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2014-2020 EU Solidarity Fund: new rules

Created in 2002 after main natural disasters in Central Europe, the European Solidarity Fun aims to provide a financial aid for states to face expenses engaged after a natural disaster like earthquakes, forest fires, drought, storms and floods.

The whole EU countries as well as candidate countries engaged in adhesion negotiations (currently Turkey and Montenegro) are eligible for this fund. This finances emergency operations implemented by public authorities like restoration to working order of essential infrastructure; temporary accommodation and cost of the emergency services to meet the immediate needs of the population; securing of prevention infrastructures such as dam and dykes; measures to protect the cultural heritage or cleaning up operations. Private damage like salary loss in the agriculture sector is not taken into account.

Since its creation, this fund has been used for 56 disasters in 23 countries for a total intervention of 3.6 billion euro. However, the implementation of this fund has to face to problems.

Because of rather heavy administrative rules, the European aid could be delivered one year after the damage. Moreover, two thirds of files matched with regional natural disasters, whose damage was below the threshold of eligibility. This situation has caused many rejects and a loss of time. That’s why, in 2013, the Commission proposed new rules in order to improve the implementation of the EU Solidarity Fund. European Parliament adopted them last week.

So, among major developments, we can notice the setting up of advance payment. States can now ask for an advance on the planned grant of 10% without it exceeds 30 million euro. The scope of the European Solidarity Fund is also reduced. From now on only main natural disasters can involve the intervention of the fund. A special clause has been added for droughts. About eligibility, one unique rule has been created for the whole countries: damage must be at least 1.5% of the regional GDP (1% for ultra peripheral regions) to engage the use of this fund. Administrative burdens have been reduced (merge of two documents into just one) and improved: states will have 12 weeks instead of 10 to submit a claim file, and, once this gained, 18 months instead of 12 to implement it. Finally, states are obliged to implement European legislation about protection measures like the floods directive. If a state refuses to apply it and the European Court of Justice recognizes this failure, the Commission could decrease even refuse to give an aid. This could also be the case if a state faces to similar disasters repeatedly without taking measures in the meantime. Especially as risk prevention is also one of the objectives of the cohesion policy.

This fund is always provided out of the European community budget. From this year, the annual budget is 500 million euro plus any remainder of the preceding year. The Parliament and the Council must always agree before an attribution. The next step is the adoption of these new rules by the Council. The regulation will enter into force after its publication on the Official Journal of the European Union, expected in June.


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