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UKRAINE

KEY POINTS: How Germany’s government plans to help Ukrainian refugees

After calls from the states for more help in dealing with the influx of refugees from the Ukraine, Germany's federal and state governments met to decide on measures on Thursday. Here's an overview of what they decided.

KEY POINTS: How Germany's government plans to help Ukrainian refugees
The flags of the EU, Ukraine and Germany fly in front of the Reichstag. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, almost 200,000 refugees have arrived in Germany. There has been widespread willingness to help and a welcoming approach throughout the country, but states have recently appealed for more guidance and assistance from the central government.

In Thursday’s summit, heads of the German federal and state governments discussed the practical issues relating to the influx of people from Ukraine and produced a document containing their pledges. Though many concrete steps still need to be decided, these are some of the key points so far.

Allocation and accommodation

The resolution paper states that the federal government will take a “strong coordinating function” in allocating the incoming refugees to states, with transport, distribution decisions and information services given as examples of how the central government will assist.

This is an important point as thousands of refugees have been arriving every day in major cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, and Hanover, and the states have, so far, been relying on voluntary offers of accommodation places from other states to take people in. 

READ ALSO: German states call for more support in managing refugee crisis

According to the resolution, however, the distribution of people should now be decided based on the so-called “Königstein Key” which determines how individual German states are to participate in joint financing or in sharing incoming refugees, based on tax revenue and population size. 

According to the paper, making living spaces available should also be sped up, with the federal government wanting to allow deviations from some building planning standards to free up places more quickly.

Fast and uncomplicated registration

The resolution paper states that “the Federal Chancellor and the heads of government of the states consider it essential to register the arrivals quickly and without complications.” Registering new arrivals is crucial, as having a registered residency status is a requirement for those wanting to work.

The federal government has pledged to provide personnel and material support needed to speed up the registration procedure via the Central Register of Foreigners. 

Work and integration opportunities

Once those coming to Germany have been granted a residence permit, they should be able to take up work in Germany immediately – the paper states.

The federal government will open up integration and job-related German courses to those coming from Ukraine as well as offering child care and counselling for refugees and their families. The offers are to be combined in the central help portal “Germany 4 Ukraine”. 

The focus on speeding up working opportunities comes after Berlin’s Mayor Franziska Giffey reported that the first question asked by most of the arrivals in the city-state was, “Where can I work?”.

READ ALSO: Thousands more refugees are in jobs… because they’ve learned German

Schools

According to the paper, Ukrainian children and students should be quickly admitted to schools and colleges and offered school psychological counselling and support. Children’s access to day care facilities should also be sped up as quickly as possible to help parents to attend integration courses. Care for orphans and their carers as well as unaccompanied and accompanied minors is to be guaranteed and coordination will take place at the federal level through a central contact point. 

READ ALSO: German minister wants to allow refugee teachers from Ukraine to work in schools

Healthcare

Refugees will be entitled to use health care services, including necessary medical treatments and medicines, and will also be able to get Covid vaccinations. The treatment of sick and injured people from Ukraine in hospitals is already being organised via the so-called “cloverleaf procedure”. That essentially means that groups of states band together to distribute patients across the regions and prevent overwhelm in intensive care units. 

Financing 

The federal government generally acknowledged its “joint responsibility for financing”, but a concrete discussion on funding for these assistance measures has been postponed to a later date. 

The resolution states that a working group will develop a proposal for a solution in time for the next meeting on April 7th.

“In particular, the topics of accommodation costs, costs of subsistence assistance and questions of individual service provision, assistance for particularly vulnerable groups as well as questions of federal participation in the costs of integration in child day care, schools and the labour market are to be negotiated and, as a result, an overall financing concept is to be developed,” it says.

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UKRAINE

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
 
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
 
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
 
 
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant
“Sentimentai”.

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.

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