Brussels, 9 March 2004
Solidarity Fund: Commission proposes EUR 21.9 million for measures related to natural disasters in Malta, France and Spain
Responding to requests made by the Maltese, French and Spanish authorities, the European Commission today proposed to mobilise the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) for grants totalling € 21.917 million to deal with disasters in several regions. The money will be used for reimbursing the cost of emergency measures such as rescue services, providing for temporary accommodation, energy and water and repairing basic infrastructure.
Michel Barnier, Commissioner responsible for regional policy and the Solidarity Fund, conveyed his sympathy to all the citizens in the affected regions. He said: "The Commission's proposal expresses the Union's solidarity with these regions and will notably serve to restore infrastructure and to reimburse the costs of emergency measures."
Commissioner Michaele Schreyer, responsible for the budget, added: "The Solidarity Fund is geared towards major disasters, as is the case with Malta, or those causing serious damages to regional economies, as was the case in France and Spain. I call upon the Council and Parliament to take their decision in order to allow the funds to rapidly reach the regions affected."
Following the Commission's proposal and after adoption by the European Parliament and the Council, the Solidarity Fund will be activated for the following disasters:
For three other applications from Greece, France and Italy, the Commission concludes that these do not meet the conditions set out by the regulation for mobilising the Solidarity Fund.
To enable a quick decision by Council and the European Parliament, the Commission has also adopted today the corresponding proposal to mobilise the Solidarity Fund and a proposal for an amending budget. The amending budget amounts to the € 21.917 million described above. It does not request fresh funds to be financed as the sum necessary can be found within the budget 2004. Commissioner Schreyer will present this proposal to Council and Parliament at the forthcoming budget trilogue on 16 March and a decision could be taken by the end of April at the latest.
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 acceding countries in the event of a major disaster. Based on Commission proposals for a Council Regulation establishing a European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) and an inter-institutional agreement between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, the legal and budgetary instruments were agreed in November 2002. A maximum of € 1 billion can be made available through the EUSF per annum.
To qualify for aid under the Solidarity Fund, 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 gross national income of the state concerned. Under exceptional circumstances and conditions, a region can also benefit from assistance from the fund.
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