When tragedy struck the heart of Italy with a deadly earthquake and aftershocks at the end of August 2016, and again in October, the European Commission stood in full solidarity with the Italian people. The Commission announced its full support, first to address the immediate emergency situation, and later to start rebuilding, together with the national authorities.
The Commission gives now a concrete follow up to its commitment, with two decisions aimed at supporting reconstruction efforts and regenerating economic activity in the affected regions with EU funds.
President Juncker said: "It is our duty as Europeans to stand by Italy and its citizens, who are showing extraordinary courage in times of difficulty, in order to help the effort to overcome as soon as possible the consequences of the earthquakes and to reconstruct fully the areas damaged. Reconstructing the beautiful Basilica of San Benedetto in Norcia with the help of EU funds will be a lasting symbol of EU solidarity and of the ability of the Italian people to bounce back."
“We have expressed our deepest sympathy to the Italian people in the wake of these disasters and we have moved from words to actions, with our continued efforts to address the specific needs of the affected communities via the EU Solidarity Fund and Cohesion Policy. We will stand side by side with Italy throughout the reconstruction process,” added Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu.
Today the Commission is putting forward two strands of support through EU funds:
- The upcoming release of a first disbursement of aid under the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF)
Italy will receive within the next seven days a first payment of €30 million under the EUSF, the highest sum that can be paid as an advance. In the meantime the Commission is analysing the request submitted by Italy and will propose a final amount of aid, to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council, once the assessment of the damage linked to the October earthquake is completed by the Italian authorities.
- An EU co-financing rate of up to 100% for reconstruction operations linked to natural disasters
The Commission proposes to amend the 2014-2020 Cohesion Policy regulation and to introduce the possibility of fully funding reconstruction operations, including the restoration of cultural heritage, with the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). This new proposal would supplement EU Solidarity Fund support and spare national resources. Operations could be funded under this exceptional measure directly after a disaster has occurred. This proposal now has to be backed by the European Parliament and the Council.
Immediately after the earthquakes of 24 August and 27 October, the Commission offered short-term assistance via the EU's Copernicus Emergency Management Services. It also expressed readiness to further help in the long-term, especially with EU funds.
On 16 November the Commission received the Italian application for EUSF assistance and committed to processing it as rapidly as possible. Italy has been the biggest beneficiary of the EUSF since its creation in 2002, with €1.3 billion mobilised.
The Commission now proposes to modify article 120 of the 2014-2020 Cohesion Policy regulation and introduce the possibility of a separate priority axis with an EU co-financing rate of up to 100% in Cohesion Policy programmes, to finance operations in response to major or regional disasters as defined in the EUSF Regulation.
In addition to the possibility of modifying Cohesion policy programmes to redirect portions of funding towards post-earthquake interventions, the Commission is also willing to mobilise the expertise and tools of the Joint Research Centre, which can provide, for example, 3D laser-scanning and mapping in reconstruction projects.
Finally, the Commission will soon announce how the extra €1.6 billion of Cohesion Policy funds Italy is set to receive will be invested, after the end of the discussions with the national authorities. This amount derives from the re-evaluation of Cohesion Policy envelopes to take into account the impact of the crisis.
The Commission already announced that it would be in favour of devoting part of this sum to cover the damage caused by the earthquakes – in addition to funding for projects addressing the migration challenge, tackling youth unemployment and creating jobs and growth with strategic investments.