European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen commended Slovakia for its efforts to help Ukrainian refugees.
At a joint press conference with Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger, she praised the unity and solidarity “that really sheds a positive light on a very, very difficult situation.”
Von der Leyen noted that of the more than one million Ukrainians who had been forced to flee the conflict to the EU, some 80,000 had come to Slovakia. Morover, a Slovakian aid convoy had been the first to arrive in Kiev after the invasion started, exemplifying “European solidarity at its best.”
The EC had proposed a temporary protection mechanism for Ukrainian refugees, she pointed out, which meant that refugees from Ukraine would “immediately get residency rights here, in the EU, guaranteed for a year, and can be automatically prolonged for two years.”
The arrangement would also ensure that refugees would have access to education, medical care and the labour market, von der Leyen said, paying tribute to Slovakia for setting an example with its national legislation, which the EC had applied on a bloc-wide level.
She went on to stress the need to simplify border procedures, something the proposed measures were designed address, she said.
“I have announced in the European Parliament that we will deploy at least 500 million euro from the EU budget for humanitarian assistance, for refugees.” The EU needs to open humanitarian corridors to help the people in Ukraine, in order to ensure that they can have safe passage, von der Leyen said.
She ascribed the sanctions against the Russian leadership “for the war by choice they have brought to Ukraine” as serving the EU’s intention “to stop this invasion and to cut off the Kremlin’s possibility and capacity to finance this war against its neighbour.”
The sanctions against Russia were unprecedented, she said, with more than 40 countries having “aligned completely” with the EU measures in this regard. Sanctions were working, having made an impact on Russia and the EC is prepared to impose additional sanctions if the situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate, she declared.