Lublin is a city where for at least 20 years institutions and NGOs have been actively implementing foreign policy in Eastern Europe at all levels, therefore playing an important role in introducing real changes in Eastern Europe.
Thanks to the undertaken initiatives, Lublin has implemented many economic, cultural and social cooperation projects that have been carried out jointly by entities from the EU and Eastern Partnership countries. In 2011, Lublin initiated the first Congress bringing together cultural circles from the EP countries, named as Eastern Partnership Culture Congress. The following year, on the initiative of the Lublin City Hall, the Self-government of the Lublin Voivodeship and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Centre for Eastern Competencies was established. Its primary aim was to initiate new projects in the broadly understood development aid. The Centre was the initiator and organizer of the next edition of the Congress – Eastern Europe Initiatives Congress.
From the very beginning, the Congress was a meeting place and a platform for dialogue between science, culture, education, local and state authorities. The Congress evolved and expanded with time. Each year, it offered over 50 discussion panels in 7 thematic lines during 3 subject-oriented days. So far, the Congress has been attended by over 7,000 people from over 20 countries. The Congress has also been the venue for exceptional events, such as the signing of the Declaration on Territorial Cooperation between Lublin and 10 cities from Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia in 2014 and the signing of the Declaration on the joint implementation of the ‘Cross-border Cooperation Strategy of the Lubelskie Voivodeship, the Volyn Oblast, the Lviv Oblast, and the Brest Oblast for 2014-2020’. In 2013, during the Congress, the Council of Europe's Plaque of Honour was awarded to Lublin. In 2016, Mayor of Lublin, Krzysztof Żuk and Mykola Romaniuk, Mayor of Lutsk, renewed the agreement on cooperation marking 20th anniversary of twinning between the two cities. Further, a declaration on the continuation of cross-border cooperation between Lublin and Lutsk was signed during this event. In 2017, the city of Lublin was awarded the Europe Prize during the Congress whereas a declaration of cooperation between the science and technology park in Dnipro (Ukraine) and Minsk (Belarus) was concluded in 2018.
The Congress in Lublin hosted many experts, specialists and unquestioned leaders, such as Danuta Hübner – the first Polish Commissioner in the EU and Member of the European Parliament, former President of Ukraine – Viktor Yushchenko, Ambassador of Ukraine to Poland, Andrii Deshchytsia, Ewa Synowiec – representative of the European Commission, Refat Chubarov – President of the Crimean Tartar Medjlis, as well as Zbigniew Bujak, Jerzy Buzek, Bogdan Klich, Jan Piekło, Jan Truszczyński.
Together, we celebrated important anniversaries at the Congress, i.e.: the 25th anniversary of the Independence of Ukraine and other EP countries, the 700th anniversary of granting city rights to Lublin, the 100th anniversary of the Independence of Poland, as well as the 450th anniversary of signing the Lublin Union. The events were attended by Ambassadors and other high ranking officials from 7 countries.
For several years now, the Congress has been under the honorary patronage of the European Commission and is co-financed by both European funds and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
An important element of the Congress is Grants Fair. It enables participants to meet representatives of grant institutions or entities that support implementation of cross-border projects. Further, another key event is Partners’ Forum – a space dedicated to organisations seeking international partners. The Congress programme also includes a number of cultural events: exhibitions, grand openings, literary meetings, film screenings, concerts and theatre performances.
In 2020, the City of Lublin is the sole organizer of the Congress. The Programme Council decided to change the name of the event to the Cross-Border Cooperation Congress at this time. The 9th edition of the Congress will be exceptional. COVID-19 pandemic and the related restrictions, necessitated change in the Congress' formula. It will be held entirely online. Despite the change, the Congress has retained its participatory character though. As every year, we have invited representatives of various circles involved in cross-border cooperation to co-create the programme, namely: local governments, European and international institutions, academics and educators, cultural institutions employees, NGOs, the mass media, and finally Eastern Europe or development aid experts. The Congress will continue to be a platform for exchange of ideas, for creating cooperation tools, or formulating a unified approach that will be heard on European forums.
In 2020, the Congress was held in a new format and was renamed to Cross-Border Cooperation Congress. Due to a world-wide spread of COVID-19 pandemic, to make the 9th edition of the Congress work, was a bit of a challenge. The Congress was moved entirely to virtual space, where, from the studio in Lublin, we connected with the Congress’ participants via a modern platform. The Congress was translated into three languages simultaneously – Polish, English and Russian.
‘Local Government of Tomorrow. Between Openness and Responsibility’, was Congress’ predominant theme. We focused on the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to local communities across Europe.
The four days of the Congress were filled with panels and workshops with eminent European experts in attendance, such as Charles Landry (United Kingdom), Professor Aleksander Sogomonov (Russia), Rasmus Wiinstedt Tscherning (Denmark), Marharyta Zhenchuk (Ukraine), and Krzysztof Czyżewski (Poland). Talks focused on four thematic areas.
Cross-Border Cooperation Congress was accompanied by Partners' Forum in order to facilitate more effective communication and exchange of experiences between organisations seeking international partners, and by Grants’ Fair, that showcased the opportunities to obtain funds from the selected grant programmes.
Moreover, a meeting of city councillors was held for the first time ever in the history of the Congress. Councillors talked about functioning of the local government during the pandemic and a would-be collaboration between partner cities.
Best Practice Contest enjoyed a great success. Best solutions on community and cross-border cooperation in the face of the Coronavirus were selected, and all participants of the Congress could cast their votes in an on-line voting, and thus decide on the winning practice.
As every year, Congress’ programme included side events, that were live streamed, held by Congress’ partners, and cultural events, which are now available on-line for further reference.
Last year's 8th edition of the Eastern Europe Initiatives Congress was dedicated to unique events and their role in our contemporary reality.
For Lublin, 2019 was a special year – the 450th Anniversary of the Polish-Lithuanian Union, called the Union of Lublin, fell on 1st July. This was a great opportunity to reflect on the common and different cultural and historical heritage of our country and neighbors, as well as the important role of Lublin and our region in shaping the European community of nations. We showed in that jubilee year how to draw from the heritage and experience of the Union of Lublin and build the future of present Europe. Moreover, it was a time when a number of other anniversaries coincided: the 10th Anniversary of the Eastern Partnership, the 15th Anniversary of Poland's Accession to the European Union, the 20th Anniversary of Poland's Membership in NATO and the 30th Anniversary of Democratic Transformations in the Central European Region.
This was an excellent starting point for a discussion about the future of modern Europe, its identity, challenges that need to be faced, and the need for deeper integration and cooperation. As an important element of the discussion, there also took place panels dedicated to regional partnerships, transnational and regional cooperation.
Las year's Congress covered also important issues related to heritage and reconciliation, local democracy as well as science and education, which was so important for the constantly reforming Ukraine. What’s more, the panels devoted to tourism, culture, innovations, mobility and broadly understood equality were very interesting.
The debates focused on showing how many areas of regional cooperation exist across the EU with neighboring Eastern Partnership countries, and how to efficiently build agreements and lasting partner relations on many fields.
7th edition of Eastern Europe Initiatives Congress was dedicated to building lasting relationships of regional cooperation between the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in the context of the 100-year tradition of independence, grassroots and liberation.
During the opening ceremony of the Congress, the solemn inaugural lecture "European perspective or sectoral cooperation for the associated partner countries of the Eastern Partnership? What is the future of the project for the Eastern Partnership?" was delivered by Bartosz Cichocki - undersecretary of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ambassadors and representatives of important international institutions from 7 countries participated in the opening panel "Dreams about freedom - in the 100th anniversary of independence".
The content provided in the opening panel, on the one hand, stressed the hundredth anniversary of Polish independence, and on the other, emphasized its international context among invited guests from Europe and the Eastern Partnership. The panel allowed us to look at the efforts of sovereignty from the perspective of 100 years, also through the eyes of representatives of various nations. It helped the participants of the panel to understand that each independence was obtained to some extent at the cost of the neighbors' aspirations.
The Congress program included 49 discussion panels in 7 thematic lines.
During the Congress, there also took place the Donors' Fair, Partner Forum, which was partaken by 38 institutions and a dozen or so accompanying events: exhibition opening, literary meetings, film screening, concert, bike ride and a warmly welcomed by the participants discussion about the Donbass war. During the event, a cooperation declaration was signed between the science and technology park in Dnipro (Ukraine) and in Minsk (Belarus).
The Congress was attended by about 800 people, half of whom were foreign guests.
In 2017 6th Eastern Europe Initiatives Congress was opened with a significant event - the Council of Europe granted the city of Lublin the Europe Prize award. The city has been appreciated for its active promotion of European values and ideas through, inter alia, organization of interesting cultural and civil events of European coverage. Moreover, the 6th Congress has been one of the elements of the celebrations of the 700th anniversary of granting Lublin its city rights. The 6th edition of the Congress was devoted to the development prospects of the Central and Eastern Europe, as well as development challenges faced by cities and towns, taking into account the needs of their citizens. Invited guests discussed future local initiatives for Lublin and neighbouring countries. Due to numerous dangers contemporary Europe is currently exposed to, an important role in the agenda was played by the "Policy and Security" thematic area. Much attention was also paid to innovation which not only allows to implement particular tasks in a less expensive, but more rapid and effective way, but also they also significantly improve the quality of our everyday lives. This year's Congress addressed also important issues of science and education, mobility and local democracy which is of crucial importance for currently reforming Ukraine. A seminar by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) was held during the Congress in partnership with Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Inaugural lecture was delivered by Refat Chubarov - Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People. During the Congress, other keynote speeches were made by, among others, Jerzy Buzek, Bogdan Klich, Waldemar Sługocki and Jan Piekło.
The Congress was also accompanied by International Donors' Fair and over a dozen side events, including "Three Sisters" play by Anton Chekhov (performed by Ukrainian artists within the celebrations of the 700th anniversary of granting Lublin its rights), the Legend of the Devil's Paw and the Devilish Court, author's meeting with Oleksandr Boychenko, and Congress Club.
The 2016 fifth edition of the Congress gathered more than 1000 participants from such countries as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Israel, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, USA and the United Kingdom. Panel discussions took place in Lublin Conference Centre, while side events were scattered around the city, including Musical Theatre in Lublin, Lublin art galleries, Hieronim Łopaciński Public Library of Lubelskie Voivodeship in Lublin, and more. 5th Congress distinguished itself with a generous thematic offer covering 12 programme areas, 44 panel discussions, 233 speakers, a number of study visits and cultural side events such as movie screenings, shows, workshops, and meetings with authors. Moreover, an International Fair for Partners and Donors was organized where information on financing international and cross-border projects was provided, as well as new partnerships for future joint undertakings were established.
An inaugural lecture was given by former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko. Subsequently, the floor was taken by, among others, the Ambassador of Ukraine to Poland, Andriy Deshchytsia, European Commission representative, Ewa Synowiec, and Zbigniew Bujak, Maciej Fałkowski and Krzysztof Stanowski. During the Congress, the Mayor of the City of Lublin, Krzysztof Żuk, and the Mayor of the City of Lutsk, Mykola Romanyuk, renewed the cooperation agreement due to the 20th anniversary of partnership, and signed declaration of continuation of cross-border collaboration.
Furthermore, the Congress celebrated the 25th anniversary of the independence of Ukraine and other Eastern Partnership states. There was a chance to pay tribute to those countries in different languages. A publication containing lyrics of national anthems of the post-Soviet region was released too. Finally, a photographic exhibition entitled “25 years of independence of Ukraine – Ukraine which we don’t know” was also presented.
4th edition of the Congress, which was held in October 2015, was organized as a promotion of the 25th anniversary of Polish self-governance. During the debates, the participants shared their positive experiences in the field of systemic transformation and presented best practices of using European funds dedicated to regional development. The discussions continued on multidimensional security issues in Eastern Europe, students’ mobility, innovation in tourist offers of cities and their cultural heritage. Invited guests attempted to analyse the impact which culture has on social transformations. They also addressed issues regarding settling post-communist past, and using renewable energy sources and managing waste disposal and collection in a sustainable way.
Held on 2-4 October 2014, the 3rd Eastern Europe Initiatives Congress focused on the main problems and challenges in Central and Eastern Europe. The decade of Polish membership of the European Union was summarized in cooperation with Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In 2013, thanks to the 2nd Congress, Lublin became a place where cultural environment, academia, central and local authorities, creators and decision-makers engaged into dialogue between each other. EEIC 2013 agenda covered 9 programme areas, introducing new ones such as Tourism, Social Innovation, Corporate Social Responsibility, Heritage, and Contexts. A special cultural programme – Culture for the Eastern Partnership – was also implemented. Congress debates were accompanied with artistic shows and presentations of best cultural practices demonstrating the diversity of contemporary cultures of Eastern Partnership states within the Festival Integrations-Mediations.
The Eastern Europe Initiatives Congress was organized for the first time in 2012. It provided an extended approach to the idea of Eastern Partnership Culture Congress which was held a year before. It was a time when artists, cultural managers and animators, representatives of ministries, local governments, NGOs, academia and the media for EaP states, the EU, as well as Russia and other European countries produced recommendations regarding cultural cooperation between the EaP and the EU. Establishing a Cultural Cooperation Network for the Eastern Partnership was a prominent task for the Congress then.