TOPSHOT - Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on a giant screen as he delivers a statement at the start of a two-day International conference on reconstruction of Ukraine, in Lugano on July 4, 2022. - Ministers from dozens of countries and organisations leadrers gathered in Switzerland Monday to hash out a "Marshall Plan" to rebuild the war-torn country. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

The first major Ukraine reconstruction conference in Switzerland ended with a promise to rigorously fight corruption. The government from Kyiv and representatives of donor countries, international organizations and financial institutions agreed on seven basic principles in the “Lugano Declaration”. After Great Britain next year, Berlin wants to host the 2024 reconstruction conference.

The declaration is about the commitment to a democratic process in which the whole of society participates, the involvement of private companies, a green transformation towards a CO2-free society, a digitized administration and development projects free of nepotism and enrichment. “The reconstruction process must be transparent,” it says. “The rule of law must be systematically strengthened and corruption eradicated.”

“Fighting corruption is a very important issue,” said Development Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) of the German Press Agency in Lugano. The Ukrainian government wants to do everything to fight corruption. “Germany is helping a lot. We helped set up community structures where you can see exactly what happens to the money that goes there.”

Despite major reform efforts, Ukraine was ranked 122nd out of 180 in Transparency International’s corruption index before the war. Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal said the Ukrainian government had already set up digital platforms for government services to make corruption impossible. This expansion continues. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj, who was connected via video, promised “maximum transparency” in all projects.

Two developments make Markus Berndt, who is responsible for activities with Ukraine at the European Investment Bank (EIB), among other things, optimistic: “On the one hand, the relationship between the Ukrainians and the government and authorities has improved as a result of the war. They know what state structures they have and what they pay taxes for,” he told dpa. “On the other hand, the prospect of joining the EU provides a clear framework for implementing reforms.”

At the conference, the dimensions of the destruction in the war-torn Ukraine became clear to her again, said Schulze: “This is not a project for a year or two.” The Ukrainian government estimates the need for this at at least 720 billion euros. For this purpose, the 300 to 500 billion dollars in Russian assets that are frozen worldwide should be used, Schmyhal demanded: “Russia and other possible aggressors must be aware that they have to pay for baseless and unjustified attacks.”

In addition to the commitment of the states, the private sector is also in demand, said Schulze. “There are also huge opportunities for the German economy because Ukraine is a big country. It is a large population, and it is of course interesting for an export nation like Germany to be represented there.”

Before the war, Ukraine had about 44 million inhabitants. Even if many people are already returning, more than 5.5 million people who have fled since the Russian attack in February are still living abroad, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).