MEPs call for revision of EU’s Solidarity Fund rules to assist Greece with flood relief

Greek and foreign lawmakers at the European Parliament called on Wednesday for a revision of the rules for the activation of the EU’s Solidarity Fund to enable the European Commission to assist directly and effectively in the disaster caused by the floods that hit the wider region of western Attica, during a debate on “Deadly floods in Attica region and disaster relief aid” held earlier in Brussels.

According to these existing rules, a region will have to show that the damages resulting from the floods exceed 1.5 percent of the region’s GDP, which is not the case with Attica.

In the debate, the Commission was represented by Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu, who said that the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) has been cooperating on the issue with Greek authorities since the beginning.

She also said that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pledged in a recent meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to provide assistance “in every possible way”.

Cretu said the Commission is open to modifying the cohesion programs in order to redirect European funds for public investment and the recovery of economic activity in the affected areas, while on the issue of the Solidarity Fund, she said Greek authorities must submit a request, adding that the terms and conditions for its activation must be respected.

On his side, SYRIZA MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis said the Greek government and regional authorities have “done their duty” and announced relief measures for western Attica and a large anti-flooding program which he noted should have happened decades ago.

“But we need to increase European funds for natural disasters and increase flexibility and the speed of response, in order to increase efficiency. When people are suffering, and we saw such tragedies recently in Italy, Portugal and previously the Czech Republic and Germany – they want to see European solidarity not only hear about it,” he said.

New Democracy MEP Maria Spiraki said that all political groups agree that more funds should be allocated and proposed revising the conditions for the Solidarity Fund concerning specifically the 1.5 percent rule. “We should see other sources of funding. Greece needs a tangible proof of our solidarity,” she said.

Responding to the issues raised, Cretu said the Commission is waiting for Greece to provide a full report on the damages so it can start to help.”The recording [of damages] has not yet been completed- and in Italy it was delayed,” she said.

The Commissioner also said Greece has received more than 140 million euros between 2006 and 2017 from the Solidarity Fund to tackle the effects of wildfires, earthquakes and floods, as well as financial aid to tackle climate change which have yet to be absorbed because new programs are needed.