Tags: Soros | EU | Russia | Ukraine

Soros: EU, Led by Germany, Must Do More to Aid Ukraine

By Dan Weil   |   Thursday, 27 Feb 2014 11:56 AM

The European Union, under German leadership, must take extensive action to aid Ukraine's economy, says George Soros, chairman of Soros Fund Management.

"The EU, along with the International Monetary Fund, is putting together a multi-billion dollar rescue package to save the country from financial collapse," he writes in an article for Project Syndicate.

"But that will not be sufficient to sustain the national unity that Ukraine will need in the coming years. . . . Ukraine will need outside assistance that only the EU can provide: management expertise and access to markets."

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During the 1990s, major investments by EU companies offered Central European economies such expertise and access, Soros explains.

Now, "Ukraine, with its high-quality human capital and diversified economy, is a potentially attractive investment destination," he notes.

"But realizing this potential requires improving the business climate across the economy as a whole and within individual sectors, particularly by addressing the endemic corruption and weak rule of law that are deterring foreign and domestic investors alike."

The European Union could help train Ukrainian corporate managers in exchange for ownership stakes or profit sharing, Soros argues. That support could be combined with credit lines provided by commercial banks. And the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development could invest in companies as it did in Central Europe, he adds.

Ukraine would thus open its domestic market to EU companies, "while the EU would increase market access for Ukrainian companies and help them integrate into global markets," Soros writes.

"I hope and trust that Europe under German leadership will rise to the occasion. I have been arguing for several years that Germany should accept the responsibilities and liabilities of its dominant position in Europe."

Ukraine needs something akin to the Marshall Plan, which the United States provided to help Europe rebuild after World War II, Soros maintains. "Germany ought to play the same role today as the U.S. did then."

To be sure, Russia must be included in the effort, Soros insists. "A replay of the Cold War would cause immense damage to both Russia and Europe, and most of all to Ukraine, which is situated between them," he writes.

"Ukraine depends on Russian gas, and it needs access to European markets for its products. It must have good relations with both sides."

Again, Germany must lead the effort, Soros states. "Chancellor Angela Merkel must reach out to President Vladimir Putin to ensure that Russia is a partner, not an opponent, in the Ukrainian renaissance."

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was approved as Ukraine's new prime minister Thursday, offered a bleak portrait of the nation's economy.

"The treasury is empty. It faces debts of $75 billion, and Ukraine's overall debt is $130 billion. Pensions haven't been paid in full for more than a month, and the foreign-exchange reserves have been looted," he said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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