Brussels, 17 October 2005 - Today in Bratislava, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Danuta Hübner, and Slovak Deputy Prime Minister, Pál Csáky Bra, signed an agreement to pay € 5.67 million to Regions of Slovakia -- including Banská, Bystrica, Košice, Prešov, Žilina - worst hit by the severe storm of November 2004. The grant is being made available through the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF). It will reimburse public funds spent on the immediate emergency response: restoring infrastructure, setting up temporary accommodation, activating rescue services and clean-up operation in affected areas.
Commissioner Hübner, responsible for the Solidarity Fund, said: "With today's agreement we are sending a clear signal that Europe is standing in solidarity with the regions in Slovakia devastated by this disaster. The European Solidarity Fund is there to support countries coping with exactly this kind of economic and ecological loss. This € 5.67 million grant will help to offset the unprecedented financial costs that affected regions have incurred."
On 6 June 2005, the Commission proposed to the budgetary authority (Council and European Parliament) to mobilise the EU Solidarity Fund to refinance public expenditures relating to a storm that struck Slovakia in November 2004. The storm killed two people, and hit around 28% of the total area in the affected regions (Banská, Bystrica, Košice, Prešov, Žilina) with a population of almost three million inhabitants. It damaged infrastructure and severely affected forests, in particular in the Tatra national park.
The EU Solidarity Fund, created in 2002, aims at granting emergency aid to Member States and acceding countries in the event of a major disaster. To qualify for aid under the Solidarity Fund, countries must provide a precise estimate of the damage and meet specific criteria, ensuring that EU funds are used to meet the most urgent needs.
As the Solidarity Fund (up to € 1 billion per year) is not included in the Community budget, the Solidarity Fund aid can only be paid out once the necessary amount has been approved by the budgetary authority, through the adoption of an amending budget.
In principle payments from the Fund are limited to finance emergency operations undertaken by the public authorities alleviating non insurable damages (such as rescue services, putting infrastructures back in operation, provisional accommodation, cleaning up etc). 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 a new and improved EU Solidarity Fund (for 2007-2013), with an enlarged scope and a lowered threshold for eligibility. The Commission hopes that this proposal will be discussed by the Council and the European Parliament in the near future.
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