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Brussels, 28 August 2002

Commission responds to the floods in Germany, Austria and certain applicant countries

In the wake of the terrible floods that continue to devastate parts of Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the European Commission has repeated its message of sympathy for the victims. Greatly moved ever since the start of these tragic events, it has restated its commitment to stand alongside the Member States and applicant countries affected. With this in mind, it proposes setting up an aid fund of between €500 million and €1 billion to be used in the event of natural, technological or environmental disasters. It has also confirmed that a raft of measures covering different fields, including the Structural Funds, will be implemented.

President Romano Prodi took this opportunity to stress that "the European Commission has today reaffirmed that it will stand by the people so cruelly devastated in the wake of the floods and by the leaders of the States affected. Today, when some of our citizens are enduring such difficult conditions, it is more important than ever that the European message of solidarity is clearly heard, not only within the European Union but also in the countries that are soon to join us. More than ever, we need to find swift, practical and effective remedies. The plan to set up this special fund as quickly as possible and to reallocate assistance under the Structural Funds to Germany and Austria is an illustration of what can be done."

The Commission has decided to propose to Parliament and the Council that a special aid fund be set up to be drawn on in the event of natural, technological or environmental disasters. Endowed with between €500 million and €1 billion, it will have its own budget line and will be available for both the Member States and the applicant countries with which accession negotiations are under way. It is the Commission's wish to have it up and running as quickly as possible. The Commission has also confirmed that Germany and Austria may reallocate part of the Structural Funds earmarked for them for the period 2000-06. The idea of using the Structural Funds reserve (4%) is also under consideration.

The Commission has also confirmed that the measures announced on 15 and 23 August (IP/02/1220) concerning agriculture (IP/02/1228), civil protection and the applicant countries affected by the floods will be implemented. A raft of new measures affecting various aspects of Community life will also be put in place, affecting the following sectors:

  • Trans-European networks: funds not assigned will be reallocated;

  • EIB: loans will be made available;

  • applicant countries: in the Czech Republic and Slovakia pre-accession funds not assigned (Ispa, Phare and Sapard) will be reallocated;

  • agriculture: there will be derogations regarding set-aside areas, while advances on direct payments will be paid, cereal intervention stocks used and derogations granted and procedures speeded up in connection with rural development aid;

  • state aid: the Commission may approve state aid to repair up to 100% of the flood damage. It may also approve fresh aid where projects that had already received public funding have been destroyed. It undertakes to examine the aid projects as soon as possible and urges the Member States to make initial contact quickly as this will speed up the process;

  • public procurement: procedures will be speeded up and, where Member States can demonstrate exceptional circumstances, it will be possible to derogate from the requirement to publish a contract notice;

  • civil protection: the Monitoring and Information Centre (Mic) will coordinate assistance and information and a European risk-prevention strategy will shortly be adopted.

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