Following an agreement between the National Banks of Belgium and Ukraine, Ukrainian refugees will be able to exchange Hryvnia banknotes for Euros in Belgium, according to a press release by the National Bank of Belgium (NBB).
Facilitated by the Federal government, the service will be offered over the counter at the national bank, or at private banks Belfius, Beobank, BNP Paribas Fortis, CBC, ING, KBC, and KBC Brussels.
Following a European Commission recommendation approved in April, Ukrainians will now be able to exchange a maximum of 10,000 hryvnia (€316) per adult without charges or commission.
On 20 May, the bank received the mandate of the Federal Council of Ministers to begin the transactions in hryvnia. The NBB is working on behalf of the Belgium state and is collaborating with advisors from Febelfin.
Belgium is the second EU member state to offer this service, which allows Ukrainian refugees to freely exchange national banknotes for euros. Many other countries are expected to follow suit.
“We consider it our humanitarian duty to offer this service to the refugees and we are therefore pleased that, thanks to our efforts, this service can now be made available in our country,” said NBB Director Tim Hermans.
Before the war, Ukraine’s currency, the Hryvnia, was restricted, meaning that banks and currency exchanges did not carry or exchange these types of notes.
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This proved extremely problematic once the war started. Ukrainians fleeing the country, especially areas hit hard by the war, often did not have time to deposit their cash into their bank accounts and arrived in Europe with national banknotes, quickly discovering that the notes were nearly worthless in Europe.
With the notes now exchangeable in Europe, Ukrainians can now have access to cash in emergency situations and pay towards their travel to Europe.
Febelfin CEO Karel Baert states that this is a step in the right direction for the Belgian banking sector.
“After the provision of bank accounts for Ukrainian refugees, this is another example of what the banks are doing to help,” Baert stated.
Ukrainians only need their temporary protection certificate to open a bank account in Belgium, which they can use to receive wages or send money. To date, there are around 78,000 Ukrainian refugees in Belgium, with this figure expected to grow significantly over the course of the conflict.
“We would like to thank the Minister of Finance and the National Bank of Belgium for working with us to make this possible. It demonstrates once again that, with joint efforts, much can be achieved,” the Febelfin boss concluded.