Estonia is joining nine other European Union states in appealing to the European Commission for emergency funding to put towards the reception of war refugees from Ukraine.
The joint appeal also calls for an easing of rules surrounding construction and construction materials, to enable the swifter completion of accommodation projects
Minister of Finance Keit Pentus-Rosimannus said: "We have proposed to the European Commission to mobilize the resources actually available in the European Union budget to alleviate the effects of the war launched by Putin - including a Solidarity and Emergency Aid Reserve (SEAR) package worth more than one billion euros, specifically for such situations.
"In addition, the European Union should be ready also provide emergency assistance," said Minister of Finance Keit Pentus-Rosimannus in a press release.
Estonia's finance minister was joined by those from Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, in issuing the statement.
Another concern which Estonia and the other EU nations has highlighted is that the crisis has had a very strong impact on the economy and prices, including construction prices, which have been rising very rapidly
This affects the cost of projects financed from the state budget and EU structural funds, in turn putting even more pressure on countries and municipalities hosting refugees.
Difficulties in supply chains, affected by the war, for construction materials, have also been jeopardizing the timely completion of construction projects, the address says.
Finance ministry foreign affairs chief Kadri Tali said that: We have proposed the European Commission relax the rules so that structural support could be used for a longer period of time, in order to provide relief for the completion of construction projects which have fallen into difficulty."
"It is also our belief that in the new [EU] budgetary period, five percent of cohesion policy funds should be set aside for extraordinary expenses. We must be able to react rapidly to problems in situations like the current on. We also suggested that cohesion policy funds should be re-allocated more easily," Tali went on.
The European Commission has given permission to member states to utilize unused balances from the previous EU budgetary period, which ended last year, in order to help deal with taking in refugees from the Ukraine war.
At the same time, some member states, including Estonia, have used subsidies efficiently, meaning there is not much left in the way of surpluses or unused resources, meaning that additional funding is required.
Most of the funding for supporting Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in Estonia – for instance in providing accommodation, meals, education etc., has come from the Estonian state budget, while the European Commission has so far made up to €9 million available, by relaxing rules on the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund 2021-2027 (AMIF) – which accounted for a third of the total, and from the CARE refugee fund, which accounts for the remainder.
Vivian Loonela, Head of the European Commission Representation in Estonia, disagrees, however, with implications that the European Commission has not done enough to help alleviate the refugee situation.
"The EU has certainly not left Estonia alone. On the contrary, work is already being carried out in relation to this. There has also been a joint decision in Europe to give Ukrainians temporary protection and the legal opportunities to be here. In terms of funding, I think it will just take a while. This has commenced and it has been done, and can be carried out immediately," he said.
A total of 33,927 Ukrainian war refugees have arrived in Estonia since the invasion began. Almost two thirds of these have applied for temporary protection.
Editor: Andrew Whyte