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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)
News article13 December 2022Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations

Speech by President von der Leyen at the Conference ‘Standing with the Ukrainian people'

Eu Ukraine flags

Mr President, dear Emmanuel,

Dear Prime Minister, Denys,

Dearest Olena, the First Lady of Ukraine,

Fellow leaders,



I think in short: friends of Ukraine,

We have seen in a very impressive speech by President Zelenskyy and you, Olena, but also in the film and through your words, Denys, that the greatest act of defiance for millions of Ukrainians today is just to go on with their lives. We have seen how Russia is deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure, seeking to paralyse Ukraine at the beginning of the winter. I think Russia's tactics are very clear. My friends in Ukraine, they tried to break your defences. And Russia failed badly. Now they are trying to break your spirit. But Russia will fail because the Ukrainian spirit remains unyielding and unbroken. Ukrainians are trying to carry on with their normal lives. And I think in the film, it was very impressive to see the images of hospitals and schools that keep on going, mothers who were heating food and water on small fires, even shops trying to keep on going with innovative solutions. I think every single person in Ukraine is sending the same message to Russia: Ukrainians are not afraid; Ukrainians are free; Ukrainians are fighting for sovereignty. We stand by your side and that is why we are here today. Putin's targeted war against Ukraine's economy and the most basic services needs a firm response. I think we have done a lot of good work already in the last weeks and months. For example, take the solidarity lanes that bring Ukrainian goods and agri-food out of Ukraine and into the European Union and into third countries. And it brings vital revenues into Ukraine. The solidarity lanes now have exported 20 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain and food products. And it has brought back to Ukraine EUR 15 billion of vital much-needed revenues for the country. So the solidarity lanes have really become a lifeline for Ukraine's economy and we will keep on strengthening them.

But as we all know and heard, Ukraine also needs direct financial support. During this year, the European Union, the Member States and its financial institutions have provided more than EUR 19 billion. We are looking at next year, and I have very good news, because yesterday evening, it was possible to agree on EUR 18 billion for Ukraine, EUR 1.5 billion every month – so a steady flow of direct budget support. I want to thank you, Prime Minister Fiala, for the leadership in the negotiations as Presidency. So this excellent cooperation really yielded a big success yesterday evening.

Besides financial support, of course, there is the in-kind support we are talking about today. I want to reflect on two ways to do so. The first is what each of us can do individually and the second, what we can do together. On my first point, let me report that the European Union is working to increase the amount of electricity we can trade between Ukraine, Moldova and the rest of Europe. This is vital because we need to keep the Ukrainian grid functioning despite the Russian bombs. So meanwhile, we have provided 40 large generators to ensure uninterrupted power supply to 30 hospitals in the regions of Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolayiv and Kherson. These are exactly the hospitals that need these generators because then, they are independent and keep on going with the power supply. This comes on top of around 800 generators we are sending all across the country right now. We all know that this kind of assistance can literally save lives, and I know that all of you are going the extra mile in the coming weeks and months to provide this material.

We have listened very carefully to the speech of President Zelenskyy where he calls on the international community to support the purchase of 50 million LED light bulbs for Ukrainian households. These LED light bulbs are so vital because they are 88% more efficient than the old-fashioned light bulbs – so an enormous saving of energy. 50 million LED light bulbs, if deployed, would save the energy that would amount to 1 gigawatt of electricity, which is equivalent to the annual output of one nuclear power plant. So it is an enormous amount of energy that can be saved by that. These savings are crucial to reduce the pressure that we have on the Ukrainian power grid right now. Therefore, the Commission is ready to mobilise EUR 30 million. This contribution will cover roughly 30 million LED light bulbs. And I hope that others will join. Because in these times of literal suffering and darkness, it is so important to bring light to Ukraine.

What can we do together? Coordinate, optimise and speed up our support. Yesterday, at the G7, we decided to give the go to the reconstruction platform, together with Ukraine, and with our international partners, the relevant international organisations and the international financial institutions. The construction platform will start operating already next month. The European Commission, together with Ukraine, will provide the secretariat. The platform is about immediate relief. And then, we will go on with sustainable reconstruction. And it will match investment and reforms on the pathway of Ukraine's EU membership.

I want to thank all those who in the run-up to this Conference have helped so much. It started with the Conference in Lugano that we had, dear Ignazio; and in Berlin, the Conference of experts, dear Annalena. This all helped to now shape the reconstruction platform that will be up and running next month. We would be very happy if you sent liaison officers, personnel to the secretariat because it is a common task on which we have to deliver and we need your expertise and the close cooperation with all of you.   

A final point: Donations are crucial – Mr President, dear Emmanuel, you mentioned it – but we have to get them quickly to where they are needed in a coordinated manner. Right now, we are working with our G7 partners to integrate their energy assistance into our coordination and logistical chain for the energy. And reflecting to the Paris mechanism, I want to announce that at the heart of the Paris mechanism, we are now creating a new hub in Poland, which will become operational already this week. It is – quite simply – a network of warehouses from which goods can be transferred quickly into Ukraine. This hub will guarantee a rapid, reliable and cost-effective delivery. And we are ready to finance both the storage and the transport then from Poland to Ukraine.

Be it humanitarian aid or reconstruction, it is cooperation that magnifies our support to Ukraine. I think we do learn the lessons of these ten months of atrocious Russian war. Putin's war of aggression failed mainly because of two reasons. The first one is the bravery and the courage of the Ukrainian people – unbelievably impressive. The second one is the international community's remarkable unity. Let us stay strong in this unity; let us stand up for Ukraine. And let us literally bring light to Ukraine.

Slava Ukraini.