Following the Russian military aggression on Ukraine, and in line with the decision of the European Council to suspend cooperation with Russia and Belarus, a meeting was held in Brussels on 22 March to explore ways to continue the implementation of the nine concerned ENI CBC programmes and of the Baltic Sea Region transnational cooperation Programme.
The discussion was focused on the possibility to go on with project activities in the EU Member States, with the purpose to minimise the impact of the suspension on the European beneficiaries while, at the same time, addressing the migratory challenges due to the conflict and protecting the financial interests of the EU. There are nine ENI CBC programmes involving Russia or Belarus: ‘Kolarctic’, ‘Karelia’, ‘South-East Finland – Russia’, ‘Estonia – Russia’, ‘Latvia – Russia’, ‘Lithuania – Russia’, ‘Poland – Russia’, ‘Latvia – Lithuania – Belarus’, ‘Poland – Belarus – Ukraine’.
The European Commission wanted to hear and collect the concerns from programmes’ representatives, and DG REGIO officials engaged in an analysis of possible further solutions to the crisis the conflict has inflicted upon the ENI CBC community. During the meeting it was understood that many actions can be addressed within the current legal framework and that the interruption of cooperation with Russia and Belarus doesn’t mean an automatic termination of programmes: at the end of a period of six months, there will be an assessment of the situation and a final decision concerning the termination. For the moment, the EU and Norwegian beneficiaries involved in the 500 projects concerned by this emergency, can carry on their operations.