Europe should strengthen cities’ and municipalities’ willingness to receive refugees with an investment initiative. The EU should directly reimburse the costs of those municipalities that are committed to receiving and integrating refugees. As an additional incentive, these municipalities should be given the same amount of funding for their own municipal development. For this purpose, the EU should establish an Integration and Development Fund in the next Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 (MFF). This fund would allow direct funding of European municipalities. Additional resources could be derived from the Commission’s proposed Corona Recovery Fund. This would be a fair measure based on the idea of European solidarity.
The municipalities, willing to take more responsibility, would then also have the financial resources to do so. In addition, cities and municipalities (especially in more rural areas) would experience an economic and cultural revival as, for example, more funding for cultural projects would be available. It also creates a positive dynamic within the regions of Europe. Once some municipalities set an example and show that the whole community – residents and newcomers alike – benefits, other municipalities are more likely to follow and pressure their government to allow them to receive refugees directly accessing EU funding. Instead of fearing the loss of national sovereignty and competences, Member States could accept the voluntary offer of their cities and municipalities as a possible way out of the reform blockade.
It is important to stress that municipalities also need funding staff and resources in order to be able to apply for EU funding in the first place.