The Use of Cohesion Policy Funds To Support Refugees From Ukraine

Ukrainian refugees across the EU

Almost 8 million Ukrainians have been forced to leave their
homes1 because of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine.Additional 7 million people were internally displaced within Ukraine.According to UNHCR data, by September 2022 over 7,536,000 Ukrainianrefugees are present across Europe. Among them more than 4,183,000people have registered for temporary protection or similar nationalprotection2.Poland is their main destination country. More than 1.2 millionbeneficiaries of temporary protection were registered on itsterritory3.Poland is followed by Germany with 670 000 registered refugees, theCzech Republic, 396 000, and Italy 143 000. The refugees influx wassignificant also in Romania, 972 203, Slovakia, 446 775, Hungary, 654 664.An important indicator about the spread of refugees is also their share of the totalpopulation of the host countries. While their number in Germany issignificant, they reached just 0, 1% of its total population. Theirshare is 9,4% in Poland, 8,2% in Slovakia, 6,8% in Hungary, 5,1% inRomania4.As a first stage of migration after the beginning of the armed conflict,the Ukrainian refugees initially fled to neighbouring countries. Many ofthem remain in these countries. As a second stage, secondary mobilityhas been on the rise. As a consequence, the number of Ukrainian refugeesin countries that are further away from Ukraine is increasing.

The EU Response

As a first response to the crisis, the EU activated the TemporaryProtection Directive (March 2022). The aim of this initial response wasto offer quick and effective assistance to people fleeing the war inUkraine.According to its provisions, the refugees will be able to stay for atleast one year with a residence permit. In addition to that, they willhave access to the EU labour market, as well as to education.In line with the provisions of the Directive, the obligations of the EUcountries towards persons enjoying temporary protection are to providethe following benefits: a residence permit for the entire duration ofthe protection (which can last from one year to three years);appropriate information on temporary protection; guarantees for accessto the asylum procedure; access to employment, subject to rulesapplicable to the profession and to national labour market policies andgeneral conditions of employment; access to suitable accommodation orhousing; access to social welfare or means of subsistence if necessary;access to medical care; access to education for persons under 18 yearsto the state education system; opportunities for families to reunite incertain circumstances; access to banking services, for instance openinga basic bank account ; move to another EU country, before the issuanceof a residence permit; move freely in EU countries (other than theMember State of residence) for 90 days within a 180-day period after aresidence permit in the host EU country is issued5.CAREIn addition to that, in order to face the crisis, in March 2022, theEuropean Commission approved a proposal for Cohesion’s Action forRefugees in Europe (CARE). It authorizes rapid reallocation of availablefunding under the cohesion policy. The reason behind it is to provideemergency support to Ukrainian refugees.CARE is designed to help Member States to provide emergency supportcovering the basic needs of Ukrainian refugees. According to theCohesion’s Action for Refugees, access to services such as temporaryaccommodation, food and water supplies or medical care can be supportedas well. The funding may also be used for enhancing the administrativecapacity of Member States in order to provide better support to refugees(additional infrastructure equipment or staff necessary to cater for theneeds of refugees).What is more, the EU Member States are allowed to utilize this fundingto develop solutions for the long-term integration of refugees. This canbe achieved through investments in housing, education, employment,health, social inclusion and care.CARE+A second legislative proposal CARE+ was approved as well (April 2022).It provides for increased pre-financing from REACT-EU resources for EUcountries. It aims is to decrease the financial pressure on MemberStates. CARE+ increases the initial pre-financing of REACT-EU resourcesfrom 11 % to 15 % to all EU countries. Special regime exists for themost affected ones. It is destinated to the EU countries borderingUkraine: Hungary,
Poland, Romania and Slovakia. The countries that received refugeesequivalent to more than 1 % of their national population (Austria,Bulgaria, Czechia and Estonia) can benefit from it as well. This regimeconsists in the possibility to get immediately 45 % (instead of 11 %)of their recovery funds.In order to support the Member States and to accelerate the access tofunding, the Parliament agreed to release around €3.4 billion from theReact-EU funds. The aim was to facilitate access to funds to pay forinfrastructure, housing, equipment, employment, education, socialinclusion, healthcare and childcare for refugees.FAST-CAREIn June 2022, the Commission proposed the “Flexible Assistance toTerritories (FAST-CARE)”. It was backed by the European Parliament during its session in October 2022. This is a new comprehensive package extending thesupport already provided under Cohesion’s Action for Refugees in Europe (CARE) by offering further support and further flexibility to Cohesion Policy funding.The new FAST-CARE responds to these requests by offering additional flexibility for the allocation of Cohesion Policy funding. Among its provisions are namely:

Impact on Regions and Cities

Regions and cities play a crucial role in the process of adaptation ofthe EU Member States with the new challenges. Due to their socialinfrastructure, they can provide social and economic opportunities.However, the influx of refugees is not equally distributed acrossEurope.Warsaw in the Masovian voivodeship is the city with the largestestimated number of refugees in Poland. In Romania, the top five regionshosting people fleeing Ukraine are Bucharest, Constanta, Brasov, Galati,and Iasi. While the majority of those remaining in Romania are hosted inBucharest, this region contains just a part of the influx – with lessthan 38,000 people (ca. 3.5% of the total number of arrivals)registering for temporary protection by 15 June 2022. In Slovakia, themain pressure is on the Prešov and Košice regions of the East ofSlovakia (bordering Ukraine).The refugee pressure on EU cities is dispersed as well. The top tencities in terms of number of refugees are as follows: Rzeszów where thenumber of refugees is 14 80528 which in terms of share of the totalpopulation is 40,7%, followed by Gdańsk 101530 (21,6%), Katowice 51310(17,7%), Wrocław 112696 (17,6%), Kraków 121312 (15,6%), Lublin 45827(13,5%), Warsaw 164537 (9,2%), Łódź 672185 (7,2%), Poznań 532048(7,0%), Vilnius 15 20013 (3,4%), Berlin (10 May) 100000 (2,7%),Bratislava 18 11069 (2,3%), Hamburg 20 18000 (0,98%), Munich 22 13311(0,84%), Madrid 14709 (0,44%)7.Among the main challenges faced by regions and cities was to be able toorganize humanitarian aid, immediate support and housing, education,access to health care, and job opportunities. At this time, a majorchallenge was linked to the poor coordination of the financial aid.Among the remaining long-term challenges are the educational level ofthe refugees, their access to educational system, integration in thelabour market, lack of affordable housing, arrangement linked to thelegal status of the refugees.Despite the immediate actions which were undertaken, the integration ofrefugees to the local labour markets faces several difficulties. Theirsuccess rates in finding jobs are lower in comparison to other migrantgroups. Refugees suffer from a range of disadvantages. Most of them havelower educational level as well as language difficulties. In general,most refugee groups attaint employment rates that are 23%  lower thantheir peers arriving as labour migrants8. The level of the host country language is essential for the success atthe local labour markets. Its mastery is also necessary for theutilisation of all previously acquired qualifications. The knowledge oflocal language is also essential for the integration in hostingcommunity. It facilitates social contacts with native speakers and giveshigher likelihood of acquiring additional educational level and movingwithin the country.

  1. Source: the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)


  3. Source:

  4. UNHCR 2022 – refugee statistics and Worldometers from the overall population


  6. COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS Upgrading Cohesion policy - Flexible Assistance to territories (FAST - CARE) - to address the consequences of Russian aggression