Ukraine: €17 billion of EU funds to help refugees

The Council today adopted legislative amendments making it possible for member states to redirect resources from cohesion policy funds and the Fund for European Aid for the Most Deprived (FEAD) to assist the refugees escaping the Russian military aggression against Ukraine.

The swift amendment of the legislation on EU funds is a clear statement of the EU’s continued solidarity with the refugees from Ukraine and with the member states hosting them, in particular those sharing borders with Ukraine.

This is an important step in ensuring member states have sufficient resources to meet the growing needs for housing, education and healthcare.

Cohesion policy funds

The Council adopted the regulation on Cohesion’s Action for Refugees in Europe (CARE) amending the 2014-2020 legal framework governing the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and the Fund for European Aid for the Most Deprived (FEAD).

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

In addition, the changes include exceptional flexibility to transfer resources between programmes financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund to address the inflow of refugees.

This flexibility means, for example, that ERDF resources earmarked for infrastructural projects can be reallocated to provide healthcare and education to persons escaping Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Member states can use overall up to €9.5 billion under the 2022 tranche of REACT-EU, one of the largest post-pandemic EU public investment programmes, as well as unallocated cohesion policy resources under the 2014-2020 budgetary period.

CARE also extends by one accounting year the 100% financing from the EU budget for cohesion programmes. This will alleviate the burden on national and regional budgets due to the inflow of refugees from Ukraine.

The start date for the new measures eligible for funding under CARE is set at 24 February 2022, the date of the Russian invasion.

The extension of the 100% financing, the unlocking of unprogrammed 2014-2020 cohesion funding, and the 2022 React-EU tranche are estimated to release almost €17 billion.

Home affairs funds

The Council also adopted an amendment to the 2014-2020 home affairs funds and to the 2021-2027 asylum, migration and integration fund. This amendment will provide extra resources for the reception of persons escaping the war in Ukraine.

It will extend by one year the implementation period of the 2014-2020 home affairs funds and unlock access to unspent amounts in the asylum and migration fund which had previously been earmarked for other purposes.

This will enable member states to urgently use the remaining funds to help address the mass inflow of persons and is expected to release an estimated maximum amount of €420 million in additional support from unused funds.

The text also provides member states and other public or private donors with the possibility to make additional financial contributions under the 2021-2027 fund as external assigned revenue. This external assigned revenue will make it possible to finance asylum and migration activities in member states during crises, including those arising from the invasion of Ukraine.

Next steps

The CARE regulation and the regulation amending the 2014-2020 home affairs funds and the 2021-2027 asylum, migration and integration fund will enter into force on the day after their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union, which is expected in the next few days.