I hope you all had a chance to take some time off over the summer. I recharged hiking in the alps and chilling on a beach. I needed that, because the coming months will be crazy and full-steam ahead until the EU elections in June.
This newsletter is a special edition talking about my visit to Ukraine last weekend and the EU Ukraine Facility, a new law, which I will be negotiating until the end of the year. As always, feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts and check out my shiny new website.
The weekend in Kyiv
Back from my holidays, there was no time to take a breather. Two hectic weeks culminated in a weekend in Kyiv, from which I have just returned. Traveling there is a story in itself. You have to take a bus from Warsaw to the border with Ukraine, jump on a night train, and arrive early the next day.
I went for two reasons: I was invited to speak on a panel of the Yalta European Strategy (“YES”) Conference and I wanted to talk with Ukrainians on the ground to get smart for a law I am currently negotiating: The EUR 50 bn Ukraine Facility.
At the Conference, I could get a first-hand view of the situation by listening to some very high-level speakers talk about the military advances, the path to EU membership and the reconstruction needs. The conference was opened by President Zelenskyy, Boris (“BoJo”) Johnson was there somehow, as was one of my favorite thinkers on Ukraine, Timothy Snyder (check out his online lecture on Ukraine), as well as Niall Ferguson, US senators, Members of Parliaments, and many, many, more…
The general message was simple and nothing new: Ukraine needs and will continue to need a lot of support, especially in weapons and finances. Next to public money to keep the country running and to rebuild everything that the Russian aggressors destroyed Ukraine also needs private capital and investments into its businesses and startups to start growing again. That’s why I am super happy to work on the Ukraine Facility, which addresses exactly those issues.
The Ukraine Facility
This EUR 50 billion support package bundles all EU grants and loans to Ukraine over the next 4 years into one single programme, with one aligned governance mechanism (also in place so that Hungary cannot block aid for Ukraine through Orban’s blackmail tactics).
Johannes (my economic advisor) and I needed to deep-dive into this law much faster than usual: the negotiations start already tomorrow in Strasbourg! That’s why it was invaluable for me to talk to people on the ground and learn about different interests and perspectives. Next to the conference I organized meetings at the ministries of economy and finance and afterwards discussed with a range of MPs, economists, banks, international institutions and NGOs about how to spend and supervise the money, how to avoid corruption and how to make sure it ends up in the real economy.
The real cost of war
Independently from all these technical discussions, the trip made one thing painfully clear to me again: the people here are suffering terribly, especially, but not only those at the front line. From speaking to the people in Kyiv, it is clear that the current counteroffensive can’t move super fast, as Ukraine still has no air superiority (even though they can shoot down drones & planes) and Russia has fortified its positions with mines. It’s obvious, important to understand: every day this war continues, more people will suffer, be traumatized or die.
Make up your mind, Scholz!
Time is therefore of the essence. That’s why we have to stop our endless discussions about which weapon system is still ok to be sent. If we want Ukraine to win back its territory, stronger weapons will save Ukrainian lives and ensure a faster victory. Not sending the weapons Ukraine needs (including planes and rockets) will certainly result in more Ukrainians dead and a longer war. The German government, and especially Chancellor Scholz, should make up their mind and stop wasting precious time.
Some photos from Kyiv: Early train, Zelensky and BoJo, myself on a panel.
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One more thing: from next week onwards, this newsletter will have a shiny new design! Stay tuned…
Have a great week!