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IP/02/1871

Copenhagen, 12 December 2002

Solidarity Fund: France receives Euro 21 million for floods in the Gard region

Michel Barnier, the Member of the European Commission responsible for regional policy, and Dominique Galouzeau de Villepin, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, today signed in Copenhagen an agreement for implementing a European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) grant of €21 million in the French regions affected by this summer's severe floods. This is one of the first four operations undertaken by the EUSF. The Fund, proposed by the Commission in September, was set up in the space of just three months to provide rapid financial assistance in the event of a major disaster. The grant for France will be used primarily for reimbursing the cost of the immediate restoration of affected infrastructure, provision of temporary accommodation, consolidating preventive infrastructure, protecting cultural heritage and cleaning up affected areas.

Michel Barnier, Commissioner responsible for the EUSF, said: "In intervening in the Gard region the Solidarity Fund has shown Europe's true face - that of a community demonstrating its solidarity with the department by helping to restore its infrastructure". Commissioner Michaele Schreyer, responsible for budget, said : "The 21 million € from the EU-Budget represent a major support effort in favor of France. They are a very tangible sign of the solidarity of the EU."

Following the floods which hit central Europe in August 2002, it was decided in September to create a new EU instrument for granting emergency aid to the Member States and applicant countries in the event of a major disaster. On 11 November the European institutions adopted the Regulation establishing the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF). Signature of the agreement between France and the Commission in the margins of the European Council meeting in Copenhagen releases an amount of €21 million for France.

These funds will be used primarily for reimbursing the cost of the immediate restoration of affected infrastructure, provision of temporary accommodation, consolidating preventive infrastructure, protecting cultural heritage and cleaning up affected areas.

Following this summer's floods, the European Union Solidarity Fund will provide assistance for three Member States (Germany, Austria and France) and one applicant country (the Czech Republic).

Note for editors

Following the floods, which hit central Europe in August 2002, it was decided to create a new EU instrument for granting emergency aid to the Member States and applicant countries in the event of a major disaster.

The Commission submitted a proposal for an inter-institutional agreement (between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission) under which a maximum annual amount of €1 billion is to be made available for emergency aid.

It also proposed a Council Regulation establishing a European Union Solidarity Fund setting out detailed provisions, including the requirements to be met for mobilisation of appropriations under the Fund.

Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement on these proposals on 22 October 2002. The inter-institutional agreement was adopted on 7 November and the legal basis on 11 November 2002.

To qualify for aid, countries hit by a major disaster must provide a precise estimate of the damage and meet specific criteria, ensuring that EU funds are used to meet the most urgent needs. A "major disaster" is an event causing damage estimated at over €3 billion or more than 0.6% of the GNP of the State concerned.

Under exceptional circumstances a region can also benefit from assistance from the Fund where it has been affected by an extraordinary disaster affecting the major part of its population with serious lasting repercussions on living conditions and the economic stability of the region. In such cases the total annual amount of aid is limited to no more than 7.5% of the annual amount available to the Fund. Particular focus will be on remote or isolated regions, such as the outermost regions.

To ensure that the Fund can be mobilised without delay, on 1 October each year at least one quarter of the annual amount should remain available to cover needs arising until the end of the year.

For further details, see IP/02/ 1686 of 15 November 2002.


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