Polish banker says EU should help Ukrainian refugees open bank accounts

Lech Muszyński/PAP

The European Union should create a fund enabling Ukrainian refugees to exchange a small amount of Ukrainian hryvnia (UAH) to euros, a former governor of Poland's largest bank has said.

"The EU should establish this fund with the help of the European Central Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)," Zbigniew Jagiello, the former PKO BP governor, told Business Insider.

According to Jagiello, every interested refugee should be granted the possibility to open a free-of-charge bank account.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing their country and entering the European Union find themselves in a situation in which their own currency is completely worthless, and they cannot change it into the currency of a country they have entered (Poland, Slovakia, Romania or Hungary).

Repeating that the EU should establish such a fund to make it possible for every refugee to change a small UAH amount into EUR, Jagiello said that it should be limited to, for instance, EUR 250.

According to Jagiello, this special bank account should be limited by some regulations, like, for instance, that the maximum amount of means should not exceed EUR 10,000 and that they cannot be transferred outside the EU.

The UAH exchange rate should be defined by the EU fund, according to Jagiello.

"Such a solution will make it possible to include refugees in the EU financial system," Jagiello said, adding that this would also be a significant gesture restoring dignity to Ukrainians, as the hryvnia they had with them while fleeing their country were "the fruits of their labour."

Jagiello believes that it will be possible for every refugee to open such an account in every bank operating in Poland as "their IT systems are modern and ...it will be possible for them to verify documents presented by refugees."

"Operating through the banking system, the EU would be able to quite easily distribute various forms of financial assistance directly to every Ukrainian refugee," Jagiello said, calling on the EU to start working on such a proposal as soon as possible.