Brussels, 10 May 2004
Solidarity Fund: Commission and France sign agreement on payment of emergency aid of 19.625 million EUR following the severe flooding in December 2003
Following the severe flooding in southern France in December 2003, the French authorities requested mobilisation of the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF). The agreement between the Commission and France on implementation of the Commission Decision to grant aid of €19.625 million to France was signed today by Jacques Barrot, the Commissioner responsible for regional policy, Gilles de Robien, the French Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Planning, Tourism and the Sea, and Frédéric de Saint Sernin, State Secretary for Regional Planning.
On the signing of the agreement, Jacques Barrot said: "This one-off mobilisation of the Fund demonstrates the European Union's solidarity with the departments in southern France affected by severe flooding. The aid will help in particular to restore infrastructure and reimburse the cost of emergency measures."
Based on the Commission Decision of 6 May 2004, the agreement with France will help to tackle the consequences of the severe flooding which hit the southern Rhône valley on and after 1 December 2003. The most serious damage was concentrated in the three departments of Gard, Vaucluse and Bouches-du-Rhône, with a population of 295 000 inhabitants. Some 8 400 houses or apartments and private businesses were affected. The entire industrial zone of Arles with about 700 businesses was flooded. Public infrastructure in the fields of transport, provision of electricity and drinking water, telephone networks and schools suffered severe damage. Total direct damage is estimated at €785 million.
As proposed by the French authorities, the body specified in the agreement as responsible for implementation is the prefect of the southern area Bouches du Rhône who will coordinate the action taken by the prefects in the other two departments concerned (Gard and Vaucluse). The agreement lays down the parties' obligations as regards audit and control, and defines the types of action provided for, with an indicative breakdown of the funding for the various types of operation.
immediate restoration of affected infrastructure for managing farm water;
repairing equipment and infrastructure (road network, Arles river port and health-care facilities);
covering additional costs incurred by the emergency services;
immediate repair of flood protection embankments, barriers and dykes;
cleaning up behind breaches in flood defences and along the coast.
This is a new, one-off mobilisation of the EUSF for an extraordinary regional disaster, since the damage was below the level required for it to be triggered (more than 0.6% of GNI or €3 billion at 2002 prices).
Also, implementation of the aid for the floods in Gard in 2002 (€21 million) was completed at the end of December 2003, despite the renewed flooding. The Commission will soon be receiving the final report.
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 qualify for assistance from the Fund.
The Solidarity Fund Regulation provides that, before aid can be paid, an agreement must be concluded between the Commission and the country concerned laying down the conditions for implementing the aid by the recipient.
For more information please consult the following website:
IP/04/313 - Solidarity Fund: Commission proposes €21.9 million for measures related to natural disasters in Malta, France and Spain