Brussels, 17 December 2008
Danuta Hübner, the Commissioner in charge of the European Union Solidarity Fund, said: "The EU aid will help towards repairing the damage, which is still affecting the populations of the two islands. In addition to these emergency measures we will be working with the outermost regions, which are particularly exposed to the risk of natural disasters, to strengthen surveillance and warning mechanisms and to research ways of combating the effects of climate change."
The damage caused by the hurricane
In August 2007, the French overseas departments of Martinique and, to a lesser degree, Guadeloupe were struck by Hurricane Dean. In Martinique, the two most important sectors of agricultural production by far, bananas and sugar cane, were very badly affected: banana plantations were almost entirely destroyed and sugar cane suffered severely. The damage is estimated at some €511 million, with knock-on effects on the whole processing sector. The consequences of the storm will be felt for some time in these regions. The European Union also took into consideration their specific status as outermost regions and the disadvantages they face due to their distant and isolated location.
In September 2008, the Commission presented to the European Parliament and the Council (which form the Union's Budget Authority) a proposal to mobilise the Solidarity Fund, in response to a request from the French authorities. Parliament and the Council have just adopted an Amending Budget, as a consequence of which the funds can now be made available to the two islands (IP/08/1311).
The implementing agreement
The agreement signed yesterday between the European Commission and France lays down the conditions for using this aid. The Prefecture of Martinique will be in charge of coordinating and implementing the aid, which will help to cover emergency expenditure in the following areas (the amounts quoted are purely indicative):
As a guide, it is anticipated that 90% of the aid will be used by Martinique and 10% by Guadeloupe.
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 have to submit an application with a detailed estimate of the damage. This is examined by the Commission according to criteria intended to ensure that EU funds are used to meet the most urgent needs.
Apart from this aid for France, since the start of 2008 the Commission has proposed granting aid from the Solidarity Fund to Greece (forest fires in summer 2007), Cyprus (droughts in 2006 and 2008) and Slovenia (floods in September 2007). The Fund's maximum annual budget allocation is €1 billion.
For more information on the EU Solidarity Fund, please consult the following website: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/funds/solidar/solid_fr.htm
The Commission Communication on the outermost regions of 17 October 2008 defines these regions as ideal locations for experimentation in combating climate change and proposes various initiatives in this context: IP/08/1569.