Eastern European member states demand extra EU funding, more flexible budgetary rules to handle ‘unprecedented challenge’
Ten EU member states have asked the European Commission for additional funding and more flexible spending rules to handle the arrival of Ukrainian refugees, according to a joint statement revealed on Tuesday.
The statement, signed by the ministers in charge of finance or EU funds from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, has been revealed by the Politico news outlet.
The ministers argue that the EU faces an “unprecedented challenge” because of the war in Ukraine, but its “negative impact is asymmetric” and “several of the effects, especially humanitarian ones, are particularly and disproportionately severe in the undersigned Member States.”
They claim that over 5.3 million Ukrainians have arrived in their countries, while nearly half of them are children, which poses a severe burden on their social security system in addition to the “already high inflation and energy costs” exacerbated by the war.
In the meantime, they warn that “most Ukrainian workers have left our countries to fight for the sovereignty of their country, the shortages of the labor force have already become evident, in particular in the construction and transport sectors.”
The statement welcomes the already adopted budgetary aid but asks the European Commission to come up with additional proposals to reinforce EU support for refugees and their hosts.
In particular, the signatories ask the EU executive body to let more remaining funds be used from the 2014-2020 financial period and to allow more budgetary flexibility and easier rules in spending them.
They also suggest “to create an optional reserve up to 5%” in the Cohesion Funds dedicated to each country for the current 2021-2027 budgetary cycle that can be used “without additional bureaucracy” to tackle “the direct and indirect impacts of war.”
EU member states received last week a total of €3.5 billion ($3.7 billion) from the EU budget to manage the arrival of Ukrainian refugees as pre-financing from post-pandemic recovery programs.
EU countries neighboring Ukraine, which hosted the most refugees after Russia’s war started on Feb. 24, are the biggest beneficiaries of the budgetary transfer.
Poland received over €562 million, while Romania and Hungary benefitted from €450 million and €300 million, respectively.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia were supported by €284 million and €209 million, respectively.
Under the EU temporary protection directive, Ukrainian nationals, their family members, and residents of the country are entitled to protection in any EU member state.
The protection scheme grants the right to work, residency, education, social allowances, and medical assistance for at least a year with a possible extension of two years.