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State of the Union: Brussels asks for more money, as Ukraine reconstruction pledges are made

London's conference on reconstruction of Ukraine raised €60 billion in pledged loans.
London's conference on reconstruction of Ukraine raised €60 billion in pledged loans. Copyright AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, pool
Copyright AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, pool
By Stefan Grobe
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Donors at a conference in London pledged billions towards rebuilding the war-torn country.

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It was a busy week for shaping Europe's future, as we saw a series of important plans, proposals and pledges that could be critical for years to come.

But they come with enormous price tags.

First, the European Commission presented its economic security paper.

It seeks to convince member states to introduce stronger export controls on technologies that could be put to military use by rivals like China - although that country was not mentioned by name.

The paper also called on members to provide an extra €10 billion to help the necessary industries develop strategic technologies.

Then, the Commission asked for even more funds to top up the current EU budget to the tune of €65 billion to make up for budgetary gaps caused by COVID, inflation and the Russian aggression on Ukraine.

"My message to prime ministers and finance ministers was clear: If we want to be a serious political and economic player at a global level, we need more resources," Johannes Hahn, the European Commissioner for Budget and Administration, said.

All these funding requests, €50 billion for Ukraine alone, will be discussed at an EU summit next week in Brussels.

Also, in the shadow of Kyiv's counteroffensive, Western allies pledged tens of billions of euros to help the war-torn country.

At a conference in London, governments and private donors sought to shift public attention, at least for the moment, from the battlefield to the reconstruction effort - which will likely take many years.

"With the support of the US Congress, we will provide more than $1.3 billion in additional aid to help Ukraine," US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken said.

"Over three years, we will provide loan guarantees worth $3 billion," Rishi Sunak, British Prime Minister added.

Even the German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, chimed in: "Germany will provide Ukraine with an additional €381 million for humanitarian assistance in 2023."

Fresh EU sanctions

An 11th round of sanctions was also agreed on Thursday among EU countries, which aims to crack down on the circumvention of the multiple penalties that have been imposed since February 2022.

Brussels has grown increasingly concerned about a steep rise in EU exports to countries in Russia's periphery, such as Armenia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, a possible red flag that prohibited items are making their way into the Kremlin's hands.

The new sanctions reinforce export bans and target a limited set of non-Russian companies that are suspected of taking part in the evasion.

The penalties target three companies from Hong Kong, two from the United Arab Emirates, two from Uzbekistan, one from Syria, one from Armenia and one from Iran, all of them suspected of helping the Kremlin get its hands on blacklisted goods.

This marks the first time China, one of the few allies that Moscow has left on the international stage, becomes directly entangled in the EU sanctions against Russia.

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The selection, however, was initially wider: five Chinese firms were removed from the list of sanctions during negotiations as a result of pressure from Beijing and demands from certain member states, a diplomat said. (The information was previously reported by the South China Morning Post.)

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