Speech Minister Schreinemacher at the Ukraine Recovery and Reconstruction Conference

Speech by Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Liesje Schreinemacher at the Ukraine Recovery and Reconstruction Conference, The Hague, 19 October 2022.

Good afternoon everyone,

It’s so good to see so many of you here today, and just hearing from you directly about the outcome of today's conference. As I grew up in Rotterdam, I can definitely identify with what was said; just do it. And I definitely wrote down some of the homework that was assigned to us. Dividing a short and long term, and where they come together. But also a lack of equipment when it comes to energy security. But also the blocks at the border. We have been listening and writing along with you. 

Unfortunately, what brings us here today is not at all good: Russia’s war in Ukraine.

So far and yet so close. A war in Europe that is killing thousands. A war that has forced millions to flee their country. A war that is destroying homes, livelihoods and infrastructure.

That is why I am so pleased and so grateful to see you al, gathered here today with so many of you. Willing to contribute to the recovery and the reconstruction of Ukraine, a task of great urgency.

The Netherlands stands behind Ukraine. Therefore we want to be ready to help Ukraine when they start their recovery and reconstruction process, as soon as possible. Because this war is bigger than Ukraine. It is also about freedom. Theirs and ours.

Last week I attended the World Bank annual meeting in Washington, DC, where we discussed the huge amount of almost 349 billion dollars that is needed for the reconstruction of Ukraine.

In the short term alone, more than 100 billion dollars is needed to meet the most urgent basic needs, such as the reconstruction of critical transport and energy infrastructure, support for the upcoming agricultural sowing season, demining, and support for displaced persons. Given the developments of the past weeks, supporting urgent needs for this winterization is also crucial.

Last week, the Netherlands announced a new contribution of 70 million euros for winterization activities. The Ukrainian authorities can use these funds directly to repair rooftops, power lines and water sources. And to buy gas to get their citizens through the cold winter.

My visit to Ukraine at the end of August left a big impression on me: I witnessed in person the devastating consequences of the brutal invasion by Russia. I also saw several organizations that are also here today, providing assistance in a shelter in Irpin. At the same time I also saw a remarkable resilience: despite the war, the people of Ukraine keep on going. Wounded, but unbroken.

These impressions strengthened my belief that in order to help, we need to join forces: government, civil society and businesses must work together to help Ukrainians rebuild their war-struck country.

Besides political and military support, the Dutch government has also helped Ukraine with grants and loans through EU channels, the World Bank and the IMF. But we have also supported humanitarian activities, businesses and cultural heritage.

The Netherlands for instance provided HALO Trust with 10 million euros so that we can start decontaminating Ukrainian land from mines and bombs. Before the summer, we helped Ukrainian museums protect paintings and other national cultural heritage. Because, as we just heard, culture is a basic need. Everything is connected to culture. 

And by financing humanitarian organizations active in Ukraine, such as the Dutch Red Cross and the Dutch Relief Alliance, we have ensured supply of healthcare, water, sanitation and food in areas where it has been most urgent.

And I am proud to announce that the Dutch government will provide capital to support Dutch and local SME’s in development-related investments in and exports to Ukraine. This funding will make it possible to finance much needed projects in Ukraine, related to agriculture and grain production, health and water, and many more – all making use of Dutch knowledge and expertise.

Ukraine needs all of you. The reconstruction and recovery process must be a joint effort.

Today you’ve talked about the role that businesses, civil society and the cultural sector can play in Ukraine’s reconstruction and recovery process. I heard some very useful take-aways on a wide variety of topics.

I hope this day has been useful for you and that many new ideas have been exchanged. Perhaps your company is now more aware of the focus areas for Dutch enterprises. If you are working for an NGO, you might have shared your experience with the current situation in Ukraine with the other participants in the break-out sessions. And if you are a think-tank, there’s a good chance that you have supplied us with some thought-provoking ideas for the long road of reconstruction.

Like I said: I’m very pleased so many of you are here today, all with the same objective. Ready to exchange ideas and devise practical solutions for the reconstruction of Ukraine. Each of you with your own perspective and in your own specific role.

As Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation I’m glad to be in a position to connect businesses, civil society and government. To connect you. To complement and strengthen each other, and, in doing so, helping Ukraine.

It is clear that there’s a lot to be done in Ukraine.

Between us, we have a lot of expertise, skills and ideas. But most importantly: we all have the right attitude. We want to help.

This ties in with the Dutch strategy for foreign trade and development aid: doing what the Netherlands is good at. My ministry has identified several fields in which the Netherlands’ public and private sectors can offer valuable assistance and expertise in the reconstruction of Ukraine. For this purpose, we have added Ukraine to our list of ‘combination countries’.

These are 14 countries where the Netherlands focuses on a combination of trade and development cooperation activities. This too, will make it easier to create public-private partnerships in order to help Ukraine, just like those we discussed today: in Agriculture & Food, Water, and Healthcare. 

With each of you we have different partnerships, with different instruments. And you can all play an important role in Ukraine. But we also need to be realistic. The war in Ukraine isn’t over. And although the Ukrainians seem to be making significant progress on the ground, the recent targeted destruction of critical infrastructure shows that there is unfortunately no sign of it ending soon.

It is vital to start rebuilding the country as soon as possible. But right now the possibilities for reconstruction activities are very limited.

So, we have to be patient. And prepare for the moment when Ukraine can start rebuilding – with our joint support.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’ll close with this.

As I said: Ukraine is not alone. And neither are we. We are all joining forces and working towards the same goal.

For now, I ask all of you to stay in touch with each other and with us, to create platforms, to keep devising smart and efficient solutions to rebuild Ukraine in the best interests of the Ukrainian people. And to be ready when the time comes, because the time will come.

I want to thank you for being here today, for sharing your thoughts and ideas, and for your willingness to contribute to a prosperous future for Ukraine.

Thank you.