Reconstruction Conference for Ukraine: What the meeting is about

Reconstruction Conference for Ukraine: What the meeting is about

President Zelenskyj has come to Berlin for the third time since the invasion began for the Ukraine reconstruction conference. The 2,000 international guests are not only concerned with ensuring that Ukraine experiences a tomorrow. They are also discussing what the day after tomorrow might look like.

“Even in war, reconstruction is important,” said Federal Development Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) on Tuesday morning in Berlin. “People need a roof over their heads, they need electricity, health care, children need to go to school.” The reconstruction conference for Ukraine starts in Berlin on Tuesday. But what exactly is it about?

How much war damage has been caused in Ukraine so far?

The World Bank estimates the damage Russia has already caused in Ukraine to be at least 486 billion dollars (around 446 billion euros). Whole areas of land have been destroyed, and around 210,000 buildings along the front alone are in ruins. More than 900 schools, hospitals, churches and other civilian facilities have been damaged or destroyed – even though they are actually protected by the Geneva Conventions.

Russia has been bombing the Ukrainian energy supply network almost non-stop for weeks. Hundreds of thousands of people are without electricity. According to Kiev, half of the power generation capacity has been destroyed since the winter. Other areas such as drinking water supplies, hospitals and schools are also repeatedly targeted for destruction.

On May 14, the EU accepted the so-called plan and cleared the way for billions in payments. With the plan, Ukraine had explained how reconstruction, but also modernization and reforms could succeed.

At the start of the conference, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) also called on private companies to participate with investments. “Given the dimensions we are talking about here, private capital must be added.”

What will be discussed at the reconstruction conference?

It is not a donor conference to raise money for the reconstruction of Ukraine after the war. Rather, it is about networking the relevant actors from politics, business, civil society and international organizations. The aim is to launch initiatives to promote businesses or train skilled workers. “We are making it clear here at the reconstruction conference that together we are not only defying the brutal Russian attack, but that we are paving the way for Ukraine to join our European Union,” said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens).

In view of massive attacks by Russia, the Berlin meeting is also about emergency aid in the middle of the war. Scholz called for the country’s air defense to be further strengthened against Russian attacks. The allies should support a corresponding German initiative “with everything possible.” “Because the best reconstruction is the one that doesn’t have to take place at all.”

Is this the first conference of its kind?

No. Similar conferences were held in Lugano, Switzerland, in 2022 and in London in 2023. It is important for Ukraine to “broaden its view into the future and beyond military combat,” said a German government representative ahead of the Berlin meeting. Reconstruction is “a constant task,” and it is important for Ukraine to network with the West at all levels later on.

How long does the meeting last?

It started on Tuesday morning with a speech by the Chancellor. The two-day meeting is taking place on the Berlin exhibition grounds. In honor of Ukraine, the radio tower there, a 147-meter-high landmark of the capital, was illuminated in the national colors of blue and yellow on Tuesday night. On Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, the Berlin TV tower on Alexanderplatz will also be illuminated in the colors of Ukraine until midnight.

The conference is the start of a whole series of summits dealing with Ukraine. After the reconstruction conference, the G7 summit will take place in Apulia in southern Italy. One of the topics will be how frozen Russian assets can be used to support Ukraine. Scholz and Selenskyj will then go on to the Ukraine peace conference in Switzerland, for which, according to the government in Bern, around 40 heads of state and government have registered so far. Around 160 were invited. A further 40 states are expected to attend with other high-ranking government representatives.

Who participates?

Around 2,000 representatives from around 60 countries are expected. The conference participants will be roughly one third each from governments and international organizations, business and civil society, and municipalities and regions. “It is no longer enough to just have state representatives,” said Minister Schulze in the morning. That is why there is a “broad spectrum of invitations” for the conference organized jointly by Germany and Ukraine. This is important “so that one day Ukraine will not only be free after winning this war, but can once again stand on its own economic feet in a common, united Europe,” said Baerbock.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj has also traveled there. It is his third visit to Berlin since the beginning of the Russian invasion more than two years ago. In the morning, Zelenskyj met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at Bellevue Palace. In the afternoon, he will speak in the Bundestag.

Source: Stern

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