Session Summary: Cities in Lockdown

Matúš Vallo, Mayor of Bratislava

Gergely Karácsony, Mayor of Budapest (virtually)

Vít Rakušan, Chairman, Mayors and Independents, Prague

Led by: Joshua Posaner, Senior Policy Reporter, POLITICO, Berlin


The discussion focused on the recovery of cities after the pandemic as well as the lessons learned from the past year. The mayor of Bratislava, Matúš Vallo, mentioned the key lessons that he and his team learned about the management of a crisis. Vallo stated that one of the most important ways to deal with any pandemic is to have good communication channels. In a crisis, it is crucial to communicate and explain to the citizens all the necessary information to make them feel safer. He added that particular attention should be given to special groups during any crisis, particularly the elderly people and people without homes. Vít Rakušan agreed that communication is very important in a crisis while adding that the local governments must communicate fast and in ways that will reach all the citizens in their community. The mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony, also agreed and added that one of the key lessons learned from the pandemic for cities is the need for good and clear communication between all engaged parties: local government, state government, and the citizens. 

Vít Rakušan outlined how the pandemic has been a bigger challenge for smaller cities than for large ones. This is because smaller cities are not in direct contact with state governments. He added that local governments had the biggest responsibility, which directly translated into the trust citizens place in them. The panellist agreed that there is a need for local governments to have more responsibility and that cooperation between different local governments can help achieve a favourable outcome in a crisis. 

The panellist moved on to discuss the issue of public transportation during the pandemic. Both Vallo and Karácsony decided not to stop public transportation. Vallo stressed that it was a necessary decision to keep the public transportation working as there were citizens in need of it. Rakušan further stated that there is a need to build a future strategy on all levels: state, region, and local. He added that it is particularly necessary to focus on the local strategy and the “decision making close to the people”. He claims that restoring public transportation will be a big challenge for all cities. 

Vallo further developed the idea of the perception of cities after the pandemic. He stressed the need for local governments to always have a “backdoor” in a crisis. He added that even as the world is going back to normal, local governments have the responsibility to keep in mind that the situation can change at any time. 

The panellists agreed that there is a need for more power and responsibility for local governments. They also outlined the need for local governments to work together and share experiences in such crises.