Karel Burger Dirven, 1st Honorary Consul of Ukraine to the Netherlands, EBRD advisor
“Netherlands provide Ukraine with fighter jets in response to MH17 downing”
22.08.2023 11:30

The Netherlands is one of the most active countries helping Ukraine financially and militarily - the first to provide F16 fighter jets. In addition, the Netherlands plays a crucial role in establishing justice - it is the International Criminal Court (ICC), based in the Netherlands, that issued the arrest warrant for Russian President Putin. The 1st Honorary Consul of Ukraine to the Netherlands, EBRD advisor Karel Burger Dirven, explained the reasons and focus of this assistance.


- President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the delivery of F-16 fighter jets from the Netherlands. How can you comment?

Ukraine needs to get control of its airspace, and I am glad that the Netherlands is taking concrete steps to deliver F-16 jets. A few years ago, the Netherlands decided to modernize its jet fighters with F-35, and F-16 fighters became available. So, why not donate them to Ukraine?

Of course, it's not only the plains; the maintenance and ability to fly are needed. The Netherlands is going to provide F-16 to Ukraine as soon as possible. If Ukraine would have received these planes in the first three-four month of the full-scale war, the war would already have been over.

Why is the Netherlands helping Ukraine so much?

The other European countries are helping Ukraine as well. The reason the Netherlands is taking a role in this is because it's a war not only against Ukraine but also against Europe. Ukraine should defend itself properly and kick the aggressor out of its territory.

The war became very tangible for the Netherlands after the downing of MH 17, where 196 Dutch people died. There is a mental connection between the Netherlands and the war against Ukraine. That's resulted in strong support, and the leadership of the Netherlands is taking in providing F-16 airplanes.

-What is the latest development on the MH17 tribunal? What do you think of Igor Girkin's conviction in Russia?

It is clear that a Russian missile operated by the Russian military or by a Russian military-controlled command unit shot down MH17. The Russian military and Russian leadership are responsible for this.

In fact, Russian terrorist Girkin is in a Russian jail for something completely different. I guess it tells us much about  Russian leadership – they do what they want. I would like to have him in jail for the things he did regarding MH17.


-Can you explain about the Netherlands' help to Ukraine during the full-scale war? What projects have already been implemented?

From the beginning of Russia's full-scale war, the Netherlands provided substantial financial help to Ukraine. In particular, for this year, the Netherlands appointed 2,5 billion euro for Ukraine: 83 million reserved for repair and healthcare, 58 million for repairing the infrastructure, housing, and drinking water facilities, 25 million for mobile medical clinics, and 10 million to recovery from the destruction of Kakhovka dam, and many other purposes.

-You are also working as an EBRD advisor. What are EBRD's recent activities in Ukraine?

EBRD is normally very active in financing investments in Ukraine. Now during wartime, its activities are more focused on supporting Ukraine. I am working very close with EBRD leadership, and we are thinking about how to help Ukraine economically to be stable. The Ukrainian economy must keep operational.

Of course, there will be an after-war period in which it is important to ensure and support new investments in Ukraine. For 2022-23 EBRD reserved 3 billion euro for Ukraine to keep the economy of Ukraine running. In 2022 EBRD deployed 1,7 billion euro.

The main focus is the repair of infrastructure, energy security – financial support for the Naftogaz and Ukrenergo. Also, agriculture and food security – EBRD provide short-term liquidity support for agribusiness clients and supports trade financing instruments for essential goods and strategic exports.

Regarding the vital infrastructure, EBRD is supporting national Ukrainian railways. Ukraine has a pharmaceutical industry, and it's essential to maintain it operational so that Ukrainian hospitals can access medicines and equipment.

EBRD supports small and medium-sized enterprises and would do more in this regard. Because in every economy, small and medium enterprises are the largest employers in the country. EBRD is helping relocate businesses, for instance, from the east of Ukraine to the western regions.

The bank supports the national government and industries by providing financial aid to state companies important to Ukraine. Also, it provides consulting services and technical governance assistance on reforming these companies to fulfill EU requirements of good governance.

On the local scale, EBRD finances municipal infrastructure. The bank provides emergency liquidity financing for municipalities short on budget to repair damaged infrastructure: water, sewage, and electricity.

-I've seen you visited Ukraine recently. What is your impression?

Yes, I visited Ukraine a month ago, and I met people and businesses that want to survive and believe in the future of their business. They believe in victory for Ukraine. That is why coming back for the military support of F-16, for instance – is critical to show that Ukraine will get the victory.

Ukraine will be stronger after the war than it was at the begging of this war. It is the chance to prove that Ukraine is an innovative and modern nation and embraces European values. Financial institutions like EBRD will play a role in that. It is a stimulating value, not pure economics.

-The Netherlands is a huge grain importer. What do you think about the latest Polish- Ukraine disputes on this issue of import restrictions?

It is the political situation regarding grain trading. In one way, I can understand Poland's willingness to protect its farmers, but the world has to be fed - there is a dilemma. The Netherlands is with other EU countries participating in the discussion. A solution will be found. My guess is that Ukraine will get more financial support, or Polish farmers will get compensation.


-What is the Netherlands' role in Ukraine's future recovery?

The Netherlands chose the Kherson region to help with recovery, but now heavy hostilities are happening there. The main Dutch focus is primary infrastructure, health care, agriculture/food security, and water management: drinking water and sewage. For this, the Dutch government has appointed a special envoy who is also in close contact with the Ukrainian embassy in The Hague. The relations between the Dutch government and the Ukrainian embassy are excellent.

The destruction register was set up in the Netherlands in May this year. The register keeps track of all Russian-caused destruction. In that respect, the Netherlands is seen as a country of justice. I think bringing back belief in justice and that justice should be served is also part of the reconstruction and healing of Ukraine after the damage and devastation caused by Russia.

-Will we see Putin on the bench in this trial?

When the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was set up in the Netherlands, many people thought Ratko Mladic would never be brought to The Hague. It took sixteen years from his indictment in 1995 until his arrest in 2011, which brought him to The Hague. (Ratko Mladić has been sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of genocide by a UN tribunal at The Hague.)  If Putin lives long enough, we will see him in The Hague.

He wasn't traveling to South Africa because of the warrant. And this arrest warrant will never go away because the crime has been done. It can only be taken away if he appears in the court that justice will be served. As said, in that respect, the Netherlands contributed to Ukraine's recovery through its role in international justice.

Aleksandra Klitina, Kyiv


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