Fletcher European Conference discusses Europe’s support to Ukraine

By Natasha Wood, MALD Candidate 2024

On November 14, 2023, the Fletcher Europe Conference hosted a panel entitled “Europe and the Future of Reconstruction in Ukraine.” The panel focussed on the existing nature and extent of support from Europe to Ukraine, and what Europe’s role in Ukrainian reconstruction might look like. 

The Panel was moderated by Daniel Drezner, the Co-Director of the Russia & Eurasia Program; Jacob Kirkegaard, Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund; Photini Pazartzis, the Professor of Hellenic and European Studies at the Fletcher School, and Oxana Shevel, the Associate Professor of Comparative Politics at Tufts University. Opening remarks were given by Volodymr Dubobyk, a former fellow at the Fletcher Russia & Eurasia Program. 

The conversation focused heavily on the prospect of accession talks with Ukraine. On November 8th, the European Commission issued a recommendation that accession negotiations began with Ukraine, Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia (for candidate status). “This is a remarkably fast-tracked process for EU standards,” noted Pazartzis, while also acknowledging that the process will take years and the outcome remains uncertain. 

Pazartzis reminded attendees that this is the first time a European state has been granted the status while at war. “Europe will have to possibly reform both its pre-accession strategies, but also any security arrangements,” she pointed out. 

Kirkgaard posited that one EU reform that won’t be necessary during accession negotiations with Ukraine is about the budget. “There’s a lot of people that say the current EU budget can’t possibly accommodate Ukraine given the size of the economy. I actually don’t think that’s true. If you look at the EU budget, it has over the years been a very flexible institution…Very large farms, the type of which dominate Ukraine’s agricultural sector, don’t tend to get much support from the EU budget because they don’t need it.”  

The challenge of how to finance Ukraine’s reconstruction was also raised. The feasibility of seizing frozen Russian central bank assets has been a subject of increased debate. Kirkgaard expressed skepticism that G7 and EU members would make the changes necessary to sovereign immunity clauses required to repurpose frozen Russian assets for Ukrainian reconstruction. He did suggest, however, that in the case of a Ukrainian victory, Russia could be in a position to pledge these assets themselves as part of a negotiation process. How Ukraine, the EU, and the U.S. define “Ukrainian victory” remains unclear. 

Professor Shevel reminded attendees that while major victories on the battlefield were unlikely in the short term, Ukrainian conviction remains steadfast. “[Ukrainian] government and society became a lot more anti-Russian since the Putin regime. In that sense, Putin has become his own worst nightmare,” she said. 

The inaugural Fletcher Europe Conference, held on the Fletcher campus in Medford, MA, also featured panels on Technology and Innovation, the Transatlantic relationship, and the EU’s relationship with the Global South. 

The Fletcher Europe Conference was led by graduate students Vincent Puybasset, Lazaros Kyrimis, Jean Jiang, and Juliette Perrier.


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