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Euroviews. As voters head to the polls, Europe’s future lies in Ukraine’s recovery

A women hugs the mother of Ukrainian journalist and volunteer combat medic Iryna Tsybukh during a memorial service on Independence square in Kyiv, June 2024
A women hugs the mother of Ukrainian journalist and volunteer combat medic Iryna Tsybukh during a memorial service on Independence square in Kyiv, June 2024 Copyright AP Photo/Euronews
Copyright AP Photo/Euronews
By Oleksandr Sushko, Executive Director, International Renaissance Foundation
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

During a time when political forces are seeking to undermine the European project, Ukraine’s recovery and renewal could be its greatest achievement and its most powerful asset, Oleksandr Sushko writes.

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In recent weeks, Russia has renewed its bombardment of Ukraine with a ferocity not seen since the early days of the full-scale invasion.

The recent missile strike on a crowded suburban Epicenter store near Kharkiv on a Saturday afternoon demonstrates that Ukraine continues to face an existential threat.

Villages in the region, some only recently reconnected to electricity for the first time in two years, are again under a blizzard of drones and bombs.

This weekend, voters will choose who will be in charge of EU policies for the next five years, and they should keep us in their thoughts.

Then, next week’s Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin should focus not on repairing what has been destroyed but on strengthening society to achieve victory.

The spirit of Ukraine's civil society is its strongest asset

Reconstruction would not be necessary if Ukraine could prevent the destruction. Delays in the provision of military aid have proved fatal, and restrictions on use leave Ukraine disadvantaged.

Increasingly, Russian attacks rain down not only on the frontline but on critical infrastructure installations nationwide. Buildings and roads can be repaired, and Ukrainians have become experts in doing so at speed.

Ukrainian soldiers prepare to fire 120mm mortar towards Russian position on the front line at undisclosed location in Donetsk region, June 2024
Ukrainian soldiers prepare to fire 120mm mortar towards Russian position on the front line at undisclosed location in Donetsk region, June 2024Oleg Petrasiuk/Press service of 24 Mechanised brigade via AP

But beyond reconstruction, resilience is key. Without viable health, education and energy sectors to sustain the economy and its people, the country stands no chance against such an onslaught.

The Berlin conference should reemphasize that support for Ukraine is not simply a top-down donor-to-government process but a multilayered partnership between municipal groups, civil society organisations, business associations, regional and local educational initiatives and others.

The best outcomes will be garnered by harnessing the spirit of Ukrainian civil society. By learning from people in the worst-hit communities who have already adapted and innovated throughout years of war, Ukraine and its allies can help win the peace.

The country’s small and medium-sized businesses will be key to these efforts, provided they have reliable sources of finance.

Don't give up on Ukraine's European enthusiasm

The streets of Kyiv and other major cities are becoming louder with the rattle of generators as blackouts become longer and more frequent.

In warmer months, it can be tolerable. In the winter, it will be unbearable, and a humanitarian disaster will ensue.

To avoid it, Ukraine needs a much more nimble and decentralized power grid. A network of smaller power plants dispersed around the country would be less vulnerable to being picked off by Russian weapons.

Ukraine’s industrious private energy sector firms can deliver but are still struggling to access capital and insurance, even with an incredible track record.

Ukraine’s enthusiasm for a democratic future is a key factor that distinguishes it from Russian totalitarianism, and reforms made along its EU accession journey mark it above even some longstanding member states.   
Firefighters put out a fire on an apartment building damaged in the Russian missile attack in Kharkiv, May 2024
Firefighters put out a fire on an apartment building damaged in the Russian missile attack in Kharkiv, May 2024AP Photo/Andrii Marienko

In 2023, the Tyligulska wind power plant was opened only 100km from the Mykolaiv frontline and now generates enough power for 200,000 households.

Key to Ukraine’s survival is the bolstering of its democratic foundations, which remain strong despite intense challenges.

Last year, Transparency International ranked Ukraine as one of the world’s top performers in its anti-corruption index, a notable achievement for any country, particularly one at war.

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Even under severe circumstances of war, the majority of Ukrainian society believes that democracy is a better mode of governance than “strong hand” leadership.

Ukraine’s enthusiasm for a democratic future is a key factor that distinguishes it from Russian totalitarianism, and reforms made along its EU accession journey mark it above even some longstanding member states.   

What good does it do to fix a bridge no one will cross?

Partnering with Ukraine on recovery efforts also creates more incentives and opportunities for some of the region’s 6.5 million refugees to return home.

Because it is not only from the missiles that people flee but also the lack of heating, electricity, water and sewage services.

The European Union’s hospitality towards the displaced is being challenged by political parties who are both sceptical of immigration and of Ukraine’s plight and may increase their vote share in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

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A sure-fire solution to ease migration pressure around the bloc is to ensure that Ukraine remains a viable home for its people.

Intensifying recruitment drives across the country show that Ukraine’s armed forces are acutely aware of the need to maintain and replenish personnel to defend the homeland.

Supporting Ukraine’s resilience is also a necessary investment in global security. Last week, Russia ominously removed a line of buoys that demarcated its border with Estonia.

These provocative actions frequently preclude further action and remind us that if Moscow is allowed to prevail in Ukraine, NATO countries could be next in the firing line.

Ultimately, Ukraine will prevail if its people are given ownership over its future. What good is it to repair a bridge if nobody is around to cross it? What use are new schools without teachers or pupils to fill them?

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The wider aim of this week’s conference must be to help Ukraine bolster its post-war society based on democracy, the rule of law and European identity.

During a time when political forces are seeking to undermine the European project, Ukraine’s recovery and renewal could be its greatest achievement and its most powerful asset.

Oleksandr Sushko is Executive Director of the International Renaissance Foundation, a part of the Open Society Foundations based in Kyiv.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at view@euronews.com to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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