Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin: „For a self-determined reconstruction of Ukraine“

Platform for event on Saturday, 8 June 2024

After Lugano (2022) and London (2023), the third Ukraine Recovery Conference (UCR) will take place in Berlin on 11 and 12 June 2024. The recovery conferences have replaced the Ukraine reform conferences that have been held annually since 2017. However, the framework for this conference is defined by the regulation of the EU Parliament and the EU Council to improve credit facilities for Ukraine and by the Ukraine plan drawn up by the Zelenskyi government.

The reconstruction of Ukraine is burdened with heavy mortgages: A serious reconstruction of the country can only be thought of when the bombing stops, the weapons fall silent and the Russian troops have withdrawn. For the trade unions and social movements in Ukraine, the current situation means that they are fighting on two fronts: against Russian aggression and against the neoliberal policies of the Zelenskyi government, which is complying with the requirements of the EU and the IMF. This policy divides society and unilaterally shifts the burden of the war onto the workers. Ultimately, this also weakens the will to resist military aggression.

On the conference website (, the organisers advertise that they want „constant international support for the recovery, reconstruction, reform and modernisation of Ukraine“. So far, trade unions and other civil society organisations have not even been admitted to the conference itself. However, there is an extensive accompanying programme organised by various state and municipal bodies and those cooperating with them.

Ukraine is one of the most resource-rich countries in the world and is dependent on the export of its raw materials. For example, the export of natural gas, which has been exploited by Russia several times in „gas wars“. Agricultural production (wheat, sunflowers, barley) is also largely export-orientated and is partly controlled by agricultural corporations, which are opposed by a large number of small farms and farmers. With its 32 million hectares of fertile black soil, Ukraine has over a third of the total agricultural land in the European Union.

The country also boasts a wealth of so-called critical raw materials such as cobalt, titanium, beryllium, graphite and a range of rare earth elements. It has one of the largest lithium deposits in the world, estimated at around 500,000 tonnes, which can be mined in an environmentally friendly way. The appropriation of these treasures is not only the reason for the Russian occupation of eastern Ukraine. Ukraine is also seen as the backbone of the EU’s energy transition.

Wages are among the lowest in Europe, labour law and collective agreements had already been partially eroded before the outbreak of the war and have since come under increasing pressure. It is therefore not surprising that some large corporations have a keen interest in Ukraine. The World Bank raves about the opening up of Ukraine’s key industries to capitalist companies. At the London conference, BlackRock, one of the largest asset management companies in the world, and J.P. Morgan, the largest US bank, were commissioned to look after the development of the Ukrainian economy.

The Berlin conference, organised by the German government, has identified four areas to be addressed:

* the mobilisation of the private sector for reconstruction and economic growth; * social relations and human capital in Ukraine;

* the reconstruction of municipalities and regions;

* accession to the EU and the associated reforms.

Specific projects under consideration include the Ukrainian energy market with the development of hydrogen production, the further industrialisation of agriculture with the help of foreign capital, the reorganisation of the healthcare sector, a stronger role for Western capital in urban and housing

construction and lucrative consultancy services for the implementation of „sustainable structural adjustment“.

The „Ukraine Plan“, which was adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine in coordination with the EU as Decree No. 244-p on 18 March 2024, is an example of what a reconstruction of Ukraine would look like in the interests of corporations, financial capital, the IMF and the EU. This plan is also supported by the German government.

Debt is a key issue in the reconstruction of Ukraine. Ukraine was already heavily indebted before the war began in February 2022. In 2020, the Ukrainian economy had more payment obligations to foreign countries than corresponded to its annual economic performance. The war has multiplied Ukraine’s foreign debt, and the country is now the world’s third-largest IMF debtor. The additional costs of post- war reconstruction are currently estimated at 750 billion dollars. After the end of the war, the Ukrainian state is expected to make repayments, especially from institutional financial organisations such as the IMF, the EU and large private bondholders.

Ukraine’s high and growing debt and its rapprochement with the EU threaten the living standards and social rights of workers in both the private and public sectors. This reduces their ability to have a say in the reconstruction process, even though they are bearing the brunt of the war. However, their point of view does not play a role at the conference.

We propose an event in which the interests of workers have their say. Together with our Ukrainian friends – activists from trade unions and social movements – it should formulate requirements for a reconstruction process that takes into account the needs of the Ukrainians and, above all, the workers and involve them in this process.

The interests of creditors and corporations or even the occupiers must not determine the reconstruction of Ukraine; instead, good working and living conditions for the people and social rights must be created and strengthened. After the war has bled Ukraine dry, its resources, minerals and fertile lands must not be sold off.

The Ukrainian state must be put in a position to rebuild the infrastructure necessary for life and economic activity. The workers and women are bearing the brunt of the war, they must have the say, their needs must be prioritised. Ukraine needs living and housing spaces, labour rights and incomes that are attractive for the people who want to live there and for the many refugees who want to return to a country of origin worth living in.

We are convinced that the resistance against Russian aggression would be strengthened by higher incomes for Ukrainian workers and farmers and more rights in the workplace, to education and health.

The event „For a self-determined reconstruction of Ukraine“ is to take place on 8 June 2024 in Berlin. The event will focus on international support for the fight for social rights and a reconstruction that is based on the needs of the working population and enables their participation. It aims to provide information about the plans of corporations and the financial industry and, together with trade unions and social movements from Ukraine, develop proposals for concrete joint projects and campaigns – for example for the cancellation of illegitimate debts.

Working groups, which will be organised together with Ukrainian activists in the fields of education, health, debt and social rights, will explore opportunities for cooperation projects. The focus on social rights will enable the formulation of common social interests, including vis-à-vis the European Union, beyond the assessment of the war.

The event is being organised by the „Solidarity with Ukrainian Trade Unions“ initiative which provides humanitarian aid, in cooperation with the „Collective Internationalism inside the IG Metall, Berlin“ (Arbeitskreis Internationalismus in der IG Metall) Berlin. The initiative established contacts during a trip in October 2023, which will now be built upon. The trip was financially supported by the Foundation for Human Dignity and the World of Work (Stiftung Menschenwürde und Arbeitswelt).

Contact: Hermann Nehls,
mobile: 0049 1739286430