EU Commission deputy: Response to Ukraine refugees was ‘Europe at its best’

Speakers on a migration panel at the World Economic Forum have said the European Union’s response to the arrival of millions of Ukrainian refugees was a stellar example of solidarity – but it also served as a reminder of the need for an overhaul of the bloc’s migration policy.

European Commission vice president Margaritis Schinas said on Tuesday that the opening of borders to Ukrainian civilians had shown “Europe at its best.”

The exodus of more than 6 million refugees from Ukraine, mostly women and children, prompted the EU to activate an emergency protection system for the first time since its creation in 2001. This in turn facilitated Ukrainians’ access to jobs, housing, education and healthcare in the EU.

But talks on a new migration and asylum policy in the EU proposed in 2020 have stalled as member states disagree on whose responsibility it is to take in those who arrive outside of state-approved channels. During the panel discussion, Schinas urged EU member states to face “reality” and reach a consensus.

Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita also said she was proud of her small country’s reaction to the crisis. Half a million refugees have crossed from Ukraine into Moldova since the war began, with the host country  arranging entry for those with expired passports, allowing them to bring pets, and urging locals to host displaced Ukrainians in their homes.

Despite the positive steps taken so far, Ms Gavrilita told Euronews more long-term help would be needed for Moldova to cope. “We are reaching our debt sustainability levels,” she said, “so we are seeking grand budget support, but also other types of assistance.

“We are talking to the EU about removing the quota for the exports of Moldovan agricultural goods. We are talking to the EU about the liberalisation of transportation authorisation, because logistics and transportation have become much more difficult and much more costly. And of course, we are talking about the need for strategic investment.”

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