Brussels, 3 rd March 2010
Commissioner Hahn to visit France in the wake of Storm Xynthia
Johannes Hahn , European Commissioner for Regional Policy, will visit France tomorrow to express European solidarity and discuss possible EU action following the devastation caused by the violent weekend storms. This visit follows up a meeting in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, held on Monday 1 March in Brussels between the Commissioner and a French delegation led by Pierre Lellouche, French State Secretary for European Affairs. During the meeting, the French authorities announced their intention to make an application for emergency aid from the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF), which can reimburse national public funds spent on the immediate emergency response .
Ahead of his visit , Mr Hahn stated: "First and foremost my thoughts go out to all the victims and their families, who are suffering the terrible consequences of the havoc caused by this catastrophe. I want to express my sincere condolences and assure all those who have been affected that we will do whatever we can to exploit all opportunities offered under the EU cohesion policy to respond quickly.''
Violent storms with torrential rain driven by strong winds battered large parts of the European Union, particularly hitting the French western Atlantic coastline on 28 February leaving at least 52 dead, many people homeless, and causing serious damage to property, infrastructure and electricity networks.
Scope for EU support
Commissioner Hahn is going to meet with French national and regional authorities in La Rochelle to discuss scope for EU support and explain the procedure for preparing an application to the Fund. The French authorities have 10 weeks (i.e. until early May) to submit an application. Official damage estimates have not yet been released. However, French authorities have confirmed their intention to apply for Solidarity Fund aid whether the threshold for a 'major disaster' is met or not. The European Commission will also remain in close contact with the French authorities to help them to prepare their request.
The EU aid 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 vital infrastructure, cost of the rescue operations or provision of temporary accommodation, for example. Damage to private property or loss of income cannot be compensated.
Other resources available
The French authorities also have the possibility of transferring funds from their other EU funded programmes to help channel aid towards reconstruction. Under cohesion policy 2007-2013, France has been allocated a total of €14.4 billion (€9 billion of European Regional Development Fund – ERDF - and €5.4 billion from the European Social Fund – ESF).
Previous Solidarity Fund interventions
Hurri cane Klaus in May 2009 ( IP/09/1712 ) was the first catastrophe in France to be classified as a ‘major disaster’, as defined in the EUSF's intervention framework. Aid from the EUSF totalling €109.4 million was granted. 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, €5.3 million in 2007 for Cyclone Gamède in Réunion Island and €12.8 million for Hurricane Dean in Martinique and Guadeloupe).
Note for editors
The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was set up following the floods which struck central Europe in the summer of 2002. It grants emergency aid to Member States and EU accession countries affected by major natural disasters.
Its annual budget is €1 billion.
For further information: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/funds/solidar/solid_en.htm