Rebuilding Ukraine will be a 'challenge for generations', says German chancellor

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By Lauren Chadwick
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attends a conference during the International Expert Conference on the Recovery, Reconstruction and Modernisation of Ukraine, in Berlin, Germany.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attends a conference during the International Expert Conference on the Recovery, Reconstruction and Modernisation of Ukraine, in Berlin, Germany.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

Ukraine's reconstruction will be a "challenge for generations" that needs to begin now, the German chancellor said at a conference on rebuilding the war-torn country.

Olaf Scholz was co-hosting an expert conference on Ukraine's recovery with the European Commission as part of its G7 presidency.

"We want to discuss the reconstruction of Ukraine today," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her opening speech.

"Thousands of destroyed houses, several hundred schools turned to rubble. Countless bridges, roads, power stations, railway infrastructure and industry bombed. For Ukrainians, these are not just statistics. This is their everyday experience," she added.

"What is at stake here (is) nothing less than creating a new Marshall Plan for the 21st century. A generational task that must begin now," Scholz said.

The Marshall Plan was the American reconstruction plan for Western Europe after World War II.

"We know that no two countries' histories are the same, but from our own historical experience, we also know that reconstruction is always possible and that it is never too soon to tackle this task," Scholz added.

The World Bank has estimated that the cost of damage in Ukraine is around €350 billion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy, who addressed the conference virtually, said Ukraine needed funds to cover a budget deficit of $38 billion while Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal stressed that Ukraine would need rapid funding "to recover infrastructure immediately" to survive this winter and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and wave of migration.

Von der Leyen announced last week that the EU aims to contribute €1.5 billion a month to Ukraine, for a total of €18 billion in 2023.

Europe depends on Russian energy 'like a drug addict'

At the conference, Poland's prime minister repeated his comparison of Europe's dependence on Russian energy to an addict going back to a drug dealer.

"We often talk about Europe’s dependence on Russian raw materials. And indeed, Russia has behaved like a drug dealer," Mateusz Morawiecki said.

"A drug dealer who gives his first dose for free because he knows that the addict will come later on and will pay very dearly for the next doses," he continued.

"Today it is not enough to talk about the reconstruction of Ukraine and the reconstruction of Europe. It's more than that. We have to talk about reshaping of Europe," the Polish prime minister said.

Prior to the war, roughly 40% of European gas imports were from Russia, but this has been heavily reduced as the Kremlin cut supplies in retaliation for sanctions.

In 2020, the EU depended on Russian imports for 24.4% of all energy needs; Poland depended on Russia for around 35% of its energy needs.