The European Union's support to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina after the floods

Brussels, 23 May 2014

Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are struggling with overwhelming floods which have also had a serious impact on large parts of Croatia. Since the start of the emergency, the European Union has been showing solidarity with the affected countries and will continue to help them overcome and recover from the dramatic situation.

European support in the first response to the crisis - provided by the Member States and coordinated by the European Commission - has been an important part of the reaction to the emergency in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This assistance has helped save lives, pump out water from flooded buildings, maintain electricity access, deliver supplies to affected areas and predict water flow evolution and assess the damage through satellite images. The Commission is also going to give humanitarian assistance for the affected people.

As the situation evolves, the EU is mobilising all possible instruments to support the recovery and reconstruction of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

While a full assessment of the damage and needs is not yet available, the relevant services of the European Commission are working on a support package under EU accession financial instruments for medium and longer term measures. The Commission is committed to ensuring continuity and avoiding a gap between the first aid and recovery support.

Civil protection support and humanitarian aid

On Friday, 15 May, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina requested assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, the European tool which supports and coordinates Member States' emergency response to natural and man-made disasters.

Within hours, several Member States indicated that they would send much-needed assistance in the form of helicopters, motor boats, pumping modules and manpower. Since then, the response has been continuously scaled up. As of today, 21 Member States have offered assistance to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and more than 500 relief workers from EU Member States have been working on the ground in the two countries.

The European Commission's Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) has been in contact with the relevant authorities in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to match the incoming offers for assistance with the needs on the ground. The European Commission is co-financing the transportation costs of aid.

Two teams of EU civil protection experts have been dispatched to the two countries. Their task is to coordinate the incoming European assistance and support the local authorities. EU humanitarian aid experts are also deployed to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to help assess the humanitarian needs on the ground together with partner humanitarian organisations. Based on the needs assessment, emergency funding will be made available rapidly to meet the most urgent needs of the affected population.

The European Commission is also providing satellite imagery of the flooded areas. More than 50 maps have been produced to support both the affected countries and those providing assistance.

Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, responsible for humanitarian aid and crisis response, has visited each of the affected countries to express the EU's solidarity with the affected people. She has met government representatives in Belgrade, Sarajevo and Zagreb, visited some of the worst affected areas and discussed the response with some of the European teams which participate in the response.

EUFOR ALTHEA and EULEX: contribution to the crisis response

The EU military operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Operation EUFOR ALTHEA) and its soldiers from 22 nations have also been on the forefront of international assistance for Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has been helping evacuate people from flooded areas, providing medical assistance, transporting food, water, medicines and other essential supplies and engineering equipment.

The EU Rule of Law Mission for Kosovo (EULEX) has joined the response in Serbia, presenting food, water, electricity generators and specialised equipment to the Serbian authorities. EULEX has also made available a helicopter, equipped for emergency evacuations and cargo deliveries. It is being used for deliveries of food and medicines as well as evacuations.

Assessment of the landmine situation

The EU, including EUFOR ALTHEA, is deploying experts to support authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the organisations engaged in demining activities to assess the impact of floods and landslides on the location of mines.

Support for reconstruction and rehabilitation

In the short-term, some on-going projects under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) will be amended in order to rapidly mobilise direct support to reconstruction and relief efforts in affected areas. In addition, funds from IPA programmes from previous years can be re-allocated quickly and mobilised around mid-June.

The EU is committed to continue its support also in the medium to long term. The European Commission is working with the affected countries and in close coordination with the International Financing Institutions (IFIs) to assess the needs. On that basis, the EU will mobilise further IPA funding, including through a regional programme, to address reconstruction needs and improve river and flood risk management. The exact scope will have to be developed on the basis of complete needs assessments. The followings actions are examples of what further EU support could cover:

grants, together with IFIs loans, to reconstruct infrastructure: priority will be given to transport infrastructure, public buildings, schools, social services, etc.;
reconstruction of damaged coal mines and power plants which are crucial for energy supply;
grants to NGOs, international organisations and other relevant partners for the provision of services, supplies, and works to support reconstruction and relief efforts;
technical assistance for the assessment of damages, recovery needs and project preparation;
technical assistance to develop flood risk maps, improve flood risk management and civil protection mechanisms.

Such activities need a strategic approach and should be linked to the Danube Strategy and river basin management plans, as well as to emergency response mechanisms.

Serbia, as a country in accession negotiations, is also eligible for the EU Solidarity Fund for disaster relief under the same conditions as EU Member States are. The Solidarity Fund can contribute to covering the costs incurred by the emergency to the public authorities, help restore essential infrastructure and services, reimburse funding emergency and rescue operations as well as meet some of the costs of cleaning-up of the disaster-stricken regions, including natural zones. The Fund is limited in principle to non-insurable damage and does not compensate private losses (including in agriculture). Long-term action – such as lasting reconstruction, economic redevelopment and prevention – are not eligible for EU Solidarity Fund aid. The exact amount of aid that Serbia can receive will be determined after the country submits an application and depends on a total direct damage estimate.

The EU Commissioner for Regional Development, Johannes Hahn, is travelling to Belgrade this weekend to discuss with the authorities the steps ahead.

For more information:

The European Commission's work on humanitarian aid and crisis response:

http://ec.europa.eu/echo/index_en.htm

The EU military operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina: http://www.euforbih.org/

The Union Emergency Response Coordination Centre: MEMO/14/349

The European Solidarity Fund: MEMO/14/306

Website of Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/georgieva/index_en.htm