The European Union will set up a reconstruction platform to coordinate the rebuilding of Ukraine after its war with Russia, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said.
The platform will be used to map investment needs, coordinate action and channel resources, von der Leyen told the Ukraine Recovery Conference in the southern Swiss city of Lugano on Monday.
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“Since the beginning of the war, the European Union has mobilised around 6.2 billion euros ($6.48bn) in financial support,” von der Leyen said. “And … more will come. We will engage substantially in the mid- and long-term reconstruction.”
The two-day conference that opened on Monday, held under tight security in the picturesque city of Lugano, had been planned well before Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24. It had originally been slated to discuss reforms in Ukraine before being repurposed to focus on reconstruction.
The platform will bring together countries, institutions, the private sector and civil society. It will also include international organisations like the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank.
The European Investment Bank, the lending arm of the EU, is proposing a funding structure previously used during the COVID-19 pandemic to help rebuild Ukraine with up to $104.3bn of investment, the Reuters news agency reported earlier on Monday.
“Through the reconstruction platform, the European Commission can offer its extensive expertise in running programs that combine reform and investments,” von der Leyen said.
“In addition, we have been working closely with Ukraine for a long time. And this work will only intensify now that Ukraine has formally become a candidate to join our Union.”
Europe has a special responsibility and a strategic interest to be at Ukraine’s side, she added.
“The Kremlin’s goal is the military, political and economic destruction of Ukraine,” she said.
“They want to undermine Ukraine’s very existence as a state. We cannot and we will not let this happen.”
Zelenskyy addresses conference
Rebuilding Ukraine is the “common task of the whole democratic world”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday, insisting the recovery of his war-torn country would serve world peace.
“Reconstruction of Ukraine is the biggest contribution to the support of global peace,” Zelenskyy said, speaking via video link to the conference in Lugano.
Lugano is not a pledging conference but will instead attempt to lay out the principles and priorities for a rebuilding process designed to begin even as the war rages.
Zelenskyy said the aim of reconstruction was “the most ambitious project of our time”.
His Swiss counterpart and conference co-host, Ignazio Cassis, stressed the importance of supporting Ukraine “in this time of horror, wanton destruction and grief”.
It was vital, Cassis said, “to provide the people of Ukraine with the prospect of a return to a life of self-determination, peace and a bright future”.
While Zelenskyy was unable to leave Ukraine to co-host the event with Cassis, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal attended, in a rare trip outside Ukraine since the war began.
Five other government ministers were also among the about 100 Ukrainians who made the journey, although Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reportedly had to cancel at the last moment due to illness.
Ukraine needs $750bn for a three-stage recovery plan in the wake of Russia’s invasion, Shmyhal said on Monday.
Shmyhal also told the conference that there had been more than $100bn of direct damage to Ukrainian infrastructure from Russia’s invasion.
“Today, the direct infrastructure losses of Ukraine stand at over $100bn,” he said. “Who will pay for the renewal plan, which is already being valued at $750bn?”
Shmyhal added that the Ukrainian government believed that a key source of funding for the recovery plan should be assets confiscated from Russian oligarchs.
He said Ukraine’s recovery plan had three phases: A first focused on fixing things that matter to people’s daily lives such as water supply which is ongoing; a “fast-recovery” component that will be launched as soon as the fighting ends including temporary housing, hospital and school projects; and one that aims to transform the country over the longer term.