Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Macron raises 1 billion euros to rebuild Ukraine

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France had prepared the Ukraine Reconstruction Conference with a double objective, the purely fundraising but also the political message.

Starting to talk about reconstruction without the war having yet ended and a ceasefire not even in sight was a will of the Ukrainians themselves to send a message of strength both inside and outside their borders , as the French presidency has made clear.

Representatives of 47 countries, most of them European, and institutions such as the World Bank or the UN attended Paris on Tuesday. At the end of the meeting, the French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna , announced a collection of just over 1,000 million euros in donations. Most of that money goes to the energy sector (415 million) and basic electricity needs and heating of the Ukrainians to face the winter. But there are also endowments for the supply of water (25 million), food (38) and sectors of health (17) and transport (22).

This is an amount greater than the 800 million emergency energy that Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski had requested at the beginning of the conference . During his virtual address at the conference, President Zelensky claimed that some 12 million Ukrainians – a quarter of the country’s population before Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February – were living with power cuts.

Zelensky called for an international effort to keep Ukraine’s electricity supply systems running , which he said could help deter Moscow from further attacks and force them to seek a negotiated solution. After the conferences in Lugano, Warsaw and Berlin, the Paris meeting sought to neutralize the strategy deployed by Russia since October with the aim of making the population suffer and weakening the resistance. The will of the international community is to help the Ukrainians to “resist during this winter” against a Russia, whose objective is to “plunge them into darkness and cold”, President Emmanuel Macron pointed out at the opening of the Conference, thanking the collaboration of the 47 participating countries.The conference, which had been baptized as “Solidarity with the Ukrainian people” began at the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the presence of the Ukrainian Prime Minister, Denys Shmyhal . In addition to the official objectives, the appointment hid a much more officious one for Macron: that of smoothing things out with Zelenski after some statements little understood from Kyiv.

Macron stated at the beginning of the month that it was necessary to give Moscow “guarantees” to find a geopolitical balance, referring to the security architecture that should be rebuilt in Europe. Ukrainian personalities expressed their discontent with these statements taken out of context according to French sources. Encrypting the reconstruction of Ukraine was another of the objectives of this appointment. The World Bank estimated the task at 350,000 million dollars at the beginning of September specifying that this figure would cover only the period that goes until June 1 and has already announced that it will publish a new forecast at the beginning of 2023 that will be closer to the estimated 750,000 million by Kyiv.

The Ukrainian economy has already contracted 33% due to the war started by Moscow on February 24, according to World Bank figures. With the recent attacks, “the contraction will be stronger, we can expect it to be closer to 40%,” said Anna Bjerd, World Bank vice president for Europe and Central Asia.

During the afternoon, the second part of the conference took place in which half a thousand companies, including large French groups, explored investment possibilities in the reconstruction of the country, especially in areas such as infrastructure, transport or health. After interventions by Zelenski remotely and by Macron on site, several round tables have been held at the French Ministry of the Economy in which multiple aspects of reconstruction have been addressed. The Paris appointment this Tuesday was the continuation of what was agreed at the start of the week in the G7.

On Monday, the G7 leaders decided in a virtual summit to launch a “platform” to coordinate financial aid to Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced .

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