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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)
News article25 October 2022Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations6 min read

Opening remarks by President von der Leyen at the International Expert Conference on the Recovery, Reconstruction and Modernisation of Ukraine

Opening remarks by President von der Leyen at the International Expert Conference on the Recovery, Reconstruction and Modernisation of Ukraine

Herr Bundeskanzler,

Herr Bundespräsident Cassis,

Prime Minister Shmyhal, dear Denys,

Prime Minister Morawiecki,



Ladies and Gentlemen,

Distinguished friends of Ukraine,

We want to discuss the reconstruction of Ukraine today. Thousands of destroyed houses. Several hundred schools turned to rubble. Countless bridges, roads, power stations, railway infrastructure and industry bombed. For Ukrainians, these are not just statistics. This is their everyday experience. It is about having a roof over their heads, a warm place in the winter and classrooms where their children are safe. It is about going to work, bringing food home, and making a living. These are hard, scary and painful days for Ukrainians. But Ukrainians are showing us that they have hope and confidence in the future, and they will keep fighting for it. And it is their future that brings us here today.

Europe has been supporting Ukraine from day one. We can never match the sacrifices Ukrainians are making every day. But we can stand by their side. We have introduced the toughest sanctions against Russia. Overall, the European Union, Member States and European financial institutions have provided Ukraine with more than EUR 19 billion in assistance, and this is without military assistance. We are working hard to increase Ukraine's access to our Single Market, because this creates revenues for Ukraine. And what is more, Europeans have opened their hearts and their homes to more than eight million Ukrainians who have fled Putin's bombs and four million Ukrainians who asked for temporary protection in our Member States. And I would like to thank the millions of citizens who are giving the most noble help to their neighbours in need. This is Europe at its best. Today, we want to discuss how to step up our ongoing support for Ukrainians, and how to make the reconstruction of their beautiful country a resounding success.

For me, three points are key. First, we need to make sure that Ukraine at all times gets the support it needs – from relief, to rehabilitation, to long-term reconstruction. Second, we need the right architecture in place to make support as broad and as inclusive as possible. And third, as Ukraine has achieved candidate status to access the European Union, we need to firmly embed Ukraine's reconstruction efforts as part of its path towards the European Union.

Let us have a look at the first point: And that is Ukraine needs relief, fast rehabilitation and reconstruction. Relief for the daily survival. To be able to pay the bare minimum every single day: salaries for military and security forces, salaries for teachers and doctors in the hospitals and in the countryside, pensions for the pensioners and other indispensable payments. According to the international financial institutions and Ukraine, there is a need of EUR 3 to 5 billion a month just to cover these recurrent running costs. Here, reliable support is needed from the European Union, from our friends in the United States and of course from the international financial institutions. I believe it is only right if the European Union assumes its fair share. I am working with our Member States so that the Union could support Ukraine with up to EUR 1.5 billion every month of the war, which would be in sum round about EUR 18 billion in 2023.

In parallel, Ukraine needs fast rehabilitation right now, as we speak, especially as Russia is deliberately leading targeted attacks on civilian infrastructure with the very clear aim to cut off men, women and children of water, electricity and heating as the winter is approaching. These are pure acts of terror, and Russia tries to paralyse Ukraine. But we will not let this happen. In addition, we know that there are around 11 million internally displaced people in Ukraine. They need shelter, heating, water and electricity. Their children need to go to school. Therefore, we need to repair houses, schools and infrastructure already right now. As European Commission, we have announced to support this rehabilitation of damaged Ukrainian schools or the repair of electricity infrastructure. And through the Union Civil Protection Mechanism, we have provided tents and over 600,000 items for shelter. But we all know that more has to be done. This phase of fast rehabilitation is essential to ensure that life can continue in Ukraine.

This brings me to our overall important topic of today, and that is the reconstruction effort. At the Lugano Reconstruction Conference, representatives from more than 40 countries and international organisations agreed on the so-called Lugano principles: Ukraine owned; reform focused; transparency, accountability and rule of law; democratic participation; gender equality and inclusion; and sustainability. I think these are very good principles. But now we have to fill them with life. For doing that, we need the best and the brightest on reconstruction. That is why we have invited you.

Now it is time to bring the platform to action, together with the international donors, international businesses and, of course, civil society. We have no time to waste. The scale of destruction is staggering. The World Bank puts the cost of the damage at EUR 350 billion. This is for sure more than one country or one Union can provide alone. We need all hands on deck. The G7, the European Union, Europe, strong partners like the United States, Canada, Japan, the UK, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and many more. And of course, we need the expertise of our partners from the European Investment Bank and the EBRD to the World Bank and the IMF. We will discuss today how to involve these sectors and actors, how to map investment needs, how to coordinate action, and, of course, how to channel resources in a reliable and accountable way. The coordination platform that the international community has been discussing in the past months needs to get off the ground as soon as possible, preferably before the end of the year or early next year. We stand ready to offer the European Commission to provide the secretariat to the platform. We want the work to start and to be done.

That leads me to my final point. Ukraine will be in the lead. I think this is paramount. Because our action will be driven by the aspirations and the desires of the Ukrainian people. And Ukraine has a very clear vision and decided to become member of the European Union. Ukraine has achieved candidate status. And with the ongoing relief and rehabilitation, Ukraine will combine investment and reforms with the aim to become a vibrant part of Europe's sustainable and digital future. With the laws and institutions in place, to uphold the rule of law, to fight corruption and to have good governance standards of all partner countries and our European Union. Because the road to reconstruction is at the same time Ukraine's path towards its vision. It is a strong anchor to become a modern and prosperous country.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For all this, we need you. We need you and your expertise, your insights that are key for us to succeed. This is why I am specially looking forward to this Conference today. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here with us. Every euro, every dollar, every pound, every yen we spend is an investment in Ukraine but it is also an investment in the democratic values around the globe. And all this is urgently needed. But it is also a statement, if we are successful with that. It is a statement that the free and democratic nations of this world stand together, and that we stand up for our values. The courageous Ukrainian men and women are fighting for their independence but they are also fighting for the international order. And we will stand by their side as long as it takes.

Slava Ukraini. Long live Europe.

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