The European Union is preparing for 8 million Ukrainian refugees, according to Věra Jourová, vice-president of the European Commission.
“The highest figure so far is 8 million Ukrainian refugees. I saw such a number in the preparatory materials. We have never experienced such a wave in our immediate vicinity,” said Jourová during a debate on Czech TV on Sunday.
The discussion focused on the help to Ukraine and its citizens. In this context, she described how Europe is preparing for the massive refugee wave.
She recalled the reallocation system, or so-called quotas, which can help the countries affected by the refugee crisis.
“The question is whether they (refugees) will be interested. So far, they are mostly looking for ways to help their relatives and acquaintances, especially in Central European countries, which are closer to them linguistically and culturally,” Jourová explained.
In particular, she meant Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Romania. Most Ukrainian refugees, almost half of them, are currently heading to Poland, which the EU has already approached with an offer of assistance.
Czechia expects high expenditures
“There is certainly a level at which the help from EU will be needed, but I don’t know the limit yet. I receive offers from statesmen — the Greek foreign minister is ready to accept some of the newcomers. Financial assistance from the EU will also be necessary,” confirmed Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský in the debate, noting that Czechia no doubt expects high expenditures in connection with this crisis.
Jourová also mentioned the further role of the European Union and the European Commission, respectively.
“We help the fighters in Ukraine — financially and with the supply of weapons. This is a breakthrough, the Union has never done that,” said the European commissioner.
Furthermore, the commission has also launched a directive that should provide Ukrainian refugees with, for example, legal protection in EU countries.
The European Commission has also released €400 million to help refugees, which, according to Jourová, should already be in circulation.
“We have also made it clear that EU countries can draw money from cohesion funds,” she added.
Unprecedented refugee crisis
According to a Sunday statement by the UN, 1.5 million people have fled Ukraine. The High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said this is the fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II ended.
The question now is who could play the role of a diplomatic negotiator. Jourová confirmed that the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, is operating with the idea that China could play this role.
“As for the West, we see it uniting in a joint front against Russia. The West has awakened and is immensely united. The EU speaks with one voice, and we are taking the same steps as the U.K., U.S. and Japan,” she said.
“Putin is fulfilling his long-term goal of occupying Ukraine and fulfilling his dream that Ukraine belongs to Russia and that the Ukrainian nation is not entitled to exist independently,” said Jourová, noting that chances of a diplomatic solution are not too great but the commission seeks a neutral mediator anyway.
Another possible diplomatic player could be Israel. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Bennett has not yet joined the international condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Israel has strong ties to both countries and wants to use this in negotiations.