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EU Solidarity Fund: Commission welcomes Parliament’s approval

publié le 17 April 2014

Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn has welcomed the European Parliament’s vote to endorse reform of the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF), strengthening the EU’s response to natural disasters across European regions.

The plans proposed by the Commission in mid-2013, and given the green light by the Parliament voting in Strasbourg make the Fund more responsive and simpler to use with clearer criteria as to who can benefit. The reform also allows for advance payments of up to 10%, which offer a fast helping hand to disaster-stricken Member States and regions that have applied for EU assistance.

Since its creation in 2002, the Solidarity Fund has responded to 56 disasters across Europe including earthquakes, forest fires, drought, storms and floods. 23 countries have been supported with more than €3.6 billion. Today’s vote paves the way for the Council to now approve measures that will result in significant improvements in the working of the Fund, ensuring that aid is given where most needed, and alleviating the strain on regions.

Commenting on the vote, Commissioner Hahn said: “It is vital for the European Union to have a system in place that works well and responds quickly to help citizens affected by natural disasters. Today MEPs have voted for the better functioning of that system, allowing us to show solidarity and send a clear political signal, as well as genuine assistance, to rebuild and recover after economic and social damage to a region. I repeat my call for countries to step up their efforts in preventing and managing disasters as a precondition for the Solidarity Fund to work more effectively.”

The proposed legislation simplifies the existing rules so that:

– Aid can be paid out more rapidly, merging two stages of approval and implementation agreement into one decision.

– Advance payments of up to 10% of the anticipated grant, with a maximum pay out of €30 million will be available for the first time.

– The scope of the Solidarity Fund is clarified, limiting it to natural disasters and extending it to drought.

– Eligibility, particularly for regional disasters, is clearer with 1.5% of regional GDP being set as a threshold for the activation of the Fund. This ceiling is lowered to 1% for the EU’s Outermost Regions.

– Beneficiary countries have more time to carry out recovery operations and use the Fund through the extension of the implementation period from 12 to 18 months.

– Member States must implement legislative measures that are designed to prevent and mitigate the effects of natural disasters, as well as making use of available EU funding for such investments.

The principles of the Fund are unchanged as is the way it is financed, outside the normal EU budget. The EUSF has a maximum annual budget of €500 million (in 2011 prices), plus any remainder of the preceding year.

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. List of all EUSF grants

The affected Member State or accession country must apply for the Fund to be activated within 12 weeks after a natural disaster, resulting in direct damage estimated either at over €3 billion in 2011 prices, or more than 0,6 % of its gross national income (GNI).

In principle, assistance from the Fund is limited to the financing of emergency operations carried out by the public authorities. Damage suffered by private individuals or losses of income cannot be covered by the Fund.

The text voted today will now be sent to the Council for its final adoption. The rules governing the reformed EUSF will enter into force once published in the official Journal of the European Union, expected in June.

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