Prague, Czech Republic – Zdeněk Hřib and Matúš Vallo, the current mayors of Prague and Bratislava respectively, have been selected among the five best mayors in Europe last year.
“From mobility, cultural events, climate action, infrastructure and energy projects, 2021 can surely be described as another successful year for mayor Hřib,” wrote Mayors of Europe, the online media and organisation that compiled the ranking.
Zdeněk Hřib, Prague’s 40-year-old Pirate mayor in the spotlight
“I would be lying if I said that such an award did not make me happy,” Hřib reacted on social media. “I see it mainly as a motivation for further work and confirmation that we are on the right track.”
Among the achievements of the Czech Pirate mayor, the report praises the adoption by Prague of an ambitious climate plan aiming for climate neutrality by 2050 and the city’s status as one of the greenest in Europe; the introduction of measures to strengthen the Czech capital’s status as a smart city; the municipality’s action in favour of small and medium-sized businesses hit hard by the Covid crisis, as well as enabling non-publicly insured residents of Prague to have access to the vaccines.
Hřib’s engagement in favour of expanding Prague’s bike lanes infrastructure and strengthening the offer for electric cars and vehicles across the capital were also mentioned in the report.
A former healthcare manager, 40-year-old Zdeněk Hřib joined the Czech Pirate Party in 2013. He unsuccessfully ran in the following year’s Prague municipal election but was elected as mayor of Prague in 2018, taking over the keys of the city from former mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO).
During his term, Hřib has become one of the most vocal critics of China and Russia in the current Czech political landscape, regularly clashing with Beijing and Moscow on a vast range of issues from Taiwan and the “One China policy” to human rights violations and Soviet-era memorial disputes.
Matúš Vallo, a young architect at the helm of Bratislava
“Mayor Vallo has been leading the city [of Bratislava] through challenging times but remains devoted to improving the city’s infrastructure, urban revitalization and so much more,” Mayors of Europe write in the report dedicated to the mayor of Slovakia’s capital.
Praising his leadership in improving communication between the municipality and Bratislava residents and his pledge to increase transparency, the report highlights Vallo’s achievements in healthcare and vaccination coverage, green transition investments, culture revitalization and fight against climate change, among others.
Born in Bratislava and partly educated in Italy, Matúš Vallo is an architect by training. As an independent but with the support of the Progressive Slovakia and Spolu parties, he was elected mayor of Bratislava in 2018 beating incumbent Ivo Nesrovnal and former head of Slovakia’s public broadcaster RTVS Václav Mika.
Both elected the same year, Hřib and Vallo signed in 2019 the so-called Pact of Free Cities with their counterparts in Warsaw and Budapest – a document through which the four liberal mayors of the Visegrad Group’s capital cities reaffirmed their “common values of freedom, human dignity, democracy, equality, rule of law, social justice, tolerance and cultural diversity,” and positioned themselves as key opposition platforms to their respective governments.
The situation has slightly changed since, with Hřib’s Pirate Party becoming a junior coalition partner of the new Czech government that took office last December.
The three other European mayors praised for their work and leadership in 2021 are Hamburg’s Peter Tschentscher, Stockholm’s Anna König Jerlmyr and Athens’ Kostas Bakoyannis.