Brussels, 23 July 2009 - The European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Pawe? Samecki, confirmed today the Commission's proposal to grant 493.7 million euros to Italy to help cope with the aftermath of the Abruzzi earthquake last April.
Mr Samecki, responsible for the Solidarity Fund, said that: " This is the greatest disaster for which the help of the EU's Solidarity Fund has been solicited since its creation in 2002. The scale of the earthquake, whose consequences continue to be borne by the local population, justifies commensurate support from the EU. Moreover, together with the Italian authorities, we have sought to exploit all the opportunities offered by the Cohesion Policy in order to act urgently and prepare for the future."
The earthquake of 6 April 2009 caused substantial damage to property and resulted in 300 deaths and injuries to 1 500 people. All of the province of L'Aquila and most of the Abruzzo region were hit, as were neighbouring regions. The historic centre of the city of L'Aquila is still closed off. Thousands of people were made homeless, and tens of thousands are still living under canvas or are housed temporarily on the Adriatic coast. Twenty thousand people were forced to move outside the region. The disaster has also had a drastic impact on the regional economy, with the cessation of most activities.
Activation of the European Union's Solidarity Fund
On 8 June, the Italian authorities applied to the EU's Solidarity Fund for aid. The Solidarity Fund can only intervene in principle when a particular threshold is reached, 3.4 billion euros of damage in Italy's case. The damage caused directly by the earthquake has been put at 10.2 billion euros.
In order to release the grant, 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.
This European Union aid will help to meet the cost of urgent measures taken by the Italian authorities: provision of temporary housing, the repair of essential infrastructure (power stations, water distribution networks, roads) and clearing of rubble and devastated villages. The aid will not be used to provide compensation for damage to private property.
Other resources available
The Abruzzo Regional Programme, allocated 140 million euros from the European Regional Development Fund -(ERDF) in 2007-2013 has been amended so that some of the aid can be channelled towards reconstruction (see MEMO/08/447 ). Some 83 million euros should thus be earmarked for long-term measures, as the reconstruction could take at least ten years. The Structural Funds will support:
- Resumption of economic activities : help for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in all sectors: reconstruction of buildings, plant, partial compensation for stocks destroyed;
- Renovation of public buildings in L'Aquila : infrastructure, reconstruction of cultural heritage, etc.
- Social cohesion and activities for the benefit of young people : in the context of urban development, support will be given to sporting and cultural associations in order to keep their activities going and hang on to the 27 000 students whose presence is an important economic factor for the region;
- Promotion of tourism in mountain areas to give a boost to the local economy.
Furthermore, as an exception, the deadline for making payment applications to the Commission from the previous programme for Abruzzo for the period 2000-2006 has been extended from 30 June 2009 to 30 June 2010. This will give the region more flexibility to use every last euro of the ERDF allocation totalling 193 million euros ( IP/09/738 ).
Note to publishers
Created in 2002, the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) provides emergency aid to Member States and countries negotiating their accession if they are hit by major natural disasters. Its annual allocation is one billion euros.
Italy benefited from aid from the Solidarity Fund in similar circumstances following the series of earthquakes in Molise and Apulia in 2002, with 30.8 million euros granted to the Italian authorities.
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