Today, the Commission took another important step to help Member States, regional and local authorities and partners to address the consequences of Russia's aggression against Ukraine by adopting the ‘Flexible Assistance to Territories (FAST-CARE)'. This is a new comprehensive package that extends the support already provided under Cohesion's Action for Refugees in Europe (CARE) by offering further support and further flexibility to Cohesion Policy funding.
CARE mobilised investments for housing, healthcare, translation services or training for displaced people, as well as for the countries receiving them. However, as needs continue to grow, the European Council, the European Parliament and EU regions called the Commission to present new initiatives within the Multiannual Financial Framework to support the Member States' efforts in this regard.
FAST-CARE is responding to these requests by offering additional flexibility for the implementation of Cohesion Policy investments, also contributing to mitigate the delayed implementation of EU-funded projects due to the combined effect of COVID-19 and the high energy costs, shortage of raw materials and labour force caused by the war.
The package introduces three changes to the 2014-2020 and 2021-2027 Cohesion Policy legislation to further speed up and simplify Member States' support to the integration of third country nationals, while continuing to help regions' recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic:
- More support for those welcoming displaced people – Member States, local authorities and civil society organizations
- The pre-financing payments are increased by an additional €3.5 billion to be paid in 2022 and 2023, which will provide rapid additional liquidity to all Member States. This comes on top of the €3.5 billion of pre-financing payments already made under REACT-EU since March 2022.
- The possibility of 100% co-financing by the EU under the 2014-2020 period is now extended to measures promoting the socio-economic integration of third country nationals. This possibility is also extended to 2021-2027 programmes, to be reviewed by mid-2024.
- Member States may increase the amount of the simplified unit cost to cover the basic needs of refugees from €40 introduced by CARE, to €100 per week per person. They may claim these costs for a period of up to 26 weeks, from 13 weeks today. This enables further simplifying the use of the funds for displaced people.
- The cross-financing possibility already granted under CARE between the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund (ESF) will be extended to the Cohesion Fund. This means that the Cohesion Fund may now also mobilise resources to address the consequences of the migratory challenges.
- Ensuring that investments go where they are needed - At least 30% of the resources mobilised by the flexibilities provided should be granted to operations managed by local authorities and civil society organisations operating in local communities so that those bearing the brunt of the efforts receive adequate support. - Expenditure of operations addressing migratory challenges may now be declared retroactively for reimbursement, even when the operation has already been completed. - Programmes may support operations outside the programme's geographical scope, but within the Member State. This will allow channelling support where it is most needed as refugees often move within Member States.
- Practical support to solve the problem of delayed implementation of projects.
- Projects above €1 million (e.g., in the construction sector), supported under the 2014-2020 programmes but which could not be completed in time due to price increases, shortages of raw material and labour force, may continue to be supported under 2021-2027 programmes.
- More flexibility for Member States at closure of programmes to maximise the amount of the funds they can get even when the implementation has been delayed.
Members of the College said:
Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, Valdis Dombrovskis, said: “The EU stands in full solidarity with Ukraine against Russia's brutal aggression. EU Member States have welcomed millions of Ukrainians fleeing from this war, but they also have to deal with its economic consequences - extra costs and supply chain difficulties, for example. Today's proposal has an important humanitarian and economic objective: to improve the EU's support for displaced people from Ukraine and to simplify Member States' work to carry out key EU-funded projects that now risk being delayed. We will do this by making EU cohesion policy rules simpler and more flexible, following the principles of sound financial management and adhering to our Green Deal objectives.”
Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, added: “The consequences of Russia's unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine are growing by the day. From the beginning, Cohesion Policy has been offering a comprehensive and pragmatic response to the various difficulties encountered by Member States and regional and local authorities. Today, with our FAST-CARE proposals, we step up our assistance by proposing additional flexibility and more means under Cohesion Policy to integrate third country nationals and support those who are doing it first-hand. These proposals will also contribute to mitigate the combined negative impact of COVID-19 and of the war in the implementation of programmes.”
Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, said: “The EU has so far welcomed more than 6.2 million people fleeing from Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine. Member States authorities and civil society organisations are doing a great job under very difficult circumstances in providing food, shelter, education, counselling and employment opportunities to those arriving. The FAST-CARE package is a concrete way to provide additional solidarity to all Member States with the tools and funds we have at our disposal.”
The EU continues to stand by Ukraine in light of the unprovoked and unjustified military aggression by Russia. It also stands by its Member States in their effort in welcoming refugees from Ukraine.
CARE introduced high levels of flexibility for Member States to use available 2014-2020 Cohesion Policy funds and resources from the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived to support people fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine and provide basic material assistance like food and clothing.
In addition, the Commission paid €3.5 billion of pre-financing under REACT-EU and further simplified the mobilisation of funds thanks to the introduction of unit costs per person, to cover for immediate needs of refugees such as food, basic material assistance, accommodation and transportation. Moreover, the 2022 envelope of €10 billion of REACT-EU funds may be used immediately to address these new needs.
Today's legislative proposals further extend the support of the Commission to stakeholders. They optimise the effective use of the funds and address further needs of Member States and regional and local authorities following the war in Ukraine.
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