Today the Commission granted aid worth €66.5 million from the European Union Solidarity Fund to Bulgaria, Italy and Romania following three natural disasters in 2014.
The aid — €1.98 million to Bulgaria, €56 million to Italy and nearly €8.5 million to Romania — aims to partially cover the emergency costs of recovery operations following floods. It will particularly help restore vital infrastructure and services, reimburse the cost of emergency and rescue operations, and cover some of the clean-up costs in the disaster-stricken regions.
Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu said: "The EU Solidarity Fund is one of our strongest symbols of solidarity in times of need. In many cases, the financial aid proposed in today's decision will help some of Europe's least developed regions to get back on their feet; it also demonstrates the EU's solidarity with the 130,000 affected people who need to overcome the consequences of devastating floods."
Many of the Programmes co-financed by European Structural and Investment Funds for 2014-2020 aim to invest in preventing floods and mitigating the impact of climate change, for which there is a sustained need.
Italy: In October and November 2014, five Italian regions (Emilia-Romagna, Liguria, Lombardy, Piedmont and Tuscany) suffered recurrent severe weather with heavy rainfall leading to flooding, mudslides and landslides. In February 2015, Italian authorities applied for financial aid from the Solidarity Fund. Their report details the devastation, in particular in Liguria, where rivers burst their banks, bridges and roads flooded, and there was extensive damage to economic and productive sectors in many towns and cities, such as Genoa. Overall, the disaster caused 11 casualties and 3000 people had to be evacuated.
Romania: In May 2014, Romania was affected by widespread flooding which damaged transport, water, energy, and communication infrastructure, homes and farms. Neighbouring country Serbia has already been awarded EU Solidarity aid after being afflicted by the same disaster. This flooding affected 30 of the 42 Romanian counties, triggering the evacuation of local residents and causing major losses in different economic sectors. Many farmers suffered crop loss on cultivated land and drowning of livestock, while forestry access roads were destroyed by breaking dams. Many schools, hospitals, public buildings and cultural assets were flooded.
Later that year, during July and August, heavy precipitation, floods and landslides affected over 126,000 residents in five counties of the Romanian Sud-Vest Oltenia region. According to the aid application, over 2,300 homes, 20 schools, 9 kindergartens, and 11 churches suffered damage; with dykes and dams broken, and roads, bridges, water treatment plants and sewerage systems damaged. Many famers also suffered huge losses in production.
Bulgaria: The region of Severozapaden - one of the least developed regions in the EU - also suffered greatly from flooding in summer 2014. The application reported that most of the damage occurred in the town of Mizia and in the village of Krushovitsa. 700 homes and public buildings were flooded, as well as main roads and farms. On 2 August the mayor of Mizia declared a state of emergency and over 800 people had to be evacuated. Serious damage was caused to energy, water and transport infrastructure, as well as to public buildings, cultural heritage assets and protected natural areas.
The European Solidarity Fund
The total annual allocation available for the Solidarity Fund in 2015 is €541.2 million. Adding the remainder of the allocation from the preceding year, the total amount of the Solidarity Fund available during 2015 is more than €895 million.
The financial contribution from the Fund is calculated based on the total direct damage resulting from a disaster. This aid may only be used for essential emergency and recovery operations (as defined in Article 3 of the European Union Solidarity Fund Regulation).
The European Union Solidarity Fund was set up to support Member States and countries applying for EU accession 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.
The revised EU Solidarity Fund Regulation entered into force on 28 June 2014 and simplifies the existing rules so that aid can be paid out more rapidly than before.