tv European Mayors Testify on Democracy CSPAN December 29, 2021 5:15pm-7:01pm EST
moment he went to bed, everything he did was motivated for his devotion to the silver state. he was the man from searchlight, born into the humblest beginnings and went on to lead an extraordinary life and fight for every man and woman across our state." and from nevada's jacky rosen "a former boxer from searchlight, he taught me it is always worth fighting the good fight and i am forever grateful for his friendship. senator reid carried our state to new heights. no one has done more in the history of our state to advance nevada's interests." mayors from four eastern european cities, warsaw, prague, budapest and bratislava testified on capitol hill about threats to democracy abroad. massachusetts congressman bill keeney shared this meeting of the house foreign affairs subcommittee on europe. >> i see we do have a quorum and
thank all our members joining us. i recognize myself for an opening statement. we are holding a hearing today entitled "innovative municipal leadership in central europe." i want to thank you all for being here. i thank our witnesses, given the time zone issues we have, for their participation. it is extremely important. as many of you know, this month is important for the biden administration as they hold a summit for democracy. this event will bring together nations with similar values and principles to share best practices of democratic resiliency. many of the nations invited have made great strides in terms of democratic development, including those in central and eastern europe. after the fall of the berlin wall 32 years ago, the countries
of central and eastern europe made the transition from communism to democracy, to market economies and integrated into the transatlantic community. these countries are now members of the european union, founded on economic integration and values such as freedom of the press, rule of law and an independent judiciary. together they protect the human rights of the citizens while working to ensure access to the fundamentals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. these countries have become strong national security partners of the united states and others members of nato. as such, congress continues to develop and support these security alliances and work with our european partners to address joint security challenges. this is the one advantage we all have together in the face of
more maligned activities in the world today. these countries have become strong national partners and unfortunately in recent years many of my colleagues and i in the transatlantic community have become increasingly concerned with the policies and rhetoric that have emerged in central europe. slovakia, freedom house notes, that "while civil liberties are generally protected, democratic institutions are hampered by entrenched discrimination against the roma community and growing political hostility towards migrants and refugees." they note that political corruption remains a problem. in the czech republic, freedom house asserts several corruption scandals have "hampered normal legislative activity" and that "illiberal rhetoric is
becoming increasingly visible." freedom house believes this disparity in wealth has contributed to "a deep divide between liberal and pro-european parties and those purporting to defend national interests." the law and justice party, which led the government of poland, has encouraged anti-lgbtq plus policies and politicized the judicial system, threatening to reverse much of poland's democratic development and an increase in homophobic anti-semitic rhetoric has field concerns about the safety of -- fueled concerns about the safety of marginalized communities.
finally, since 2019, freedom house has classified hungary as "partly free." hungary is the first eu member state to be designated as partly free. following the election of the prime minister in 2010, the governing entity party published through constitutional legal challenges -- pushed through constitutional legal challenges, rather, doing what freedom house describes, to consolidate control over the country's institutions. these changes hamper the operations of opposition groups, journalists, universities, nongovernmental organizations who criticize the government or that the government finds unfavorable. the european university has
forced to find a new home in austria. employees at the moscow-based investment banks were given diplomatic status. independent journalism has been threatened. the government adopted legislation restricting the rights of transgender individuals, to name a few, concerning policies seen in hungary. there is no doubt of the seriousness of the concerns about democracy. although the scope is different in the u.s. than it is in europe, we are also dealing with threats to our democracy through disinformation and more. notably, freedom house downgraded the u.s.'s global freedom ranking by 11 points over the last decade.
only together as a transatlantic immunity can we tackle many of the problems facing our democracy. to meet these challenges and many others, our four witnesses launched the pact of resistance as an alliance of central european mayors, pledging to protect liberal democracy, recognizing the challenge of democratic development in the region and establishing joint initiatives to solve climate, housing, and social issues that face these cities. the pact since expanded 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 vallo of bratislava, gergely
karacsony of budapest, zdenek hrib of prague, rafal trzaskowski of warsaw. i've invited them to share with us the policies and programs they have initiated in their home cities. we are so proud to have you as 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 prepare for emergencies and innovative solutions to local and global challenges. in the united states during the previous administration, our country moved away from climate change commitments, but local leaders in the u.s. from state and municipal governments rose to the occasion and undertook environmental initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint. like many of our people listening here today, i've read
a lot about the local policies and programs developed by these mayors and i am eager to hear from them. i am proud to have them here today and hear of their successes and failures. i will recognize our ranking member and then call on the mayors in alphabetical order to present their testimony. i now turn to ranking member brian fitzpatrick. >> thank you chairman keating. thanks 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 values form the backbone of the transatlantic bonds
between the united states and its european allies. strength of the nato alliance is inextricably linked and recognized in the brussels-nato summit this year, russia and china are actively leveraging hybrid tactics to subvert western institutions. their course of policies stand and contrast to the fundamental values we share. our like-minded allies need to prove that democracy, not hypocrisy, can provide more for the citizens of the world. i encouragedam -- i am encouraged by some of our witnesses' efforts to stand up to the communist party and the threat it and vladimir putin pose to all our democracies. we have covered many topics in
this committee, from meeting with civil society leaders to defending leader survivors of the ccp concentration camps, your efforts included some of the most pressing issues on our planet. your efforts to strengthen issues with taiwan are incredibly commendable. we encourage you to do that. both the czech republic slovakiaand -- and slovakia recently weck ignite -- recently recognized taiwan's public minister. i want to hear more about standing up to the intimidation of the chinese communist party and what more the transatlantic alliance can do to stand united in the face of their coercive behavior. you faced subversive influence of the chinese communist party.
when the proposed construction of a chinese university threatens to spread beijing's influence, you took a strong stand in opposition. i would like to hear what motivated you to take these stances and we encourage you to do that. you have spoken out on putin's north stream 2. gas must never flow through nordstrom -- nordstream 2's pipeline. firm opposition and clear recognition of the authoritarian threats are necessary to ensure freedom and democracy prevail around the globe. these goals must not be a partisan issue. the destabilizing maligned actions from moscow and beijing and the threats they posted
democracies across the globe demand and deserve our full attention and 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 communist party and putin regime. i yield back. rep. keating: thank you. i will now introduce our witnesses. thank you for being here. thank you for your commitments to democracy. first, mr. vallo is the mayor of press lava -- of bratislava in slovakia. he served in a position since 2018. he is an architect by trade and an urban activist. welcome.
mr. karacsony has served as the mayor of budapest in hungary since 2019. he previously served as the mayor of budapest's 14th district and member of the hungarian parliament. i want to note that karacsony will speak in english for his opening statement, but use simultaneous translation for the question and answer portion of today's hearing. mr. hrib has been the mayor of prague, czech republic since 2 018. he is the first member of the pirate party to be elected a member. mr. trzaskowski is the mayor of warsaw, poland. in 2020, mr. trzaskowski was a civic platform's candidate for the presidency of poland. in 2014, he served as deputy minister of foreign affairs for poland. in 2013 as minister of
administration and generalization. i n -- and digitalization. i now recognize each witness. mr. vallo, i recognize you for your opening statements. mayor vallo: thank you very much. i hope you can hear me. distinguished members of the committee, me and my colleagues, mayors from central european capitals, are honored to have the opportunity to be here today to present our collaborative activities. we created the pact of free cities two years ago. we expressed a clear vision for an alternative to corrupt governments.
we realize the mandate exceeds the boundaries of our capitals. that is a mission we take seriously and we share experience to encourage each other, but also to represent the hopes of our countries abroad, as we are doing today. we are speaking to you at the moment of rising antidemocratic sentiment. across the world, liberal democracy has weakened partly because our leaders are failing to lead. central europe is in the eye of the storm. they are more vulnerable to countries with strong democratic institutions and centuries of democratic traditions.
we are searching for a new identity in the 21st century. we are no longer countries in transition. we are no longer defined by being ex-communists. what societies do we aspire to be? that has not been settled yet. western democracies themselves are under pressure from populists at home. countries have full and victim to the global crisis of democracy -- fallen victim to the global crises of democracy. when we no longer have a clear begin to follow, it became easier for populists. when democrats sell the idea of a positive future, it is often too distant. far right leaders sell the idea of hate, which is immediate, almost tangible.
when the tough gets going, that is what the mayors on the screen in front of you have done. we believe the best way to represent democracies is through experience. when people experience freedom on the local level, it seems to be a destination which may never be reached. it is here now, if cities can have trust in public institutions, why should the nation not have the same? that is what we do. we stand as an example. where governments are failing, the cities and regions continue to be islands of freedom, not only serving their cities, but serving as an example to others in our nation.
due to our intertwined history, we can stand together stronger as mayors and offer each other solidarity, mutual support, and collaboration in good times and bad. we in slovakia face a difficult situation over our colleagues in hungary and poland who stand for the basic pillars of democracy because we know democracy is something we must stand up for together. in 2020, the general election and slovakia, a tragic murder of a journalist and his fiancee. the slovak people clearly rejected the sitting government with its close ties to corruption. the new coalition is committed to high standards. unfortunately, the reality of governance, especially the
covid-19 pandemic, is proving that the anticorruption agenda is not enough for effective leadership of the country. that is why i strongly believe that it is the building of trust that leads us through the tough times and it is extremely important to invest in it. if we as leaders renew the trust of our democratic institutions, our cities could mediate and implement a key cultural change, and crises can be overcome through a completely new political culture and profound changes to the way of life and thinking of our society. let's stand in this uneasy fight
for democracy and positive future together. thank you very much for your attention. rep. keating: thank you. i will now turn to mr. karacsony . you are now recognized for your opening statement. mayor karacsony: ranking members, distinguished members of subcommittee, i am honored to speak with you today on behalf of the people of budapest. today i speak about the decline of democracy in hungary, but also the mess in hungary and internationally to safeguard democratic principles. honorable members, the global financial crisis in 2008 hit very hard in hungary.
over social discontent, a new form of hybrid regime. the government forced new institutions and occupy the media. the government broke with hungary's pro-european orientation. it declared an opening to the east and drastically increased cooperation with russia and china. hungary's most expensive public investment projects both serve the interests of these countries. the budapest-belgrade railway out of the belt and road initiative is being financed by i chinese loan. similarly, a nuclear power plant is financed by russia, serving russian interests. details of both contracts are kept secret.
the government also employs putin's methods. the speaker of the national assembly told hungary services that the opposition is the greatest threat in hungary. their actions speak just as loud as their voice. from 1918, spyware has been used against hungarian journalists and opposition politicians. honorable members of congress, there is hope. i assure you that the hungarian government's 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 when the democratic opposition won key positions in budapest and many other cities and towns.
when in these cities and towns became more difficult because the central government chose to finance opposition governments, yet we managed to showcase the value of democratic respectful and inclusive governance to hungarian citizens. this together with the democratic opposition running together from the first time in more than a decade provide us with a unique opportunity to defeat nationalist populism next year and restore hungary in the transatlantic alliance. we believe that cities where democracy was born have a responsibility to protect and improve it. we are proud to represent and
say no to tribalism and inspire livable, equitable, and truly democratic future. recognizing the challenges that our industry is based on, the central eastern european region, we decided to expand our alliance. cities are answering our call. earlier this year, 21 city leaders from all over the world signed to the new pact. more will be joining soon. the pact stands ready to work with american cities in the u.s. congress to adjust to the threats that undermine democracies. thank you for your attention. rep. keating: thank you for those very significant statements. we look forward to questions as we go forward.
i'll now turn to mr. hrib. you are now recognized for your opening statement. mayor hrib: chairman keating, ranking member fitzpatrick and distinguished members of the subcommittee, it is a great honor that you have invited me to speak at this platform along with my colleagues from central european capitals. i am happy to provide a few remarks on the state of democracy in the czech republic and on the role of cities in defendant global democratic principles and human rights. considering the increasing urbanization worldwide, it is inevitable that cities are important stakeholders in defending freedom and democracy. we brought prague, budapest,
bratislava warsaw together. just to name a few examples from the czech republic, in the previous decade, the governments of a business tycoon was accompanied by an unprecedented conflict of interest. his way of governing and his scandals undermine the rule of law, press freedom, and other crucial democratic values. the president brought the czech republic closer to china and russia and foreign policy experienced a diversion from the human rights agenda. as the fear of migration became a topic used by populist politicians, i became the mayor of prague. one of my aims was to restore prague's reputation as a liberal and progressive city, a local
leader in tackling climate change. i was strongly promoting these values domestically in opposition to the national government. i had been actively voicing concerns over violations of human rights, for this is the moral duty of liberal democratic politicians, supporting the diversity of democratic opposition. we fostered a relationship with taiwan and taipei. just a few weeks ago, the general assembly -- i had the privilege to meet survivors from concentration camps. i was horrified to hear what they had experienced. i would like to use this opportunity to call on the international community to work on ending these concentration camps of forced labor, forced organ harvesting and 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 exert influence on the municipal level. currently czech republic is going through a political change. the populist government is being replaced. a new coalition is pledging to restore democratic principles. that does not mean prague will be less dedicated to the mission of the pact of free cities. on the contrary, our experience with the previous populist government is a reminder of the fragile nature of democracy. there is a lot of work ahead in order to strengthen these values in our society.
prague is ready to keep supporting our partners. in addition to the original names, i see an important task for the pact nowadays. we should make a link between human rights and the crucial contemporary global challenge of climate change. in september 2022, prague will be hosting the pact of free cities summit during the czech republic's eu presidency. this will be an opportunity to bring all the members cities of this growing alliance together to voice our readiness to fight for democracy, human rights, and a fairer, greener, and more resilient society. before i conclude, i would like to quote the former mayor of denver. he said the 20th century was a century of nationstates and the 21st century will be the century of cities.
i would like to modify this 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. rep. keating: thank you. i now turn to mr. trzaskowski. you are now recognized for your opening statement. mayor trzaskowski: distinguished members of the subcommittee, on november 9, 1989, the congress was addressed with a we the people speech. the populist government in poland is trying to wipe out liberalism from history books. can you believe that? it is only because of the courage of our teachers that polis children still learn about -- polish children still learn about our heroes.
as european polls clearly demonstrate, if the opposition were to be united, it would win the next parliamentary election. members of congress, poland is a battlefield between freedom and authoritarianism, between democratic society and the populist government that tries to politicize the institutions meant to control the excesses of unbridled government power. in a state so volatile, the russians are massing troops on the ukrainian border, the kremlin is weaponizing energy policy and the transatlantic community cannot afford to have a weak link in our part of europe. regrettably, i must confirm the negative developments taking place in our country enumerated by the chairman.
regardless of what the populist government of poland claims, the knowledge of these developments is well known and is a source of concern for the friends of polish democracy. i confirm that most importantly the constitutional tribunal has been turned into a partisan party that rubberstamps the actions of the government. the government unleashed a vicious media campaign against the lgbtqi community and is trembling over women's rights with -- trampling over women's rights with an antiabortion law. they issued a ruling undermining our membership in the european union. the polish media became a blunt propaganda instrument of the government party, at the same time trying to limit independent media. the government also restricts the prerogatives of local communities, excessively centralizing power in natanz. -- in its hands.
the overwhelming majority of poles have not given up their fight. we have seen hundreds of thousands gather on the streets of poland to protest against the government. the measures described above have been met with a staunch opposition to civil society. the freedom loving will of the poles has not been broken. honorable members of congress, i would like to appeal to you with 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, ngo's and local government initiatives, and above all don't lose hope for poland because the democratic forces will be back. members of congress, illiberal democracy is an oxymoron. you either stay true to the
values of democracy or slide into authoritarianism. we must protect democracy together. the u.s. engagement in europe and poland guarantees our peace, freedom, and democracy. the chair man is absolutely right. slovakia was created in europe. we need a strong eastern flank called the north european alliance, inoculated against manipulation and propaganda. we see our membership in nato and the eu as a guarantee of our independence. that is why we treat the commitments to overall security of the continent in the world so seriously. but solidarity of all partners is required in the face of serious threats. that is why i strongly urge u.s. congress to prevent russia from having leverage against eu nato members in the form of nordstream 2 and institute
further sanctions. honorable members of congress, regardless of what happens in poland today, don't lose hope. i remain confident poles will be back as a proud and democratic member of the transatlantic community. we the signatories of the pact of free cities remain committed to uphold democratic values, protect minorities and realize the ambitious goals of the western community. whatever the government is not doing, we are doing it. we teach in poles. we prioritize women's rights. we support ngo's. we seriously fight for climate change. that is what the proud citizens of warsaw and poland expect from us. thank you very much. rep. keating: thank you very much. be assured we are not giving up
in poland. we understand how important our relationships are. be assured too that all of your testimony here had a common thread of making sure that basic democratic freedoms are our core and strength. we certainly have security needs together, and under greater threats than we have seen in decades, yet democracy and our security needs don't travel indifferently, they travel together. your opening statements indicate how important that is going forward, so i thank you for your testimony. i will recognize members for five minutes each in pursuant to house rules. all time yielded is for the purpose of questioning our witnesses. because of the virtual format, i will recognize members by
committee seniority, alternating between democrats and republicans. if you miss your turn, let our staff know and we will circle back to you. if you seek recognition, you must unmute your microphone. i will now recognize myself for five minutes with questions. i thank all of you for the work you are doing. and your terrific examples of how the importance of major cities, municipalities, and obviously their importance to the surrounding community cities, how important that is. you raised issues of transparency and freedoms of the press, basic human rights issues, all cores to what we are dealing with. you understand that these are not issues that end at city
barriers. they transcend not only the cities to the suburban areas, through the country as a whole, but globally. i've noticed your work and the pact of free cities' work on climate change. in our country in the last 4.5 years, as we reneged on some of our commitments globally, which we have not moved forward to reconstruct -- now moved forward to reconstruct. i'd ask all of you just to jump in to talk about the work you have done on climate change, how your work has been so important and transformative and how it translates to the people you represent. perhaps i will start with mr. vallo and then the others can jump in.
mayor vallo: i am having a lot of support in the united states, as mayor of warsaw, a city leader and initiative. we take a lot of know-how from different american cities as well. one of the main things for us to fighting climate change is everything green. we have this program called 10,000 trees. i know it is not one billion trees like in new york city, but we are planting a lot of trees. we know the effect of trees today, not only scientifically, we know what is happening to rainwater, but also very important for the health of our cities. this is one of the programs.
we are working in a lot of public space. we had a complete removal of public space in bratislava. that is important for us. our minorities, we have spent a lot of effort and energy to try to ensure everybody can own a bed for the night. that is very important for us. we try to go with this already working agenda of other cities which are maybe more years in the game and trying to follow good examples. rep. keating: thank you so much. i would like to see if mr. trzaskowski -- i wanted to reassure him, we had him as a
witness in this committee a couple years ago. i saw him connect to younger people ehre, as he did back home. the climate change issue also connects generations. what have you been doing? mayor trzaskowski: i was working on capitol hill for months. when it comes to fighting climate change, our conservative government of poland is very lukewarm towards the idea of global warming. they say they have taken commitments, but unfortunately they are not diligent in implementing them. the cities have to do it on our own. i declare that warsaw will be carbon neutral by 2050, even with our very difficult energy
mix. we are doing a number of things in warsaw. raising awareness, prioritizing public transportation. we invest billions of euros in public transportation. we are greening our cities. we are eliminating coal powered stoves. we are helping citizens in using renewables and paying for that, too in quite a lot in order to meet the priorities of the european union and the world. we have to take some of that responsibility ourselves. rep. keating: thank you. i make note that our secretary of energy for the united states, one of her first stops was in poland. it opens the door around the world for important cooperation between the u.s. and particularly our transatlantic allies, which will create not just a greener environment, but more jobs and more independence security-wise from the powers
that don't share our values. there is a tremendous opportunity in this area for mutual growth. i wish i could go to everyone, but my time has expired. hopefully some of the other members will follow up for questions in this regard. i will now turn for questioning to representative user. thank you mr chairman i appreciate it and to the ranking member fitzpatrick. uh thank you very much mayors for us this morning incredibly interesting and informative thank you. your cities over the course of the 20th century of course survived nazi occupation
soviet communism throughout the soviet area we saw uprisings notably in hungary in prague in 1968 the solidarity movement poland the pelvic revolution 1989 brought an end to communism in czechslovakia. so today freedom uh is again under under threat uh china continues to crack down on hong kong's autonomy and threatens taiwan russia similarly is cracking down on opposition and threatening various sovereignties of its neighbors and the militarization of the ukraine border so mayor harab you've been a strong supporter of taiwan at tibet hosting tibetan and taiwanese officials and and replacing beijing as prague sister city with taipei. so mr mayor how has beijing
responded to these actions? >> well uh thank you very much uh representative moser for this question. well the fact is that of course they are trying to threaten us and the logic or their narrative or 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 so for example in prague we have found that a company which is business interests in china because they have a company which sells the mobile phones on installments there and is by the way company
owned by the richest czech guy this is recently however they have created a whole network of politicians journalists, sort of academical people to support their view of china and and they've had these invoices payments and for the exact job done in this matter and this was all published because it leaked into the
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 but specifically in case of czech republic i'm not sure about the other v4 countries but i believe it could be pretty much the same. the business influence of china is actually quite overrated because uh 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. there were many 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 uh trip to taiwan with our chairman of the upper chamber of our parliament . >> i think i think we're out of time uh i yield back mr chairman mr chairman >> i now turn thank you very much for your testimony and >> i want to say thank you to all of our guests today thank you for being here uh and to answer our questions and in your opening statements were extraordinary . these virtual hearings really do 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 czeskowski i'd like to ask you a couple questions um 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'd really like to hear more about how warsaw is working to build some resiliency against the emerging security challenges be they climate change or cyber security or other kind of on the ground physical threats what efforts are underway in bursa to combat these security threats and and is there any structure of engagement internationally that that exists? >> well you know i mean obviously uh today there are threats of very different nature because we see what's happening on the eastern border of poland
where you know the migratory crisis is being created or helped by lukashenko. we also see what's happening on the border of russia and ukraine and of course it gives us a lot of grounds to be worried. for us on on the level of the cities you know the biggest threats are of course the threats of a hybrid nature because you know the the the war is now waged differently. so first of all there is a question of our resilience when it comes to energy and that's why you know i in my introductory statements i i was so strong about nordstrom. that's why we do so much to fight climate change uh not only because we have to save the planet but also because we uh cannot allow uh russians and others to use energy as 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 but of course there's also a problem of
of cybersecurity. and you know we the mayors we cannot do a lot because this is this is a responsibility of the government. 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 and and to sift information so that students know what they're talking about. unfortunately this populist government is trying to uh push all the ngos out of schools because they want to to have schools for for their own for for their own purposes where they try to uh introduce a bit of propaganda so they're pushing out ngos who for example teach tolerance or teach resilience when it comes to cyber we do what we can. >> interesting in in terms of um engagement with companies that might be impacted by cyber attacks are what is the struck 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 to students for issues
related to propaganda but how about to to companies and to commerce within your city in terms of the threats that exist online to them? >> well again you know this is a this is a problem which which needs to be addressed on the governmental level i was a minister of digitization you know seven years ago so i know this problem pretty well. we own the local government we cannot do much but there's a lot we can do together because at the end of the day when we talk about cyber we need to collaborate within nato within the european union. we need to talk to the big giant american companies when it comes to resilience i will just give you one example. recently the government used the pegasus uh this is like a device produced in israel which allows to catch terrorists but apple had to actually send a warning to one of our prosecutors that the government in poland is using it against prosecutors. 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 uh to the
polish government. they're quite serious doubts about that and of course there is 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 cyber security and that you know those capabilities can be used for adverse purposes by populist governments . >> thank you for that yeah my next question which you actually got to in your answer was focused on how democratic values and human rights we we see them across the world are under threat and what the role that that cities can have in strengthening and revitalizing some of these principles you you spoke about making sure children are aware of propaganda certainly the example that you gave of prosecutors being monitored um you know i do hope that in the future mr chairman we can talk about how the international community can
support cities and and um and leaders like mayor chesky as they're working to fight those threats that exist so thank you very much for your answers thank you to all the witnesses mr chairman i yield back. >> thank you for your comments on bringing home the point uh how renewables create energy independence and how critical that is to our security right now all these issues overlap. turn to representative fluger 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 baseload power . base load power and and i come from a district i'm sorry this was not the uh the line of questioning i was gonna start with but
my district produces more wind energy than the entire state of california and and it's wonderful for the state of texas but i've talked i've had dozens of conversations with from the baltic states through central europe uh and all the way into the balkans. and one of the 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. mr chairman i agree with with the need to diversify sources uh and that's that's not only the type of energy but it's also the where the the energy originates from and so what i'd like to focus on
and maybe maybe we'll start with with dr. but i'd like to hear from all of you on the three season initiative. you know we've had a pledge of a billion dollars uh 300 million an initial tranche that's been delayed and i kind of want to hear how that would counter the influence that we're seeing in things like the nordstrom 2 pipeline. dr >> thank you for for all the the witnesses but i'll start with you and then like to get to the other witnesses as well >> a pertinent question very important i mean that's the problem that some
of of those countries actually use energy as a leverage and use energy security to influence the situation in in countries such as poland and that's why all the initiatives that we have mentioned are so important. it is very important to work within nato and within the european union to counter that and to we have created an energy union we have created quite a lot of tools to give us independence but unfortunately you know there are some decisions on the table which which try to sort of go round it and when you when you mention the initiative of of three c's fine that's another initiative which can actually make us a bit more independent for example of the chinese influence you know they've invented this form at 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's immensely important for us to use all of those initiatives in order to make us stronger more silent 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 america because we are the beacons of freedom and only us working together we can actually counter those malign influences and that's why it is so incredibly important that countries such as poland and hungary remain democratic we here. we cannot have a weak link here. >> well thank you for that and i appreciate the acknowledgement of of all the initiatives specifically 3cs countering ccp influence or or others so um and i'll just open it up at this point um to anyone that has an opinion on the delay of the the funding that has been promised to the tune of 300 million dollars um through this three seas can anyone speak to whether or not that's hurting. or how how it would help would be a better way to pose this question. >> well congressman
i will just say one sentence i mean if uh the european union upholds its commitments as it always does because we are a member of this organization but if the united states stay committed uh and help us in investing then there is no room for other investment no one can you know uh show us a carrot and and and try to say that they have a better idea that's why it is absolutely crucial that you keep your engagement in europe then there is no room for anyone else. trying to make is that our commitment it needs to be our commitment mr valo just over to you i don't know if you have any thoughts on this >> just very very few words i mean in all of these i mean nobody's happy to be forced in the corner by by energy crisis that's what was happening during these weeks in here and i mean i want to point out the word mayor trashkowski already mentioned it's collaboration that's only way
how we're going to survive we are the small nation uh here we with our neighbors which are a much bigger country as a hungary poland also czech republic so we are completely depend on on eu right now and we are completely depend on good collaboration uh with these v4 countries their democracy is absolutely necessary also for us . >> well thank you uh does anyone in the last 15 seconds have any thoughts on with the weenie's decision -- lithuania's decision to pull out of the 17.1 plus one and to fully support taiwan? well uh if i may uh just say one sentence of course i uh support that but uh that is a thing that is very very always 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 always emphasizing that if i'm asked about this question about supporting taiwan i would like to support the membership of taiwan in who because that is 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 had chinese done and how
they basically lied to the world. >> thank you mr chairman my time has expired but thank you for this hearing the opportunity with the witnesses giving us their testimony thank you representative the chair recognizes representative susan weil >> thank you mr chairman uh mayor valo 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 our societies. my question is about the intersection of these two challenges we are 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. what i have learned from the last three years is that any reform, and sometimes -- decision the must is for it's important to have trust for our citizens. that's the main thing and of course the climate crisis today we have data we just think exactly and science knows that climate crisis is here and it's happening, but you still have to -- the president and prime minister saying it's not an issue. the general trust not only in our politics, but only to the scientists and the numbers and and everybody wants to be transparent is absolutely
pivotal here and this is what we are doing in a very small scale. were trying to build good trust and relationship with the citizens. >> i would like to direct my next question. you write in your testimony the published pump -- polish public media is 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 parties propaganda machine aimed at fighting the opposition. you said i experienced that during the presidential election in 2020 when all public news programs openly turned against my candidacy spreading crude propaganda and misinformation and at the same time openly supporting my opponent. can you elaborate on some of the specific ways the polish public media work to undermine your
candidacy and to support the incumbent president? >> you understand one thing. the polish public media is funded by taxpayer money. this is the only channel that can be reached everywhere in poland. other independent channels which are under attack by the law and justice government are much more difficult to reach. i am almost 50, so i remember the communist began to. it is much more subtle than what they do now on public tv. it's not only my campaign where all of the institutions said the campaign in poland was still free, but not fair. all of the outlets were attacking me, presenting manipulations over time twisting facts and spending much more time covering the president. it's more that they use it to
stoke fears. they have started a vicious campaign against the lgbt plus people. they are saying incredible things about refugees and their magnifying the threats. the threats are there, let's not minimize them. we cannot allow for this propaganda to spread because manipulations are being spread all around poland. they are using all the time constantly to do that. that's why it is very problematic in poland to wage a normal campaign because you can spend just a small amount of money and all the state institutions, propaganda included, are used against the opposition. that is why the government is up -- undertaking the peace government because the populist government is undertaking to limit the freedom of other independent outlets and
oppressed. one example. a state owned company, an oil company was asked i the government to buy local -- and they bought newspapers in order to kill some of the local newspapers and turn them to the government and against propaganda. >> thank you, we are seeing the buying of media outlets route our country as well. i am very sensitive to that. with that, you'll back. -- i yield back. >> an interesting line of questioning. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for calling this hearing and to the mayors for participating. i think this is not just an interesting hearing, it is critical to the way we think
about europe, the way we inc. about the challenges in europe and i have to say to all of the mayors who are per dissipating, your words and the way you govern and the commitment that you show to liberal democracy is inspiring. i am very grateful for this opportunity. i want to follow-up on some of the conversation about the pact free cities and the members looking ahead to the summit for democracies that the biden white house is going to be hosting. i would like to note that the pact are free cities are participating and what you would like to see from the summit for democracy since your countries, what you are doing is so critical to the effort to
sustain democracy. >> the problem today is that if we want to meet the challenges before us head on, you cannot do it without the cities. if you want to fight climate change, if you want to resolve problems of education, much -- migration, we need to do it together. that's why it is very important to recognize the role of the cities. for example, our friends in the eu but also in the -- are exacerbated by our government, that is why is not only crucial that we talk to each other, that we keep on supporting the ngo's that we keep fighting for minorities and we keep on realizing common priorities. that's why we decide to set up the free cities. very different cities around the world are joining because we
have the same problems. we are doing the benchmarking, we are learning from one another what to do. we are stopping the practices to meet the challenges head-on. that's why i am satisfied that there is -- on monday that the mayors were invited to. i will be there with other mayors. >> thank you for the question is especially important for hungary since now here in the hungarian press today soon in the international press we heard that hungry was not invited to this democratic summit. i assume this is the clear signal about the future of democracy the u.s. would like to
talk with countries who are building and abolishing democracy. now the hungarian government would like to ban the eu to join this summit and say that the eu cannot represent all countries seems that hungry is not invited. this is typical reasoning. [indiscernible] the government if they are criticized every criticism is directed to the whole of the nation. now it is trying to block the people to on this summit and to say that the eu cannot talk on behalf of hungry. i was invited to this forum.
i do not speak on behalf of hungry. i try to speak on behalf of the population of would have post -- the population of the past. at the same time, everyone has expressed their opinion and the fact that the government participation of the summit has been a message to all the friends of democracy about the hungarian government opinion on democracy. i am sorry that i have to apologize because of this approach and i ask you not to equal hungry to the government. >> your words are very important and very well taken by us. esther chairman, i don't know if i have time for a quick question.
>> because of the delay in the translation, yes take a little bit more time. >> i appreciate that. i want to circle back one last time. there was a recent -- adopted by poland that prevents jewish and non-jewish families persecuted by the nazis from receiving restitution for properties seized. we saw rallies last month. the president denounced those, but i wonder if you could speak to what is being done in warsaw to protect the jewish communities specifically in response to the rise in anti-semitism and whether the jewish community feels safe in warsaw and poland more generally. >> unfortunately, we had those incidents we are all ashamed of. it is good that the president denounced them. they were caught and they will be persecuted -- prosecuted.
we do what we can to protect the population in warsaw. on our national holiday, they tried to take over that day and organize the festivities. i was in court fighting so these elements could not organize rallies on the streets of warsaw and i want. -- i won. the government at the end of the day decided to sort of given an umbrella to some of the elements and make no mistake, some of the guys are just nationalistic elements. unfortunately, the things that they said of course should never be condoned.
everything we can to protect minorities. that's my job on the mayor of the city. you know we need to not meddle with the affairs of those who get by and protect all of those who are weaker minorities. senior citizens, people disabilities, that's what we do. that's our mission and the mission of the local government. >> i'm going to finish again just where i started. this is been 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 to ensure the continuation of the possible liberal democracies. i think you very much. >> thank you very much for this hearing. thank you to these extort name mayors for being here.
those of us who served as mayors are not at all surprised that mayors are going to save democracy around the world. that the organization you founded, we always tout cities as the great incubators of new ideas. the work you are doing to preserve democracy around the world is extraordinary and inspiring to hear. we want to support you in every way we can. you talked about the vicious campaign against the lgbtq community. also the diversity in cities. can you speak about what the national government was doing and how we can productively work with you and other cities to help support vulnerable populations? whether it be lgbtq, jewish community, or other marginalized populations?
>> inc. you for that question. warsaw was always a proud city. a huge jewish minority throughout the war. we have other minorities. we will always fight for diversity in our city. we are in agreement and all the cities and poland that is what we need to do. that's why we protect minorities. i was one of the first mayors to sign the lgbtq charter in warsaw because i wanted to protect the minority. i wanted to allow for more tolerance in schools. i wanted to talk about the subject we have created for example a shelter for people who are just thrown out of their houses. i was viciously attacked by the media, the public media outlet and the government because they wanted to use that as an argument to fight mayors in poland.
the president and other officials saying that lgbt is not people but ideology and so on and so forth. we will keep on fighting because we think that our beautiful cities should remain open and transparent and we will not allow anyone to attack our citizens who have full rights. that is our mission. whoever is attacked in warsaw will be defended by me and the people who work with me. we will never allow it. it was just used cynically by the government because they always undertake such attacks. when they can -- where they see that they can score some points. >> 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 and what role that his plate inner-city? >> -- what role that has played in your city? >> today, we already know that what we thought was going to be a better democracy is becoming for hate. we strongly feel that social networks are just not protecting democracy enough giving a stage to hate speech, to populism, and to people who are pressing hard to minorities.
that is happening around all of europe. in my case, again i'm going back to the trust with the citizens. what we're trying to do is to explain to communicate and to really show we have all the instruments. we are liberal mayors. we have all the instruments to fight it to show our -- the work must be done. and how we can show people the democracy is working. >> thank you. >> mayor -- i hope i'm pronouncing that ok. i had a very interesting conversation with the prime minister when i visited and he said we have three bam -- three areas of common interest. i tried to make the case that two out of three was not enough.
would you speak about the role of the chinese and russian investments in hungary and what that is doing to the trajectory of democracy in hungary and how we can effectively work with the u.s. and mayors of cities to promote human rights? >> you shouldn't see look at what i say, but what i do. this is how you can translate it. he says something that is lipservice and he says that human rights and democracy, but at the same time you can see that he does everything but he can see and poland these attacks against different communities but here in hungary again there
is an attack against functional minorities. it is very important to point out that democracy and pushing marginalizing and opening to what the russians and chinese -- these go hand-in-hand. as i have mentioned earlier, the hungarian government is eager to build a stronger russia and china and it has paid the hungarian taxpayer. i would like to draw your attention to the fact that the eu -- there's a hungarian representative who is responsible. they did everything to increase
chinese influence there. budapest is closely connected. china wants to have oversight of critical infrastructure so that they can have access and support so they can get chinese boots to europe through these ports. so they have economic interest and hungary does not have any economic interest here only those companies which are close to the ruling party. for me, the extension of the eu is very important. at the same time, i think the eu and the u.s. should closely follow not only eu countries but also the -- region that has a very strong chinese influence. hungary is something like --
because it once represented the influence of the eu and -- the international alliance. >> i yield back. >> the chair recognizes the represented from nevada for five minutes. >> thank you and thank you to our mayors. it has been reassuring as we see democracy backslide in so many parts of the country to hear your values and what you all are doing. we hear a lot about harassment, but speaking politically is -- as being such a popular mayor being a good steppingstone, you
might find support from here. >> there is increasing understanding that democracy at the local level is very important. at your hometown or your regional level that allows you to carry the democracy, yes that is true. >> there are number of laws and constitutional provisions and systemic features that make local governments have to cooperate with the federal government. sometimes they're too many strip -- strings attached. you don't seem to have that relationship generally with the national government. in the case of hungary, have you seen some negative impact from
this power you're are gaining and 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 corp. ash coalition? is it political or are there systemic things that affect the relationship? parks >> the problem is the national government is treating local governments almost as an enemy. they're trying to do whatever they can to take away our money. half of the taxes stay in the local government. now, they are changing the tax code to take money away from us. it is problematic. even though we fight together, we try to collaborate but the government is introducing politics into that as well. that's why we have to keep fighting, because the government so important.
>> any other mayor wanting to comment? >> we have similar in the past years. in the past two years since i have been mayor of budapest, our city has lost 40% of our income. this loss was not because of the pandemic, it was mainly because of government attacks which targeted our city. they do not look at us as a partner who are legitimate partners. they look at us as power challenged. they know it all too well that in the minister these are successful they are not so
strong. they only want to have power. they want to influence politics. with such an amount of money, you are unable to manage that. for us, the elections are going to be of key importance. a lot of things will be decided in hungary. without money, even the best mayor cannot do anything for the development of the city. >> now that the pact of cities is growing from four to 20, does this strengthen your power or -- find international partners and worry -- work across lines even if you can't work within your own governments? >> >> of course.
at the end of the day, what really counts is access to knowledge, access to facts that we can look at the best practices that we can benchmark together. we are doing it in a different form as mentioned by -- we were fortunate to work as part of the harvard initiative. the pact of the three cities allows us apply from to collaborate. we are lobbing -- lobbying within the eu so 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 projects together such as taking -- off the streets of european cities. we would be much more effective when we engage with other cities such as london or paris or florence or malone. -- milan. >> mr. chairman, i think a lot
of this is worth pursuing. >> if i may add, i believe that the situation in poland, budapest, hungary is much harder than our position judging from the information from them and the situation with the media and so on. we have experienced recently that means a year ago a similar situation. at first, they didn't have a relevant savings plan. they actually lowered the taxes used for financing the cities. they basically took the money from us and this is how the authoritarian regimes start. they take away the money from
the cities. that means that they are subsidy programs. only the friends guard the subsidies. if you become a non-friend, that is probably some audit or some people will come and they will try to criminalize you for example some formal problems. this is i think the way authoritarian regimes start. this was the situation that was very eminent in the czech republic a year ago. we have opposed to that. we had at least partially saved the situation. >> thank you. >> thank you.
>> is the representative here? recognized for five minutes. >> i want to thank all of our witnesses today not just for sharing your perspectives in the hearing, but for what you guys are doing collectively and with your colleagues in the past. i have been struggling to conceptualize the threats to democracy. earlier in the conversation, the term nationalist populism which is as good a definition opposite
liberal democracy as i can think of. i believe it was one mayor who said the national governments are treating the cities as the enemy. the flipside of that is also that the cities and the work you are doing in defending and protecting and nurturing liberal democracy is a challenge to those who are seeking power and trying to establish their legitimacy for their national gains. i question for the group is what do you see as the biggest threats to the ongoing ability of the pact to hold together and to nurture and develop democracy and the backup question is what can the united states to the extent that we can be involved do to support your efforts?
>> if i may, we will persevere. we will keep collaborating. nothing will change that. why the local government is under attack in poland and why they're trying to take away money from us, they distribute money according to political criteria. because we are independent. all of the independent institutions are under attack. the current government does not like independent institutions. we are strong enough and the civil society is strong enough for us to be affected. at the end of the day, they take away prerogatives and the money but we keep doing what we are doing. the important thing is that's what i said in my opening remarks, you need to stay committed. united states of america, the eu, and we need to do whatever we can to support networks such as the free cities or other networks that we collaborate with. with for example the mayors of
the cities of the united states. we can do a lot of things together. exchange information. working together throughout the pandemic and the information that we have from our american colleagues helps us a lot in managing our hospitals. there's a lot we can do. it's not only a question of money, it's a question of supporting institutions or networks that help us do what we do. >> thank you. if any of the mayors want to add to that? >> i just want to outline on everything the mayor just said. we are on the same place. for us it is very important to keep the cooperation going on. any help from outside, any help to any network which is fighting
for democracy here in europe is a big help. >> thank you. before i go to my next question, i love that quote a variation from our former secretary of state. 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 the mayor, i'm sorry for butchering your name. following up on what the congressman touched on, i appreciate your answer about fighting anti-semitism. i very much appreciated your answer. speaking to more broadly the jewish committee of poland and this can probably 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 they are safe and secure in their homes? >> thank you. i would add one thing because you say what the united states can do. what we are doing in poland, hungary, and other cities we are supporting the nongovernment organizations which took -- they do a lot of work for us. they fight homophobia. they work with minorities. they have refugees and so on so forth. that's what we should keep supporting them. to answer your question, poland is one of the safest countries in europe. when it comes to safeguarding the rights of the minorities, we do whatever we can. i have to say honestly that there is no agreement of the conservative governments to attack our jewish minority.
unfortunately, sometimes they create an atmosphere in which those nationalistic elements can do what they do. i can assure you that the jewish community in warsaw is safe. of course, they have an incredibly important part of our life. that's why we support the museum where we show the contribution to our nation. to the development of poland. that is why the jewish culture is vibrant in poland. we will keep supporting that because that will give us richness and diversity that warsaw was so well known for. we will keep on doing that regardless of whatever happens. >> i had a chance to visit
warsaw in 1990. it was one third jewish before world war ii and that is the history of poland. i am grateful for your remarks and i look forward to continuing our conversations and working to make sure we are supporting what you are doing, but also collaborating to do this work around the world together. i yield back. >> i thank all of the committee members who participated with all that is going on around congress right now, we have amazing participation from our members because of the interest from the mayors that were here today. your comments have inspired, informed, and i hope create a continuation of a dialogue we can have on the important issues, the shared values that we have. while we were here, the world
goes on and i will inform you that during this time, the u.s. has announced sanctions against belarus for their actions targeting migrant smuggling. and also russia has issued a warning in the separatist region as they term it. we can see going ahead the challenges that 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, this greatest strength that we shared together . our coalition, our european u.s.
coalition for our shared values and for democracy. i hope those that are from an authoritarian standpoint realize and i hope this hearing was greater proof that these types of aggression actions, these authoritarian actions, potentially military actions will never be ultimately successful if we hold together in unity and we surround ourselves in the core of shared democracy and values. if you look at this the standpoint of security, military, and economics, strong killers of our major cities remain one of the most critical
elements of this united strength. your leadership, what you have said today, your beliefs, your courage in going forward it's not just important to the present, but we will face continued and i'm afraid greater challenges in the near future. this alliance to our trans atlantic and shared democratic beliefs which all four of our witnesses displayed today with great strength, courage will continue to inspire all of us in this coalition as we go forward. i can't tell you how much i appreciate the time you have taken, the content of what you have said, the strength of what
i believe will be a bond of the people you represent. ultimately, it's the people in our countries and we can't fail to recognize this. i think through some comments that were made before about don't give up on us. we look to your people as you do, as the strength. we look to continue to work together even given greater challenges we may face. thank you so much for being here. this is one of the most important hearings that we have had and it was because of europe dissipation and what you had to say. 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.
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