EU interior ministers are trying to forge a common response to the growing refugee crisis as thousands of Ukrainians flee their country amid the Russian invasion.
At an extraordinary meeting in Brussels on Sunday afternoon, ministers are being asked to assess several proposals on humanitarian aid, migration, cyberattacks and crisis management, according to a document seen by POLITICO.
One of the key issues for ministers is a suggestion to “examine the establishment of a suitable temporary protection scheme” to respond to the current crisis.
The EU has a directive on temporary protection, introduced following the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s, but which has never been used. There were calls to trigger the 2001 directive last summer during the West’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, which left thousands of Afghans stranded.
One of the reasons for some member states’ reluctance to trigger the mechanism is that it is seen by some as a possible step towards a mandatory relocation system – an idea previously rejected by countries such as Poland and Hungary.
Arriving at the meeting, EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson said she supported the adoption of the directive and was ready to present a Commission proposal. “In my opinion, I think it would be a good time to use the Temporary Protection Directive…to provide adequate protection for people on the run, as well as the possibility of moving within the European Union,” he said. she stated. “It’s something that will be discussed today, and I will of course listen to the different member states.”
When asked if he supported the triggering of the 2001 Temporary Protection Directive as he arrived for Sunday’s meeting, Sweden’s Integration Minister Anders Ygeman noted that he did not s It wasn’t a “magic wand”.
“I think that might be an option,” Ygeman said. “I’m not against this option, but you also have to remember that it’s not a magic wand, it’s always voluntary… I think to deal with this kind of situation, we need rules binding in the EU…a solidarity bound by real decisions.”
Ygeman also said it was time for the EU to adopt a common approach to migration.
“I want to urge all countries in the European Union to take responsibility for this crisis,” he said as he arrived at the meeting. “Some countries have been reluctant to be part of the migration pact, and some countries have been reluctant to have a solidarity mechanism in the EU and I think this situation highlights the importance of such a mechanism.”
According to the United Nations, at least 368,000 Ukrainians have arrived in neighboring countries since the start of the Russian invasion, with long queues reported at Ukraine’s borders with countries such as Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Moldova.
The document under study and prepared by the French Presidency of the Council of the EU also indicates that in the event of an increase in arrivals, “support for neighboring countries to carry out their missions of control and registration at the borders could be offered” through EU agencies such as Frontex and Europol.
All EU countries “are called upon to respond to the best of their abilities to requests for assistance from the Ukrainian authorities”, in terms of humanitarian aid, the document also notes.
The Council Presidency also notes that the Ukrainian government has requested assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and that “the initial assistance offered by seventeen Member States in this context mainly includes hygiene and medical equipment , as well as accommodation capabilities (tents, blankets, etc.).” Moldova has also requested “housing assistance”, she says.