Brussels, 16 July 2009 - Pawe? Sam ecki, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, today confirmed that the Commission has decided to allocate aid totalling € 11.78 million for Romania, following the severe floods of last summer. The grant is being made available through the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF). It will contribute towards the costs borne by public authorities in response to the emergency, in particular for restoring essential infrastructure.
Commissioner Samecki, responsible for the Solidarity Fund, said: "More than 1.6 million people were affected by the flooding last July; many homes were destroyed or damaged and there was serious damage to agriculture, forestry and livestock. Mobilising resources from the Solidarity Fund is a powerful expression of the EU's solidarity with Romania. Through the Cohesion Policy, the Commission will also provide financial support aimed at improving flood-risk infrastructure in the most vulnerable regions."
Five counties in the North-East of Romania (Maramures, Suceava, Botosani, Iasi and Neamt) bore the brunt of the severe flooding and landslides caused by heavy rainfall. Direct damage exceeded €470 million in the 241 municipalities affected: almost 2000 km of roads were flooded, 2000 bridges and about 88 km of banks and dams were badly damaged.
The floods covered more than 39 000 hectares of agricultural land and 240 hectares of forests. Trade between Romania and the Northern and North-Eastern part of Europe has been considerably affected due to severe road damage in the border areas with Moldavia and Ukraine.
The Romanian authorities submitted a request for assistance from the EUSF in October 2008. Although the amount of direct damage was below the normal threshold for triggering the EU Solidarity Fund (0.6% of gross national income, €566.8 million in the case of Romania), the Commission was able to mobilise the fund under the "exceptional circumstances" provision in the EUSF Regulation. This allows the Commission to grant aid where a region has been hit by an extraordinary disaster, which affects the major part of the population, with serious and lasting repercussions on living conditions and the economic stability of the region.
In order to grant aid from the EUSF, the European Parliament and the Council, which constitute the Union's budgetary authority, adopted what is known as an amending budget on 11 March. In the forthcoming weeks, the Commission and Romania will sign an implementing agreement setting out the specific conditions for using the aid.
The Cohesion Policy will also support natural risk prevention in Romania, through the country's "environment programme", which runs until 2013. Under the programme, the EU will contribute €270 million towards the implementation of risk prevention infrastructure, with a focus on flood prevention . Major projects are already under preparation on the rivers Prut-Balard, Trotus and Siret (see MEMO/07/303 ). Flood prevention is also supported by the transnational Cohesion Fund programme "South-East Europe", in which Romania and 15 other countries are partners ( MEMO/08/177 ).
The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was created after the floods which affected central Europe in summer 2002. It grants financial assistance to Member States and accession countries affected by major natural disasters. Romania has already benefitted from similar support (€71.2 million) following the floods of spring and summer 2005.
In principle, assistance from the EUSF is limited to the financing of emergency operations carried out by public authorities to deal with non-insurable damage: repair of infrastructure or provision of temporary accommodation, for example. Damage suffered by private individuals or losses of income cannot be compensated by the Fund.
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