Why a “Ukraine Recovery Conference” in Lugano?

by Dr iur. Marianne Wüthrich

The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) will hold a “Ukraine Recovery Conference (URC2022)” in Lugano on 4 and 5 July 2022 to discuss the “reconstruction” of Ukraine. Discussing reconstruction before peace has been established? These and other questions arise for the critical contemporary.

President of the Swiss Confederation and head of the FDFA Ignazio Cassis said in the SRF Tagesschau of 30 May that it would be a “very high-profile” conference. Ministers, prime ministers or presidents from 41 states and 19 international organisations have been invited. In Lugano, the “kick-off” for a reconstruction plan will take place: It is a matter of defining principles and the pace at which one wants to move forward, and so on and so forth. In fact, it is primarily about another fund-raising operation for the insatiable government in Kiev. Ignazio Cassis: “Those who will ‘pledge’ say: we support reconstruction.” An estimated 600 to 1000 billion dollars (!) are at stake, he said.
  The following are some critical points.

Switzerland and Ukraine invite – Russia is left out

The two foreign ministers Ignazio Cassis and Dmytro Kuleba invite. Russia is neither one of the inviting states nor is it on the guest list. This does not violate the principle of neutrality, according to the well-known phrase of the FDFA – even constant repetition does not make it any truer.

The usual Western “players” keep to themselves

According to the FDFA, the guest list is the same as at previous conferences. In Vilnius 2021, all the EU/NATO states took part (plus Switzerland, Israel, Japan and South Korea) as well as the most important organisations dominated by the USA and Brussels: IMF, World Bank, NATO, EBRD1, EIB2, OECD, UNDP3, the Council of Europe and the EU institutions EU Council, EU Commission and EU Parliament. The “rest of the world” will not be invited to Lugano, as before.

Reconstruction conference to replace reform conferences

Since 2017, so-called Ukraine reform conferences have been held in various Western cities (2017 in London, 2018 in Copenhagen, 2019 in Toronto and 2021 in Vilnius (there was no conference in 2020 because of COVID-19). According to the FDFA, “each conference will take stock of developments over the past year”. Ukraine would be able to explain the ongoing progress, international partners would reaffirm their support and the next reform steps would be discussed.
  What progress was there to celebrate at these “high-level” conferences? For seven years, the assembled Western leaders and organisations have failed to demand that the Ukrainian government implement the 2014/2015 Minsk Agreements adopted by the UN Security Council (for example, the adoption of a constitution that gives equal rights to all ethnic groups in the country, the holding of equal and fair elections throughout the territory, and autonomous status for Donetsk and Luhansk). In particular, the German and French governments, which have co-signed the agreements, would have been obliged to do so for years. And now the reform of the undemocratic and corrupt state of Ukraine is to be officially omitted, instead of which one speaks of “reconstruction” and squanders further billions of European taxpayers’ money!

Financing reconstruction before creating peace?

“Even if the end of the war is not yet foreseeable today, it is of central importance to start now with initial considerations on the reconstruction process [...]”, can be read on the aforementioned homepage of the FDFA.
  Switzerland would truly have better things to do in this world full of wars than to pour its money down the drain – for an insider meeting where everyone will pledge money with a big ladle, one pats the other on the back, then you go on to the next event and the dying continues.  •

1 European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
2 European Investment Bank
3 UN Development Programme

Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, FDFA. Ukraine Recovery Conference (URC2022) of 4 and 5 July 2022 in Lugano (https://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/fdfa/fdfa/aktuell/dossiers/alle-dossiers/urc2022-lugano.html)
Lipp, Reto. “Bundespräsident Cassis lädt zur Ukraine-Konferenz in Lugano” (Federal President Cassis invites to the Ukraine Conference in Lugano). SRF News of 30 May 2022

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