Keynote speech by President von der Leyen at the Ukraine Recovery Conference 2023

Prime Minister Sunak, dear Rishi,

Prime Ministers,



Ladies and Gentlemen,

Every day, we see the devastation brought by Russia to Ukraine.The people of Ukraine are enduring every horror and from every direction: From the sky – fire rains; from the ground – they watch their towns sink underwater. Russia fires missiles at innocent civilians for no other reason than one man’s delusional attempt to restore a lost empire.

But every day, we see also something else. This is what I witnessed firsthand when I last visited the country just over a month ago. I saw a country that does everything possible to rise from the ashes of war.Every day, Ukrainians show us what they are fighting and dying for.They show it on the battlefield. They show it on their streets. They show it in the classrooms. They are fighting for their future, for a Ukraine free from Russian invaders, for a Ukraine that decides its own destiny, for a Ukraine rebuilt and revitalised. In just over a year, Ukrainians have cleared rubble from 2,000 kilometres of roads, rebuilt over 40 bridges, renewed 900 train stations and depots. All of this while fighting a war for their own survival. But Ukrainians are not just restoring what used to be. They show us how they are already reshaping their country. Ukrainians are reimagining their future amidst all the loss, the pain and the suffering.

Let me tell you about Irpin‘s School Number 17. Shrapnel damaged the school’s roof, destroyed its walls, and broke all its windows and destroyed the heating system. And so, when children came back to their lessons, they did so in unimaginable cold, until a local NGO stepped in with a simple and creative solution. They installed solar panels on the roof, so children could learn in warmth. This small but meaningful use of clean energy to revitalise everyday life is just one example of how Ukraine is not just rebuilding but reimagining itself.

Ukraine has stunned us with their bravery.They have inspired us with their ingenuity. And they have awed us with the way they are transforming their country in pursuit of their dream. And dear friends, it is this dream of a cleaner, greener, more modern Ukraine that will be the lasting legacy of this war. And it is our responsibility to help make this happen.Because Ukrainians are fighting not just for their sovereignty but also for us, for our freedom, for our values.We can never match their sacrifice.But we can and we do all stand united, coordinated and resolute that Ukraine must win, will win and has our support, not just for as long as it takes to secure peace but for the country they are imagining.A country that attracts foreign investment. A country that is master of its future.A country that is a member of the European Union

Together, we will support Ukraine not as individual nations but as a coordinated community, organised under an innovative Platform. A Platform that will channel support to the reforms and priorities that will make imagination reality.Today, we gather here to tell Ukrainians that their dream is also our dream.In January, we created the Multi-agency Donor Coordination Platform. It is a first of its kind in the history of international aid. It brings together Ukraine, the G7, the EUthe European Investment Bankthe European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the IMF and the World Bank. It creates a single focal point for international donors to guarantee that support goes exactly where Ukraine needs it most. The European Commission is contributing EUR 18 billion already this year. Together with other donors, we closed Ukraine‘s budget gap for 2023 so that Ukrainians can continue to pay salaries, pensions and for healthcare.

This is for Ukraine‘s immediate needs. But let us talk about the future.I believe the European Union has a special responsibility.The reason is simple: When Ukrainians imagine their future, they see Europe‘s flag flying over their cities.  And I have no doubt that Ukraine will be part of our Union. So today, I want to announce two new steps. The first is about Ukraine‘s reforms and its path towards EU membership. Despite the war, Ukraine has accelerated its reform agenda with impressive speed and resolve. We, in the European Union, want to match efforts and dedication. This is why today, the European Commission presents a new oral update on the progress Ukraine made on judicial reform, on anti-corruption, on new laws for media and national minorities. This reporting shows the goal is in sight and we will work with Ukraine to get over the finish line. And with these reforms, Ukraine also sends a powerful message to private investors: They will get the transparency, the fairness and the functioning institutions they need to invest in Ukraine. And this is especially important because we need the private sector to step up, too. Because it is the private sector, with its invaluable expertise and financial firepower, that will help Ukraine realise its dreams.

Which brings me to my last point. We want to match Ukrainian reforms with European investments.  For every step Ukraine takes towards us, the European Union must take a step towards Ukraine.  Yesterday the European Commission proposed to create a new Facility for Ukraine within the budget of the European Union. It will ensure constant financial support until 2027. The Facility will be financed in three ways: with grants from the EU budget; with loans raised on capital markets; and eventually with proceeds from the immobilised Russian assets. We will come with a proposal for these assets before the summer break. Now, what are the estimated needs? Until 2027, Ukraine‘s remaining fiscal gap is about EUR 60 billion. The needs for fast recovery are about EUR 50 billion. That makes in total EUR 110 billion until 2027 that are not covered. Therefore, yesterday I proposed to EU Member States to cover 45% of this gap – this is in total EUR 50 billion for Ukraine. We will work with Ukraine on a corresponding plan for investment and reforms. This plan could also become an anchor for all international donors, including the private sector. This will help our coordination and maximise our impact.This is what we mean when we say that we are with Ukraine for as long as it takes. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Putin shattered peace on our continent on 24 February in 2022. But he triggered Ukraine‘s journey towards its dream. And it is our job – our duty – to the Ukrainians who have paid the ultimate sacrifice that we ensure that this reimagined future becomes reality – brick by brick, house by house, school by school. We are by Ukraine‘s side for the long haul.

Slava Ukraini,

Long live Europe.