What's New(s)

What’s New(s) - Ukraine: Who will pay for rebuilding the country ?

What’s New(s) - Ukraine: Who will pay for rebuilding the country ?

What´s New(s)? La revue de presse anglophone – Erik Ruiz Martín & Nadine Vermeulen

While the war is still raging on in Ukraine, with horrifying stories from the survivors of Mariupol now getting out in the media; western leaders already start thinking about the rebuilding of the completely devastated country, with the main question being: who will pay ?

What does the media predict about the rebuilding of the country ?

Indeed, even if the end of the war still seems far away for the moment, with horrific news items about the tactics used by the Russians getting even worse; Western countries are already speculating about how the reconstruction will look like and mostly: who will pay for it. The 9th of May, Europe day and the day used by Putin to memorise the defeat of Nazi Germany by expressing its military might, Euractiv share the letter of seventy-three MEPs calling for 300 billion dollars in seized Russian funds to be invested in the country’s reconstruction. This news about the letter came 4 days after EU chief Charles Michel said in an interview that the EU should confiscate and sell Russian assets to rebuild war-scarred Ukraine. In the same line, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, called in an interview with Financial Times to seize the Russian’s central bank’s money for the reconstruction. “The greater the expected damage, the greater the temptation of Western politicians to force Russia to pay for the reconstruction”, stated Dutch newspaper NRC. 

And what obstacles are there to let Russia pay for the damage caused ?

Well seizing currency reserves from the Russian central bank is legally not that easy, predict ethe media. While the bloc’s members decide together on which sanctions to impose, and how, the measures are implemented at a national level, where they are subject to legal challenges, argued POLITICO. This step may require special legislation, added NRC. There is no legal framework for this step neither in the European Union nor its Member States, it states. Besides, the assets of foreign governments, as managed by central banks, are protected by the principle of state immunity as outlined in amongst others a UN convention.  

Even if EU chief Michel said in an interview that he had asked the Council’s legal service to come up with “some ideas to find a legal solution that would facilitate and make possible the confiscation of assets”, it is far from clear that even the best EU lawyers would find a magical solution, concluded POLITICO. Besides, wrote Spanish newspaper El Confidencial, the use of Russian assets for the reconstruction might just cover a tiny amount of what would be needed to rebuild the country. Last month the EU reported that it had frozen 30 billion euros in assets of sanctioned Russian and Belarusian individuals. Ukraine will need trillions of euros to rebuild the country, it argued.

 But while talking about the country’s future: is Ukraine closer than ever to EU membership, what are the prospects of future integration in the EU ? 

Actually, this does not seem to be a realistic possibility in the near future. French President Macron stressed on Europe Day, on the occasion of the presentation of the results of the Conference on the Future of Europe, that Ukraine would probably not join the EU for several decades and has called for a new political organisation to unite democracies on the European continent, reports The Guardian. Euronews has called Macron’s idea a ‘two tier Europe’, and critics point to Macron just trying to appease non-EU countries waiting in the wings rather than actually seriously considering their membership bids. Spanish newspaper ABC claims that Macron wants to create a new European 'club', to accommodate Ukraine without harming the EU.

And how did other member states react to Macron’s idea of changing the EU treaties ?

According to POLITICO a new phase of soul-searching about the long-term direction of the EU has just started. The German Chancellor said that the French proposal was interesting but avoided announcing an endorsement of the proposal, writes El País. EU Observer also noted that Mario Draghi would back a change in the treaties. However, up to 13 countries, including Denmark, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Sweden, signed a document on Monday rejecting the idea, warns Deutsche Welle. A Czech expert quoted by EURACTIV states that the Conference on the Future of Europe will not lead to changes in the EU’s treaties because there is no consensus among member states for this. Some fear that this proposal might lead to a fight between big and small EU countries. We’ll see that in the following months.

Presentation : Nadine Vermeulen

Sound and editing : Jimmy Chabod