Brussels, 12 January 2006 - Responding to a request from the Bulgarian authorities, the European Commission has proposed a grant from the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) totalling € 20.35 million to help to deal with the consequences of two flood disasters that severely hit the country in May and August 2005. As soon as there is an agreement by the Budget Authority (European Parliament and Council) the money will be used to reimburse the cost of emergency measures such as rescue services, the cleaning up of disaster stricken areas and the restoration of basic infrastructures to working condition.
Danuta Hübner, Commissioner responsible for Regional Policy and the Solidarity Fund, said: "The Commission decision is an expression of the European Union's solidarity with the affected regions in Bulgaria and with the victims of the flood disasters. The grant will help to offset the financial costs incurred in restoring basic infrastructures and in taking other emergency measures."
Bulgaria was struck by severe floods in May and August 2005, which caused significant damage in large parts of the country, in particular in the North-East, in the Sofia region and in southern Bulgaria. Total damages are estimated at around € 222 million for the floods starting in May 2005 and at around € 237 million for the floods starting in August 2005. 18 lives were lost as a result of the floods which required large-scale evacuations of population in the worst affected regions. Severe damage was caused to agriculture, buildings, electricity and infrastructure networks, transport and communication. The floods also damaged cultural heritage sites.
In conformity with the rules of the Solidarity Fund, the Commission has adopted a proposal to mobilise a total of € 20.35 million to be granted to Bulgaria to cover both disasters. An aid amount of € 9.72 million is proposed for the floods of May and € 10.63 million is proposed for the floods of August 2005. These amounts, to become available, require the adoption by the Budget Authority of an amending budget, and a subsequent financing agreement between the Commission and the Bulgarian authorities.
The EU Solidarity Fund, created in 2002, grants emergency aid to Member States and acceding countries in the event of a major disaster. Its annual allocation amounts to € 1 billion. To qualify for aid under the Solidarity Fund, countries must provide a documented estimate of the damage which is examined by the Commission in the light of specific criteria, which are intended to ensure that EU funds are used to meet the most urgent needs.
The conditions for implementing the aid by the recipient must be laid down in an agreement between the Commission and the beneficiary country.
On 6 April 2005, the Commission adopted a proposal for the new and improved EU Solidarity Fund (for 2007-2013), which would cover disasters other than those arising from natural catastrophes and with improved eligibility criteria and delivery mechanisms (see MEMO/05/111)
For more information please consult the following website: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/funds/solidar/solid_en.htm