January 27, 2023. European city leaders and officials from the Baltics, Northern and other countries convened in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, at an international conference Champion Cities Summit 2023: Champions Think Bold, to discuss how cities tackle some of the most pertinent issues in the region. Mayors and officials from leading European cities—Vilnius, Tallinn, Riga, Warsaw, Reykjavik, and others—shared the unique role the cities play in creating a safer, more liberated, and open society and exchanged exceptional success stories on the topics of urbanism, green initiatives, mobility, diversity, education, and support for Ukraine. The summit was organized on the eve of the city’s 700th anniversary.
“There are many talks about global challenges, yet only bold actions will bring change. Leadership is action. And this inspiration for bold ideas and actions comes from Gediminas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, who first put our city on the map 700 years ago,” said Remigijus Šimašius, Mayor of Vilnius. “Vilnius’ anniversary is also important for the European region, where cities are united in their support for the same values: democracy, human rights, equal opportunities, and, above all, the fight for freedom, which is currently being waged in Ukraine. The fight which Vilnius strongly supports now and always.”
The title “Rescuer City” awarded to Vilnius by the decree of President Volodymyr Zelensky on January 24th is one of the biggest gifts to the Lithuanian capital for its 700th anniversary, therefore city leadership and partnership are crucial in sustaining the fight for freedom.
The event was organized in conjunction with Eurocities, a network of more than 200 cities in 38 countries, to strengthen international partnerships and foster dialogue. The conference focused on defining how and why modern cities enact their role — from forming social policies to planning public transportation. By bringing together such different approaches and experts, Vilnius hopes to further encourage change and innovation in Europe.
One of the main narratives explored in the conference was green initiatives led by cities. Mihhail Kõlvart, Mayor of Tallinn, discussed the significant steps Estonia’s capital has made towards carbon neutrality, the improvement of the energy efficiency and indoor climate of buildings, and the increase of biological diversity in the city. According to Kõlvart, cities must consider that sustainability permeates many different industries and sectors, thus, must be envisioned as an overarching system of ideas and initiatives.
Dagur B. Eggertsson, Mayor of Reykjavik, presented the great strides Iceland’s capital has made in moving youth policy forward and how it has gone from the city with highest drug and alcohol abuse rate among teens in Europe to the one with the lowest rate over the last three decades. Various initiatives, from increasing youth involvement in extracurricular activities to creating a voucher system for funding, have led to this radical transformation.
Officials of several other European cities, including Nikola Mitrović, the Head of the Mayor’s Cabinet of Podgorica, Arnaud Ngatcha, Deputy Mayor of Paris, and Matti Helimo, Deputy Mayor of Tampere, as well as delegates from Vienna, Stockholm, Gdańsk, Oslo, and Tampere, took part in the summit.
The mayors of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, and Jerusalem, Moshe Leon, also congratulated the capital during the conference, highlighting Vilnius’ international influence and historical ties to their own cities. “I have to say that Chicago is home to one of the largest Lithuanian communities outside of Lithuania, and Chicago is certainly celebrating today as well,” said Lightfoot.