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The European Union Solidarity Fund

The enlarged European Union has set up a Solidarity Fund so that it can respond in a rapid, efficient and flexible manner to come to the aid of any Member State in the event of a major natural disaster. The Fund has an annual budget of one billion euro.

ACT

Council Regulation (EC) No 2012/2002 of 11 November 2002 establishing the European Union Solidarity Fund.

SUMMARY

The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was established in order to deal with major national disasters. It provides financial assistance to disaster-stricken States.

This Regulation establishes the rules and principles relating to intervention by the EUSF. In particular, it defines the conditions for applying for assistance from the EUSF, as well as the procedure to be followed. The Regulation also clarifies the means for implementing the grants accorded by the EUSF.

Conditions for intervention

The Solidarity Fund intervenes mainly in cases of major natural disasters with serious repercussions on living conditions, the natural environment or the economy in one or more regions of a Member State or a country applying for accession to the European Union (EU).

A natural disaster is considered as 'major' if it results in damage on the State’s territory estimated either at over EUR 3 billion (2002 prices), or at more than 0.6 % of its gross national income.

In exceptional circumstances, the Fund may also be mobilised for “regional” disasters where a region experiences a disaster which affects the majority of its population, with serious and lasting repercussions on living conditions and economic stability. Regions may also receive funds even when the applicable national threshold has not been reached. For these specific cases, the annual amount available is limited to no more than 7.5 % of the annual amount allocated to the Solidarity Fund (i.e. EUR 75 million). Particular attention is paid to remote and isolated regions, for example the outermost and island regions.

The EUSF may also be mobilised when a major disaster affects a neighbouring eligible State, even if the normal intervention threshold for that neighbour State has not been reached.

Objectives

The objective of assistance from the Fund is to complement the public efforts of the beneficiary State. Intended to finance measures alleviating non-insurable damage in principle, the urgent actions eligible for the Fund are the following:

  • Immediate restoration to working order of infrastructure and plant in the fields of energy, drinking water, waste water, telecommunications, transport, health and education;
  • Providing temporary accommodation and funding rescue services to meet the immediate needs of the population concerned;
  • Immediate securing of preventive infrastructures and measures of immediate protection of the cultural heritage;
  • Immediate cleaning up of disaster-stricken areas, including natural zones.

Procedure for applying for assistance

No later than ten weeks after the first damage caused by the disaster, the State affected should submit an application to the Commission for assistance from the Fund. It should provide all possible information on the damage caused by the disaster and its impact on the population and the economy. It must estimate the cost of the foreseen assistance and indicate any other sources of national, European and/or international funding.

On the basis of the information provided by the affected State, the Commission will decide if the mobilisation of the EUSF may be proposed to the budgetary authority (the European Parliament and the Council), which authorises the corresponding appropriations, on a case-by-case basis. Once the appropriations are available in the European budget, the Commission concludes an Agreement on implementation with the beneficiary State and accords a grant to be paid immediately and in a single instalment.

If the final estimation of the damage is substantially lower than the first forecasts on the basis of which the State demanded the grant, the Commission will ask for the reimbursement of the difference.

Implementing the grants accorded

The beneficiary State is responsible for the implementation of the grant and, where applicable, for the co-ordination with other European funds in order to ensure their complementarity. Double financing of the actions undertaken by the EUSF through the means of the Structural Funds is, however, not possible.

The grant must be used within one year of the date on which it has been disbursed. The beneficiary State must reimburse any part of the grant remaining unused. Six months after the expiry of this period, it is to present a report on the financial execution to the Commission. This document should detail the expenditure eligible for the Solidarity Fund as well as all other funding received, including insurance settlements and compensation from third parties.

On 1 October each year, at least one-quarter of the annual amount allocated to the Solidarity Fund should remain available in order to cover needs arising at the end of the year. In exceptional cases and if the remaining financial resources of the Fund prove insufficient, the Commission may decide to use part of the amount foreseen for the following year.

Final Provisions

Before 1 July each year, the Commission is to present a report on the activity of the Solidarity Fund.

Context

The EU’s Solidarity Fund was established following the floods which affected Central Europe during the summer of 2002. Ever since, it has intervened to deal with many different types of natural disasters, such as floods, forest fires, earthquakes, storms and droughts.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Regulation (EC) No 2012/2002

15.11.2002

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OJ L 311, 14.11.2002

RELATED ACTS

Report from the Commission of 23 March 2011 – European Union Solidarity Fund Annual Report 2009 [COM(2011) 136 – OJ C 140 of 11.05.2011].
The L’Aquila earthquake in the Italian Abruzzo region was the largest natural disaster that the EUSF had to deal with since it was created. The amount of assistance reached almost half a billion euros, therefore constituting the most significant assistance ever provided by the Fund. The Commission states that the time period in which the assistance was provided is satisfactory, just over five months from the submission date of the application.
Furthermore, 2009 also highlighted the difficulties in activating the EUSF in cases of slowly unfolding disasters, such as the drought, for example. The Commission therefore recommends introducing a specific provision for these types of disasters.

Interinstitutional Agreement between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline and sound financial management [Official Journal C 139 of 14.6.2006].

Last updated: 10.06.2011
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