The hosts of this week’s conference in Berlin on the reconstruction and recovery of Ukraine discussed the need for a new “Marshall Plan” and their commitment to support Ukraine. But if there was a purpose to the conference, it was to expose the insufficiency of European leadership.
While German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen used a heavy dose of pathos in their joint editorial before the conference, they were also careful to stress that this was not a donors’ conference and that no new funding pledges could be expected.
Instead, it was simply a conference of experts to discuss how best to structure what is likely to be a massive reconstruction effort in Ukraine.
However, most expert advice could be summed up in three words: Give. Silver. Now.
“Talks about reconstruction cannot be an excuse for less aid now,” Ronja Ganster of the German Marshall Fund told EURACTIV.
“The attacks of the past few days have shown that certain investments are needed now,” she stressed.
In October, Russia launched a new round of attacks on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, leading to prolonged power outages and problems with fresh water supplies.
According to Tymofiy Mylovanov, director of the Kyiv School of Economics, urgent reconstruction was needed for energy and logistics infrastructure, housing and water treatment facilities.
Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), also said that “we must act now” – probably the most common refrain from the conference.
Referring to concerns that rebuilt infrastructure could be destroyed again, Hoyer said: “Yes, it can happen. But good risk management does not mean taking no risk at all.
The Berlin conference took place more than three months after the last international conference on the reconstruction of Ukraine in Lugano.
“Lugano has been a lot of abstract talk and no real progress,” Mylovanov told EURACTIV via video link from Kyiv, hoping the Berlin conference would produce specific results.
However, speaking with officials and diplomats at the conference, it was difficult to assess the tangible progress made in reconstruction efforts since Lugano.
Ukrainian government officials therefore implored participants in Berlin that help was needed as soon as possible.
“We cannot wait for the end of the war; we need support now,” said Ukrainian Minister of Communities and Territories Oleksii Chernyshov, while Minister of Finance Serhiy Marchenko warned risks of galloping inflation if the Ukrainian government’s budget does not quickly receive sufficient international support.
While a week ago von der Leyen announced that the Commission would soon offer additional budget support of 18 billion euros for 2023, thus providing some predictability to the finances of the Ukrainian government, the EU has still not not been able to fully agree on the EUR 9 billion of macro-financial assistance announced in May. Thus, the 18 billion euros are far from guaranteed.
Concluding the conference in Berlin, Chancellor Scholz said: “We continue to unite in support of Ukraine, for as long as it takes.
At the current rate of EU support, this will take much longer than necessary.
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Pay attention to…
- Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on an official visit to Pristina.
- Commissioner Nicolas Schmit receives Yuliia Svyrydenko, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy of Ukraine.
- Environment Commissioner Virginius Sinkevičius delivers a speech at the inaugural European Tech for Climate Action conference in Brussels.
- Commission Vice-President Vĕra Jourová speaks via video link at the Belgrade Security Conference.
- The Governing Council of the European Central Bank holds a monetary policy meeting.
The views are those of the author.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Alice Taylor]