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IP/02/1220

Brussels, 15 August 2002

Commission expresses solidarity with victims of floods

In the name of the European Commission, President Romano Prodi expressed his sympathy for the populations affected by the bad weather in Europe, in particular Germany, Austria and Czech Republic, and especially for the victims and their families. During telephone conversations with the Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and the President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel, President Prodi assured that the Commission was exploring all the possibilities of financial solidarity of the EU with the populations affected, notably through the EU Structural Funds and pre-accession funds for the candidate countries. A similar telephone conversation is scheduled for tomorrow Friday with the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. A range of financial possibilities have been already identified.

In the absence of a specific budgetary line to help facing such natural disasters within the European Union, the Commission is ready to examine with the authorities of the affected regions how best to use the flexibility margins offered within the programmes financed by Objectives 1 and 2 of the Structural Funds as well as programmes for rural development. The same goes for the pre-accession programmes in favour of candidate countries.

Concerning the Structural Funds, these margins of manoeuvre consist of transfers within the same programme or between programmes for the same member State. Specific measures can also be taken within the regional programmes concerned.

These possibilities have already been used following other natural disasters like the earthquake in Greece in 1999, floods in the Somme region (France) in 2001 or bad weather on the Canary Islands, Madeira and Açores in April 2002.

To this effect, Michel Barnier, Commissioner in charge of Regional Policy, has instructed his services to do their utmost, as soon as possible, to provided the regions concerned with all the information and technical support required.

The regions affected by the floods within the European Union are Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Thüringen and Bavaria in Germany, Oberösterreich, Niederösterreich, Salzbug, Steiermark and Vienna in Austria. Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen are entirely eligible under Objective 1. The Austrian regionas and Bavaria are partially eligible under Objective 2.

Furthermore, on the request of Commissioner Franz Fischler, the Directorate General for Agriculture is looking carefully into what emergency assistance for destroyed agriculture and rural areas, notably in Germany and Austria, are available and what is the margin of manoeuvre for the Commission. The following list of measures as emergency assistance are concerned:

As immediate measures:

  • advanced direct payments to farmers

  • using "set-aside land" for feeding purposes

  • making available intervention stocks of cereals for farmers in distress

  • increase of national contribution for rural development programmes on a regional basis

  • national state aids in cases of meteorological circumstances

As a long term measure:

  • redefining of rural development programmes' priorities.

Concerning the candidate countries, and in particular Czech republic, Commissioner for enlargement Günter Verheugen and Mr Barnier have identified possible financial support through the pre-accession programmes PHARE and ISPA. An additional amount of € 9,75 million under PHARE could be spent for reconstruction projects to be presented by the Czech Republic in line with the usual rules of the programme.

Moreover, up to € 48 million of unallocated ISPA funds for the Czech Republic could be immediatelly redirected at environmental and transport initiatives linked to flood damages, on the basis of projects presented by the Czech authorities. ISPA is a pre-accession programme which supports the development of transport and environment infrastructures in the candidate countries. Mr Verheugen intends to visit the Czech Republic at the end of the month, in particular the regions affected by the floods.

Finally, the Monitoring and Information Center for Civil Protection of the European Commission, under the authority of Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström, has received a request for support from the Czech republic which was immediately transmitted to the Member States. Several have expressed their availability and teams with adequate equipments are already in the Czech republic (see annex). Ms Wallström intends to go to Prague tomorrow.

ANNEX

Civil protection : what's being done (state of play 14 August)

The Monitoring and Information Centre have received a request for Civil Protection support from the Czech Republic authorities at 18:10 (14 August). The request concerns the following points:

  • Portable dryers for drying damp houses; mainly condensation dryers,

  • Floating pumps with an internal combustion engine;

  • Electric submersible pumps

  • Before the request from the Czech authorities was received, French Authorities contacted the Monitoring and Information Centre (h 14:00). They were ready to leave, if requested, with two teams specialised in water purification and water pumping.

Some other Countries below have already replied directly to the Czech authorities:

  • Belgian Authorities informed the Monitoring and Information Centre (h 15:45 and 17:22) that they received an official request from the Czech Republic via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to aid in fighting the floods. Belgium (B-FAST) will send (departing 21:00 h) 19 vehicles, 54 personnel with 7 generators, 4 motor pumps extra-heavy, 7 mud pumps and 1 tanker truck. An aircraft (C130) of the Armed forces is scheduled to leave this evening to Prague to assess if supplementary aide is necessary.

  • It seems that Italian Authorities will send aircraft (C130 and G222) with water motor-pumps.

  • Czech authorities informed that Greek competent authorities are also about to send relevant help.

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