Sunday, July 21, 2024
 
 

Berlin Ukraine Recovery Conference

Urgent political and military emergencies shift some of the conference attention away from long term reconstruction planning
VOA
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a working session during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin, Germany, June 11, 2024.

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Although partially overshadowed by urgent Ukrainian requests for emergency help with its immediate air defense needs, as well as political shockwaves emanating from the June 9 European Parliament elections, the June 11-12 Berlin Ukraine Recovery Conference was able to lay out a significant package of support programs for the country’s recovery needs going forward. The two-day Berlin meeting was attended by more than 3,000 representatives from politics, business and international organizations.

However, with the military situation on the battlefront unresolved, it is only logical that emergency requests regarding Ukraine’s shattered infrastructure got substantially more focus and media attention than reconstruction planning. Kyiv reports its energy system particularly is in urgent need of support as a Russian airstrike campaign that began in March has inflicted heavy damage to power generating capacity, causing scheduled blackouts in the capital and across the country. It is obvious to all that one of the most urgent priorities in the first phase of reconstruction, and even before, will be the stabilization of Ukraine’s battered energy infrastructure to boost the country’s resilience in the coming winter.

The Berlin reconstruction conference comes days before Switzerland pulls together an out-of-the-spotlight international gathering to find a path to peace in Ukraine, but which has been questioned by China and dismissed as a waste of time by Russia, which was not invited to attend.

There will always be time to announce large sums of aid

Even as Russian forces continue to make slow advances in Ukraine’s eastern border regions, Kyiv has been hoping the recovery conference would cement its credentials as a future EU member worthy of huge quantities of reconstruction financing.

As is the usual EU practice at such high-profile conferences, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was present in Berlin to announce agreements worth 1.4 billion euros (USD 1.5 billion) with banks to help attract private investment for Ukraine as well as to preview EU plans to deliver 1.9 billion (USD 2.0 billion) euros to Ukraine by the end of the month.

If all goes as planned, the G7 will soon announce its plan to channel interest income derived from frozen Russian assets held in the West into a new fund created for Kyiv in cooperation with the World Bank, one of many American-supported proposals to aid Kyiv that have long been held up by cautious EU countries fearing Russian retaliation.  Details remain unclear.

For its part, the United States pledged USD 824 million to support Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, as stated by U.S. Special Representative for Economic Recovery in Ukraine Penny Pritzker. Accompanied by a high-powered team of senior officials from Washington, Pritzker noted that commitments to rebuilding Ukraine were “predicated upon having good stewardship by those who are managing the reconstruction efforts across the Ukrainian government.” She added “It’s urgent to tackle the corruption, the customs evasion, the grey markets.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) pledged one billion euros (USD 1.07 billion) for repairing Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and nearly 25 million euros (USD 26.8 million) for restoring the water supply in Mykolaiv.

The Berlin Conference also saw the launch of a German training initiative for 180,000 skilled workers for the reconstruction. “No matter how often Russia destroys power lines, hospitals and buildings, the Ukrainians will have the knowledge and the skills to rebuild them,” German Development Minister Svenja Schulze said on the conference’s first day.

To complicate matters for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who made several impassioned pleas for reconstruction and military support during the event,  Mustafa Nayyem, head of Ukraine’s reconstruction agency, resigned from his post a day before the Berlin Conference, saying he had been prevented from attending the event after being systematically undermined by the Ukrainian government from doing his job.

 

 

 

 

 

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