The European Union must start preparations for rebuilding Ukraine by setting up a solidarity fund to aid Kyiv in covering the billions of euros reconstruction will cost, according to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
"Rebuilding destroyed infrastructure and revitalizing the Ukrainian economy will cost billions," Scholz told German lawmakers Thursday at the lower house of parliament.
"We as the EU must start laying the ground for a solidarity fund financed by contributions from the EU and its partners," he added, speaking ahead of a major EU summit at the end of this month.
Scholz also said that Ukraine's bid to join the EU cannot be sped up despite the Russian invasion.
"There are no shortcuts on the way to the EU," Scholz said, adding that the bloc must therefore find a "fast and pragmatic" way to aid Kyiv.
An exception for Ukraine would be unfair to the six Western Balkan countries -- Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo -- also seeking membership in the bloc, said the German Chancellor.
Their integration into the EU is also of "strategic interest," referencing the influence of "external powers" in the region, including Russia, he added.