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EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, has today announced an aid package worth nearly €80 million proposed by the European Commission for Serbia, Croatia and Bulgaria after flooding disasters struck the countries in May and June 2014.
The proposed aid of €60.2m to Serbia, €8.96m to Croatia and €10.5m to Bulgaria is to help cover part of the emergency costs incurred by the public authorities in these three countries due to the disasters. In particular, it will help to restore vital infrastructure and services, reimburse the cost of emergency and rescue operations, and help cover some of the clean-up costs in the disaster-stricken regions.
Serbia, which is currently in negotiations to join the EU – and therefore eligible for the Fund – suffered the worst of the damage. The floods most severely hit the districts of Kolubara, Mačva, Moravcki, Pomoravlje, and part of Belgrade, with detrimental effects for some 1.6 million inhabitants. Essential power links were damaged, while drinking water suffers on-going pollution.
Commissioner Hahn, who oversees the Fund and signed today’s proposal, said “This decision reflects the very nature of this Fund, which is solidarity with our fellow Member States and those counties negotiating accession in their time of need after natural disasters. The European Solidarity Fund helps these countries get back on their feet and regain stability which is threatened by the severe damage to economic sectors such as tourism, or destruction of essential infrastructure. This proposed support will help Serbia, Bulgaria and Croatia to recover from the terrible flooding earlier this year and it will help to reimburse rescue and clean-up costs in the affected regions.”
He added: “These amounts are specific and targeted to help address the immediate and direct impact of natural disasters. We have now approved these grants at the Commission. We also reformed the EU Solidarity Fund rules which entered into force on 28 June 2014 and simplified the existing system and criteria so that aid can be paid out more rapidly than before. Now we trust member states will also show solidarity and stand by their commitments in swiftly agreeing the funds set aside for this purpose.”
The support, under the European Solidarity Fund, still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council. Am amending budget is likely to be proposed by the commission in the coming days.
Initial EU Response
The above aid package comes on top of the initial response by the European Union in May 2014 when the European Commission allocated €65 million to tackle the aftermath of the floods in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Out of this, €3 million in humanitarian aid was to be released to help the most vulnerable people in both countries to address their most immediate needs, in particular food, health and sanitation, first aid and shelter and in particular safe drinking water.
The remaining €62 million was allocated for short to medium term reconstruction and relief needs in the affected areas.