Ukraine’s MIPIM message: Keep doing business with us

The Ukrainian delegates who came to Cannes for MIPIM 2022 did so with a clear message: Ukrainian business is alive and kicking, and the world needs to know.

This year’s Ukrainian delegation at the world’s largest real estate event, MIPIM, was meant to be bigger than ever, with over 100 Ukrainian real estate players planning to attend. They were to present a diverse range of projects from across the country, but these plans were dashed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Nevertheless, Ukraine still had a presence, and it was a united front: unlike previous years, when Ukrainian cities had their own separate delegations, this year the country was represented by a single, pan-Ukrainian stand. Among those who visited was François Hollande, the former French president and a keynote speaker at MIPIM 2022, who said that France “would not stop” in its efforts to help Ukraine.

To draw further attention to Ukraine’s ongoing tragedy, on March 16 the understaffed delegation organised an event called Stand with Ukraine at MIPIM.

Olga Balytska, advisor to Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko, opened the event with an emotional speech in which she stressed that Ukrainian companies remain reliable as service providers, and that they need their clients more than ever.

“We are here to show that we are winners, that we will overcome. We want to emphasise that Ukraine is fighting, but also working,” Balytska explained afterwards. “It’s important to show that here in Cannes, and all over Europe.”

Balytska added that the country’s IT services were working perfectly, and that the Ukrainian banking system is fully operational, and there is money in the country’s cash machines.

“Half of Ukrainian companies are operating to some extent. Just yesterday I received a text message from Kyiv saying that some businesses are now re-opening, even coffee shops. And I would add that foreign-owned companies are staying in Ukraine to support us.”

According to Balytska, the Ukrainian government has been relocating companies from the most war-stricken parts of the country to safer areas. The parliament has also launched an initiative to alleviate the tax burden for local companies, all to keep the economy running.

“A number of initiatives have already been adopted,” she said.

Balytska also called for a new “Marshall Plan” to help rebuild when the war is won.

“I call on global businesses to start thinking about that. It will be good for Ukraine, but it will be good for them too.”

Calling a spade a spade

The event was attended by several politicians from across the continent, most notably by the mayors of Poznań (Jacek Jaśkowiak), Vilnius (Remigijus Šimašius), Riga (Mārtiņš Staķis), and the deputy mayor of Madrid, Begoña Villacís Sánchez.

In a short address, Šimašius said that Ukrainians weren’t just fighting for themselves.

“Ukrainians are fighting for us,” he explained. “And if they are not strong enough, the aggressor will get stronger and come for other nations.”

Šimašius also claimed that informational support was of no less importance than military support, and that it was important to call things by their proper names. In line with this statement, Šimašius then proceeded to cross out the words on the stand which read ‘the dramatic events in Ukraine’, instead writing ‘WAR’.

The wording had been chosen by MIPIM’s organiser, RX. Asked for a comment, RX assured us that it “strongly condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine and stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine”.

RX has also donated 250,000 US dollars to the UNICEF Ukraine appeal and supports other charities helping Ukrainian refugees.

Mixed feelings

Also present at the event was Mariya Kutsherka, president of the French-Ukrainian association Idées sans Frontières, who said that certain sacrifices could not be avoided.

“It’s better to pay a higher price for oil and gas with money than with people’s lives,” Kutsherka commented, urging Western European nations to support the Ukrainian army more decisively.

Dmitry Dopiro, a representative of the city of Kyiv at MIPIM, was pessimistic about the situation, saying that there was no end to the war in sight and that the conflict could soon spill over to other countries in the region.

“Your company will soon need to be called Emergency Europe,” Dopiro quipped.

Other Ukrainians at MIPIM 2022, however, were far more buoyant.

“Ukrainian business believes that winning is inevitable,” said Anna Nestulia, a marketing and business development specialist from Kyiv. “Before the war, with Ukrainian companies, we were actively preparing for MIPIM. The business was active and interested in promoting the projects amid tense news.

“Today companies work just as hard but cover far more goals than before. They all are united and very responsible.”

Business as usual

Nestulia’s comments were largely mirrored by the words of Sergii Stoliarchuk, CEO of Maxify, a Kyiv-based company offering a dynamic pricing application which helps developers sell apartments at fair prices.

“Our company is 30 people. We managed to relocate half of the employees to Europe, the other half to the west of Ukraine,” Stoliarchuk told Emerging Europe.

And yet, he remains adamant that business has no choice but to keep working to overcome challenges and support the country.

“Scrolling the news and focusing on current events makes you less effective in delivering high-quality services. We are running normal operations with morning calls, evening sum-ups, action plans for the week. What has been changed is that amid all these ordinary actions, we and other businesses make extraordinary ones – send resources for the Ukrainian army, humanitarian aid, work on the interest of the country and its people.”

Yuriy Fylyuk, CEO of Promprylad.Renovation, is one of those Ukrainian real estate investors who couldn’t make it to Cannes because of the outbreak of the war.

“Naturally, we would be happy to present our project to the international community in person. But right now we are more needed here in Ukraine,” Fylyuk told us.

“Businesses are adapting and continuing to operate, as well as to meet the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and those affected by the Russian aggression with maximum efficiency. We have consolidated our efforts with partners, the public sector and the city authorities in the joint initiative SaveUkraineNow. We strongly believe in victory and in the fact that unity is our strength. Glory to Ukraine!”

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