Von der Leyen and Scholz defend seizing Russian assets to finance Ukraine’s costly reconstruction | International
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Real estate, yachts, businesses and, above all, the billions that are hidden in Western bank accounts. The Russian assets that the European Union and the United States have frozen in their territories as a result of international sanctions for the invasion of Ukraine should be able to be confiscated to finance the reconstruction of the invaded country, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der, agreed on Tuesday. Leyen, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Both stressed in Berlin, during an international conference that has analyzed how to begin the reconstruction of Ukraine when the war ends, the will to make the confiscation effective, although they stressed that it is a legally very complicated task. They are between 300,000 and 500,000 million euros, the Ukrainian Prime Minister, Denis Shmyhal, recalled with them, which could become “the main source of financing” of what Scholz called “the Marshall plan of the 21st century”, referring to the aid provided by the United States to post-war Europe in the 1940s.
Germany hosted, as the country that chairs this year’s G-7, a meeting in which the partners of the G-20, the EU Member States and international organizations and financial institutions also participated. The meeting was not intended as a forum for countries to announce their future contributions; in fact, he ended up not knowing how the return to normalcy in Ukraine would be financed. What the participants made clear is that the reconstruction of the country, where the war started by the Russian invasion has just entered its eighth month, has to lay the foundations for the future incorporation of kyiv into the European Union. “It’s never too early to start the task,” said Scholz, who recalled that the Twenty-seven decided in June to give a strong show of support to the neighbor to the East by granting it the status of a candidate country for accession. “Whoever supports Ukraine now is supporting a future member of the EU,” he stressed. “We cannot wait for the end of the war,” von der Leyen also said.
The EU president recalled that the country needs support for “daily survival”: essential payments such as the salary of the military, teachers and doctors, or pensions. Only that economic effort will mean monthly in 2023 between 3,000 million euros and 5,000 million if, in the worst scenario, Russian bombing destroys a good part of the infrastructure and the productive fabric, according to the general director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva. Brussels is willing to take on a third party, assured Von der Leyen, who is counting on getting the agreement of all the member states. In total, it would be 18,000 million euros in 2023.
The Ukrainian Prime Minister invited European companies to invest and participate in the reconstruction of his country, which he estimated at some 750,000 million dollars. Confiscation of Russian assets would lighten the Allies’ bill, but it presents many legal complications. In fact, the EU created a working group months ago to analyze how to proceed, without reaching any conclusions yet. “The will is there, but it is not an easy task,” said Von der Leyen, because “the process must be legally secured.” “We are at the beginning of an unprecedented measure,” said Scholz, who also alluded to the need to respect the rule of law.
The Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, who participated by videoconference, recounted the recent Russian attacks on basic infrastructure and the economic potential of the country and assured that it is part of an obvious strategy of the Kremlin: “They want it to be more difficult for us to overcome this winter”, he assured after listing the destruction of railway lines, hospitals and companies. Shmyhal called the effects of the latest attacks “the greatest humanitarian catastrophe on the European continent.” He also pointed out, at the end of the summit, that kyiv wants to complete the process to formalize its status as a candidate for the community club before the end of the year and stressed that there is a will to “quickly” implement the reforms required by Brussels and “modernize” the country. Among them, those that allow companies that want to participate in the reconstruction to do so with legal certainty comparable to that of the EU.
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Zelensky also called for the establishment of a “financial coordination platform” to coordinate economic efforts and also called for frozen Russian assets to be used for reconstruction. The Ukrainian president, who received German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in kyiv on Tuesday, insisted before the representatives of international organizations on the need to maintain unity and continue supporting the Ukrainian Army by sending weapons, especially air defense.
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