News BlogCivil protection

The European Solidarity Fund, to the rescue of the South West

(BRUSSELS2) France – through its Minister of European Affairs, Bruno Le Maire – requested at the end of January the triggering of the Solidarity Fund after the passage of storm “Klaus” in the South-West. A request which corresponded to the desire of several European elected officials from the region.

An emergency for the Landes forests

« There is an emergency for damaged infrastructure, there is also an emergency for the forest » explains Christine de Veyrac (UMP/PPE). This forest, one of the first in Europe, composed mainly of Landes pines, was barely recovering from the damage of 1996 and December 1999. And it was ravaged by almost 60% in the south of Gironde and the Landes. » « An urgent plan to help with cleaning plots, sawing wood, storing it and transporting it is imperative”, specifies Gilles Savary (PES). " Nine years after the 1999 storm, the forestry sector is tempted to give up”. We must think “also to oyster farmers. It is a profession which, today, is devastated. It was already in 2002 after another disaster which was not at all natural (the sinking of the Prestige), and, now, the oyster farmers of the Arcachon basin also despair of being able to turn the tide".

The Solidarity Fund: seven years of existence

Created in 2002, on the initiative of Frenchman Michel Barnier, then European Commissioner for Regional Policy, after devastating floods in August 2002, the European Union Solidarity Fund makes it possible to grant emergency aid to Member States. and to accession countries affected by major natural disasters.

The criterion for EU intervention is the extent of the damage: the estimated costs of direct damage must amount to more than 3 billion euros (at 2002 prices) or 0,6% of gross national income. of the State concerned. Exceptionally, a neighboring Member State or accession country affected by the same disaster may obtain aid. Likewise, the Fund can intervene in the event of an extraordinary regional disaster, if it “ affects the majority of a region's population and has serious and lasting effects on its economic stability (and) living conditions. we explain to the European Commission.

The Fund is intended to supplement the action of first emergency actions, limited in principle to the coverage of uninsurable damage: immediate restoration of infrastructure and equipment to operational condition, temporary accommodation measures and emergency services to the population, immediate security of prevention infrastructures and cultural monuments, cleaning of disaster areas, etc.

To benefit from funding, the country concerned must submit an application within 10 weeks of the disaster, containing a detailed estimate of the damage suffered. After examination by the Commission and vote by the budgetary authority (Parliament and Council of Ministers), the aid is released in one go. It is then the State concerned which is totally responsible for the proper use of European money.

All-out interventions

In the first months of its establishment, the Solidarity Fund supported eight interventions in seven countries, decided within an extremely short period of time, for a total of some 833 million euros. The first four followed the 2002 floods in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and France. The other four aimed, in Spain to deal with the “Prestige” disaster, in Italy to earthquakes (Molise and Puglia) as well as the eruption of Etna (Sicily), and to Portugal to the unprecedented forest fires of the summer of 2003.

An intervention on Hurricane Dean in the French West Indies

In December 2008, the Fund confirmed the granting of nearly 13 million euros to Martinique and Guadeloupe, following the damage caused by Hurricane Dean in August 2007 (1). Martinique was of the two islands the most affected. By far the two most important sectors of agricultural production suffered greatly: banana plantations were almost completely destroyed and sugar cane plantations were severely affected. “ The damage is estimated at some 511 million euros, and has had repercussions on the entire industry according to an assessment by the European Commission. And " the consequences will continue to be felt in these regions for some time ". Their special status as outermost regions and " the handicaps they face due to their remoteness and isolation have also been taken into account » by the European Union, indicates Commissioner Danuta Hübner in the press release announcing the release of the aid.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Long version of an article published in Maires de France

(1) Around 7,55 million euros for the restoration of infrastructure and equipment — in the areas of roads (€4,6 million), water and wastewater (€1,5 million ), public lighting (€1,1 million), energy (€0,25 million), coastal and port developments (€0,1 million); €2,16 million for temporary accommodation for disaster victims; €1,8 million for cleaning up disaster areas, including natural areas; €1,2 million for securing infrastructure and measures to protect cultural heritage. NB: 90% goes to Martinique and 10% to Guadeloupe.

More information on solidarity fund of the European Union

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).