International leaders met for a 2-day conference to discuss how to help Ukraine recover from the war, including the shape of a ‘Marshall Plan’ for the country, a reference to the rebuilding of Europe following World War II, led and funded by the U.S.
Though German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have led the recent discussions, some in the international community are questioning their ability to organise the international support Ukraine’s recovery will need.
Proposals to use the assets of Russian oligarchs frozen by international sanctions to help rebuild Ukraine have also been reiterated, as well as concerns about corruption in Ukraine.
Ahead of the conference, held in Berlin on October 24th and 25th, Scholz and von der Leyen published a jointly authored opinion piece in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that called for a ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine—also aimed at assisting the country meet requirements for EU membership. They said that rebuilding Ukraine would be a “generational” project.
On October 24th—the 5th German-Ukraine forum—Scholtz repeated his ambition to tighten commercial and business collaboration between the two countries. Scholz opened the event with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.
“Whoever invests in the reconstruction of Ukraine today invests in a future EU member state that will be part of our community of law and our internal market,” Scholz said.
He noted that approximately 2,000 German companies do business in Ukraine and are eager to relaunch. He called for rebuilding transport infrastructure and the logistics industry to closely connect the EU and Ukraine, and called on Ukraine to intensify its fight against corruption.
Scholtz and von der Leyen also opened The International Expert Conference on the Recovery, Reconstruction, and Modernisation of Ukraine on Tuesday, October 25th. The two politicians co-hosted the event in the name of the EU and G7, which Scholtz currently leads. Ukrainian president Volodymir Zelensky participated by video conference. NGOs, experts in various fields, academics, and private-sector leaders also spoke in various panel discussions.
The main panel included the president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States Heather Conley; president of the Swiss Confederation Ignazio Cassis; Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki; Secretary-General of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Mathias Corman; and the UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Affairs James Cleverly.
In statements ahead of the conference, Poland’s minister for European Affairs Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk advocated for Poland to have a prominent role in international planning for Ukraine’s recovery, as one of the nations that has so far led in contributions to the country.
“In our view, the reconstruction of Ukraine should be based on the principle that those countries that are most active in helping Ukraine today, should have the biggest say,” he said at a press conference.
He touted Poland’s leadership in both discussions on Ukraine’s recovery and fundraising, citing an international donor conference held in May and co-organised with Sweden where, he said, the topic of post-war reconstruction of Ukraine was discussed for the first time, with €6.5 billion gathered for the country.
Szynkowski vel Sęk also advocated for using frozen Russian assets from sanctions to fund the recovery, a proposal echoed by the Ukrainian prime minister.
“We should develop a mechanism for seizing Russian assets,” Shmyhal urged in statements to FAZ, calling for the immediate release of the estimated $300-500 billion in frozen assets of Russian oligarchs.
A study published in September on the reconstruction of Ukraine by the German Marshall Fund of the United States also argues in the same direction.
“The seizure of frozen Russian assets could be a meaningful contribution to funding for Ukraine, but only in the long term,” the report stated. “While it may require a new legal basis in most donor countries and therefore take time to implement, the seizure of the frozen assets of Russia’s central bank—currently amounting to $300 billion—is a promising and consequential option. Russian retaliation will be a risk, however, and the danger of setting an unwanted precedent needs to be managed.”
The organisation also advocated that the G7 and the U.S.—not the EU Commission—lead in managing international support for Ukraine’s recovery “because Brussels has neither the necessary political nor the financial heft.” The organisation wants the donor platform, RebuildUkraine to be led by a prominent American.
It noted that EU countries will soon have to make hard decisions regarding how they will support Ukraine, and that the EU can only expect to have a more prominent role as Ukraine moves closer to gaining EU membership.
An editorial published in the Washington Post the Sunday before the conference also exposed Europe’s relative lack of financial support for Ukraine as well as major concerns about corruption in the beleaguered country.
“The U.S. is now committing nearly twice as much as all EU countries and institutions combined,” wrote Christoph Trebesch, who leads the team compiling the data for Kiel’s Ukraine Support Tracker. “This is a meagre showing for the bigger European countries, especially since many of their pledges are arriving in Ukraine with long delays. The low volume of new commitments in the summer now appears to be continuing systematically.”
Of the up-to-€9 billion in macro-financial aid promised in May this year, the EU member states could only agree on the distribution of €6 billion so far, Euractiv reports.
The editorial also described in detail how Ukrainian oligarchs usurped hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid through Ukraine’s state-run companies with the government.
Despite concerns about what might happen to donations, Ukraine’s need is clear.
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva warned at the conference that 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.
She also praised Ukrainian authorities’ financial management, stating that Ukraine is “doing a really good job in making every cent—every hryvnia, I should say—count.”
Zelensky also reminded conference participants that his country is currently facing a $38 billion budget deficit. Ukraine estimates its recovery will cost $750 billion.
Conclusions from the conference, which is designed to serve as a framework for the donor platform, will be published in the coming weeks.