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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

Germany and G7 to ‘develop a price cap’ on Russian oil

G7 leaders, including Germany, have agreed to work on a price cap for Russian oil as part of efforts to cut the Kremlin's revenues. Here's a look at what's been happening at the summit in Bavaria.

Germany and G7 to 'develop a price cap' on Russian oil

The Group of Seven leaders will “task ministers to work urgently towards developing, consulting with third countries and the private sector in an effort to develop a price cap around oil”, a senior US official told reporters.

The goal of the plan is to starve the Kremlin of its “main source of cash and force down the price of Russian oil”, the official said.

The official announcement is expected to come in the final communique later as a three-day G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps draws to a close.

The United States has led the push for an oil price cap at the gathering of the club of rich nations — which also includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

The move is designed to place Vladimir Putin’s regime under increased economic pressure and to punish the hostile nation for its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. 

“There is consensus emerging… that the price cap is a serious method to achieve that outcome,” President Joe Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, told reporters at Germany’s G7 summit on Monday. 

READ ALSO:

While the West has already imposed multiple layers of sanctions on Russia in response to Putin’s order to invade Ukraine in February, the targeting of the oil industry represents the highest economic stakes so far.

The idea is that consumer countries would effectively set a low price for Russian oil, while Moscow, needing the revenue, would have no choice but to accept.

There are major questions, however, about unity among consumer countries and whether Russia really would cave in or instead might retaliate by cutting energy supplies to Europe.

Energy exports are Russia’s biggest revenue earner, while Western countries are among those most heavily dependent on imported oil and gas.

According to Sullivan, the main obstacle to the idea is not so much willingness to go ahead but sorting out the immensely complex logistical and technical aspects.

“The single biggest factor here is that this is not something that can be pulled off the shelf,” Sullivan said.

“It is a new kind of concept to deal with a particularly novel challenge, which is how to effectively deal with a country that’s selling millions of barrels of oil a day and (to) try to deprive it of some of the revenues.”

Spillover fears

With soaring fuel prices at the heart of painfully high inflation in Germany and other G7 countries, leaders want to be sure that any oil price cap would also “minimise the spillovers and the impact on the G7 economies and the rest of the world.”

“The G7 leaders are going to acknowledge those two objectives and also acknowledge that the path forward is to urgently direct ministers to work on achieving a price cap which can, in our judgement, best achieve both of those objectives simultaneously,” the senior US official said.

The idea of price capping Russian oil — and also gas — has support from Italy and also France.

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: Germany hosts G7 summit with Bavarian twist

Elmau Castle, Bavaria

The leaders of Group of Seven rich nations hold a meeting at Elmau Castle in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

The French presidency has however said the measure would be “much more powerful if it came from the producing countries”, and that it was necessary to work with OPEC+ and other oil producers around the world.

The United States and Canada, which are far less reliant on Russia as an energy supplier, have banned all Russian oil imports. Europe is seeking to lessen its own reliance.

In another measure meant to punish Russia and increase assistance to pro-Western Ukraine, the G7 plans to turn funds raised in recently imposed trade tariffs on Russian exports into assistance for Ukraine.

G7 leaders “will seek authority to use revenues collected by any new tariffs on Russian goods to help Ukraine and to ensure that Russia pays for the cost of its war”, the senior US official told reporters.

Condemnation of civilian attacks 

A missile strike on a shopping mall in Ukraine’s Kremenchuk city, which occurred while leaders were meeting in Bavaria’s Schloss Elmau, also drew fierce criticism from the political leaders. 

Russia’s “brutal” missile strike on the crowded shopping mall in central Ukraine constitutes a war crime, the G7 leaders said, vowing that Putin and those responsible would be held to account.

“Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime,” the leaders said in a statement. “We solemnly condemn the abominable attack.” 

Ukraine accused Russia of deliberately targeting civilians, with President Volodymyr Zelensky calling it “one of the most brazen terrorist acts in European history” in his evening broadcast posted on Telegram.

“A peaceful town, an ordinary shopping centre — women, children ordinary civilians inside,” said Zelensky, who earlier shared a video of the mall engulfed in flames with dozens of rescuers and a fire truck outside.

Alongside measures like the cap on oil, the leaders of the seven wealthy nations also discussed weapons deliveries to the Ukraine, the ongoing food crisis caused by the war, and measures to tackle climate change. 

The industralised nations have pledged a total of $14 billion to help tackle food shortages and have called on countries to avoid stockpiling food in the wake of the crisis.

The war in Ukraine, a country known as Europe’s breadbasket, has pushed up food prices and led to shortages, as Russia’s blockade of Black Sea ports prevents millions of tonnes of grain from being shipped out.

This has led to fears of famine in developing nations as well as soaring prices in economies like Germany. 

READ ALSO: Germany will see further food price hikes, says minister

‘Continued support’ 

Addressing the leaders by video link, Zelensky had urged them to “intensify sanctions” to help end the war before the bitter winter.

“We will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” the G7 said in a statement on the summit’s second day.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), who was hosting the summit, said on Monday that the Group of Seven would continue to turn up the heat on Putin in order to ensure a swift end to the war. 

“As G7 we stand united on Ukraine’s side and will continue our support. For this, we all have to take tough but necessary decisions,” Scholz tweeted, thanking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for addressing world leaders by video link.

“We will continue to increase pressure on Putin. This war has to come to an end.”

READ ALSO: Macron, Scholz and Draghi meet Ukrainian president in Kyiv

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