On 12 May 2022 the 12th ECON Commission meeting of the European Committee of the Regions was held, and well-attended by ECR members. During the debate on the war in Ukraine the ECR members were very active in highlighting the severe consequences of the war and its economic repercussions. They demanded that strong and swift action be taken. The following ECR members spoke during the debate: Jarosław Stawiarski, President of the Lubelskie Region; Grzegorz Schreiber, President of the Łódzkie Region; Ilpo Heltimoinen, Lappeenranta City Councillor and Elia Delmiglio, Mayor of Casalpusterlengo.
All members referred to the dire economic consequences of the war, stressing the social and economic consequences and that we need to be vigilant and to undergo a rigorous assessment of the effects of the Russian aggression. First and foremost, there needs to be appropriate institutional and economic support for all the countries taking in refugees. It is crucial that the EU supports everyone affected by the crisis with new financial resources, that we raise awareness, work together, and send a message that those in crisis are not left alone. More support is needed for regions hosting refugees and more targeted economic support for all EU countries facing economic consequences due to the sanctions.
Several pertinent comments were made and very productive examples were put forward so as to underline the urgency of the situation. Mayor Delmiglio made reference to the very delicate issue of the economic repercussions the war has and will continue to have at local level. He mentioned that the EU must prepare itself for a long-lasting conflict, during which it needs to support the regional economies and sectors most heavily affected by the war and the sanctions imposed.
Marshal Stawiarski made a strong reference to the situation in Ukraine's neighbouring countries and more specifically to the huge influx of refugees into Poland. The regions and countries that are bearing the burden of aggression must be assisted and he wondered when these countries will get a clear indication of concrete financial assistance. To illustrate this, in 2016 Turkey received EUR 6 billion in aid for the refugees fleeing the Syrian war; in 2021, Turkey received another EUR 3 billion, and EUR 2 billion went to Lebanon and EUR 5 billion to Jordan – "why have Poland or other countries in eastern Europe not received any new funds from the EU"?
Mr Heltimoinen mentioned that due to the war in Ukraine, "cross-border cooperation has almost come to an end with a direct impact on the Finnish tourism sector". Moreover, in the Finnish region of Southern Karelia, next to the Russian border, the forestry sector has been badly hit as there is actually no cross-border cooperation due to the Russian aggression. "As well as being compassionate, we need strategic plans to overcome the impacts of the war and flexibility in existing financing programmes", said the ECR Member.
Marshal Schreiber also pointed out the severe situation in several countries as an outcome of the war, mainly the effect it has on Poland. Poland is suffering the most due to the present situation, particularly in terms of energy supply and security. Sanctions are very costly for Poland and it is imperative that as the EU, we diversify and change our sources of supply as soon as possible.