The European Commission approved on Jan. 11 a 126 million euro ($138 million) fund to help strengthen Romanian port infrastructure and reduce congestion caused by increased Ukrainian exports.
Romania plays a crucial role in Ukrainian exports amid Russia's threats to Black Sea maritime transport, shipping out almost 60% of Ukraine's produce. Romanian and Ukrainian officials have been working to expand the capacity of Romania's shipping infrastructure on the Danube River and Black Sea.
The Danube's importance as a shipping route rose sharply following Russia's withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal in July.
The fund will be dispersed in grants of up to 10 million euros for companies willing to invest in increasing their storage capacity in the region.
The project will help bolster the EU's "Solidarity Lanes" initiative, which seeks to support Ukraine's export capacity harmed by Russian aggression in the Black Sea.
"This 126 million euro scheme will allow Romania to reduce bottlenecks created by the sudden surge in goods arriving in the Danube and Black Sea coast ports. The aid will support port operators to process and store queuing goods, thereby reducing the blockade caused by Russia’s war against Ukraine," said Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition.
The European Commission said the aid is justified because it would be difficult to get private investment into the project due to risks and uncertainty created by the war.
It is also unclear what the future of Ukrainian exports through Romania will be if Ukraine's Black Sea ports reopen to their pre-war capacity.