Opening speech by Commissioner McGuinness at kick-off of fintech challenge for Ukraine

(Source: European Commission)

Good morning Jan and good morning colleagues. It’s really great that we are gathered remotely but together for this very, very important event.

Appreciation for all of you who are participating – the minister, my good friend Eva Kaili, Vice President of the European Parliament, experts on the fintech side, Central Bank.

I think we have all the right people this morning.

It’s a pleasure to be here.

It’s also an honour because it is a very special event.

And I really want to give my support to our Ukrainian fintechs.

I know that you’re trying to see how your skills and abilities can be put to best use to help the many millions of people affected so horribly by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and against Ukraine.

I want to say from the very outset that the European Union stands firmly with Ukraine, and we condemn this war in the strongest possible terms.

And we are working hard to support the Ukrainian people who keep humbling and inspiring us with both your strength and resilience.

I absolutely believe that Ukraine deserves to be able to choose its own path.

This is of fundamental importance.

You really do deserve to live in freedom and peace and it’s quite tragic that we have to make that statement in our European continent of today.

From our side, from the European Union, we should do what we can at all levels to support Ukraine and Ukrainians.

Some of this support involves those big, maybe even called eye-catching, but they’re certainly the big issues like sanctions, which I’m responsible for, including what other colleagues are doing – delivering military aid, providing humanitarian support.

But there is a lot of support coming to Ukraine from the European Union.

We can also support Ukraine and its people in smaller, maybe less immediately obvious ways.

Especially when people and organisations come to us and ask for support.

Today might be one of those smaller ways, but it’s still very, very important.

It gives us a chance to draw on the creativity of the Ukrainian technology and financial sector.

It is also a chance to highlight what the Ukrainian government is doing to keep the country running in the face of the Russian invasion.

And again, full courage to the government to keep doing that.

And it is a chance to prepare for what might be needed to rebuild Ukraine after the war, and we have to look to that future of rebuilding.

I really want to pay tribute to the efforts of all Ukrainians to support each other in the most difficult of times.

And again, to assure you that the European Union is here to help.

So very happy to kick off this fintech challenge.

It is an honour for me to be able to support this initiative, and I am very glad that my services of course, have been a big help.

I have hope and confidence that this competition can make a real difference to the everyday lives of the people of Ukraine, both now and for the peaceful future that we hope will return soon.

[EU support for Ukraine]

Ukraine is part of the European family.

And that means that the European Union has been determined to support Ukraine in the face of this awful Russian military aggression.

We have imposed, as you all know, an unprecedented range of sanctions against Russia and Belarus, and we are making every effort to make sure they are fully implemented and indeed, more is on stream.

We are also supporting Ukraine financially.

And we are helping the millions of Ukrainians who have had to flee their homes. And we see so many women with children and older people fleeing from the horrors of war.

[The fintech challenge for Ukraine]

Throughout all of this, we have endeavoured to act in a spirit of openness and collaboration with Ukraine.

This is also the spirit of the fintech challenge we are kicking off today.

It was the Ukrainian Association of Fintech and Innovation Companies that came up with the concept of this challenge.

And the European Digital Finance Organisation took up the idea and organised it in record time.

DG FISMA and Jan [Ceyssens] of course leading here, and the European Commission are proud to be able to support you.

I hope you see because this is solidarity in action.

It shows that in times of crisis, sometimes it is about the very practical things.

The fintech revolution has demonstrated that there are so many creative minds seeking technological solutions to all sorts of problems in the world.

That’s true too in Ukraine.

Take, and I hope my pronunciation is correct here, take eDopomoga, for example.

It’s a service that was highlighted to me by Ukrainian Deputy Minister Koshelenko.

It’s a digital platform established by the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine with the support of the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine and the UN Development Program in Ukraine, with the financial support of Sweden.

A donor from somewhere else in the world can make an online donation quickly and easily.

And then a recipient in Ukraine gets a code which they can use in a grocery store or a supermarket.

An original idea that connects people outside Ukraine who want to make a difference, with people inside Ukraine who need help.

I also want to mention the vibrant fintech sector in Ukraine.

I have been really impressed by how many Ukrainian companies have kept working in the most difficult of circumstances.

And you have turned your attention to what you can do to help – members of the Ukrainian fintech association for example and I list some of the things you have done:

  • Set up monthly payments for internally displaced people,
  • Written off interest on loans for those in the armed forces,
  • Given free access to payment solutions,
  • And provided financial assistance to hospitals and medical institutions.

It’s this innovation and creativity – in Ukraine, but also in Europe and across the rest of the world – that this fintech challenge will draw on.

So to everyone who has joined us today from the fintech sector, I’m asking you to step up to this challenge.

Can you come up with digital solutions that will help the people of Ukraine? To help refugees and internally displaced people, as well as those who remain in their homes?

Can you think of original and practical ideas that will make a real difference to the everyday lives of Ukrainians?

Can you help support the recovery of Ukraine?

Well, I believe you can – and that’s why I’m fully supporting this event.

Your ideas might be in financial services, they might involve payments, insurance, or financial inclusion.

They might centre around cyber-security, logistics and information.

Or they might be very practical, concrete, meeting everyday needs.

We are lucky to have so many digital entrepreneurs in Europe.

I hope you will listen to the call to put your minds to work to help Ukraine:

  • To empower Ukrainians,
  • To keep the Ukrainian economy running,
  • And to rebuild a strong and modern Ukraine.

We’ve got the right people – my call on you now is to step up to this challenge.

Because as a policy-maker, I know the value of digital finance and innovation.

There are so many new products, services and ways of doing business.

Most of you taking part in this event are part of the sea change. You are making it happen.

As regulators, we are doing our best to help you seize the opportunities, encouraging innovation while all the time managing the risks.

We are doing it with initiatives like our new EU Digital Finance Platform, which is designed to help build stronger links between innovative financial companies and supervisors, and to help fintechs scale up more easily.

[Conclusion]

In conclusion, because in my work I want to support innovation that can address the challenges we face, the big ones and but also the small ones.

I know that the people with us today have the ideas, you have the motivation, and skills to innovate in a way that will help the people of Ukraine.

My words are ones of best wishes and good luck – and I really look forward to seeing what ideas you come up with today.

I’m staying tuned and I hope to get the last word at the very end.

Best wishes to all participants and let the challenge begin!

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