İrem UZUN -TDO- Four central European capitals, all at odds with their countries' populist governments, signed a deal Monday in Budapest to seek more EU funding together to bypass their nations' rulers. The pro-European centrist mayors of Budapest, Bratislava, Prague and Warsaw -- the capitals of the Visegrad countries Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland -- signed what they called the "Pact of Free Cities".

The EU has accused the ‘Visegrad Four’ nations -especially Poland and Hungary - of eroding the rule of law in recent years. It has threatened to suspend the voting rights of Poland and Hungary. At the launch of a new alliance on Monday aimed at securing more direct EU funding, the mayors of Warsaw, Budapest, Prague and Bratislava said they could spend the money more effectively than their central governments, mostly dominated by euro-skeptic nationalists. In their joint declaration, four mayors committed to "protecting and promoting our common values of freedom, human dignity, democracy, equality, rule of law, social justice, tolerance and cultural diversity". They said the European Union should bypass national governments that flout democratic standards and deal directly with municipalities as they can perform “miracles” in areas such as climate change.

“We want to fight for direct access to European money because we are the direct engines of growth in our countries,” Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski said. The progressive mayors want Brussels to help them bypass their national governments and channel funds directly to their cities, rather than having them disbursed at a national level.

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