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EC President to attend Ukraine conference in Switzerland

A child plays outside a building destroyed during attacks in Irpin, Ukraine, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on May 30, 2022. Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is expected to attend the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano, Switzerland, in July, according to media reports.

This content was published on June 17, 2022 - 11:06
Le Temps/swissinfo.ch/sb

Her appearance at the major international conference on the reconstruction of Ukraine, scheduled for July 4-5, was reported by the St. Gallen TagblattExternal link and Le TempsExternal link newspapers.

Le Temps said on Friday that the delegation of the European Union to Switzerland had confirmed that she would attend.

The meeting agenda and a participants’ list are currently taking shape and at this stage it is unclear which other top officials will make the journey to the Italian-speaking Swiss city.

Switzerland says 41 countries and 19 international organisations, including the World Bank and the United Nations, have received invitations to the conference. Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis envisions a high-level meeting with ministers, prime ministers and presidents. Security will be tight with air space restricted and police supported by around 1,600 Swiss soldiers.

Cassis has told Swiss public television SRF that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as well as the Prime Minister, Denys Shmyhal, have agreed to join, either in person or by video link. According to Le Temps, the chances of Zelensky travelling to Lugano are “minimal”.

Cassis also invited British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has not yet confirmed if he himself will attend or send a representative. French President Emmanuel Macron is also on the participants’ list, according to media reports.

During the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on May 24, von der Leyen made it clear that she wanted the EU to play a leading role in Ukraine’s reconstruction. “The European Union has a strategic interest in leading the reconstruction effort,” she said.

While the EU is already discussing where to find funds for reconstruction, Cassis has intentionally avoided talking about financing. Yet an appeal on the Ukraine Recovery Conference websiteExternal link to “mobilize funds through pledging to implement Ukraine’s Recovery and Development Plan” clearly has the backing of Switzerland and Ukraine.

Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Switzerland has given Ukraine CHF100 million in humanitarian aid, while the United States has approved CHF40 billion in military and economic aid, and the EU has given $9 billion. In May Ukraine estimated the cost of reconstruction at $600 billion.

Discussions have already begun on what shape this plan could take. President Zelensky has talked about a model whereby individual countries, cities or companies would sponsor cities or firms in Ukraine. He has also suggested using frozen Russian assets to do this, including Russian foreign exchange reserves that add up to hundreds of billions of dollars and assets seized from oligarchs.

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