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Brussels, 27 May 2014
The European Union's support to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina after the floods
Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are struggling with the consequences of the overwhelming floods which have also had a serious impact on large parts of Croatia. Since the start of the emergency, the European Union has been showing solidarity with the affected countries and will continue to help them overcome and recover from the dramatic situation.
European support in the first response to the crisis - provided by the Member States and coordinated by the European Commission - has been an important part of the reaction to the emergency in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This assistance has helped save lives, pump out water from flooded buildings, maintain electricity access, deliver supplies to affected areas and predict water flow evolution and assess the damage through satellite images.
The Commission is giving €3 million in humanitarian aid to help the most vulnerable people in the two affected countries
As the situation evolves, the EU is mobilising to support the recovery and reconstruction of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. For this purpose €62 million has been allocated by the European Commission to respond to short to medium term needs in the affected areas. This funding is re-allocated from previous programmes under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). The money will be available by the end of June. It will include support for public infrastructure such as schools and social care services as well as basic equipment for enterprises and farms to restart their activities.
The EU is committed to continue its support also in the medium to long term with new IPA money that will be allocated for the period 2014-2020. The exact scope and amount will be decided on the basis of a comprehensive needs assessments expected in the coming weeks, so that the funds can be made available to both countries over the summer.
Civil protection support and humanitarian aid
On Friday, 15 May, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina requested assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, the European tool which supports and coordinates Member States' emergency response to natural and man-made disasters.
Within hours, several Member States indicated that they would send much-needed assistance in the form of helicopters, motor boats, pumping modules and manpower. Since then, the response has been continuously scaled up. As of today, 22 Member States have offered assistance to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Since 16 May, the 22 Member States offering assistance have provided via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism: 2 helicopters, 22 high capacity pumping modules, (12 to BiH and 10 to Serbia), 111 pumps (85 to BiH and 26 to Serbia), 39 rescue boats (25 to BiH and 14 to Serbia) and 15 water purification modules (14 to biH and 1 to Serbia). All this equipment has been deployed with and operated by more than 660 relief workers from EU Member States who have been working on the ground in the two countries. The European Commission is co-financing transportation costs to deliver aid to the affected areas.
The teams deployed through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism have rescued more than 1500 people in Bosnia and Herzegovina alone.
In addition, 11 000 water purification tablets, 14 000 blankets and more than 1 000 tents have been channelled through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to the flood victims in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The European Commission's Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) has been in constant contact with the relevant authorities in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to match the incoming offers for assistance with needs on the ground.
Two teams of EU civil protection experts have been dispatched to the two countries. Their task is to coordinate the incoming European assistance and support the local authorities. EU humanitarian aid experts are also deployed to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to help assess the humanitarian needs on the ground together with partner humanitarian organisations. Based on the needs assessment, the €3 million in humanitarian aid fills the most critical gaps and immediate needs in the two countries, providing clean drinking water including water purification tablets and the repair of wells, food, hygiene and household kits, blankets and mattresses. The funding will be channelled through the Red Cross/Red Crescent and other partner organisations on the ground.
The European Commission has also provided satellite imagery of the flooded areas. More than 50 maps have been produced to support both the affected countries and those providing assistance.
Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, responsible for humanitarian aid and crisis response, has visited each of the affected countries to express the EU's solidarity with the affected people. She has met government representatives in Belgrade, Sarajevo and Zagreb, visited some of the worst affected areas and discussed the response with some of the European teams which participate in the response.
EUFOR ALTHEA and EULEX: contribution to the crisis response
The EU military operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Operation EUFOR ALTHEA) and its soldiers from 22 nations have also been on the forefront of international assistance for Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has been helping evacuate people from flooded areas, providing medical assistance, transporting food, water, medicines and other essential supplies and engineering equipment.
The EU Rule of Law Mission for Kosovo (EULEX) has joined the response in Serbia, presenting food, water, electricity generators and specialised equipment to the Serbian authorities. EULEX has also made available a helicopter, equipped for emergency evacuations and cargo deliveries. It is being used for deliveries of food and medicines as well as evacuations.
Assessment of the landmine situation
The EU, including EUFOR ALTHEA, is deploying experts to support authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the organisations engaged in demining activities to assess the impact of floods and landslides on the location of mines.
Support for reconstruction and rehabilitation
In the short-term, some on-going projects under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) will be amended in order to rapidly mobilise direct support to reconstruction and relief efforts in affected areas. In addition, funds from IPA programmes from previous years can be re-allocated quickly and mobilised around mid-June.
The EU is committed to continue its support also in the medium to long term. The European Commission is working with the affected countries and in close coordination with the International Financing Institutions (IFIs) to assess the needs. On that basis, the EU will mobilise further IPA funding, including through a regional programme, to address reconstruction needs and improve river and flood risk management. The exact scope will have to be developed on the basis of complete needs assessments. The followings actions are examples of what further EU support could cover:
Such activities need a strategic approach and should be linked to the Danube Strategy and river basin management plans, as well as to emergency response mechanisms.
Serbia, as a country in accession negotiations, is also eligible for the EU Solidarity Fund for disaster relief under the same conditions as EU Member States are. The Solidarity Fund can contribute to covering the costs incurred by the emergency to the public authorities, help restore essential infrastructure and services, reimburse funding emergency and rescue operations as well as meet some of the costs of cleaning-up of the disaster-stricken regions, including natural zones. The Fund is limited in principle to non-insurable damage and does not compensate private losses (including in agriculture). Long-term action – such as lasting reconstruction, economic redevelopment and prevention – are not eligible for EU Solidarity Fund aid. The exact amount of aid that Serbia can receive will be determined after the country submits an application and depends on a total direct damage estimate.
The EU Commissioner for Regional Development, Johannes Hahn, travelled to Belgrade at the weekend to discuss with the authorities the steps ahead.
For more information:
The European Commission's work on humanitarian aid and crisis response:
The EU military operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina: http://www.euforbih.org/
EU gives extra €65 million to help Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina IP/14/611
The Union Emergency Response Coordination Centre: MEMO/14/349
The European Solidarity Fund: MEMO/14/306
Website of Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva: