Ukraine: EU approves swift release of cohesion resources for refugees

F.P. Report

BRUSSELS: The Council today endorsed a legislative proposal that will mobilise cohesion policy funding to assist refugees fleeing Russia’s military aggression.

The measure will also reinforce member states’ ongoing efforts to tackle the extended impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The European Union has already welcomed nearly three million displaced persons, mostly women and children, fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A place to stay, essential necessities, access to healthcare, transport, education and employment – Europe has to abide by its values for the Ukrainian people. The swift release of cohesion resources for the displaced persons will allow member states, especially those on the frontline of the crisis, to urgently allocate funding to help the displaced Ukrainians as much as possible. This was the strong commitment made by the EU leaders when they met at Versailles on 10 and 11 March, and now we are proud to live up to this commitment.

Joël Giraud, French minister for territorial cohesion and relations with territorial communities

The proposal on Cohesion’s Action for Refugees in Europe (CARE) amends two legislative acts to provide for exceptional and targeted changes to the overall 2014-2020 legal framework governing the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and the Fund for European Aid for the Most Deprived (FEAD).

It also introduces extra flexibility in reallocation of funding and extends by one accounting year the 100% financing from the EU budget for cohesion programmes, a measure initially introduced in 2020 to help the COVID-19 recovery.

This means that member states will be able to speed up the deployment of all unprogrammed funding under the 2014-2020 period. Additionally, they can use the €10 billion 2022 tranche under REACT-EU, one of the largest post-pandemic EU public investment programmes.

The main elements of the proposal include:

  • additional flexibility to transfer resources between programmes under the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund for addressing the migratory challenges due to Russia’s military aggression;
  • new flexibility to amend programmes under the Fund for European Aid for the Most Deprived (FEAD);
  • the start date for the new measures eligible for funding under CARE is set at 24 February 2022, the date of the Russian invasion;
  • extension of 100% financing from the EU budget for the 2021-2022 accounting year. In order to comply with the payment ceilings in years 2022 and 2023, the total additional payments will be capped at €5 billion in 2022 and €1 billion in 2023.

Bearing in mind the urgency of the human and economic impact of the refugee inflow, the Council decided to endorse the text of the proposal without amendment.

Background and next steps

On 8 March the European Commission proposed the CARE regulation. The proposal aims to alleviate the burden on national and regional budgets from the unprecedented migratory pressure, especially in the EU’s eastern regions, resulting from the unprovoked Russian aggression against Ukraine. It also takes into account the extended economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the EU as a whole.

Following today’s endorsement by the Council, the European Parliament is expected to use the urgent procedure for the approval of the proposal. The legislative act is expected to be adopted in early April and will enter into force with immediate effect.