The European Commission has today presented proposals to unlock €104 million of the EU Solidarity Fund to help France, Spain, Portugal and Greece recover from the earthquakes, hurricanes and forest fires that hit them last year.
Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu said that the “EU leaves no one alone in the face of tragedy. Once again the Solidarity Fund shows the EU’s unfailing support for reconstruction works following natural disasters and for helping rebuilding people’s lives.”
The European Parliament and Council of the EU both need to agree on the legislation before funds can be disbursed.
€104 million split between the 4 countries
The EU Solidarity Fund was set up to respond to major natural disasters and express solidarity to those regions in Europe that needed help recovering. The fund currently has an annual budget of around €500 million.
Following the forest fires in Portugal and Spain, €50.6 million and €3.2 million have been channelled to those two countries respectively. €49 million has been granted to the French Overseas Territories of Saint-Martin and Guadeloupe following hurricanes Irma and Maria last year. Finally, €1.3 million has been granted to the Greek island of Lesbos after an earthquake in June last year.
The Commission also pointed out it offered support through the Civil Protection Mechanism, the Copernicus satellites and rededicating other funds already allocated to the affected countries.
Enhancing the EU Civil Protection Mechanism
Member states such as Ireland have called on the Commission to look at the rules governing the Solidarity Fund, making it simpler and easier to apply for solidarity funding.
French President Emmanuel Macron has also called for a “European civil protection force”, which would pool resources for rescue and intervention, and enable Europe to respond to natural disasters more effectively.
The European Commission has recently proposed to enhance the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, which coordinates civil protection assistance in the EU, for example by giving the EU some of its own equipment to respond to natural disasters.