On 15 March 2016 the Council adopted a regulation setting up an EU emergency support mechanism to help Greece and other member states overwhelmed by the arrival of large numbers of refugees. This follows the political agreement reached by the Council's Permanent Representatives Committee on 9 March 2016. The new regulation translates into practice a commitment of the European Council. It enables the EU to provide an immediate and effective response to the very difficult situation that is rapidly developing on the ground.
As irregular flows of migrants along the Western Balkans route have come to an end, around 35 000 refugees are currently in Greece.
The help provided under the new instrument is needs-based and aimed at preserving life, preventing human suffering and maintaining human dignity. It includes food, shelter, water, medicine and other basic necessities. It is being delivered by the Commission or by partner organisations selected by the Commission in close cooperation with the Greek authorities.
"This Council decision shows that the EU stands by Greece at this difficult time. The Netherlands presidency will do all it can to ensure that the necessary EU funds are mobilised as quickly as possible", said Bert Koenders, the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands and President of the Council.
The Commission estimates that €300 million will be needed to meet the needs of refugees in 2016, and further €200 million in each of the years 2017 and 2018.
The emergency support mechanism can also be activated in response to other crises or disasters with severe humanitarian consequences, such as nuclear accidents, terrorist attacks and epidemics. It can, however, only be used if the scale and impact of the disaster is exceptional and where the instruments available to member states and to the EU are insufficient.
The new regulation enters into force on the day of its publication in the Official Journal of the EU. The Commission can then start immediately with implementing support measures by temporarily using resources that are currently available in the EU budget.
In parallel, the Council and the European Parliament are working on a draft amending budget proposed by the Commission on 9 March 2016. Once the amending budget has been adopted the support measures will be financed from new budget lines dedicated to the emergency support mechanism.