A new funding instrument has been proposed by the European Commission in response to the refugee crisis as flows continue and the border between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece remains de facto closed.
Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management presented the proposal on Wednesday 2 March. The initiative provides for an initial budget of €700 million from 2016-2018 and is expected to be accepted “immediately” by the European Council with a qualified majority of Member States voting in favour, and with European Parliament playing a role only in terms of amending the budget.
“With the needs getting bigger, these efforts are not enough, Numbers rise, so do humanitarian needs”, said Stylianides, while presenting the new Emergency Assistance instrument for faster crisis response within the EU, underlining that European Commission will address the humanitarian needs by responding decisively and immediately. The European Commission’s proposal aims to provide basic needs of refugees, such as food, healthcare, shelter, clean water.
“It is very important to have full acceptance to the fact that the solution of this newfound crisis should be European,” Stylianides stressed, emphasizing also Turkey’s role in the resolution of the crisis, after European Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas announced that 308 migrants are being returned to Turkey, as part of the implementation of the agreement between Greece and Turkey, for the first time.
The funding instrument will not only benefit Greece, but to any Member State that applies for it, said Stylianides, while explaining the timing of the financing, with €300 million to cover the needs of 2016, €200 million for 2017 and another €200 million for 2018. However, EU officials are not ready to answer where this €700 million will come from. “We will deploy the money from existing headings”, said an EU source, while avoiding more specificity. “We have the money, we will not touch the Multiannual Financial Framework”, another EU source confirmed.
On the decision making process, this legislation does not only apply to the refugee crisis, but is a frame that will be used whenever disaster strikes. “We cannot afford adopting new legislation every time”, the source underlined. European Commission officials stressed that there is understanding from the European Parliament on the need to fast track the legislation and that in 2 weeks the amended budget will need to be set. The Emergency assistance tool would be provided in close coordination with Member States and organisations such as UN agencies, non-governmental organisations and international organisations. “100% coverage of the applied costs is possible”, the EU source confirmed.