Bulgaria to boost disaster relief fund, will seek EU aid after floods

Bulgaria’s Parliament approved on August 4 a proposal to boost the government’s natural disaster relief fund by 50 million leva, with authorities in Sofia also poised to asked for European Union aid to deal with the aftermath of new floods in the country.

The increase in the government disaster relief fund was approved by the National Assembly’s budgetary committee and then was passed as part of the limited Budget revision, voted during the special sitting of Parliament on August 4.

During the debate, socialist MP Kornelia Ninova said that the government disaster relief fund currently had five million leva available, which was not enough to cover all the damage from recent floods in Bulgaria.

The money would come from funds collected so far this year from the 20 per cent fee on the feed-in tariff paid to solar and wind power electricity producers, outgoing finance minister Petar Chobanov said, as quoted by Bulgarian National Radio (BNR).

Last week, Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional the provisions in the 2014 Budget Act that imposed the fee. So far, 81 million leva have been collected under those provisions, with Chobanov saying that there was no risk that the government would be forced to pay back the money because the court’s ruling had no retroactive force.

Also on August 4, BNR quoted the head of the national fire safety and civil defence directorate of the Interior Ministry, Chief Commissioner Nikolai Nikolov, saying that Bulgaria would officially request aid from the EU Solidarity Fund in the near future.

Nikolov said that the damages caused by severe weather in Bulgaria were estimated at 500 million leva, or 255.6 million euro, and that was before the flooding of the town of Mizia at the weekend. “It is very likely that this figure will go up significantly after the assessment of the damages in Mizia and the surrounding area,” Nikolov told BNR.

With water levels receding and electricity supplies restored to two-thirds of the town, local authorities were prepared to begin damage assessment, he said.

At the weekend, European humanitarian aid and crisis response commissioner, Bulgaria’s Kristalina Georgieva, said that the European Commission was in constant contact with Bulgarian authorities and prepared to render assistance.

The EU Solidarity Fund was set up in 2002 to respond to major natural disasters in the bloc. The fund can pay up to 50 million euro in advance to a member state’s government, with additional financing available once the European Commission approves the respective country’s application to recoup funds spent on fixing the infrastructure damages caused by a natural disaster, BNR reported.

(Photo: Boyan Pishtikov)



The Sofia Globe staff

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