“Cities play a crucial role sometimes overlooked”

20 June 2023

As a response to millions of people from Ukraine fleeing the country and entering EU countries looking for peace and reception, the EU activated the Temporary Protection Directive (TPD) on 4 March 2022 for the first time since its creation in 2001.

The Directive aims to facilitate the integration of Ukrainian nationals into the labour markets. It also provides access to a residence permit and housing, to the education system and to medical care and social welfare of EU countries. However, asylum seekers and refugees from other countries are treated under the EU’s asylum rules.

How does the TPD impact cities? Will the directive influence more inclusive migration policies in the future?

Eurocities has talked with Alberto Neidhardt, Senior Policy Analyst at the think tank European Policy Centre about the Temporary Protection Directive and cities’ role  welcoming refugees.

Read our interview and watch it on YouTube just a bit further down this article:

It’s been a year since the invasion of Ukraine and since the temporary Protection Directive was implemented. What are the lessons learned that impact European cities and also Ukrainian municipalities?

There are many lessons learned. Perhaps I can focus on two.

First, looking beyond policies, we have witnessed an impressive display of solidarity across Europe, especially at the local level. There has been incredible citizen participation, and cities have come together and were at the forefront of meeting the immediate needs of those escaping the war. Resources have been created as a result of this process. The first lesson is not to waste these resources, but to keep them alive, to leverage them, especially because citizens remain very committed to continuing to provide help to welcoming and hosting those fleeing from conflict, as in the case of the war in Ukraine.

Secondly, looking at the policies, we know that with the activation of the Temporary Protection of refugees, Ukrainian refugees have been given access to the labour market and their children were also given access to schooling. They received possibilities that other refugees didn’t have and don’t have. This is tremendously important because it facilitates finding durable solutions for those escaping the conflict.

Indeed, cities have been at the forefront of welcoming refugees from Ukraine. But municipalities call to welcome all refugees. Do you think that the Temporary Protection Directive can influence more inclusive migration policies or integration strategies?

One would hope that, certainly, the positive lessons learned could also be applied to other groups of refugees. That depends on the capacity to mobilize the momentum that we have to bring about systemic changes. I’m personally instead a sceptic about these changes, these systemic changes happening. That doesn’t mean, however, that there are no possibilities about turning the lessons learned into practice in the future. Local authorities will play a key role in this. First, because they are at the forefront of all reception responses and they implement all the policies that are defined at the national level.

However, they also play a crucial role oftentimes overlooked, which is a repository of knowledge. There are ideas, best practices that are developed at the local level, keeping in mind limited resources and other constraints that work in practice, because cities have been implementing them for years.

Cities need support because they lack resources, as you mentioned, especially for long-term assistance. How can member states and the EU help cities develop practical solutions?

First of all, national authorities have to guarantee that there are sufficient financial resources for local authorities at the EU level and that new instruments have been developed to ensure that the assistance is continued. Also, that all those who would be able to benefit from these integration resources effectively access them. But of course, it is once again up to national authorities to ensure that the disbursement of this funding reaches those in need. More can be done in this respect.

It’s also necessary to think again about how we conceive our integration models. The starting point should always be to think at the very beginning about how you give the possibility to those who are arriving in cities to be able to self-rely. Giving access to the labour market is the best possible solution to this because you turn those who are dependent on resources into contributors to tax payments, but also to the social and economic life of cities.


Marta Buces Eurocities Writer