Brussels, 11 September 2007
The funds will be used to reimburse part of the cost of emergency measures such as rescue services, the cleaning-up of disaster-stricken areas and the restoration of basic infrastructure.
Danuta Hübner, Commissioner for Regional Policy, welcomed the decision: "Mobilising aid from the Solidarity Fund is a practical way of demonstrating how European Union members can help each other when the need arises. Given the floods and fires seen in the EU over the summer, I hope the Council of the European Union will now see its way to adopting the Commission's proposal to extend the scope of this Fund. ”
1. Germany: In January 2007 a major storm hit a number of regions in Germany, in particular North Rhine-Westphalia. The storm caused severe damage to infrastructure, businesses and private households. It also destroyed over 87 000 hectares of forest. Direct damage is estimated to amount to € 4.7 billion.
2. French Overseas Department of La Reunion: At the end of February the French overseas department of La Réunion was affected by the tropical cyclone Gamède. The estimated damage of some € 212 million is under the normal threshold applicable to France for mobilising the Solidarity Fund, but the consequences of the storm have been extremely serious and the regulation allows for this to be taken into account in outermost regions. In particular, the collapse of the bridge over the Saint-Etienne river, connecting the north and the south of the island, has caused serious disruption to the local economy.
3. The EU Solidarity Fund, created in 2002, grants emergency aid to Member-States and acceding countries in the event of a major natural disaster. To qualify for aid under the Solidarity Fund, countries must present and application containing a documented estimate of the damage, within ten weeks of the date of the first damage. This is examined by the Commission in the light of specific criteria, which are intended to ensure that EU funds are used to meet the most urgent needs. In order to make the credits available, the Commission subsequently requests the Budget Authority (jointly exercised by the European Parliament and by the Council of the European Union) to adopt an Amending Budget. The conditions for implementing the aid by the recipient will then be laid down in an agreement between the Commission and each beneficiary country.
Since 2002, the Commission has received 41 applications for financial assistance, of which 22 led to the granting of financial support totalling more than one billion Euros.
4. Applications in 2007: The Commission has approved the first two applications received in 2007 (as above) and is analyzing other requests submitted by Spain, UK and Cyprus. The Greek and the French authorities have announced their intention to submit an application following respectively, the violent fires and the passage of hurricane DEAN.
5. Future of fund: On 6 April 2005, the Commission adopted a proposal
for the new and improved EU Solidarity Fund (for 2007-2013), which is intended
to cover disasters, other than those arising from natural catastrophes, and with
improved eligibility criteria and delivery mechanisms (see MEMO/05/111).
After a widely favourable vote of the European Parliament in 2006, the proposal
currently remains on the table of the Council.
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