Many of these projects have been bombed and damaged again in recent fighting. Two schools we were renovating in Volnovakha, in the Donetsk area, were levelled. More than 100 of our projects have been damaged in the areas where Russian forces are in control. We had rebuilt 17 buildings (hospitals, kindergartens, schools) in Mariupol, a town that has been mostly destroyed.
Before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, we had approved a second recovery loan worth €340 million and received about 900 new project proposals. Many projects were related to rehabilitation, but the new need will be rebuilding. We will have to start over from scratch on many schools, hospitals, town halls, libraries, heating systems and water treatment plants.
Sickened by the destruction
I saw big changes in peoples’ attitudes while I lived and worked in the country, especially in the east. The European Investment Bank built the trust of the local mayors and governors, because people saw that when we sign onto a project, we start quickly and we finish it.
When we first started working in the east in 2015, up to 70% of the people in some of the areas might have been pro-Russian and negative about Ukraine and the European Union. Pro-Russian support has fallen to about 30% over the past few years. People could clearly see Russia wasn’t investing a lot in the occupied areas. Today, Russian support is still falling in these communities. The people are sickened by the destruction and loss of life caused by the current conflict.
More important than our work is the perception of us — what the local people think about Europe and the assistance we provide. That is what has changed dramatically and what will last after this conflict ends. We can always rebuild, but it takes a long time to get local people to support and understand us. We achieved this and are ready to build on it at any time.