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‘Colossal’ work ahead as Ukraine’s recovery meeting opens in Lugano

#Colossal #work #ahead #Ukraines #recovery #meeting #opens #Lugano

Leaders from dozens of countries, international organizations and the private sector convened in Switzerland on Monday to draft a “Marshall Plan” to rebuild war-ravaged Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who will attend virtually, warned on Sunday that the work in the liberated areas alone is “really colossal”.

“And we must liberate over 2,000 villages and towns in eastern and southern Ukraine,” he said.

The two-day conference, held amid tight security in the picturesque southern Swiss city of Lugano, was planned well before the start of the full-scale invasion of Russia on February 24.

It was originally intended to discuss reforms in Ukraine, but when the Russian bombs began falling it was repurposed to focus on reconstruction.

However, as billions of dollars in aid flow to Ukraine, ongoing concerns about widespread corruption in the country mean that far-reaching reforms remain the focus and will be a condition of any stimulus plan enacted here.

– “Timetable” –

Lugano is not a donor conference, but will instead seek to set the principles and priorities for a reconstruction process to begin even as Russia’s war in Ukraine rages on.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Switzerland Artem Rybchenko said it would help create a “roadmap” for his country’s recovery.

Zelensky was originally due to come and moderate the event alongside his Swiss counterpart Ignazio Cassis, but he is now scheduled to deliver his speech via video link on Monday afternoon.

However, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has made a rare trip outside of Ukraine to attend since the war began and was met at the airport by Cassis and regional leaders on Sunday.

Five other government ministers were among the 100 or so Ukrainians who made the long and perilous journey, although Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reportedly had to cancel at the last moment due to illness.

A total of around 1,000 people should take part in the conference, including EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, several heads of government and numerous ministers.

– ‘Marshall Plan’ –

Questions have been raised about the value of discussing reconstruction when there is no end in sight to the war.

But Robert Mardini, director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told the RTS broadcaster that while the reconstruction itself can only be fully completed after the bombings have been stopped, it is vitally important to help “civilian who have lost their security , to give a positive perspective are at home and fight with fear and uncertainty for the future”.

Others stress the need to start laying the groundwork early, as was done with the hugely successful Marshall Plan, a US initiative that pumped huge sums of foreign aid into Western Europe to help the continent rebuild and recover to help World War II.

Rebuilding Ukraine, which has already seen devastation four months into the war, is expected to cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

The effort will require “huge investments,” Zelenskyy admitted at the weekend.

The Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) has estimated the damage done to buildings and infrastructure so far at nearly $104 billion.

It is estimated that at least 45 million square meters of housing, 256 businesses, 656 medical facilities and 1,177 educational institutions were damaged, destroyed or confiscated, while Ukraine’s economy had already suffered losses of up to $600 billion.

– Could take decades –

Simon Pidoux, the Swiss ambassador in charge of the conference, said it was too early to try to gauge all needs and insisted that Lugano should instead provide “a compass” for the work ahead.

“I think the effort will take years, if not decades,” he said.

Although not a pledging conference, a number of participants are expected to make new pledges and propose frameworks for the delivery of further funds.

The European Investment Bank, for example, will propose the creation of a new trust fund for Ukraine, which could eventually swell to €100 billion with investments from EU and non-EU countries, according to sources familiar with the draft plans.

The proposal, due to be announced on Monday afternoon, aims to create a platform that can generate investment for Ukraine’s reconstruction and also EU accession goals, they said.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is set to outline her country’s vision for recovery, according to a statement.

In her comments on Monday’s conference, she is expected to emphasize the importance of Ukraine’s full recovery from “Russia’s war of aggression.”

That, she will say, will be “a symbol of the power of democracy over autocracy.”

Social Tags:
#Colossal #work #ahead #Ukraines #recovery #meeting #opens #Lugano

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