Speech by the Minister of Finance, Sigrid Kaag, at the Constituency Meeting in Sarajevo, 15 September 2022

Hello everyone,

After a delay of two years, it’s great to be meeting again in person, in the beautiful city of Sarajevo.

Unfortunately, the post-pandemic world is not the one we had hoped for.
Just as we were emerging from a dark period and trying to move forward, Putin took a sledgehammer to old certainties, with a campaign of extraordinary military aggression against Ukraine.
Aggression that we condemn in the strongest possible terms. With its unprovoked and unjustified military action, Russia is grossly violating international law and undermining European and global security and stability. We deplore the loss of life and human suffering in this conflict. And we stand firmly by Ukraine and its people as they face this unparalleled crisis.

It is impossible to express in words or figures the devastation, sorrow and suffering in Ukraine.
And the war has had a massive impact in other countries in the region too, just as their economies were starting to recover from the COVID crisis.

In fact, the effects can be felt all over the world.
At a time when it feels like we are lurching from one crisis to the next.
Around the globe, soaring prices are making it impossible for people on low incomes to make ends meet.
In many countries, government debt is ballooning due to rising interest rates.
And there is real uncertainty about energy supplies now that Russia clearly cannot be relied upon as a partner.

We need that energy, but if we want to ensure our planet remains habitable, we will have to obtain it from other sources.
Our world is already suffering the effects of global warming, as this summer made painfully clear, with many countries hit by droughts, forest fires and floods.

So we have been faced with climate disasters and a war.
And they in turn are affecting the world’s food supply. Making people’s homes unsafe and forcing them to flee, or to go in search of a better future elsewhere.

When we look at the big picture, we realise not only that we face many different crises, but also that they are all interconnected in one way or another.
And that may offer a useful path forward as we work to put things right.
The theme of this meeting – ‘From Crisis to Recovery’ – encapsulates that idea perfectly.

And although I certainly don’t think we have all the answers, I do believe that coming together here today is a piece of the puzzle.
Because collaboration is an essential requirement in confronting many of today’s big challenges.
We can only deal with the migration issue if we jointly take responsibility.
We can only combat global warming if we all commit to that goal.
Together we will have to develop alternative, sustainable sources of energy.
And in supporting Ukraine and condemning Russia’s actions, we will stand strongest if we stand together.

Bosnia, our host for this event gives us the important example that recovery from terrible conflict is possible, with support from the IMF, the World Bank, the EU and the international community.

The Netherlands wants to express its support for Ukraine not only in word, but also in deed.
That is why we have issued a 100-million-euro guarantee for financing to Ukraine via the World Bank. Our government also intends to lend Ukraine 200 million euros via the IMF.
And we are bolstering support at EU level, too, for example via the macro-financial assistance operation. In addition, we’re pressing more broadly for further and faster support to Ukraine via the IMF and the World Bank.

We also realise that, besides Ukraine, other constituency countries also need support, including via the IMF programmes and the macro-financial assistance I just mentioned.

The Netherlands – and in particular the Dutch Ministry of Finance – will continue supporting the constituency countries where possible.
In areas like public finance management and strengthening public administration, for example.
We have been doing this for years under our Constituency Programme, and we will continue those efforts.
Now more than ever.

In this way, we can work together to make our economies stronger and more fit for the future.
We can find a way of life that is compatible with, instead of harmful to, our natural world.
We can make the reforms that are needed to cope with both current and future crises.

And in the midst of all the worry and darkness of this time, I see our unity as a cause for optimism.
Russia’s terrible deeds in Ukraine have highlighted the importance of unity in Europe and cooperation with the wider region.
We are now taking crucial steps to that end.
This summer, Ukraine and Moldova became EU candidate countries.
Georgia has been given the perspective to become a member of the EU.
Andorra is working towards an EU association agreement.
Next year, Croatia will adopt the euro as its currency. What’s more, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania have begun negotiations to join the OECD.
I want to applaud the reforms Armenia has implemented, also in partnership with the EU, despite the difficult circumstances.

While many feared that after Brexit we would see a further erosion of European cooperation, six years later the opposite seems to be true.
There is a growing realisation that we are stronger together than alone.

So I am delighted that we are all here today, and I look forward to speaking with many of you later.
These meetings are more important than ever, especially at a time like this. So let us further strengthen our excellent ties, and work together for a better future.

Thank you.