This week’s blog is about the ongoing, strong EU response to refugees arriving from Ukraine. Specifically, it is about how we are making sure that we are coordinated, horizontally between Member States and vertically so that national, regional and local levels work together in the most effective way.
Four Million people have arrived in the European Union in the last five weeks. Many are traumatised, even bereaved, all are vulnerable. The response by all sectors of society in the European Union as a whole and particularly by the Member States of first entry makes me proud to be European.
We are now moving to the operational phase. In practical terms, this means we are moving from people needing to be safe from falling bombs or flying bullets to wanting to meet their daily needs.
That means money for food, a roof over their head, medical visits, education for their children and getting a job that allows them scope to rebuild. It also means being safe from exploitation or even bodily harm, while they are at their most vulnerable. All of this requires systems that work under pressure, that are joined-up at each administrative level, and that are transparent – for the user and the administrator.
Therefore, I wanted to give my thoughts, and my appreciation of the different levels of Government and administration that I have seen over the last 10 days, and what I am doing to facilitate this joined-up approach. What is clear, as it has been from the start, is the collective spirit and willingness to help.
On Monday (28 March), the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council unanimously endorsed the 10-point plan that French Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin and I proposed. We presented that plan just three days after the European Council called on Member States to intensify their efforts in a continued spirit of unity and solidarity and the Commission to take the necessary initiatives to facilitate such actions.
The Interior Ministers did this knowing that it puts pressure on themselves to deliver – that is responsible leadership. The plan will allow for an EU-wide system of registration, clear and safe transport, and proper information and advice to people to areas where they could travel to. It will provide shelter to people, protection for children and against traffickers. It will make us better prepared for future challenges, with contingency plans adopted by each member State and us as Union. It will give us the tools to measure the pressure on each Member State and prioritize the areas most under strain. It will link with international partners who can give help, like US, UK and Canada and continue strong cooperation with international partners who need it, like Moldova. It will do this with funds to back it up and security parameters to keep us safe.
The positive and rapid response is built on solid foundations, namely the unanimous decision to activate the Temporary Protection Directive. As part of this, the Member States are meeting twice a week in the Solidarity Platform, a platform that is chaired by the Commission. I see this as a kind of ‘command centre’ to make sure we deliver that joined-up approach. I will personally monitor the progress made in the Solidarity Platform on all the 10 priority points and report regularly on them.
On Wednesday (30th March), I spoke at the Committee of the Regions working Group for Ukraine. As well as hearing stirring pleas from Mayor Sadovyi of Lviv and Mayor Klitschko of Kyiv, I was able to be updated on the extraordinary responses of so many EU regions and cities, like Gdansk, Warsaw and Przemysl.
I invited representatives of the Committee of Regions led by President Tzitzikostas and of EUROCITIES led by Mayor Nardella of Florence, to participate in a dedicated meeting of the Solidarity Platform and explain directly their needs.
The regions and cities are the ones who are trying to find the apartments, the rooms, the beds, that so many thousands need urgently. They are trying to identify the schools, the crèches, the teachers that children need, so that their memory of their stay is knowledge rather than numbness.
Thursday 24th I spoke to the plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee. The civil society, and NGO representatives, the employers’ organisations and the trade union reps filled me gratitude. They are the organisations who will be able to help that people get immediate help, advice on accessing medical care, where to find affordable childcare, they will be able to point to where the jobs are, they can ensure that employment standards are fair. Again, this must be done in a joined up way. Especially in keeping people safe.
That is why an upcoming Solidarity Platform meeting will address the issue of human trafficking. And we aim to adopt a common anti-trafficking plan to prevent human trafficking and help victims. Indeed our EU anti-trafficking coordinator Diane Schmitt has been dedicated to this issue since the beginning of the crisis, actively working with Member State coordinators.
All these levels have an essential role to play. The international, the European, the national, the regional and the local. It is not a hierarchy, but instead a living, breathing and humanitarian response to unthinkable savagery.
Getting this response right is one of the best rebukes we can give to Putin – even with millions arriving you cannot shake us – we stay strong, we stay united. And when it is time for Ukrainians to go home, to start rebuilding, they will carry with them the memory of what European Unity means in practice, for the phase they have just lived through, and for the phases to come.
This blog outlines the benefits of the proposals on migration tabled by the European Commission on 23 September 2020. For more detail on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum see below.
For More information
Commissioner Johansson’s blog: More legal pathways to the EU
DG Migration and Home Affairs website: Resettlement and other pathways to protection
- Publication date
- 3 April 2022
- Directorate-General for Communication