European Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn announced on August 27 a proposed aid package worth nearly 47 million euro for Sardinia (Italy), Kefalonia (Ionian Islands, Greece), Slovenia and Croatia after a series of natural disasters struck the regions in late 2013 and early 2014.
The proposed aid of 16.3 million euro to Italy is in response to the serious flooding in November 2013, while 3.7 million euro is earmarked for Greece to help cover the costs of an earthquake and several aftershocks in Kefalonia and the Ionian Islands in January-March 2014.
Both Slovenia and Croatia were severely affected by an ice storm in January and February 2014 and have been granted aid worth 18.4 million euro and 8.6 million euro, respectively.
Hahn, who oversees the EU Solidarity Fund and signed the August 27 proposal made by the European Commission, said “This decision reflects the very nature of this Fund, which is solidarity with our fellow member states and neighbours in their time of need after natural disasters.
“The European Solidarity Fund helps these countries get back on their feet and regain stability which is threatened by the severe damage to economic sectors such as tourism, or destruction of essential infrastructure. The amount of funding proposed will enable Italy, Greece, Slovenia and Croatia to recover from their respective disasters and reimburse rescue costs in the affected regions,” Hahn said.
He added: “These amounts are specific and targeted to help address the immediate and direct impact of natural disasters.
“In addition, the overall development of these regions is supported through the European Structural and Investment Funds. Concentrating resources in business support, research and innovation, ICT and the low carbon economy they can help these regions turn their disaster into an opportunity for developing a sustainable economic model based on their local strengths and characteristics”.
The support under the European Solidarity Fund still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council.
Providing it is, it will – according to the European Commission – go some way in covering the emergency costs incurred by the public authorities in the four EU countries because of the disasters.
The grant will in particular, help to restore vital infrastructure and services, reimburse the cost of emergency and rescue operations, and help cover some of the clean-up costs in the disaster-stricken regions, the European Commission said.
(Archive photo: Kefalonia, January 2014)