EU Shifts to Humanitarian Aid in Ukraine Conflict

April 20, 2022
Although sanctions continue, priorities are gradually shifting from punishing Russia to helping those trapped in the crossfire.

Although sanctions continue, priorities are gradually shifting from punishing Russia to helping those trapped in the crossfire.

The European Union has introduced new measures aimed at bringing humanitarian aid to the Ukraine through the loosening of sanctions measures.

In several documents, the European Council has outlined exceptions to restrictive measures, as well as an accompanying factsheet exempting certain agencies, such as the UN, on the “prohibition on making funds” in the Ukrainian territory, although for strictly humanitarian reasons. This includes the quasi-independent regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Organisations not covered by the explicit exemptions can also request member states to grant a derogation from the same prohibitions when considered necessary.

Additionally, the European Council is pushing for a recommendation, inviting EU member states to set up a national scheme that would allow the conversion of Ukrainian hryvnia banknotes to their own currency.

The conflict in Ukraine has stopped the National Central Bank of Ukraine from allowing the exchange of hryvnia banknotes into foreign currencies in order to protect the country's limited foreign exchange reserves. This has affected the convertibility of hryvnia banknotes in EU countries, where many banks were unwilling to exchange the hryvnia due to exchange rate risks.

The scheme would allow displaced persons from Ukraine, including children, to exchange up to UAH10,000, approximately €310, per person.

This exchange is hoped to be offered free of charge and at the official exchange rate as published by the National Bank of Ukraine. The duration of these schemes would be a minimum of three months.

The objective is to further support the four million refugees that have arrived in the EU since the war began and who are having difficulty exchanging their banknotes into EU currencies.

According to the Council: "The EU and its member states will continue to show their resolute support to Ukraine and its citizens, in the face of this unprecedented act of aggression by Russia. They are providing humanitarian assistance and temporary protection, including access to their labour markets, housing, healthcare and education systems. The recommendation complements these efforts."

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