The European Commission today proposed to grant aid from the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) amounting to EUR 12.78 million in the aftermath of Hurricane Dean, which caused severe damage in the French Antilles islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe in August 2007. The aid will contribute to the costs of emergency measures such as rescue services, the clean-up of disaster-stricken areas, and the restoration of basic infrastructure.
Danuta Hübner, Commissioner for Regional Policy and the Solidarity Fund, conveyed her sympathy to those affected by the disasters. She said: "The outermost regions of the European Union are often vulnerable to natural disasters. We are aware that Martinique and Guadeloupe are still affected by the damage Dean caused, especially in housing and plantations, hence the Union's financial support".
In August 2007, the French overseas departments of Martinique and, to a lesser degree, Guadeloupe - two neighbouring islands of the French Antilles - were struck by Hurricane Dean, causing severe damage to infrastructure and the economy. In Martinique, banana plantations were almost entirely destroyed and sugar cane suffered severely, thus hitting the by far most important sectors of agricultural production with a knock-on impact on the processing sector. While the estimated damage of some EUR 511 million remained limited, the consequences of the storm will be felt for some time in these regions. The Commission also took into consideration their specific status as outermost regions and the handicaps they face due to their distant and isolated location.
The EU Solidarity Fund, created in 2002, grants aid to Member States and acceding countries in the event of a major natural disaster. Its annual allocation amounts to € 1 billion. To qualify for aid under the Solidarity Fund, countries have to submit an application with a documented estimate of the damage. This is examined by the Commission according to criteria intended to ensure that EU funds are used to meet the most urgent needs.
To make the funds available, the Commission is now requesting that the Budget Authority (European Parliament and Council) adopt an Amending Budget. The conditions for implementing the aid will then be laid down in an agreement between the Commission and the French authorities.
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