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Time for action: Now or never for a common post-TPD approach for Ukrainian refugees

Anastasia Karatzas

Date: 04/03/2024
Following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago, member states took the historic decision to activate the Temporary Protection Directive (TPD) for Ukrainian refugees. In March 2025, temporary protection should end, while long-term solutions remain elusive.

As the war continues, without a clear commitment from the EU about what should follow temporary protection, Ukrainians’ integration and long-term prospects are becoming increasingly uncertain. For now, they continue to benefit from a broad set of rights under the TPD, supported by expansive state and public support. However, many of the same structural and practical barriers limiting their socio-economic inclusion in the early months of the war persist. Ambiguity over the legal basis of their continued stay now adds another layer of uncertainty hindering effective investment into their futures. This includes the provision of employment opportunities as well as access to housing, among others.  

Activating the TPD was crucial for the EU to ensure adequate reception and protection conditions for those fleeing the war, demonstrating unity from the member states in the face of the largest mass displacement in Europe since WWII. But in this context, what comes after the TPD is just as politically significant, other than being relevant for addressing uncertainties and improving the longer-term integration outcomes of Ukrainians. Therefore, the development of a clear strategy is vital.

While several post-TPD options exist, what remains crucial is pursuing a common EU approach. If member states are left alone in this decision, fragmentation will grow in terms of socio-economic support, access to services and employment prospects. In the absence of a harmonised approach, onward movements of Ukrainians in search of better prospects will likely increase. This common approach should also offer Ukrainians meaningful opportunities to maintain ties with Ukraine, including through circular migration. This will preserve family relations and their cultural heritage, other than making it easier to partake in the country’s reconstruction when the time comes.

Importantly, decisions about Ukrainians’ future prospects must be made in consultation with Ukrainians as well as their government, for whom their return is understandably key.

However, it is not only what and how the EU decides on the issue. It is also when it decides that will have an impact for the future of Ukrainian refugees. As negotiations on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum are coming to an end, the post-TPD regime should sit squarely at the top of the political agenda. With the European elections also fast approaching, the window period for agreement on a common approach grows smaller, reinforcing why the time is now opportune.

Failure to develop a clear and common strategy on time will be costly. By contrast, the political, economic, and social benefits should provide further impetus to the EU’s efforts in coming to a common solution. It will allow Ukrainians to continue being active participants in European societies, promoting social cohesion. It will promote their self-sufficiency, reducing reliance on public services. It will enable them to find employment in line with their aspirations and qualifications. At the same time, it will equip Ukrainians with the skills and knowledge necessary to support Ukraine’s reconstruction, financially from afar, or to return and partake in efforts directly.

Anastasia Karatzas is a Junior Policy Analyst in the European Migration and Diversity programme at the European Policy Centre.

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