Corporations jostle for Ukraine’s reconstruction money
The budget has been estimated at over a trillion dollars
Despite no sign of the war in Ukraine slowing down, thoughts have turned to the challenges and opportunities of the country’s post-war reconstruction.
Anticipation is growing among international governments, investors and businesses for lucrative contracts as part of a mammoth reconstruction effort. Earlier this month, Ukraine said it wants local companies to undertake at least 60% of the work, but international investors and companies will undoubtedly have a major role to play in a recovery programme that could end up costing over a trillion dollars.
Understandably, those involved in this process are expected to uphold principles of Ukrainian statehood and sovereignty. A Dutch envoy tasked with growing the role of Dutch businesses in Ukraine’s reconstruction had to step down this weekend over his claim in a newly published book that in “reality”, Ukrainians and Russians are one and the same people. While his claims don’t amount to an endorsement of Russian actions in Ukraine, the envoy apparently recognised that with his views known, he could not credibly continue in his post. ...
Farmer protests spell trouble for Ukraine’s EU hopes
A grain dispute shows the pitfalls of accession to the bloc
A dispute over Ukrainian agricultural products flooding markets in the east of the EU escalated over the weekend, with Poland and Hungary announcing import bans on Ukrainian grain and other produce until at least the end of June.
Despite being one of Ukraine’s strongest supporters, the Polish government acted unilaterally to alleviate pressure on local farmers caused by a glut of Ukrainian imports. With one eye on the importance of the conservative rural vote to his re-election chances in the autumn, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki declared, “we will never leave farmers without help.” ...
US sanctions Hungarian bank over Ukraine position
Concerns remain about Viktor Orbán's ties with Russia
After frenzied speculation over recent days, predictions that the United States Government would introduce sanctions to pressure Hungary towards a more hostile stance towards Russia have come true.
In a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, US Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman announced sanctions on the Budapest-based International Investment Bank and its top executives. First created in the Soviet era, the bank was resurrected by Russia in 2012. Its headquarters were relocated from Moscow to Budapest in 2019, and since then it has been referred to as a “spy bank” due to American fears that it provides cover for Russian espionage activity in Europe. ...
Viktor Orbán doubles down against the EU on ‘gender ideology’
Hungary's distance from the West is widening
Viktor Orbán’s ideological isolation from the rest of the West is deepening. This weekend, it was reported that documents leaked from US security services include the claim that Hungary views America as “one of its most significant geopolitical adversaries”. Highlighting the seriousness of Hungary’s rift with Western allies, the revelation came just hours after France and Germany finally joined an EU lawsuit at the European Court of Justice against Budapest’s conservative stance on LGBT issues.
Paris and Berlin only just made the deadline for joining the European Commission’s case against Hungary’s “Child Protection Act”. On Saturday, the German Foreign Ministry wrote that the decision was taken because Hungary’s “anti-queer” law violates “the common values of the EU” that are “the DNA of our free and open society.” ...
What’s behind Orbán’s strange claim about Ukraine peacekeepers?
The Hungarian PM believes Western troops could be deployed
In an interview with Hungarian radio on Friday, Viktor Orbán made the incendiary claim that European leaders are coming nearer to discussing “sending some kind of peacekeeping force to the front” in Ukraine, saying that “we are close to this border that previously seemed impassable.” A claim of this magnitude deserves serious scrutiny, given that there has not yet been a major public discussion of sending peacekeepers in either the EU or NATO.
Moscow is certainly treating Orbán’s statement seriously. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the deployment of Western peacekeeping troops in Ukraine would be “extremely dangerous”, seeing as, to perform a neutral role, they would need to be deployed with the consent of both warring parties. ...
EU’s energy summit ends in division over Net Zero
Not every country is on board with the green agenda
The EU may aspire to become a geopolitical superpower, but arguments over energy at a leaders’ summit this weekend suggested it has enough difficulties keeping its internal affairs in order.
The summit was overshadowed by a dispute over the EU’s law to ban sales of new CO2-emitting cars by 2035. The bloc agreed its combustion engine ban last year as the flagship policy of its Green Deal for cutting carbon emissions. Now, countries with significant car manufacturing industries seem to have woken up to the fact that, in the context of such a huge industrial realignment, 12 years isn’t a very long time. ...
Giorgia Meloni confronts increasingly sceptical public on Ukraine
The Italian PM remains committed to providing military aid
Giorgia Meloni’s election as Italian Prime Minister last autumn struck horror into the hearts of Europe’s technocratic elite — but it needn’t have. On the key issue of support for Ukraine, Meloni shares little with the populist style of politics with which she is so often associated.
Speaking yesterday to the Italian Senate, Meloni vowed that Rome will continue to support Ukraine’s war effort, even though much of the Italian public is against providing more military aid, because “it is right to do so in terms of national values and interests.” A poll last month found that 45% of Italians are against sending weapons to Ukraine, compared with only 34% in favour. Supporters of Meloni’s own Brothers of Italy party are particularly sceptical about her Ukraine policy, with 47% opposed to arms deliveries. ...
Is the West breaking its jet taboo on Ukraine?
Both Poland and Slovakia have agreed to send planes
In a surprise move, the Slovak government has announced that it will supply 13 MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. Bratislava has been mulling sending the planes for weeks, but appears to have been spurred into action by Poland’s announcement yesterday that it would send four of its own MiGs to Ukraine in the coming days, with more to follow.
As the first two nations to send fighter jets to Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia have crossed another of the West’s previously stated red lines in arming Kyiv. The question now is whether their initiative will lead other Western powers, capable of supplying more advanced planes, to follow suit. ...