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Ukraine reconstruction summit was worth the risk, says Swiss press

The Swiss press has praised Foreign Minister Cassis for organising the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano earlier this week. © Keystone/Alessandro Della Valle

Newspaper editors in Switzerland offered praise mixed with criticism on the two-day international conference in Lugano to support war-torn Ukraine with its reconstruction efforts.

This content was published on July 6, 2022 - 14:06
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The Wednesday edition of the Tages-Anzeiger and other TA Media group papers said the meeting, which ended on Tuesday, was a step in the right direction even if the result was modest.

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis got the ball rolling and others will now take over the lead in the reconstruction of Ukraine. “Switzerland has done its job, not more and not less,” it wrote.

The Tages-Anzeiger added that Switzerland should do more to re-position itself as a credible mediator, a role it used to play during the Swiss presidency of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2014.

This echoed an earlier comment in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) newspaper ahead of the opening of the Lugano summit on Monday.

The conference may be small, but it is an important element to give hope to the Ukrainian people, it declared. Neutral Switzerland, with its experience as a long-standing development partner of Ukraine, has an opportunity “to provide ideas and to act as mediator on the ground”, the NZZ wrote.

Risks and success

Much editorial space was given in German-language Swiss papers to whether the Lugano conference was an actual success and worth the risk.

The Aargauer Zeitung and other newspapers of the CH Media group were positive, even if they criticised the fact that Cassis had raised unrealistic hopes beforehand.

“It’s the right time to begin planning the reconstruction because Ukraine needs a perspective,” they stated.

It was clear in Lugano that the West wants Ukraine to put its house in order and fight corruption in order to receive reconstruction funds, they added.

The Blick newspaper put a positive spin on the outcome. Cassis and Switzerland took a considerable risk, but it paid off for everyone involved, it said.

“Ukraine was able to remind the world of the terrible situation and win support. The West managed to tie the reconstruction to reforms and Switzerland could shine as a host country,” Blick said.

Multilingual host

Some of the major French- and Italian-language press in Switzerland focused on Cassis, who is a Lugano local. His career as foreign minister – and current Swiss president - is viewed with a critical eye by many writers.

“Hats off to Switzerland’s president” for hosting the conference despite the many difficulties, said the Corriere del Ticino. “Lugano set a solid basis for the rebirth of Kyiv,” declared the Lugano-based paper.

Le Temps, Tribune de Genève and its sister paper 24Heures were particularly impressed by Cassis and his ministry’s organisational skills. They praised the minister’s ability to conduct talks in four languages, switching from his mother tongue Italian to German, French and English.

The political analyst of 24Heures has little doubt that the conference was a highlight of Cassis’ presidential year, even if the event is unlikely to go down in history.

“He acted wisely and played his role as host well,” Le Temps concludes. “This will serve him well in next year’s government election,” as his political party – the centre-right Radicals - may come under pressure to give up one of its seats in the seven-member cabinet.

Russian assets

International coverage of the reconstruction event was less extensive. Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) described the meeting as another useful signal by the West to Russian President Vladimir Putin and an encouragement to Ukrainian citizens.

But the FAZ and – even more critically the Die Welt newspaper – speculated on what such a conference can really achieve or whether it is just a stage for politicians to present their pipedreams and “mistake illusions for reality”.

The British media for its part has not shown much interest in the Lugano conference so far. The Daily Mail and Guardian newspapers both focused on Russian funds held in Swiss banks and Switzerland’s apparent reluctance to use the confiscated assets of Russian oligarchs to rebuild Ukraine.

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