Berlin conference lays out vision of post-war Ukraine

Gathering national leaders, company chiefs and development experts, the Berlin conference laid out a vision of a future Ukraine as a European Union member.

 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy delivers the keynote address during a conference on post-war reconstruction of Ukraine in Berlin, Germany, October 25, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/MICHELE TANTUSSI)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy delivers the keynote address during a conference on post-war reconstruction of Ukraine in Berlin, Germany, October 25, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MICHELE TANTUSSI)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the European hosts of a conference on his country's reconstruction laid out a vision of a future Ukraine as a European Union member and a major exporter of green energy to the continent on Tuesday.

"This is not a regular donor conference," German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the conference in Berlin. "It is something more profound... A new Marshall Plan for the 21st century," he said, comparing the challenge to the US funding of Europe's reconstruction after World War Two.

"This is not a regular donor conference, it is something more profound... A new Marshall Plan for the 21st century."

Olaf Scholz

Addressing the conference by video link, Zelensky said Russian missiles and Iranian-made drones had destroyed more than a third of the country's energy infrastructure, making it vulnerable in the short term and delaying European integration.

"It destroys everything to make it harder for us to survive this winter," he said. "So that you cannot integrate the Ukrainian economic potential for as long as possible."

The conference, hosted by Scholz and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, is intended to decide how to proceed with Ukraine's reconstruction after the war, now in its ninth month.

 Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Mathias Cormann, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz walk on the day of a conference on post-war reconstruction of Ukraine. (credit: REUTERS/MICHELE TANTUSSI) Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Mathias Cormann, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz walk on the day of a conference on post-war reconstruction of Ukraine. (credit: REUTERS/MICHELE TANTUSSI)

Ukraine says that repairing the damage caused by a war that has cost thousands of lives and destroyed homes, hospitals, schools and factories will cost $750 billion. The World Bank estimates reconstruction costs at $349 billion.

What are the goals of the conference?

Gathering national leaders, company chiefs and development experts, Tuesday's conference is intended to draw lessons from the failures of previous post-war reconstructions.

Zelensky said it was in Europe's interest to help Ukraine recover from a war condemned by Western countries as President Vladimir Putin's imperialist land grab but styled by Moscow as a special military operation to purge its neighbor of extremists.

"All of you surely know what we have to offer," he said. "It is Ukraine that can guarantee that Russian revanchism cannot break our European home."

In a nod to concerns, widely shared but rarely voiced in European capitals, that reconstruction aid could be stolen or wasted, he stressed that three-quarters of the members of a reconstruction fund's advisory board would be from donor countries.

"We have no time to waste: the scale of the destruction is staggering," said von der Leyen.