Brussels, 29 May 2009
European Union Solidarity Fund: the Commission proposes to grant aid of € 109.4 million to France following Hurricane Klaus
The President of the Commission, Mr José Manuel Barroso, today confirmed the Commission's proposal to allocate aid totalling €109.4 million following the devastation caused by Hurricane Klaus in south-west France in January 2009. This aid will be used to repay the cost of emergency measures such as relief operations, cleaning up the affected areas and repair of basic infrastructures.
President Barroso stated: "My thoughts go out first of all to the victims and their families affected by this disaster. It is the solidarity of all the Member States that is being expressed today towards France, showing once again one of the reasons for the existence of the European Union. I welcome the fact that the Commission dealt with France's request with the utmost expediency, thereby allowing this aid to be granted as quickly as possible."
Commissioner Vladimir Špidla, who is responsible from 17 May to 7 June for the portfolio of Commissioner Danuta Hübner, which includes the Solidarity Fund, added: "This decision shows how the Union can help the victims of serious natural disasters. This support will help the recovery of the local economies, which are doubly affected by the hurricane and the economic crisis."
In January 2009, Hurricane Klaus caused considerable damage in south-west France, particularly in the Aquitaine region. 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.
The hurricane hit the forestry sector particularly hard (more than 60% of the damage), along with businesses and private homes (more than 25% of the damage). It also had repercussions on infrastructures (transport, electricity, water and telecommunications) and on the agricultural sector, necessitating clear-up operations. A total of 12 people died in this disaster and 400 were injured. Lastly, far-reaching consequences are to be expected for the paper and timber industries, which account for a substantial share of the economy of the affected areas.
In order to grant aid from the Solidarity Fund to France, the Commission will ask the European Parliament and the Council, which constitute the Union's budgetary authority, to adopt what is known as an amending budget. The Commission and France will then sign an agreement setting out the conditions for using the aid (see MEMO/09/255).
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.
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.
On 6 April 2005, the Commission tabled a proposal for a revised Regulation laying down simpler and clearer criteria for speedier activation of the EUSF (in particular, this would enable advances to be paid). This proposal was warmly welcomed by the European Parliament but, so far, there has been no progress in the Council, i.e. at Member State level (see MEMO/05/111 ).
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