The European Commission today proposes granting € 31.2 million in aid from the European Union Solidarity Fund to help Portugal meet emergency costs following the flooding and landslides on Madeira island in February 2010. This support will mainly help reimburse costs of emergency measures such as relief operations, cleaning up the affected areas and repair of basic infrastructures. The European Parliament and the Member States need to approve the proposal.
President Barroso declared: "When visiting the devastated areas just after the disaster, I was deeply impressed by the dynamism of the people of Madeira and the determination and solidarity of the government. Today, the Commission proposes substantial financial aid to support the extraordinary efforts made. I have strong confidence in the future of Madeira."
Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn, said: "Today's decision is a very tangible sign of EU solidarity which every country and all European citizens can count on in the event of major natural disasters. It will help the people of Madeira affected by the floods as well as the local economy and ensure the restoration of the natural landscape".
In February 2010, torrential rainfall on the island of Madeira triggered landslides and severe flooding killing 42 people and causing damage to infrastructure, local businesses and agriculture. On 20 April, the Portuguese authorities submitted a request for assistance from the European Union Solidarity Fund. The relevant Commission departments then checked that the criteria defining "major disasters" at European level were met. The Solidarity Fund can provide assistance only above a certain threshold, set in the case of Portugal at €958 million of damage. The direct damage caused by the disaster was estimated at €1.08 billion by the authorities, which means that EU aid can be released.
Around 130 kilometers of waterways were destroyed with roads and bridges, utility networks, private homes and property also badly affected. Some 800 houses suffered severe damage, with over 700 people having to be placed in temporary accommodation. Businesses and agriculture suffered some €122 million direct losses.
The support allocated by the European Union will contribute to covering the costs of emergency measures carried out by public authorities such repairing infrastructure, providing temporary accommodation and rescue services, and cleaning up of the disaster areas. Damage suffered by private individuals or losses of income cannot be compensated.
In order to grant aid from the Solidarity Fund to Portugal, the Commission will ask the European Parliament and the Council, which constitute the Union's budgetary authority, to adopt what is known as an amending budget. The Commission and Portugal will then sign an agreement setting out the conditions for using the aid (see MEMO/10/59).
The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was created after the floods which affected central Europe during summer 2002. It may grant emergency aid to Member States and accession countries affected by major natural disasters. Its annual budget is €1 billion.
Today, the Commission also announced release of Solidarity Fund aid for France following the devastation caused by the Xynthia storm (IP/10/1204).
The Portuguese authorities declared that they are exploring possibilities to finance a part of the reconstruction going beyond emergency operations through the relevant programmes co-financed by the EU Structural Funds. In 2007-2013, the country has been allocated a total of €21.5 billion broken down into 14 programmes. Madeira benefits from additional funding under cohesion policy as one of the EU's seven 'outermost regions' with a specific status recognised in the EU Treaty to take into account their specific geographic situation and their insularity (see MEMO/08/653).
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