EU funding for Ukraine war refugees in Estonia remains marginal

Refugee from Ukraine being registered in Tallinn. March 2022.
Refugee from Ukraine being registered in Tallinn. March 2022. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

To date, the European Union has contributed €9 million to Estonia to cover costs related to war refugees from Ukraine. Although the European Commission intends to provide an additional €400 million in funding to member states, Estonia's share is likely to be marginal.

The EU has made a total of €400 available for migration and border management in its member states through the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Border Management and Visa Instrument (BMVI).

Kadri Tali, head of the State Budget Department at the Ministry of Finance, told ERR that the first portion of this sum has already been allocated to the countries bordering Ukraine: Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland. The Czech Republic received support as well. In all, these countries received approximately €250 million.

The remaining EU member states that have received refugees from Ukraine will be receiving another €152 million in total.

Tali said that the Commission is still working out the regulations for the distribution of these remaining funds. Estonia is also expected to receive a part of this sum, but exactly how much is yet unknown. A decision is due sometime this month, before the summer break.

"Even if we expect that the EU will give us a substantial amount to cover our costs associated with the reception of refugees from Ukraine, it is unlikely that Estonia will get a sizable share from AMIF that could match what we are spending from the state budget," Tali said. "In reality, EU funding is expected to be rather marginal."

The ministry official noted that the expected funding is meant to cover only refugees' basic needs, adding that this measure is not intended to be used for the long-term support of refugees.

In addition, the European Commission has eased restrictions on the use of cohesion funds that can be used by member states that have leftover funds from the 2014-2020 EU budget period. As Estonia has been a model user of cohesion funds in previous years, it is not going to benefit from this solution.

Presently, the bulk of the costs associated with war refugee housing in Estonia is being covered by the State Treasury. In a supplementary budget submitted to the Riigikogu this spring, the Estonian government allocated a total of approximately €243 million to meet refugee-related needs.

At the end of April, ERR reported that the European Commission had approved €9 million in funding to cover Ukraine refugee-related costs in Estonia. Part of this sum comes from the easing of AMIF regulations and the releasing of its reserves; the other from Europe's Cohesion Action for Refugees (CARE) program.

In addition to this €9 million, the prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania issued a joint appeal before the Council on June 20 as well, in which they noted that the Commissio's proposed measures are a step in the right direction, but are insufficient to address the issues posed by the reception of refugees from Ukraine.

"It is important to meet the needs of war refugees, but this should not come at the expense of funds already allocated to address structural concerns such as climate change and the digital transformation," the letter states.

The Baltics urged the establishment of a new temporary measure for asylum-seekers from Ukraine in the EU. The concept involves funding from the 2022 or 2023 EU budget, taking unexpected costs into account.

The three Baltic countries are also willing to look into alternatives outside of the EU budgetary framework as well, Tali added.

"In an unified appeal, the Baltic prime ministers requested €6,000 per year per refugee," the Finance Ministry official said. "This could serve as the starting point in further negotiations."


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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