EC approves Polish aid programme for tourist sector

The European Commission (EC) approved on Thursday a Polish public aid programme worth EUR 21 million for tourist-sector companies impacted by a migration crisis from Belarus.

The programme is intended to compensate tourist-sector enterprises for losses incurred by measures put in place by Warsaw to counter the migrant influx.

The crisis started in the spring of 2021 and was blamed by Warsaw on Minsk's Alexander Lukashenko regime deliberately enticing migrants in an attempt to destabilise Poland and the EU in retaliation for sanctions imposed by Brussels.

The Commission described the situation in a Thursday press release as "instrumentalisation of migrants by the Belarusian authorities at the EU's external border."

Margrethe Vestager, EC vice-president responsible for competition policy, said the money would enable Poland "to ensure a fair compensation of the damages suffered by the tourism sector at the Polish-Belarusian border. The measure approved today will support the companies affected by this exceptional situation, while limiting potential distortions of competition."

The EC recalled that on September 2, 2021, Poland introduced a state of emergency in parts of the eastern Podlaskie and Lubelskie provinces along the Belarusian border. As part of the measures imposed, tourists were banned from the areas affected.

"Under the scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants," the Commission wrote. "The scheme will be open to companies in the tourism sector active in the restricted area, including hotels, restaurants and tour operators. In order to qualify for the aid, beneficiaries must show that their sales decreased by at least 25 percent compared those achieved between September 2018 and June 2019. Poland expects that up to 100 companies will benefit from the scheme."