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Rebuilding Ukraine 'must begin now,' says Germany's Scholz

October 25, 2022

Germany and the EU are hosting an international conference to discuss the reconstruction of Ukraine, a task that Chancellor Olaf Scholz said is "never to soon to tackle."

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stand ahead of a conference on post-war reconstruction of Ukraine in Berlin
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stand ahead of a conference on post-war reconstruction of Ukraine in BerlinImage: Michele Tantussi/REUTERS

Scholz: It's never too soon to tackle task of rebuilding

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are hosting an expert conference in Berlin on Tuesday for talks on the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also addressed participants at the International Expert Conference on the Recovery, Reconstruction and Modernization of Ukraine via video call. 

Scholz: 'Continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes'

In his concluding remarks, Olaf Scholz said he was optimistic about the clear recommendations having a positive impact on the recovery of Ukraine.

At the end of the conference, Scholz said they had a "better picture" of what it'll take to aid Ukrainian recovery and added Germany would continue its support beyond the end of its G7 presidency which ends December 31, 2022.

Germany, Scholz said, would host the next Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano, Switzerland, in 2024. 

Von der Leyen unwavering in her support, Japan condemns Russian attacks 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen praised Ukraine for being a digital society — the most digitized after Estonia among European countries — and having systems work even with a war raging.

One of the main messages of the conference, she said, was that Ukraine had everything it takes to rebuild itself — the determination, a vibrant civil society, friends around the globe and an impressive resilient economic base despite the atrocities of the war.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said it was important for a financial coordination platform to sync donor efforts and make sure recovery and modernization of Ukraine, and by extension, of Europe, takes center stage.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also delivered a video message and condemned Russia's attack on Ukraine. Japan takes over the presidency of the G7 group of industrialized nations from Germany on January 1, 2023. 

Long-term commitment

"We do not know when this war will end. But end it will," Scholz said in his opening remarks. 

"And when it does, we will continue to stand by Ukraine and its struggle for security, freedom and democracy," he added.

"We know that no two countries' history are the same. But from our own historical experience, we also know that reconstruction is always possible and that it is never too soon to tackle this task," Scholz said.

Scholz called for a "Marshall Plan for the 21st century — a generational task that must begin now," referring to a US initiative that helped rebuild Germany after the Second World War.

DW's chief political correspondent Nina Haase said Scholz, as the current chair of the G7's rotating presidency, called this meeting to send a signal to Kyiv that the West is not only supporting Ukraine during the war, but is already thinking of the country's recovery. 

"They're not sending a signal to Ukraine [that] 'we are helping you now but somehow our solidarity will soften over time.' We are standing by you for the next couple of decades, we want to bring you into the European Union," said Haase.

Supporting a 'future member' of the EU

In her opening speech, Von der Leyen reiterated the EU's commitment to helping Ukraine, from relief for the country's daily survival, including paying wages and pensions, to post-war reconstruction and modernization. 

She noted that Ukraine currently holds EU candidate status, and the bloc needs "to firmly embed Ukraine's reconstruction efforts as part of its path toward the European Union."

"We have no time to waste, the scale of destruction is staggering. The World Bank puts the cost of the damage at €350 billion ($345 billion)," von der Leyen said.

Zelenskyy echoed her remarks, saying: "Those who invest in the reconstruction of Ukraine are investing in the reconstruction of a future member of the [European Union]."

He said Ukraine has a $17 billion "fast recovery" plan to repair damage to critical infrastructure. 

"As of now, we haven't received a single cent for the implementation of the fast recovery plan," Zelenskyy said. 

Ukraine's president urged countries to help cover Kyiv's budgetary deficit of $38 billion.

"At this very conference we need to make a decision on assistance to cover next year's budget deficit for Ukraine," Zelensky said via video-link. "It's a very significant amount of money, a $38 billion deficit," he added.

IMF chief Georgieva outlines Ukraine's financing needs

Financing needs could reach $5 billion a month — IMF chief

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said that Ukraine's external financing needs could reach $5 billion a month if there is an increase in Russian bombing.

Georgieva said that in the best-case scenario, Ukraine could require $3 billion a month.

"And in a worst case scenario, if the bombing is even more dramatic ... it could go to $5 billion a month," she said.

Georgieva lauded Ukrainian authorities for pushing through "exceptionally difficult times." She said that Ukraine is "doing a really good job in making every cent — every hryvnia, I should say — count."

She said that the IMF was working to help define and implement the Ukraine's macroeconomic policies and produce reliable financial projections. Georgieva added that IMF staff had met with Ukrainian authorities last week to discuss the country's financial needs and were developing a full-fledged lending program.

Not a 'donor conference'

The conference — attended by experts, representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society — is aimed at discussing sustainable tools for Ukraine's reconstruction rather than making financial pledges, Berlin said.

Scholz stressed that the event "is not a regular donor conference," but is "more fundamental than that."

Tuesday's event comes a day after a Ukrainian-German economic forum in Berlin, where Scholz appealed to Kyiv to further improve the framework conditions for investment.

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fb/es (AFP, dpa)