Brussels, 24 February 2011
The European Commission has today proposed to allocate €7.46 million to Slovenia and €1.17 million to Croatia from the EU Solidarity Fund, following the devastation caused by floods in September 2010. The money from the Solidarity Fund is aimed to finance emergency measures such as relief operations, cleaning up the affected areas and repair of basic infrastructure, made by national, regional and local authorities.
European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, responsible for the EU Solidarity Fund, said: "With this decision we want to express our solidarity with the people of Slovenia and Croatia, after the terrible floods which have hit their countries. Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in the number of applications for aid over the last few years, but the European Commission stands ready to assist all Member States which have to deal with natural catastrophes."
From 17-22 September 2010, Slovenia and Croatia experienced unusually heavy rainfall, which caused rivers to burst their banks, forced people to leave their homes and damaged public infrastructure, private homes, agriculture and businesses.
In November 2010, the Slovenian authorities applied for assistance from the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF). The Commission then checked whether the damage caused by the disaster justified European intervention. The direct damage caused by the flooding was estimated at €251.3 million, exceeding the damage threshold for "major disasters" set for Slovenia at €217.669 million (i.e. 0.6% of Slovenian GNI).
The disaster affected 137 of Slovenia's 210 municipalities and caused widespread damage. In total, 8241 buildings were flooded, including the premises of 127 businesses. 91 bridges were damaged, as well as 2550 km of roads. 296 residents were evacuated. Furthermore, Slovenia suffered damage to cultural heritage in several areas, including the flooding of the entire historic centres of Kostanjevica na Krki and Krško, and damage to the Salt Pans near Piran. The EU grant totalling €7.4 million will be used to re-finance emergency measures, notably the cost in the field of water and waste water management.
As accession countries can also benefit from assistance from the Solidarity Fund, Croatia submitted its application to the Commission in November 2010. Infrastructure, the farming sector and private property, especially in Western Croatia, bore the brunt of the severe flooding. Significant damage was caused to energy, water and waste water infrastructure, transport, education and health infrastructure. This resulted in e.g. electricity blackouts and blockages of road traffic which made it difficult to take immediate action.
The Croatian authorities estimated the total direct damage at €47 million, which is less than the threshold of intervention fixed for this country (€275.8 million). However, according to legislation, a country affected by the same major disaster as a neighbouring country (in this case Slovenia) may exceptionally benefit from the Solidarity Fund. This condition was taken into account and the application was accepted on that basis. The €1.17 million allocated to Croatia will be used mainly to reimburse the cost of operations for cleaning-up of disaster stricken zones.
In order to release these two grants, the Commission will ask the budget authority (the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union) to adopt an amending budget to be incorporated into the Community budget.
Note for editors
The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was set up following the floods which struck central Europe in the summer of 2002. It grants emergency aid to Member States and EU accession countries affected by major natural disasters. Its annual budget is €1 billion. The fund cannot be used for damage to private property.
Croatia received almost €4 million in aid from the EUSF following flooding in May and June 2010. Slovenia benefitted from €8.25 million in similar circumstances in 2008.
The Commission is preparing a Communication on the future of the EUSF in order to adjust its functioning, improve eligibility criteria and delivery mechanisms. This will provide a basis for discussion with Member States and the European Parliament.
For further information: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/funds/solidar/solid_en.htm