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Brussels, 23rd March 2011

Solidarity Fund: Commissioner Hahn announces €10.9 million in EU aid for flood damage in Czech Republic

Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, today confirmed the Commission's proposal to allocate aid totalling € 10.9 million to the Czech Republic, following the severe floods of last August. The grant is being made available through the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF). It will contribute towards the costs borne by public authorities in response to the emergency, in particular for restoring essential infrastructure.

Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who is in charge of the EU Solidarity Fund, said: “This disaster follows the flooding already encountered by the country in May 2010, the support of the European Union is therefore doubly needed. This will help improve the living conditions of the population heavily affected by this natural event."

At the beginning of August 2010, the northern parts of the Czech Republic, in particular the Liberec region and the neighbouring district Dĕčín, experienced unusually heavy rainfall triggering burst river banks, forcing people to leave their homes and causing damage to public infrastructures, private homes, agriculture and businesses.

The Czech authorities submitted a request for assistance from the EUSF in October 2010. Although the amount of direct damage (€436.5 million) was below the normal threshold for triggering the EU Solidarity Fund (0.6% of gross national income, €824 million in the case of Czech Republic), the Commission was able to mobilise the Fund under the exceptional provision in the EUSF Regulation for "extraordinary regional disasters". This allows the Commission to grant aid where a region has been hit by an extraordinary disaster, affecting the major part of the population, with serious and lasting repercussions on living conditions and the economic stability of the region.

The application made by the Czech authorities highlights the destruction of vital infrastructure (such as in the field of transport, water and energy), the impact on businesses and the severe damage to a great number of family homes (nearly 2500 persons needed to be placed in provisional accommodation). The largest damage with respect to employment occurred in tourism, one of the key economic factors in the regions concerned. Full return to a normal situation is expected to take several years.

In order to release the grant, the Commission will ask the budget authority (the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union) to adopt an amending budget to be incorporated into the Community budget.

This European Union aid will help meet the cost of urgent measures taken by the Czech authorities: restoration of infrastructure, temporary accommodation and rescue services, preventive infrastructure and protection of cultural heritage, as well as cleaning up of disaster stricken zones. The aid may not be used to provide compensation for damage to private property.

Background :

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.

Today’s proposal complements the Commission’s recent decision to grant €5.1 million in aid from the EUSF following flooding in Czech Republic in May 2010. The council having accepted this proposal, the decision is now in the hands of the European Parliament.

The Commission is preparing a Communication on the future of the EUSF in order to adjust its functioning, improve eligibility criteria and delivery mechanisms. This will provide a basis for discussion with Member States and the European Parliament.

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