Brussels, 3 October 2013
EU Solidarity Fund: Commission moves to help Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Romania after flood and drought disasters
EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, has today announced a proposal by the European Commission to allocate more than 360 million EUR to Germany in response to the serious flooding in late spring, May and June of this year. Neighbouring countries Austria and the Czech Republic who suffered lesser damages as a direct result of the floods will benefit from 21.6 million EUR and 15.9 million EUR respectively. In addition, Romania will receive more than 2.4 million EUR to help meet the costs for damage caused by the drought and forest fires in the summer of 2012.
The support, under the European Solidarity Fund, still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council. Providing it is, it will help to contribute to the emergency costs incurred by the public authorities in these four member states because of the disasters. In response to the emergency, in particular, it will help to restore essential infrastructure and services, reimburse funding emergency and rescue operations as well as meeting some of the costs of cleaning-up of the disaster- stricken regions including the natural zones.
Commissioner Hahn, who oversees the Fund and signed today’s proposal, said "This decision shows how Europe can act to help fellow countries and regions get back on their feet after natural disasters. The European Solidarity Fund exists to give support to those countries when help is needed most to regain in getting back economic stability after natural disasters. The amount of funding proposed will enable Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Romania to recover and provide normal living conditions for the citizens in the affected regions."
EU Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski, responsible for Financial Programming and Budget, stated: "Last July I promised the people in areas affected by the floods that the EU budget would come to their help as quickly and effectively as possible. Today, we deliver: we propose to amend the 2013 EU budget in order to provide help, and I will do all I can to ensure Member States and the European Parliament swiftly approve our proposal."
In May and June 2013, much of Central Europe was affected by extreme flooding in many areas: causing damages to houses, infrastructure, and services. Though the floods were more severe and more extensive, overall damage was less than that of the floods in 2002, particularly in Austria and the Czech Republic. This is partly due to the effectiveness of flood protection and risk control measures being introduced since 2002, but more efforts are required in the future.
During the summer of 2012, major parts of Romania suffered from extremely high temperatures leading to drought. This led to with important crop failure, numerous forest and vegetation fires, and severe shortage of water for the people.
From mid-May until end of June 2013, large areas of Germany experienced extremely intense rainfall, which resulted in widespread flooding causing severe damages. More than 100 000 people were evacuated from flood-affected areas in Germany with a total of almost 600 000 affected by the disaster. The German application for Solidarity Fund aid was received on 24 July, under “major disaster” criteria. The total direct damage of around 8.1 billion EUR was well above exceeding the threshold to qualify for Solidarity Fund support. The Commission proposal to allocate 360 million EUR for Germany is set against the total 3.2 billion EUR of total cost of eligible operations.
Austria and the Czech Republic both submitted applications on the basis of the so-called “neighbouring country" criteria, whereby a country affected by the same major disaster as a neighbouring country may exceptionally benefit from Solidarity Fund aid even if under the normal damage threshold for mobilising the Fund is not reached.
The Commission received the application from Austria on 6 August 2013. The Austrian authorities estimated the total direct damage at 866 million EUR. The total amount of aid proposed is 21.6 million EUR from 350 million EUR of total cost of eligible operations. The Czech Republic submitted their application on 8 August 2013. The Czech authorities estimated the total direct damage at 637 million EUR. The total amount of aid proposed by the Commission is 15.9 million EUR from 416 million EUR of total cost of eligible operations.
The Hungarian application received on 13 August could not be accepted as overall damage in Hungary was very limited and the criteria for mobilising the Solidarity Fund were found not to be met.
The Commission received an application from the Romanian authorities in November 2012 for financial aid from the EU Solidarity Fund for the droughts occurred during of the summer of 2012. The damage calculated was estimated at EUR 806.7 million EUR. The Commission proposed to allocate 2.4 million EUR, which is the total cost of eligible operations.
The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was set up to support EU member states and accession countries by offering financial support after major natural disasters. The Fund was created in the wake of the severe floods in Central Europe in the summer of 2002.
On 6 October 2011, the Commission published a Communication on the Future of the Solidarity Fund followed on 25 July 2013 by a legislative proposal to amend the Solidarity Fund Regulation. The proposal is now being examined by the European Parliament and Council for adoption.