European Commission snubs proposal to create specific health fund for Ukrainian refugees –

The European Commission dodged a proposal from Eastern European countries to create a specific fund to cover the medical costs of Ukrainian refugees in EU member states.

The proposal, included in a joint statement initiated by Poland and supported by ten other Eastern European countries, was presented at the last meeting of EU-27 ministers in Brussels on Tuesday 29 March.

The countries behind the joint declaration are Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

In particular, countries bordering Ukraine host many refugees. Poland has taken in the most, with a total of 2,336,799 refugees so far, according to the UN.

The appeal from the east highlights the additional pressure on health systems following COVID-19 and now from the many refugees from Ukraine and calls the challenges “significant”.

They called for the fund to be set up by activating Article 2 of the Emergency Aid Regulation within the EU, which states that emergency aid can be activated “in the event of an ongoing or potential disaster. ” with a Council decision based on a Commission proposal.

However, the European Commission does not seem keen on triggering Article Two any time soon.

Asked by EURACTIV about the joint statement at a press conference following the ministerial meeting, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides highlighted all the initiatives already underway to support health systems.

“We are doing all we can to support Member States in the face of the unprecedented health needs they are facing, but we also need to address other needs such as education and housing, the key priority being the protection of children,” he added. said Kyriakides.

She pointed to the €17 billion in funding already available through cohesion funds, which can also be used for healthcare. Of this money, €3.4 billion will be immediately available to Member States hosting refugees.

“Significant funds are available for the support of health expenditure if member states decide to use them for this purpose,” concluded Kyriakides.

French Health Minister Olivier Véran, representing the Council presidency, said other countries had also expressed interest in exploring the idea and others supported the principle of financial support.

However, he reiterated Kyriakides’ response regarding the potential deployment of additional EU funds, highlighting initiatives already underway, such as freeing up hospital beds and receiving hospitalized Ukrainian patients in other countries. .

“We want to make sure that the healthcare systems of frontline countries like Poland are not overwhelmed,” Verán concluded.

[Edited by Gerardo Fortuna/ Alice Taylor]

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