The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was created in 2002 to provide financial assistance to EU countries and candidate countries facing major natural disasters.Since then, it has been used for 107 disasters covering a range of different catastrophic events including floods, forest fires, earthquakes, storms and drought. It supplements Member States' public expenditure to finance essential emergency operations undertaken by the authorities. So far, 24 Member States (plus the UK) and 3 accession countries (Albania, Montenegro and Serbia) have been supported so far for an amount of over €8.2 billion.
The EUSF supplements countries’ own public expenditure to finance essential emergency operations. These include:
- restoring essential infrastructure e.g. energy, water, health and education;
- temporary accommodation and costs of emergency services to meet immediate needs;
- securing of prevention infrastructures, such as dams;
- measures to protect cultural heritage;
- clean-up operations; and
- measures aiming at rapidly providing assistance, including medical assistance, to the population affected by a major public health emergency and to protect it from the risk of being affected, including prevention, monitoring or control of the spread of diseases, combating severe risks to public health or mitigating their impact on public health.
EUSF payments are limited to financing measures alleviating non-insurable damage and must be recovered if the cost of repairing the damage is subsequently met by a third party.
Any application has to be received by the Commission within 12 weeks of the date of the first damage caused by the disaster. It is recommended that the body responsible for preparing an application establishes early direct contact with the service in charge in DG REGIO who can offer advice to speed up the application procedure. To speed up the process, it is also strongly recommended to submit the application in English, French or German.
This also entails that this fund does not act as a rapid response instrument for dealing with the immediate effects of a natural disaster.
The application form and application guidelines can be found by clicking here.
Determination of aid amount
Financial aid is awarded based on how wealthy the affected state or region is and the amount of total direct damage suffered. In the first phase, the European Commission verifies whether the direct damage exceeds a threshold specific to each country and region, to decide whether the disaster qualifies as "major", "regional" or "neighbouring country" disaster. In the second phase a progressive system in two steps is applied to determine the aid amount. According to this a country receives a rate of aid of 2.5% for the part of total direct damage below the “major disaster” threshold and a rate of aid of 6% for the part of the damage exceeding the threshold. The two amounts are added up.
Examples of supported countries
French Provence-Alpes-Côtes d'Azur region (June 2021)
€53.3 million will help the French Provence-Alpes-Côtes d'Azur region recover from the October 2020 severe damages caused by the storm Alex.
Greece (July 2021)
A transfer of €24.6 million will support the country with the recovery efforts following the Mediterranean Cyclone Ianos of September 2020, the August 2020 floods in Sterea Ellada region, and the October 2020 earthquake in the islands of Samos, Ikaria and Chios. The Commission has disbursed earlier in 2021 advance payments in relation to these four regional disasters.
Croatia (June 2021)
€41 million to Croatia, following the devastating series of earthquakes that hit the Sisak-Moslavina County and parts of the Karlovac and Zagreb Counties in Croatia in December 2020 and January 2021. This assistance from the EUSF to Croatia comes on top of an EU allocation of €111 million from the European Regional and Development Fund provided in early June 2021 for the reconstruction and construction of housing units for people that are unable to find housing because of social, economic or health reasons.
Italy-support the reconstruction process after the earthquakes (2016)
In November 2016, the Commission proposed to fully fund reconstruction operations under Structural Funds programmes, with an amendment to the Cohesion Policy regulation introducing an EU co-financing rate of up to 100% for reconstruction operations linked to natural disasters. + It also announced a first disbursement of aid worth €30 million under the EU Solidarity Fund to support Italy after the earthquakes.
To check the legal background of the EU Solidarity Fund, click here.