Prawa autorskie: Slawomir Kaminski / Agencja Wyborcza.plSlawomir Kaminski / ...
07 listopada 2022

‘The EU has given little for the refugees’, claims the government and calls for a separate fund. Is it right? We checked

‘We aren’t going to beg for it,’ said Jarosław Kaczyński in March about European money to help refugees arriving in Poland. Now, the government is accusing the EU of giving little and that other funds ‘were due to Poland anyway’. Is this true?

Publikujemy angielskie tłumaczenie tekstu Julii Theus ">>UE dała niewiele na uchodźców<< – twierdzi rząd i apeluje o osobny fundusz. Ma rację? Sprawdzamy" , opublikowanego w OKO.press 20 września 2022 r.

JESTEŚMY TU RAZEM

Powoli wyczerpują się zasoby dobrej woli i możliwości pomocy ukraińskim rodzinom, które ratując się przed rosyjską agresją, próbują w Polsce mieszkać, pracować i uczyć się. Państwo nie wspiera już Polek i Polaków, którzy przyjmują uchodźców. Czas na nowo ułożyć relacje i szukać rozwiązań. Chcemy w OKO.press opisywać historie gości z Ukrainy, usłyszeć je od was. Czekamy też na listy polskich pracodawców, gospodarzy, wszystkich osób, które chcą napisać komentarz lub zgłosić pomysł. Piszcie na adres [email protected].

МИ ТУТ РАЗОМ

Поволі вичерпуються ресурси доброї волі та можливості допомоги українським родинам, які, рятуючись від російської агресії, намагаються жити, працювати та навчатися в Польщі. Держава більше не підтримує польок та поляків, які приймають біженців. Настав час заново формувати стосунки та шукати рішення. В OKO.press ми хочемо описати історії гостей з України, почути їх від вас. Також чекаємо на листи від польських роботодавців, господарів та всіх, хто бажає написати коментар чи подати ідею. Пишіть на [email protected].

More than 6.2 million people have been recorded as having arrived since the start of the war in Ukraine. The Polish-Ukrainian border is still being crossed by approximately 20,000 refugees a day. However, the traffic is bidirectional. 4.5 million people left for Ukraine since 24 February 2022. The balance of the border traffic is therefore 1.7 million. This does not mean that so many people have arrived in Poland, because the same people travel in both directions. The government estimates – based on the PESEL database – that around 1.3 million refugees are still in Poland.

Such a large number of people from Ukraine obviously entails expenditure. The government estimates that, so far, Poland has spent an average of approximately PLN 2,200 on helping one Ukrainian refugee. This estimate was reported by Agnieszka Ścigaj, Minister at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister, on radio RMF FM.

The rest of the text below the frame.

Rozpoczynamy akcję: JESTEŚMY TU RAZEM. Powoli wyczerpują się zasoby dobrej woli i możliwości pomocy ukraińskim rodzinom, które ratując się przed rosyjską agresją, próbują w Polsce mieszkać, pracować i uczyć się. Państwo nie wspiera już Polek i Polaków, którzy przyjmują uchodźców. Czas na nowo ułożyć relacje i szukać rozwiązań. Chcemy w OKO.press opisywać historie gości z Ukrainy, usłyszeć je od was. Czekamy też na listy polskich pracodawców, gospodarzy, wszystkich osób, które chcą napisać komentarz lub zgłosić pomysł. Piszcie na adres [email protected]

Поволі вичерпуються ресурси доброї волі та можливості допомоги українським родинам, які, рятуючись від російської агресії, намагаються жити, працювати та навчатися в Польщі. Держава більше не підтримує польок та поляків, які приймають біженців. Настав час заново формувати стосунки та шукати рішення. В OKO.press ми хочемо описати історії гостей з України, почути їх від вас. Також чекаємо на листи від польських роботодавців, господарів та всіх, хто бажає написати коментар чи подати ідею. Пишіть на [email protected]

After six months of war in Ukraine, she also argued that the EU has not given enough money to help Ukrainians. ‘So far [ed. we have received] approximately 144 million euros, but this is more for reinforcing the border. However, it [ed. Poland] has received approvals to redirect funds that were due to it anyway, because they were from various EU funds,’ said Ścigaj. She also emphasized that the EU had not created an additional budget to help refugees from Ukraine.

What is the situation with EU funds?

Questions as to how the EU can financially support the host countries have been raised since the start of the invasion. It is true that no additional fund has been created to help Ukrainians fleeing from the war. However, the European Commission has reasons for not creating it.

This is because a new fund would require the unanimous agreement of all EU Member States for a larger contribution.

The EC does not envisage new funds to help refugees for the time being because of the lack of agreement among the Member States. So if the government calls for an additional fund (Prime Minister Morawiecki sent a letter to Ursula von der Leyen to this effect), it should start by convincing the other countries to agree to its creation.

Meanwhile, help is needed for refugees here and now. That is why the most important thing is to use the money that is already on the table.

The accusation that the European Union only gave Poland money to ‘reinforce the border’ and that this ‘is due to us’ is an oversimplified statement.

Because the European Commission found funds to help refugees where it could, as quickly as possible. And it is paving the way all the time for funding within the existing mechanisms.

Three EU mechanisms

The EU has created three EU mechanisms from which Poland can allocate funds to help refugees. The first mechanism is money from the Cohesion Fund for 2014–2020, which has not yet been contracted. 2021, 2022 and 2023 are already years of settlements and not of contracting new projects. Money that is not spent is lost; it constitutes so-called ‘expired funds’. Poland had a budget of 80 billion euros at its disposal. The new EU regulation meant that it was able to apply for these funds in a simplified procedure.

‘Poland was able to use money from the Cohesion Fund that had not yet been contracted for the 2014–2020 period. The government claimed that we had no money and had spent everything, so we could not reallocate money to help refugees.

But according to the European Commission, this is not quite the case. Some of the money has not been spent and could have been transferred to refugees,’ Jan Olbrycht, MEP for the Civic Coalition and member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control, tells OKO.press.

Voivodships reallocate money

Olbrycht gives examples. The Pomorskie Voivodship moved a project from the European Social Fund – a total of 4.5 million euros to support displaced people. The Świętokrzyskie Voivodship released 3.8 million euros within the framework of European money related to the labour market for refugees.

‘Poland received an additional 2.7 million euros for an education project under the European Social Fund for people fleeing from the war in Ukraine,’ says the MEP.

The second mechanism is one of the EC’s largest programmes under the EU Recovery Plan, REACT-EU, which has a budget of 50.6 billion euros. REACT-EU was established in the European Union to offset the adverse effects of the coronavirus pandemic among Member States. Its funds were to be allocated to investments in digitization, ecology, infrastructure and services. This includes, for example, healthcare and tourism, as well as support of small and medium-sized enterprises.

The European Commission proposed that some of the funds allocated to REACT-EU countries be allocated to refugees.

‘Poland was able to use part of the REACT-EU funding programme in the recovery facility, namely a loan taken out by the EU. Poland received an advance of 562 million euros for this in April 2022. However, I don’t know exactly how much has been spent from REACT-EU on refugees,’ says Olbrycht.

What is known is that the European Commission approved the transfer of 31 million euros from the REACT-EU programme to Poland in August 2022. Some of the funds are to be transferred precisely to help Ukrainians in Poland.

New package for the consequences of Russian aggression

The third and new idea is the FAST CARE financial support for territories, which was adopted by the European Commission on 29 June 2022. This is a new package of flexible support for territories to help Member States, local governments and social partners deal with the consequences of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Such additional support was sought, among others, by local government officials grouped in the European Committee of the Regions, which enables them to share their views on EU legislation.

‘If the Commission’s proposal is adopted by the Council and the Parliament, this will allow Member States to receive larger advance payments for the 2021–2027 period. If Poland then applied for FAST CARE, it could receive an advance payment of 716 million euros. This would also be a simplified way of covering the basic costs of people from Ukraine who are encompassed by the protection,’ says Olbrycht. He explains that Poland could then receive 100 euros per person. This would make it possible to cover costs related to direct assistance to Ukrainians who are trying to start an independent life in Poland.

He emphasizes that saying that Poland only received 144 million euros to reinforce its borders is a great simplification. Because this money only applies to the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. Whereas, in a crisis situation, the government should make maximum use of the money that is already in the EU budget. Where this is possible.

‘The European Commission has found solutions that can be used immediately and which are in the budget. These are both cohesion funds, React-EU, and the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, as well as the Border Management Instrument,’ says the MEP.

‘We aren’t going to beg for it’’

We described the government’s position on welcoming refugees and organizing funds to finance their presence here.

A month after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Jarosław Kaczyński stated it clearly. ‘Of course we won’t refuse if someone wants to help us, but we have a rule – no relocations. If someone wants to stay here, they stay, and if they want to leave, they leave. We aren’t forcing anyone to do anything.

And the second rule – we aren’t going to beg. Of course, we believe we deserve some assistance, but we aren’t going to beg for it.

Our country is in an absolutely good shape, more than three times richer than at the beginning of the 1990s and more than three times richer than Ukraine on a per capita basis.’

Even though the European Commission is offering help and enabling the use of funds that are already in the budget to help refugees, the government is still criticizing this.

‘The reallocated money is due to Poland anyway. It cannot be the case that, in the face of the greatest refugee crisis, the EU will do nothing that has an extra dimension,’ said Deputy Minister Paweł Jabłoński.

Minister Agnieszka Ścigaj claims the same. Let us recall her words once again: ‘Poland received approvals to redirect funds that were due to it anyway, because they were from various EU funds.’

Is a separate fund possible at all?

But the Polish government, like the Czech and Slovak governments, are nevertheless ultimately appealing for the creation of an additional fund for refugee aid.

‘If it were to arise, it would need to be created within a multiannual budget, which would require the unanimous agreement of all Member States.

A fund could also arise outside the budget, which would be a special external fund for Ukraine. Discussions on this topic are ongoing,’ says the MEP. He emphasizes that it is unclear how much of it would be allocated to refugees from Ukraine. That is why the starting point has to be what is already on the table.

‘Aid to refugees does not have to be direct. This means that, if we talk about funds for refugees, we have to remember that the money should be allocated to the support of public services that are necessary for the state to cope with such a number of people fleeing from the war. This applies to schools, nursery schools, healthcare and social welfare,’ emphasizes Olbrycht.

Poland has – in theory – access to an additional EU fund that supports these areas. It is the NextGenerationEU, also known as the Recovery Fund. This is a 750 billion euro fund that the European Council agreed to launch on 21 July 2020. It has the objective of supporting Member States affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Only that Poland cannot meet the conditions to receive money from the Recovery Fund.

This did not happen because of the refusal to comply with the CJEU rulings – the judgment regarding the Act on the disciplinary system for judges and the interim measure ordering the suspension of key points of the Muzzle Act.

Whereas the text of the National Recovery Plan finally agreed upon by and between Brussels and Morawiecki’s government split the implementation of the CJEU’s decisions (partial and criticized as a rotten compromise) into ‘milestones’, namely the conditions to be met before the first disbursements from the National Recovery Plan are made. Poland is unable to achieve these milestones.

Udostępnij:

Julia Theus

Dziennikarka, pracowała w „Gazecie Wyborczej” i Wirtualnej Polsce. W OKO.press od 2021 roku, absolwentka Filologii Polskiej na Uniwersytecie im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu, stypendystka nauk humanistycznych i społecznych na Sorbonie IV w Paryżu (Université Paris Sorbonne IV).

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