Questions and Answers: Cohesion Policy steps up support to address the consequences of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine with the ‘Flexible Assistance to Territories’

(Source: European Commission)

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.

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