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IP/ 09/1712

Brussels, 13 November 2009

Solidarity Fund : European Commission and French authorities sign agreement allocating aid of €109.4 million in the wake of Hurricane Klaus

Paweł Samecki , European Commissioner for Regional Policy, and Brice Hortefeux, French Minister for the Interior, Overseas Territories and Local and Regional Authorities , today signed an agreement confirming the allocation of aid totalling €109.4 million to France, following the devastation caused by Hurricane Klaus in January 2009. This aid, targeting the south-western regions, will come from the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) and will reimburse public funds spent on the immediate emergency response .

On the occasion of the signing of the agreement, Mr Samecki stated: "This is the fifth time that France has received assistance from the Solidarity Fund since its creation in 2002, but the aid granted today is by far the most substantial. This EU action reflects the scale of the disaster, the impact of which is still being felt in the south-western regions of the country. I welcome the speed with which the Commission and the French authorities have achieved the release of this aid."

Damage caused by the hurricane

In January 2009, Hurricane Klaus caused considerable damage in south-west France . On 2 April, the French authorities submitted a request for assistance from the European Union Solidarity Fund. The relevant Commission departments then checked that the criteria defining "major disasters" at European level were met. The Solidarity Fund can provide assistance only above a certain threshold, set in the case of France at €3.4 billion of damage. The direct damage caused by Hurricane Klaus was estimated at €3.8 billion, which means that EU aid can be released.

In May 2009, the Commis sion presented to the European Parliament and the Council (which form the EU's budgetary authority) a proposal to mobilise the Solidarity Fund, in response to a request from the French authorities ( IP/09/850 ). Parliament and the Council have just adopted an amending budget, as a result of which the funds can now be made available to the affected regions.

This is the first "major d isaster" in France, as defined in the EUSF's intervention framework. Previous grants to France following regional disasters were approved by way of exception (€21 million in 2002 for floods in the Gard region, €19.6 million in 2004 following floods in the Rhône valley, €5.29 million in 2007 for Cyclone Gamede on Réunion and €12.8 million for Hurricane Dean on Martinique and Guadeloupe).

The implementing agreement

The agreement signed between the European Commission and France lays down the conditions for using this aid in the following regions and departments: Gironde, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne, Pyrénées-Atlantiques in Aquitaine, Haute-Garonne, Gers, Hautes-Pyrénées in Midi-Pyrénées, Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales in Languedoc-Roussillon. The aid will help to cover emergency expenditure in the following areas (the amounts quoted are purely indicative):

  • restoration to working order and plant in the fields of energy, water and waste water, telecommunications, transport, health, education and security (€27.4 million);

  • providing temporary accommodation and funding rescue services to meet the immediate needs of the population concerned (€13 million);

  • immediate securing of preventive infrastructures and measures to protect the cultural heritage (€17 million);

  • immediate cleaning up of the disaster-stricken areas, including nature areas, in particular the maritime pine forest of Les Landes (€52 million).

Background

The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was created after the floods which affected central Europe during summer 2002. It grants emergency aid to Member States and accession countries affected by major natural disasters.

Its annual budget is €1 billion.

In principle, assistance from the Fund is limited to the financing of emergency operations carried out by the public authorities to deal with non-insurable damage: repair of infrastructures or provision of temporary accommodation, for example. Damage suffered by private individuals or losses of income cannot be compensated.

For further information, please consult:

http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/funds/solidar/solid_en.htm


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