Brussels, 29 June 2022
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.
‘Flexible Assistance to Territories’ – Q & A
Brussels, 29 June 2022
Why did you propose ‘Flexible Assistance to Territories’ (‘FAST-CARE’)?
EU Member States are facing a major influx of people fleeing the Russian aggression against Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war, more than 6.2 million people arrived in the EU and efforts continue on the ground to welcome and swiftly integrate the displaced people in their hosting communities.
The war in Ukraine is also causing delays in the implementation of Cohesion Policy projects due to shortages of workers and inflated costs of raw materials, at a moment when the 2014-2020 Cohesion Policy programmes are in the process of being closed.
After the adoption of the ‘Cohesion’s Action for Refugees in Europe (CARE)’, allowing Member States and regions to provide emergency support to people fleeing from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as well as to those receiving them, the Commission is now enhancing its support by offering further flexibility for the implementation of Cohesion Policy funding.
In particular, the ‘Flexible Assistance to Territories (FAST-CARE)’ intends to provide additional support for those welcoming and integrating displaced people – Member States, local authorities and civil society’s organisations, ensuring that Cohesion Policy funds are flexible enough to go where they are most needed. FAST-CARE also proposes solutions to address the problem of the delayed implementation of some Cohesion Policy projects.
To which Cohesion Policy Funds/programmes do these amendments apply?
The proposed amendments apply to the 2014-2020 Common Provisions Regulation and to the 2021-2027 Common Provisions Regulation, which means that they cover all Cohesion Policy funds (European Regional and Development Fund – ERDF, European Social Fund – ESF and Cohesion Fund).
How can Member States use the 100% EU co-financing possibility? Do they need to propose an amendment to their programmes?
The 100% EU co-financing will be extended to priorities promoting the socio-economic integration of third country nationals both in the 2014-2020 and the 2021-2027 Cohesion Policy programmes.
The application of the 100% co-financing rate requires a separate priority axis in the programmes.
Member States may use the 100% co-financing possibility for an existing priority axis supporting the socio-economic integration of third country nationals and addressing migratory challenges as a result of the Russian aggression in Ukraine in a programme or introduce a new such priority axis in their programmes.
Where such a priority axis already exists, the application of the 100% financing rate will not need a Commission decision, but only a notification of the revised financial tables.
To benefit from the 100% co-financing rate, Member States must ensure that at least 30% of the support is directed to local authorities and civil society organisations.
Will all third country nationals be able to benefit from Cohesion Policy funding?
The proposal allows national authorities to finance both emergency and longer-term integration measures (e.g., education or housing infrastructure, etc.) of all third country nationals or stateless persons.
When will Member States receive the additional €3.5 billion of pre-financing? How is this financing distributed?
For the 2021-2027 period, to provide rapid additional liquidity to Member States, FAST-CARE increases the EU pre-financing payments to €3.5 billion for programmes receiving support from the ERDF, the European Social Fund Plus – ESF+ and the Cohesion Fund.
The first pre-financing tranche will be paid in 2022 following the entry into force of the Regulation, immediately for programmes already adopted and following the adoption of the new programmes for those that are not yet approved, whereas the second additional pre-financing tranche would be paid in 2023.
In case programmes could not be adopted in 2022, the corresponding additional pre-financing will be paid in 2023.
All Member States will benefit from the additional pre-financing, proportionally to their national allocations.
How will you ensure greater flexibility among funds?
CARE had already introduced the possibility for the ERDF and the ESF to fund projects that fall in the other fund’s mission.
With FAST-CARE, remaining resources under the Cohesion Fund may also be used to finance operations falling within the scope of the other two funds, on the basis of the rules applicable to these other funds.
Can you give some concrete examples of how FAST-CARE can support people fleeing Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine?
In the short term, FAST-CARE will facilitate financing of first reception and immediate relief of people fleeing the war in Ukraine such as providing food, basic material assistance, accommodation, transport, immediate healthcare, information and translation services.
At a second stage, FAST-CARE may support welcome and orientation measures such as accommodation, construction or refurbishing of reception centres, accommodation and staff costs for running the facilities and integration activities (including civil society organisations operating in local communities).
In the longer-term, access may be offered to healthcare, psychological care and community-based support, childcare, social housing, access to the labour market, education and training.
How will you support local beneficiaries on the ground?
Given the essential role of local authorities and civil society organisations in providing the first line of assistance in welcoming and integrating refugees, at least 30% of the Cohesion Policy support under the relevant priorities will be granted to local authorities and civil society organisations operating in local communities.
This means that Member States will have to channel the funds directly to such beneficiaries to ensure that they receive an appropriate share of the resources given their crucial role in welcoming refugees.
How are you solving the problem of the 2014-2020 projects that will not be finalised by the regulatory 2023 deadline?
Projects suffering delays in implementation due to shortages of raw materials and labour force or price increases, may be partially transferred to the 2021-2027 funding period even if, due to changed rules, some areas will no longer be eligible for support. This possibility is open to projects involving more than €1 million investments that are already under way.
Source – EU Commission