Reconstruction during the war? Germany wants more civil aid for Ukraine. Green Party politician Deborah Düring is open to reforming the debt brake.

A construction worker installs prefabricated components on a residential building

Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, February 27, 2024: Reconstruction of a residential building destroyed by Russian rocket launch Photo: Dmytro Smolyenko/Ukrinform/imago

taz: Mrs Düring, business, civil society and political representatives will meet this Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the reconstruction of Ukraine. How can this work in times of war?

Deborah During: Reconstruction is resistance, Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Reconstruction Oleksandra Azarkhina once said. Ukrainian society fights every day against the Russian war of aggression in different ways and, of course, it is the soldiers on the front who fight against it. But it is also doctors and nurses who treat the injured in hospitals. It is the teachers who continue to provide education to students so that Ukraine has well-trained young people to rebuild the country.

They are therapists and social workers who provide psychosocial support to traumatized people. So it is precisely the people who repair or build supply structures in towns and cities who, of course, also need houses with electricity in which they can live and schools to which they can send their children. Reconstruction is an essential part of maintaining a resilient society.

Most of the public talk revolves around arms deliveries. Civil aid is disappearing.

For me personally, it just works together in the end. It is clear that we support Ukraine militarily. But we also offer long-term support with German funds, for example in the area of ​​reconstruction at various levels. Whether we provide generators, whether we provide financing for the construction of houses, roads and energy infrastructure. In the end it may not be the big headline, but it is still a very relevant factor.

According to World Bank estimates, reconstruction will cost around 450 billion euros. Who should pay for that?

It is clear that Russia is responsible for the war of aggression and destruction. The federal government is also working in the Council of Europe to hold Russia accountable, including when it comes to reparations. But Ukraine will not be able to wait for that to happen. It is therefore right that the international community closely coordinates reconstruction financing, including at the Berlin reconstruction conference.

In Germany we are also fighting for more money in affected households. But the frozen Russian assets and their interests are also an important part of the financing issue. Third, the economy is in demand, so the reconstruction conference also focuses on the role of business.

The budgets of the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation, which are crucial for aid to Ukraine, are currently the subject of intense disputes. Would you be in favor of suspending the war debt brake?

I'm very flexible when it comes to how we ultimately fund this. Reforming the debt brake or suspending it are two options. But there are other options, and that's exactly what we need to consider now.

Money for Ukraine is also linked to meeting certain criteria, for example the fight against corruption. Are you seeing progress?

In general, we have to see this process in terms of integration into the EU. This is about the issue of the fight against corruption, but also about independence in energy infrastructure and, therefore, attention to the expansion of renewable energy. We support decentralized reconstruction, in which municipalities and local civil society have a say in how reconstruction is carried out.

The reconstruction conference is followed by the G7 meeting in Italy and then the peace conference in Switzerland. There are many appointments for Ukraine and its allies that will not please Russian President Putin. Do you see potential for an escalation?

We must always take Putin and his statements very seriously. At the same time, our response to this must be full support for Ukraine in all areas. That's why it's also important for the federal government to not only rely on military aid, but also on civilian aid, such as short- and long-term reconstruction.

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