Today the Commission proposes €293.5 million under the EU Solidarity Fund for Austria, Italy and Romania following natural disasters that occurred in 2018. The Commission also publishes a report evaluating the work of the Fund since its creation in 2002 and providing recommendations for the future.
The €293.5 million is broken down as follows: €277.2 million for Italy following heavy rains, strong winds, floods and landslides in the autumn of 2018, €8.1 million for Austria following the same meteorological events and €8.2 million for the North East region in Romania after the summer 2018 floods.
Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu said: “Last week in Sibiu we committed to stay united, through thick and thin, to show each other solidarity in times of need and to always stand together. The EU Solidarity Fund is a concrete expression of European solidarity. It offers relief to countries and regions after natural disasters and helps populations get back on their feet. Today we are lending a helping hand to Austria, Italy and Romania and reflecting on how to make the EU Solidarity Fund an even more helpful tool in the next long-term EU budget.”
The evaluation underlines the high added value of the Fund to support emergency and recovery efforts and to alleviate the financial burden on national and regional authorities. The Fund has provided more than €2 billion of support since the beginning of the Juncker Commission, including a record-high €1.2 billion for the 2016/2017 earthquakes in Central Italy, and €5.2 billion overall since 2002.
The report highlights room for improvement in the following areas:
Speed: the EUSF got faster and more flexible in responding to natural disasters. But it is not an emergency response tool and the release of the full grant is still conditional to the European Parliament and Council's green light, which can take some time. The Commission is examining whether increasing advance payments could help EUSF funding reach the ground faster.
Coherence: the EUSF efficiently complements other EU instruments addressing disaster risk management, reconstruction operations and regeneration of economic activity, especially Cohesion Policy funds. In 2014-2020, Cohesion Policy is investing almost €8 billion in adaptation to climate change and better risk prevention. For the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027, the Commission proposed an even greater focus of investment in this area.
Effectiveness: to make EUSF interventions even more effective, the Commission and the Member States will work together to improve the speed and thoroughness of damage assessment and preparedness for coping with disasters, for example in the field of institutional coordination. The Commission is working on providing guidance, methodology and good practices in these two areas.
The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was created after the severe floods in Central Europe in the summer of 2002. Since then, it intervened following 84 disasters covering a range of different catastrophic events including floods, forest fires, earthquakes, storms and drought. 24 different European countries have been supported so far with a total amount of more than €5.2 billion. Today's proposal for EU Solidarity Fund assistance to Austria, Italy and Romania has to be approved by the European Parliament and Council.
Member States hit by a natural disaster can request different kinds of short and longer term EU support. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism can be activated during a crisis by a Member State. To strengthen short term EU crisis response the EU adopted a new system called RescEU in March 2019. RescEU will establish a new European reserve of capacities that includes firefighting planes and helicopters.