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Brussels, 9 December 2002

The European Commission and the Kingdom of Spain in continuous contact on the possibility of Community support

During a visit to Madrid on 22 November, Mr Michel Barnier held discussions with Mr Cristóbal Montoro, Minister for Finance, at which all possibilities of support from the Community in the follow-up to the Prestige disaster were looked into. These included reallocating money from the Structural Funds together with the possibility of assistance under the European Union Solidarity Fund.

It has to be borne in mind that the main objective of the latter is to intervene where natural disasters occur. The Fund seeks to supplement the efforts of affected States in financing emergency action, such as, for example, the rapid clean-up of areas that have suffered damage.

In any case, requests for assistance from the European Union Solidarity Fund must be accompanied by a preliminary assessment of the eligible damage and its impact on the people and economy affected. In this case, therefore, it is natural that an assessment is not yet available. The Commission is awaiting a formal request from the Spanish authorities for assistance from the European Union Solidarity Fund. This request must be made within ten weeks of the date on which the first damage occurred. It will then be examined promptly by the Commission departments in a fair and impartial way.

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