Reconstruction Conference for Ukraine: “Reconstruction is resistance”

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Written By Maya Cantina

Reconstruction during war? Germany wants more civilian aid for Ukraine. Green Party politician Deborah Düring is open to reforming the debt brake.

A construction worker installs prefabricated components on a residential building

Zaporizhia, Ukraine, February 27, 2024: Reconstruction of a residential building destroyed by Russian rocket fire Photo: Dmytro Smolyenko/Ukrinform/imago

taz: Mrs Düring, this Tuesday and Wednesday, representatives of business, civil society and politics will meet to discuss the issue Reconstruction of Ukraine speak. How is this possible in times of war?

Deborah During: Reconstruction is resistance, the Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Reconstruction, Oleksandra Azarkhina, once said. Ukrainian society fights against the Russian war of aggression every day in different ways, and of course it is the soldiers on the front who fight against it. But it is also the doctors and nurses who treat the injured in hospitals. It is the teachers who continue to educate the students, so that in the future Ukraine will have well-educated young people to rebuild the country.

They are therapists and social workers who provide psychosocial support to traumatized people. So it is precisely the people who repair or build supply structures in villages and towns who of course also need houses with electricity in which they can live and schools where they can send their children. Reconstruction is an essential part of maintaining a resilient society.

The majority of public conversations are about arms supplies. Civil aid disappears.

For me personally, it only works together in the end. It is clear that we support Ukraine militarily. But we also provide long-term support with German funds, for example in the field of reconstruction at various levels. Whether it concerns supplying generators, financing the construction of houses, roads and energy infrastructure. Ultimately, this may not be the big headline, but it is a very relevant factor.

According to World Bank estimates, reconstruction will cost approximately 450 billion euros. Who should pay for that?

It is clear that Russia is responsible for the war of aggression and destruction. The federal government is also working in the Council of Europe to hold Russia accountable, including with regard to reparations. But Ukraine won’t be able to wait for that. It is therefore right that the international community closely coordinates the financing of reconstruction, including at the reconstruction conference in Berlin.

In Germany we also fight for more money in the relevant households. But the frozen Russian assets and their interests are also an important part of the financing issue. Thirdly, there is a demand for the economy and that is why the reconstruction conference also focuses on the role of companies.

The budgets of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation, which are crucial for aid to Ukraine, are currently under intense discussion. Would you be in favor of suspending the debt brake due to war?

I am very flexible when it comes to how we ultimately finance this. Reforming the debt brake or suspending the debt brake are two options. But there are other options, and that’s exactly what we need to consider now.

Money for Ukraine is also linked to meeting certain criteria, for example the fight against corruption. Do you see progress?

Overall, we must see this process in terms of integration into the EU. It is about the fight against corruption, but also about that Independence in energy infrastructure and thus the focus on the expansion of renewable energy sources. We support decentralized reconstruction, in which municipalities and local civil society have a say in how reconstruction takes place.

The reconstruction conference will be followed by the G7 meeting in Italy and then the Peace conference in Switzerland. Many appointments for Ukraine and its allies that will not please Russian President Putin. Do you see opportunities for escalation?

We must always take Putin and his statements very seriously. At the same time, our response must be full support for Ukraine in all areas. That is why it is also important that the federal government not only depends on military aid, but also on civilian aid, such as short- and long-term reconstruction.

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