What role for European municipalities in the Ukrainian crisis?
Since the early days of the invasion of Ukraine, the European Union has shown unity and speed in condemning Russian military aggression and in adopting historic sanctions: freezing the assets of key leaders, exclusion of Russian banks from the international SWIFT system or Russian coal embargo. He also expressed his support for Ukraine by financing the purchase and delivery of arms in the amount of one billion euros.
At the same time, the European Union has enabled an unprecedented humanitarian response. € 550 million was allocated to help Ukraine deal with the humanitarian consequences and for the first time the Directive on Temporary Protection was activated. Therefore, any Ukrainian fleeing his country has the right to stay temporarily on European territory and have access to education, health care, housing and work. The European Commission has adopted operational guidelines in each of these areas.
Municipalities play an important role in this solidarity movement. Initiatives have multiplied throughout France. Mayors allow children to attend schools and can list available housing in their municipality via an online procedure. The departmental prefects then ensure coordination between offers and needs in accommodations. For more information: FAQ Accommodation / Ukraine | Ministry of Ecological Transition (ecologie.gouv.fr)
For a specific example: in Pau, the city hall has opened a special number to identify people who wish to welcome Ukrainian refugees. By the beginning of March, 260 people had already volunteered.
Numerous collections are also organized to send humanitarian material to Ukraine and the border regions.
In this context, the European Commission has decided to put in place various mechanisms to help Member States and their communities to deal with the humanitarian emergency.
Inform refugees about their rights
A dedicated page was created by the European Commission to inform Ukrainians of the rights they have. This site is available in Ukrainian and Russian and lets them know who to contact and what steps to take.
A Europe Direct Contact Center service in Ukrainian and Russian also allows you to answer any questions about European assistance and the temporary protection they benefit from.
Obtain European aid for the reception measures put in place
On the one hand, the CARE initiative allows regions to use the remaining funds of the 2014-2020 cohesion policy (ERDF and ESF) to support reception measures for refugees. The additional resources provided by REACT-EU for the year 2022, i.e. € 10 billion, can also be mobilized.
Since the expenses incurred for the reception of refugees from 24 February 2022 are retroactively eligible, each municipality must contact your regional managing authority for more information.
The ERDF and the ESF can support actions such as the construction of reception centers or mobile hospitals, the establishment of French courses, psychological support, childcare or health care for Ukrainian refugees. For example, the SOUTH Region has mobilized over 3 million euros through the REACT-EU Fund to finance free housing for Ukrainian families in public high schools, to provide them with transport networks or even to grant exceptional support to Ukrainian, Belarusian students. and Russians.
The European Commission, on the other hand, extended the implementation of the Internal Affairs Funds 2014-2020 by one year. This action allows Member States to urgently use the resources still available (around 420 million euros) to strengthen refugee reception systems and facilitate their integration. Local authorities can benefit from these funds, and more specifically from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), by submitting the grant application files. For more information, it is advisable to contact the French managing authority, the Directorate General for Foreigners in France (Service of the Ministry of the Interior).
A call for projects under the EU4HEALTH program for civil society organizations and educational institutions is also open until 31 May 2022. Endowed with an amount of 2 million euros, it aims to support exchanges and sharing of experiences on psychological support of Ukrainian refugees in order to improve their care in host countries.
Coordination of humanitarian aid sent to Ukraine
Communities and Member States have also mobilized to collect humanitarian aid and send it to Ukrainian or border regions. To offer an organized response, the European Commission has set up a solidarity platform through which Member States and European agencies can discuss assistance needs and reception capacities.
At the local level, a support and information center set up by the European Committee of the Regions makes it possible to connect cities in need of help and those that wish to help. Each municipality is therefore invited to fill in a form indicating the nature of the assistance it can offer.
Finally, in France, a platform was developed to connect volunteers and NGOs, while a monitoring committee at government level was set up to organize reception policies with local authorities.