Today, the European Commission is proposing €279 million in financial support for Portugal, Spain, Italy and Austria, to provide relief to the population of several regions in these four countries hit by natural disasters in 2019. This funding comes on top of the €800 million for 2020 available under the EU Solidarity Fund.
Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said: “We are passing through a period when European solidarity is more important than ever.
The EU Solidarity Fund is one of its most concrete expressions. While we are focused on getting us as safely as possible through the coronavirus pandemic, we continue to show solidarity to those who have been hit by other disasters, such as natural disasters that occurred last year. Today’s package will provide the regions affected with much needed funding.”
The aid package is divided as follows:
€211.7 million for Italy, which was affected by extreme weather events from north to south in late October and November 2019, causing severe damage from flooding and landslides and culminating in the flooding of Venice. €56.7 million for Spain after the floods in the regions of Valencia, Murcia, Castilla-La Mancha and Andalucía in September 2019. Spain received €5.6 million in an advanced payment. €8.2 million for Portugal following the severe damage that Hurricane Lorenzo inflicted on public and private infrastructures and on the daily lives of people, businesses and institutions in October 2019. Portugal already received €821 thousand in an advanced payment. €2.3 million for Austria following the extreme weather events of November 2019. The south-western parts of Austria suffered from severe flooding, in particular in Carinthia and Eastern Tyrol.
The European Parliament and the Council need to approve today’s proposal for EU Solidarity Fund assistance to Portugal, Spain, Italy and Austria. Once the Commission’s proposal is approved, the financial aid can be paid out.
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 88 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 €5.5 billion. In addition to intervening following natural disasters, since 1 April 2020, the scope of the Fund was broadened as part of the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, to include also support in case of public health emergencies, such as the current coronavirus outbreak.
Member States hit by a natural disaster can request different kinds of short and long-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 establishes a new European reserve of capacities that includes firefighting planes and helicopters.