using some sort of proxies to speak up for them. for example, in prague, we have found that a company which is business interests in china,
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because they have a company which sells the mobile phones in installments there, and, by the way, a company owned by the richest czech guy, recently. however, they have created a whole network of politicians, journalists, sort of academical people to support their view of china and they've had these in voices, payments and for the exact -- jot down in this manner and this was all published because it leaked into the media. and in this way, they are trying to form the public opinion. so, for example, their primary narrative is that if we damage the relationship with china, the economy of the whole country will be damaged.
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but specifically in the case of czech republic, i'm not sure about the other countries, but i believe it could be pretty much the same. the business influence of china is actually quite overrated because, for example, the promises of billions for the investment from china into czech industry, but actually only a fraction of them happened and they were not investments, they were acquisitions of already existing sports clubs, breweries and other things. so it was not about investments with know-how transfer or creating new jobs and so on. so when, for example, we have done this trip to taiwan with our chairman of the upper chamber of our parliament, there
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was a huge, huge threat from china about the impact of this trip on the czech economy and the next result was that some chinese company was not -- it canceled their plan to buy 11 pianos from a czech company, which meant a loss of roughly tens of thousands of euros. and these pianos were actually immediately bought by a sponsor of music, of classical music in czech republic and they were donated to schools. so -- >> mayor, i think we're out of time. thank you. i appreciate it. and i yield back, mr. chairman.
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i think you're on mute, mr. chairman. >> they're already muting us. i now -- thank you very much for your testimony and your questioning. and now i turn to the vice chair of the committee, ms. spanberger. >> thank you very much. mr. chairman. i want to say thank you to all of your guests today. thank you for being here and to answer your questions and in your opening statements were extraordinary. these virtual hearings allow us to engage with experts and government officials from around the world, so i appreciate you making the time to speak with us. mr. trzaskowski, i would like to ask you a couple questions to begin with. the united states and poland have a strong security partnership through the nato alliance. but as we know the types of security challenges that localities are facing continue to evolve, so i really would like to hear more about how warsaw is working to build some
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resiliency against the emerging security challenges, be they climate change or cybersecurity or other kind of on the ground physical threats. what efforts are under way to combat these security threats and is there any structure of engagement internationally that exists? >> well, you know, obviously today there are threats of very different nature because we see what's happening on the eastern border of poland where the migratory crisis is being created, helped by lukashenko and his regime. we see what's happening on the border of russia and ukraine and it gives us a lot of grounds to be worried. but for us on the level of the cities, the biggest threats are, of course, the threats of a hybrid nature. the war is now waged differently. first of all, there's a question of our resilience when it
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comes to energy and that's why, you know, if my statements i was so strong about nordstream, and that's we do so much to fight climate change, not only because we have to save the planet but also because we cannot allow russians and others to use energy as a leverage. that's why we invest as much as we can in renewables. that's why we green our cities. that's why we increase the resilience. of course, there's also a problem of cyber security. and, you know, we, the mayors, cannot do a lot because this is a responsibility of the government. but what we try to do, we try to talk to the kids, we try to introduce programs at schools where we teach what manipulation is and how it can be used and to sift information so that students know what they're talking about. unfortunately, this populous government is trying to push all the ngos out of schools because they want to have schools for their own -- for their own purposes where they try to introduce a bit of propaganda.
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so they're pushing out ngos, for example, who teach tolerance or resilience when it comes to cyber. we do what we can. >> interesting. in terms of engagement with companies that might be impacted by cyberattacks or -- what is the -- what is the structure in terms of your ability as the mayor of such a large city to either be part of the education you mentioned to students for issues related to propaganda, how about how to companies and to commerce within your city in terms of the threats that exist online to them. >> well, again, this is a problem which needs to be addressed on the governmental level. i was a minister of digitalization seven years ago. i know this problem pretty well. we in the local government cannot do much, but there's a lot we can do together. at the end of the day when we talk about cyber, we need to collaborate with the nato, within the european union. we need to talk to the big,
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giant american companies when it comes to resilience. i will give you one example. recently, the government used pegasus, this is like a device produced in israel which allows us to catch terrorists, but apple has to actually send a warning to one of our prosecutors that the government in poland is using it against prosecutors. and sometimes there are doubts whether it is using such instruments against the members of the opposition. so we need to address these questions. we need to ask these questions and you also need to ask these questions to the polish government. because there are quite serious doubts about that. there's a question of regulating the big tech companies. we can only do it together. the european union and with the united states of america because we need to protect the free speech and we need to protect the possibilities that, you know, technology gives us. but we need to also be quite worried about cybersecurity and that those capabilities can be used for adverse purposes by populous governments.
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>> thank you for that. my next question, which you actually got to in your answer was focused on how democratic values and human rights we see them across the world are under threat and what the role that cities can have in strengthening and revitalizing some of these principles. you spoke about making sure children are aware of propaganda, essential the example you gave of prosecutors being monitored. i do hope that in the future, mr. chairman, we can talk about how the international community can support cities and leaders as they're working to fight those threats that exist. thank you very much for your answers. thank you to all of the witnesses. mr. chairman, i yield back. >> very much. thank you for your comments on bringing home the point how renewables create energy independence and how critical that is to our security right now. all of these issues overlap.
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i'll turn to representative pfluger for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and i don't want to start this conversation by immediately disagreeing on renewables and energy independence, but what we're talking about here is base load power. base load power -- and i come from a district -- this was not the line of questioning that i was going to start with. my district produces more wind energy than the entire state of california. it's wonderful for the state of texas. but i've had dozen of conversations with -- from the baltic states through central europe and all the way into the balkans and one of the major concerns that i'm hearing from every single country is the malign influence that's being basically held hostage on the energy front. and, mr. chairman, i agree with the need to diversify sources and that's not only a type of
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energy, but it's also the -- where the energy originates from. and so what i would like to focus on and maybe we'll start with dr. trzaskowski. i'd like to hear from all of you. we've had a pledge of $300 million that's been delayed and i want to hear how that would counter the influence that we're seeing in things like the nordstream 2. dr. trzaskowski, over to you. thank you to all the witnesses. i'll start with you but i would like to get to the other witnesses as well. >> pertinent question. very important. i mean, that's the problem that some of those countries actually use energy as a leverage and use energy security to influence the situation in countries such as poland. that's why all of the initiatives that we have mentioned are so important. it is very important to work
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within nato and the european union to counter that, and we have created an energy union. we have created a lot of tools to give us independence. but, unfortunately, you know, there are some decisions on the table which try to sort of go around it. when you -- and when you mentioned the initiative of three cs, fine, that's another initiative which can actually make us a bit more independent, for example, of the chinese influence. they've invented this form of 16 plus one in order to have more influence in the balkans, especially in those countries which are not members of the european union. so it is immensely important for us to use all of those initiatives in order to make us stronger, more resilient and more independent. and at the end of the day, we need to collaborate. we in the european union and, of course, the united states of america, because we are the beacons of freedom, and only us
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working together we can actually counter those malign influences and that's why it's so incredible important that countries such as poland and hungary remain democratic. we cannot have a weak link here. >> thank you for that. and i appreciate the acknowledgement of all of the initiatives, specific three cs countering ccp influence or others. and i'll open it up to anyone who has an opinion on the delay of the funding that has been promised to the tune of $300 million through this three cs. can anyone speak to whether or not that's hurting or how it would help, would be a better way to pose this question? >> well, congressman, i will just say one sentence. i mean, if the european union upholds its commitments as it always does, we're a member of this organization, but if the united states stay committed and help us in investing, then there's no room for other investment.
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no one can show us a carrot and try to say that they have a better idea. that's why it is absolutely crucial that we keep your engagement in europe. then there's no room for anyone else. >> that's the point i'm trying to make. our commitment, it needs to be our commitment. mr. vallo, i don't know if you have any thoughts on this. >> very few words. in all of this, nobody is happy to be forced in the corner by energy crisis, what is happening during these weeks and year. i want to point out that was mentioned by mayor trzaskowski, we are a small nation with our neighbors, we have a much bigger country, so we are completely depend on eu right now and we're completely depend on good collaboration with these
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four countries and our democracy is absolutely necessary for us. >> well, thank you. does anyone in the last 15 seconds have thoughts on lithuania's decision to pull out of the 17 plus 1 and to fully support taiwan? >> well, if i may just say one sentence, of course i support that, that is a thing that is very specific to a certain country and the points of it. for me, as a medical doctor, i would perhaps like to emphasize -- and i'm always emphasizing if i am asked about this question, i would like to support the membership of taiwan in w.h.o. because that is
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something that has been proven, that is a crucial nowadays as we face the global pandemic. as they obviously knew it's coming. they have prepared and their experience is crucial if we look on what the chinese have done and how they basically lied to the world. >> mayor, thank you. mr. chairman, my time is expired. thank you for this hearing, the opportunity with the witnesses giving us their testimony. >> thank you, representative. the chair recognizes representative susan wild for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mayor vallo, you write in your testimony that the climate crisis is also a democracy crisis and the viability of our democracies will be tested by their capacity to face the existential danger of global warming and ability to mitigate its negative impact on your societies. my question is about the intersection of these two challenges.
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we're seeing an alarming tendency of xenophobic leaders on both sides of the atlantic who oppose strong action on the global climate crisis while seeking political gain by demonizing the growing numbers of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers who seek safe harbor, at least in part due to the many direct and indirect ways that the climate crisis is destabilizing their societies. how do you assess this dual crisis and what lessons have you learned from your time as mayor that can help us find solutions particularly when it comes to helping people see through attempts to scapegoat and divide our societies? >> thank you very much. i mean, for me, what i learned for the last three years is that any reform, any -- maybe sometimes -- of course, that
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decision is -- for this is very important to have a trust. the main thing. of course, climate crisis -- today we have data which is saying exactly what is going to happen in the next years and we know everybody who believes data and science know that climate crisis is here. it's happening. but you still have people, you have the president and prime minister, one thing that is not an issue. so the trust to -- the general trust not only in politics but only to the science, scientists in the numbers and everybody who wants to be transparent, and this is what we are doing. it is very small scale. the city of bratislava we are trying to build a good trust and a good relationship with our citizens. >> all right. thank you. and i would like to direct my next question to mayor trzaskowski. sir, you write in your testimony
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the polish public media, the biggest media outlet in our country funded with taxpayer money ceased to be an objective source of information, but, instead, formed a part of the ruling party's propaganda machine aimed at fighting the opposition. this is still your quote. i experienced that during the presidential election in 2020 when all public news programs openly turned against my candidacy, spreading crude propaganda and misinformation at the same time openly supporting my opponent. can you elaborate for us on some of the specific ways that polish public media worked to undermine your candidacy and support the incumbent president. >> well, you understand, you need to understand one thing. the polish public media is first of all funded by taxpayers' money and this is the only channel which can be reached everywhere in poland. other independent channels, by the way, which are under attack
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by the law and justice government, are much more difficult to reach. i'm almost 50. i remember the communist propaganda. it was much more subtle than what they do now on public tv. it's not only my campaign where all the independent institutions said that the campaign in poland was still free, but not fair. because all the outlets were attacking me, presenting manipulations all the time, twisting facts, and, of course, spending much more time covering the president. but it's more that they use it actually to stoke fears, that they've started a vicious campaign against the lgbt plus people. they're saying incredible things about refugees and they're magnifying the threats. the threats are there, let's not minimize them. we need a strong border in eastern poland, but we cannot simply allow for this propaganda
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to spread because manipulations are then spread all around poland and they're using it all the time, constantly, to do that. and that's why it is very problematic in poland to wage a normal, fair campaign because you can spend a small amount of money and all the state institutions, propaganda included, are used against the opposition. and that's why the government is also undertaking, the conservative government, is now undertaking to actually limit the freedom of other independent outlets and press. one example to end this, a state-owned company, an oil company, was asked by the government to buy local press and they bought newspapers in order to kill some of those local newspapers and turn them to the government and, again -- against self-propaganda. >> thank you.
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we are seeing the buying of media outlets throughout our country as well. i'm very sensitive to that. thank you very much, mayor. with that, mr. chairman, i yield back. >> very interesting line of questioning. the chair recognizes representative deutch for five minutes. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. thanks for calling this hearing. thanks to the mayors for participating. i just want to echo what some of our colleagues have said. this is not just an interesting hearing, it is -- it's critical to the way that we think about europe to the way that we think about the challenges in europe and i have to say to all of the mayors who are participating, your words today and the way that you governor and the commitment that you show to liberal democracy is inspiring and i'm really grateful for this opportunity.
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i want to follow up on some of the conversation about the pact of free cities and then the members of the pact of free cities, looking ahead to the summit for democracies that the biden white house is going to be hosting, i would like to know whether or not the pact of free cities is participating in the summit for democracy and what you would like to see as local leaders result from the summit for democracy since in your countries what you're doing is so critical to that effort to sustain democracy. mayor trzaskowski, i guess we can start with you. >> well, the problem today is that if we really want to meet the challenges that are before us head on, you cannot do it without the cities. if you really want to fight climate change, if you want to resolve the problems of
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education, migration, and so on and so forth, we need to do it together. and that's why it is very important to also recognize the role of the cities. and, for example, when our friends in the european union but also in the u.s. are exacerbated by our governments, that's why it is absolutely crucial that we talk to each other, that we keep on supporting the ngos, that we keep on fighting for minorities and that we keep on realizing common priorities. and that's why we decided to actually set up the pact of free cities and that's why very different cities from all around the world, from paris to london to los angeles, are joining because we have the same problems and we're doing the benchmarking. we're learning from one another what to do. we're adopting best practices in order to meet those challenges head on. and that's why i'm very much satisfied that there is a side event on monday that mayors were invited to. i will be there with the mayor
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of jakarta. mayor karacsony? >> since now we hear in the hungarian press today and unfortunately soon in the international press we heard that hungary wasn't invited by the biden administration to the democratic summit. this is a clear signal about the future of democracy. the u.s. would like to talk to countries that are building and not demolishing countries. now the hungarian government is trying to ban the eu to doing this summit and say that the eu cannot represent all countries seems hungary is not invited. this is a rather critical way of
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reasoning. equals himself to the goal of the nation and always says this is presenting all as a government if they are criticized, he always says that every committee -- all of the nation and now it is trying to block the eu participation on this summit and say that you cannot talk on behalf of hungary. when i was invited to this forum, i'm not speaking on behalf of hungary. i try to speak on behalf of the population of budapest and about the values. of course in a democracy, you cannot represent everyone at the same time. but everyone has the right to express their opinion and to the fact that the hungarian
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government is blocking the eu participation in this summit, i think it's a message to all the friends of democracy about the hungarian government's opinion of democracy. and i'm sorry that i have to politicize because of this approach and i ask you not to -- hungary to -- government, thank you. >> your words are very important and very well taken by us. mr. chairman, i don't know if i have time for one quick question. i'll put it on the table. perhaps we'll answer later -- >> because of the delay in the translation, yes, take a little bit more time. >> i appreciate that. i just -- i want to circle back to mayor trzaskowski again one last time. there was a recent restitution law adopted by poland that effectively prevents jewish and non-jewish families from
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receiving restitution for properties received after world war ii. we saw some anti-semitic rallies around poland last month. it was denounced, but i'm wondering if you could speak to what's been done in warsaw to protect the jewish communities with respect to the rise in anti-semitism and whether the jewish community feels safe in warsaw and poland more generally. >> yes. unfortunately, we had those incidents in poland that we're all ashamed of. and it's very good that the president denounced them and they were caught by police and they will be prosecuted. we do everything we can to protect all of the minorities in warsaw and, unfortunately, for example, on our national holiday, independence day, the government allowed for the quasi-fascist organizations to actually take over that day and organize the festivities. and i was in court fighting
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for -- so that these elements could not organize rallies on the streets of warsaw and i won. but the government at the end of the day decided to sort of give an umbrella to some of those elements. and make no mistake, some of those guys are just nationalistic elements. but, unfortunately, the things that they said, of course, should never be condoned. we do everything we can to protect minorities. that's my job. i'm the mayor of the city. we need not to meddle with the efforts of those who get by and protect all of those who are weaker, minorities, senior citizens, people with disabilities. that's what we do, the mission of the local government. >> thank you very much. mr. chairman, i'm going to finish again where i started. this has been an inspiring hearing. i'm so grateful to our witnesses, to these mayors, and i look forward to continuing these conversations to advance democracy in europe and ensure their continuation of the strongest possible liberal democracies. thank you very much. >> i couldn't agree more with the tenor and the remarks and
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the significance of our witnesses' testimony, how inspiring that is. our next member that will have questions is a former mayor, and a person who had a leadership role in our national associations with mayors. and now he's our congressman and he's recognized. it's one of your colleagues. recognized for five minutes. representative cicilline. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you for this hearing and, you know, thank you to these extraordinary mayors for being here and those of us who served as mayors are not at all surprised that mayors are going to save democracy around the world. and just thank you for the cities that they -- the organization that you founded. we always tout cities as the great innovators, the incubators of great ideas, the place in government closest to the people. and so the work that you are doing to preserve democracy around the world is
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extraordinary and really inspiring to hear. and we, as members of congress, want to support you in every way that we can. and so my first question is to mayor trzaskowski, you talked about the vicious campaign against the lgbtq community and, obviously, the diversity of citizens is the great strengths of cities. can you talk about what the government is doing and how we can productively work with you and other cities to help support vulnerable populations, the lgbtq communities, the jewish community, or other marginalized communities. >> congressman, thank you very much for that question. it is very important. warsaw was always a proud city, a proud city of its diversity. we have a huge jewish minority before the war, we had other minorities, german minority and so on and so forth. and we will always fight for diversity in our city. and we are in agreement in all of the cities in poland that
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that's what we need to do and that's why we protect minorities. i was one of the first mayors to sign the lgbt charter in warsaw because i wanted to protect the minority, i wanted to allow for more tolerance in schools, i wanted to actually talk about this subject. we've created, for example, a shelter for people from lgbt community who are thrown out of their houses. and i was viciously attacked by the media, the public media outlet and by the government because they cynically wanted to use it as an argument to fight mayors in poland. and then when i was running a presidential campaign they used it against me because they wanted to stoke up xenophobia and homophobia. for example, the president of the republic was on record saying -- and other officials -- saying that lgbt, those are not people but ideology and so on and so forth. but we will keep on fighting
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because we think that our beautiful city should remain open and transparent and we will not allow anyone to attack our citizens who have full rights. as i said, that's our mission. whoever is attacked in warsaw will be defended by me and by the people who work with me. we will never allow it. and, again, it was just used cynically by the government because they always undertake such attacks when they see or think that they can score some points. >> and may i ask, mayor vallo, whether or not the role of social media, what role is played in terms of disseminating information that has led to the undermining of democratic institutions, the marginalization of minority populations and what role that has played in your country and your city? mayor vallo?
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>> can you hear me? perfect. today we already know that what we thought was going to be for democracy is becoming an instrument for hate. this is what we strongly feel that some social networks are just not protecting the democracy enough, just giving them a stage to do hate speech to people who are pressing hard to minorities. that's happening in slovakia. i see it all around europe. in my case, again, i'm going back to the trust and what we are trying to do is to explain, to communicate and to really show, we have all of the instrument. if we are liberal mayors, let's
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say, we have all the instruments on how to fight it, to show your results, to show the work, the work must be done and that's the only way how we can show people that democracy is working. >> thank you. >> mayor, one last question, mayor karacsony, i had a very interesting conversation when i visited and he said there are three areas of common interests. economist, human rights. i tried to make the case that they're related. would you speak a little bit about the role of the chinese and russian investments in hungary and how that's influencing the trajectory of democracy in hungary and how we can effectively work with you as a mayor of a city to promote democracy and human rights?
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>> translator: what prime minister said is you shouldn't see -- look at what i say but what i do. so this is how you can translate his politics. so he says something that is lip service and he says that he serves human rights and democracy but at the same time you can see that he does everything, what you can see in poland, this attack against different communities, for example, here in hungary, again, there's an attack against certain minorities. it is very important to point out that democracy and pushing it, marginalizing it, and opening towards the russians and chinese, these two go hand in hand. and as i have mentioned earlier,
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the hungarian government is eager to build on the investments from russia and china and obviously it is paid by hungarian taxpayers, but they serve chinese and russian interests and i would like to join your attention that we defended the european union, the commission, there's a representative, a hungarian representative who is responsible for divesting -- extension and they did everything to increase chinese influence there. the budapest/belgrade is closely connected with the thought that china wants to have oversight over critical infrastructure so that they can have access to ports so that they can get chinese goods to europe through
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these ports so they have economic interests and hungary does not have any economic interests here, only those companies which are close to the ruling party. for me, the extension of the european union is very important and -- but at the same time i think the eu and the u.s. should closely follow not only eu countries but also the region where there's a very strong chinese influence. and hungary is something like a trillion -- everything the eu because it wants to represent this influence within the eu and this way they weaken our international alliance. >> thank you so much. thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> mr. mayor, the chair
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recognizes representative titus from nevada for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank you to our mayors. it's been most interesting and very impressive and reassuring as we see democracy backslide in so many parts of the world to hear what you all are doing. we heard a little bit about the harassment of the one presidential campaign. but speaking politically, being such a popular mayor in your city a good stepping stone politically to run for a national office where you might find yourself with some support from over here? >> well, yes, of course, there is this understanding, increasing understanding that democracy at the local level is very important. when you're doing a good job at your hometown or at your regional level, that allows you to actually carry the banner of
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democracy of values, of freedoms further, that's true. >> let me ask you this, in the u.s. with our federal system, there are a number of laws and constitutional provisions and systemic features that make local governments have to cooperate with the federal government. they do some of the implementation, some of the carrying out of policy. sometimes there are too many strings attached it can be both good and bad. you don't seem to have that relationship generally with the national government, but i think in the case of hungary, have you seen some negative impact from this power you're gaining through the pact? in the case of prague and the czech republic, are you seeing something positive coming from the fact that your party is now part of the national coalition? is it really just political or are there systemic things that also affect that relationship? anybody? >> well, i'll just say three
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sentences. the problem is that the national government is treating local governments almost as an enemy. so they're trying to do whatever they can to take away our money. for example, half of the taxes stay in the local government. so now they're changing the tax code in order to actually take money from away from us. it is problematic. even when we fight together the pandemic, we tried to collaborate, but, unfortunately, the government is introducing politics into that as well. that's why, you know, we have to keep on fighting because local governments are so important. >> any other mayor want to comment? budapest mayor? >> translator: unfortunately we have a similar process in the past years. in the past two years since i've been mayor of budapest, our city
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has lost 40% of our income, and this loss was not because of the pandemic, it was mainly because of governmental steps which targeted the drowning of our city. and they do not look at us as a partner who are legitimate partners. they look at us as a challenge and they know it all too well that if the municipality is successful, then it will be visible they are not so strong. they only want to have power and influence politics with such an amount of loss of money, you are just unable to manage that. and for us, next april, the elections are going to be of key importance. a lot of things will be decided
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in april of 2022 in hungary among others. the fate of municipalities. because without money, even the best mayor cannot do anything for the development of the city. >> the pact of cities has -- free cities is growing from four to 20, does this strengthen your power or what -- have you found international partners and things you can work on across lines? even if you can't work with your own governments? >> of course, at the end of the day, today what really counts is access to knowledge, access to facts that we can actually look at the best practices, that we can benchmark together. we're doing it in very different formats as mentioned by the mayor vallo. we were, for example, were fortunate to participate in the initiative but warsaw is the
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only city from the region which is part of the c-40 organization. but the pact of the free cities allows us platform to collaborate and, for example, where we're lobbying within the european union so a small part of the money can be used directly with the local government so it doesn't go through the national government, but we can realize certain projects together, such as, for example, taking the diesel powered buses off the streets of european cities. we're much more effective when we do it with other cities such as london, paris or florence or milan. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i think a lot of this is worth pursuing. it was quite interesting and valuable. >> sorry, if i may add just a short comment on this. actually, i believe that the situation of my colleagues in poland, in warsaw, in in budapest and hungary is much harder than our position here
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judging from the information from them and the situation on the -- with the media and so on and also with the findings. actually, we have experienced recently, that means a year ago, actually a similar situation when the central government had lowered the taxes which would be a good thing. but at first, they didn't have a relevant savings plan, and, second, they actually lowered the taxes that is used for financing the cities. so they basically took the money from us and this is actually how authoritarian regimes start. they take away the money from the cities. that means they are usually subsidy programs, only the friends get the subsidies and if you suddenly became a nonfriend, you were a friend, but you became a nonfriend, that means that probably some audit or some people will come and they will
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try to criminalize you for, for example, some form or problems with the subsidy and there is always something and this is actually, i think, the way -- how authoritarian regimes start and this was a situation that was very, very imminent in czech republic a year ago that we have had opposed that and we had, let's say, at least partially saved the situation. >> interesting. thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, all. >> thank you, representative. the chair recognizes representative costa for five minutes. is representative costa here? i can see him on the screen. representative costa. we'll move to representative schneider. you're recognized for five minutes.
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>> thank you, mr. chairman. and i want to thank all of our witnesses today. not just for sharing your vision, experiences and perspectives, with us in this hearing, but for what you guys are doing collectively and with collectively and with your colleagues in the past. i've been struggling to conceptualize threats to liberal democracy, small "d," and [ inaudible ] populism which is as good a definition of the opposite of liberal democracy as i can think of. and i believe it was the mayor who said that the national governments are treating the cities as the enemy. and the flip side of that is also that the cities and the work you are doing in defending and protecting and nurturing liberal democracy is a challenge
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to those who are seeking your and trying to establish their legitimacy for their nationalist aims. so my broad question for the group is, what do you see as the biggest threats to the ongoing ability of the pack to hold together and to continue to nurture and develop liberal democracy, and second backup question to that is, what can the united states and to the extent that we can be involved as the united states congress do to support your efforts in addition to giving you a forum like we have today? >> well, congressman, if i may, of course we will persevere. we will keep on collaborating. and nothing will change that. but of course, you know, why the local government is under attack in poland and why they're trying to take away money from us, centralize programs then distribute money on political criteria?
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because we're independent. all the independent political institutions are under attack because the current government does not like independent institutions. but we are strong enough, and the civil society is strong enough for us to be effective. but at the end of the day, yes, i mean, they take away prerogatives, they take away the money, but we keep on doing what we're doing. the important thing is, and that's what i said in my opening remarks, is that you need to stay committed. the united states of america, the european union, needs to do whatever we can to support networks such as the pact of free cities or other networks we collaborate with, with, for example, the mayors of the cities of the united states, because we can really do a lot of things together. exchange information and so on. for example, we're working together throughout the pandemic and the information that we had from our american colleagues helped us a lot in managing better our hospitals. so there's a lot we can do,
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helping directly. it's not only a question of money. it's creating fora, supporting institutions and networks that help us do what we do. >> thank you. i don't know if any of the other mayors want to add to that. >> maybe i just want to outline, everything the mayor just said, we're in the same place. it's very, for us, important to keep the cooperation going on. and of course any help from outside, any help for any network that is fighting for democracy in europe as a big help. >> great, thank you. before i go to my next question, mayor vallo, the sign behind you, it always seems impossible until it's done, i love that quote, a variation, quoting former secretary of state condi rice, making the impossible seem
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inevitable in retrospect. that's a challenge we all face in serving our communities and ensuring liberal democracy is the path we can all proceed. let me turn again to mayor -- i'm sorry for butchering your name, but following up on what congressman deutsche touched on, and i appreciate your answer about rising anti-semitism, and we're seeing it not just in europe but across the globe, and very much appreciated your answer. speaking more broadly to the jewish community in poland, and this probably can apply to communities everywhere, what are you saying to the community to tell them that there is a place for them in poland, in poland's future, and that they're safe and secure in their homes? >> yes, thank you very much for that question. i would just add one thing, because you said what the united states can do. i mean, what we are doing in poland and hungary and czech
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republic and other cities, we are supporting the nongovernmental organizations which do a lot of work for us. they fight homophobia. they work with minorities. they help refugees and so on and so forth. that's why we should keep on supporting them. but answering your question, i mean, i wanted to say that poland is one of the safest countries in europe. and when it comes to safeguarding, you know, the rights, the constitutional rights of the minorities, we do whatever we can. and i have to say honestly that there is no agreement of the conservative governments to attack, for example, our jewish minority, that's just not happening. unfortunately sometimes they create an atmosphere in which those nationalistic elements can actually do what they do. but i can assure you that the jewish community in warsaw is safe. we are doing everything to collaborate with them. and of course they're part of our dna, part of our culture in warsaw. and of course they have an
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incredibly important part of our life. that's why we support the museum of polish jews where we show the contribution of polish jews to our nation, to the development of poland. that's why they're springing up, jewish schools in warsaw and other cities and the jewish culture is incredibly vibrant in poland. we'll keep on supporting that because that will give us richness and diversity that warsaw was always so well-known for. and we will keep on doing that, whatever happens. >> thank you, i appreciate that. just in closing, i had a chance to first visit warsaw in 1990, before world war ii warsaw was one-third jewish, that is part of the history of poland. i'm grateful for your remarks. to everybody, thank you again for all you're doing. i look forward to continuing our conversations and working to make sure that we're supporting what you all are doing, but also collaborating to do this work around the world together.
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and with that, mr. chairman, i yield back, and thank you for this hearing. >> thank you, representative. i thank all the committee members that participated. with all that's going on around congress right now, we had an amazing participation from our members, because of the interest of the mayors that were here today. your comments have inspired, informed, and i hope create a continuation of a dialogue that we can have on the important issues, the shared values that we have. while we were here in this hearing, the world goes on. i'll inform you that during this time, the u.s. has announced sanctions against belarus for their actions targeting migrant smuggling and victimization of migrants. and also russia has issued a
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warning of fighting in the separatist donbas separatist region, as they describe it. you can see going ahead the challenges we have in front of us. the threats to security and military action and aggressiveness. the use of economic factors, particularly energy, to break this unity, to break this greatest strength that we share together. our coalition, our trans-atlantic coalition, our european/u.s. coalition for our shared values and for democracy. i hope those that from an authoritarian standpoint realized, and i hope this hearing was greater proof that these type of aggressive actions, these heavy handed
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actions, these authoritarian actions, potentially these military actions, will never be ultimately successful if we hold together in unity and we surround ourselves around the core shared values and beliefs in democracy. and when you look at this from any of those standpoints, the security standpoint, our military standpoint, our economic standpoint, the strong pillars of our major cities remain one of the critical elements of this united strength. so your leadership, what you've said today, your beliefs, your courage in going forward, is not just important to the present, but we will face continued and i'm afraid greater challenges in the near future.
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and this alliance to our trans-atlantic and shared democratic beliefs, which all four of our witnesses displayed today, with great strength and courage, will continue to inspire all of us in this coalition as we go forward. so i can't tell you how much i appreciate the time you've taken, the content of what you've said, the strength of what you've conveyed. strength in democracy and strength that will be, i believe, a bond to the people you represent. because ultimately it's those people in our countries, and we can't fail to recognize this. and i think there were some comments made before about, don't give up on us. we look to your people, as you
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do, as mayors, as the strength. so we look to continue to work together, even given greater challenges we may face. so thank you so much for being here. this is one of the most important hearings that we have had, and it was because of your participation in what you had to say. so i want to thank you and remind the members, we have five days to submit statements, extraneous materials, and questions for the record, subject to the rules of this committee. again, thank you for this important hearing. and with that, this hearing is adjourned. get c-span on the go. watch the day's biggest political events live or on demand any time, anywhere, on our new mobile video app, c-span now. access top highlights. listen to c-span radio. and discover new podcasts, all for free. download c-span now today.


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