EU Solidarity Fund
The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was set up to respond to major natural disasters and express European solidarity to disaster-stricken regions within Europe. The Fund was created as a reaction to the severe floods in Central Europe in the summer of 2002. Since then, it has been used for 52 disasters covering a range of different catastrophic events including floods, forest fires, earthquakes, storms and drought. 23 different European countries have been supported so far for an amount of more than 3.2 billion €. Click for a list of all interventions
How to apply?
Any application has to be received by the Commission within 10 weeks of the date of the first damage caused by the disaster.
It is strongly recommended that the body responsible for preparing an application establishes early direct contact with the service in charge in DG Regional Policy who can offer a range of advice that will help to speed up the application procedure as much as possible.
- Application form
- Guidance notes
- Determination of the amount of aid
- Model agreement to be completed with information to be provided by the beneficiary State
The Commission assesses the application and - if the application is accepted - proposes an amount of aid to the European Parliament and the Council who have to approve it before it can be paid out. Once the funds become available, the aid is paid immediately and in a single instalment after the signing of an agreement between the Commission and the beneficiary State. Once the grant is paid out, the affected State is responsible for the implementation including the selection of operations and their audit and control. Emergency measures may be financed retroactively from day one of the disaster.
It is worth noting that the EUSF is not a rapid response instrument for dealing with the effects of a natural disaster. Financial aid can only be granted to the applying State following an application and budgetary process which can take several months to complete.
DG Regional and Urban Policy
phone: +32 2 296 65 15
phone: +32 2 298 10 68
In what cases does the EUSF assist?
The EUSF can provide financial aid to Member States and countries engaged in accession negotiations in the event of a major natural disaster if total direct damage caused by the disaster exceeds €3 billion at 2002 prices or 0.6% of the country's gross national income, whichever is the lower. For a list of current thresholds by country please click . A neighbouring Member State or accession country that is affected by the same disaster as an eligible country for which a major disaster has been recognised can also receive aid, even if the amount of damage does not reach the threshold.
Exceptionally and if specific conditions are met, the Fund can also be mobilised in the event of an extraordinary regional disaster that affects the majority of the population of a region with serious and lasting repercussions on its economic stability and living conditions. The presence of these conditions has to be assessed rigorously. To date, less than one third of applications in this exceptional category have been successful.
With what budget?
Solidarity Fund aid can be mobilised up to a maximum annual total of € 1 billion which is raised over and above the normal EU budget. Individual grants have to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council following a proposal from the Commission. One quarter of this amount must remain available on 1 October of every year to meet possible needs through to the end of the year. In exceptional cases and if the resources remaining for the rest of the year are insufficient, the shortfall may be met out of the next year's budget. The maximum amount available annually for extraordinary regional disasters is however limited to 7.5% of the EUSF's annual budget (€ 75 million) only.
For what actions?
The EUSF supplements Member States' public expenditure for the following essential emergency operations:
- Immediate restoration to working order of infrastructure and plant in the fields of energy, drinking water, waste water, transport, telecommunications, health and education
- Providing temporary accommodation and emergency services to meet the immediate needs of the population;
- Immediate securing of prevention infrastructures and measures to protect the cultural heritage;
- Cleaning up of disaster-stricken areas, including natural zones.
The EUSF was not set up with the aim of meeting all the costs linked to natural disasters. The Fund is limited in principle to non-insurable damage and does not compensate for private losses. Long-term action – such as lasting reconstruction, economic redevelopment and prevention – are not eligible for EUSF aid. It could, however, qualify for aid under other instruments, most notably the Structural Funds and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
Italy – Abruzzo Earthquake of April 2009 (major disaster)
On 6 April 2009 a strong earthquake of the magnitude of 5.8 affected the Italian region of Abruzzo claiming the lives of 300 people and causing severe destruction of basic infrastructure, private households, public buildings, businesses and the region's important cultural heritage, and most of all brought serious harm to the population. The areas hit by the event included the whole Province of L’Aquila, most of the Abruzzo Region and some bordering areas. The regional capital L’Aquila, was particularly hard hit, worst of all in its historical centre. The estimated total direct damages of EUR 10.2 billion exceeded by far the threshold for mobilising the Solidarity Fund of EUR 3.4 billion (i.e. EUR 3 billion in 2002 prices) applicable to Italy in 2009, therefore the disaster qualified as a “major natural disaster” under the terms of the Solidarity Fund Regulation (EC) 2012/2002. The Commission decided to grant assistance to Italy amounting to EUR 493.8 million. The grant was used for:
- first emergency operations. Total EUSF contribution: EUR 50 million.
- the C.A.S.E. project, the biggest of the housing projects destined for the population of L'Aquila. Total EUSF contribution: EUR 350 million.
- the M.A.P. project which encompasses over 3 100 smaller temporary housing units for up to 7 000 people, specifically in the vicinity of the smaller villages surrounding L'Aquila. The M.U.S.P project encompasses 32 (high quality) temporary schools for a part of the over 15 000 students concerned by the earthquake. Total EUSF contribution: EUR 93.8 million.
The L'Aquila earthquake in the Italian Abruzzo region was in fact the biggest disaster since the creation of the Solidarity Fund and subsequently lead to the highest grant ever, amounting to almost half a billion Euros.
Austria - Flooding of August 2005 (regional disaster)
In August 2005, heavy flooding occurred in parts of two Austrian Länder Vorarlberg and Tyrol. The flooding caused severe damage to the agricultural sector, to tourism, residential properties and businesses, to the transport network and other infrastructure. The total direct damage was estimated at EUR 591.94 million which represents approximately 0.27 % of Austria's GNI. Since the figure is lower than the applicable threshold for mobilising the Solidarity Fund for major disasters (0.6 % of Austria's GNI, i.e. EUR 1.3363 billion), the application was therefore examined under exceptional criteria for so-called extraordinary regional disasters. The Commission came to the conclusion that the application provided sufficient evidence to allow exceptionally mobilising the Solidarity Fund and to grant financial aid amounting to EUR 14.79 million. The aid was used for:
- the immediate restoration to working order of infrastructure, in particular in restoration of state roads. Total EUSF contribution: EUR 9.86 million.
- the immediate securing of preventive infrastructures, in particular of restoration of damaged embankments of water courses, including the removal of trees and rubble, damming, stabilisation and restoration of river beds. Total EUSF contribution: EUR 4.93 million.
The Future of the EUSF
Ideas for improving the functioning of the EU Solidarity Fund were put forward by the Commission on 6 October 2011, alongside proposed legislation that will frame cohesion policy for 2014-2020.
The Communication on The Future of the European Union Solidarity Fund aims to make the fund more responsive in the face of disasters, more visible and its operational criteria more clear.
In 2005, the Commission presented a legislative proposal for an amended EU Solidarity Fund Regulation, which included a widened scope of intervention and a lowering of the thresholds that trigger intervention in the face of the damages incurred by a disaster. These amendments proved to be unacceptable to the majority of Member States due, in particular, to concerns regarding possible additional budgetary requirements. The Commission is therefore proposing that the 2005 proposal should be withdrawn.
The Commission considers that important improvements to the operation of the EU Solidarity Fund could be achieved with only a minimum of adjustment to the current Regulation, thus maintaining its rationale and character and without touching on matters of finance and the volume of permitted spending. The proposed adjustment to the Regulation would not lead to any change in the eligible operations financed from the Fund, such as the immediate repair of vital infrastructures and the costs of deploying response assets. Elements of the 2005 proposal such as the widening of the scope, the modification of the thresholds or abandoning the category known as regional disasters are not included in the Communication.
It proposes the following adjustments:
- a more clearly defined scope for the Solidarity Fund;
- a new, more simple definition of regional disasters;
- an introduction of advance payments and a speeding up payments;
- a clearer framework for responding to slowly unfolding disasters;
- an administrative simplification by merging grant decisions and the implementation agreement.
The Communication is intended to serve as a basis for discussion with Member States, the European Parliament and other stakeholders. Depending on the outcome of the discussion, the Communication could then be followed by a new legislative proposal.
- Regulation setting up the EUSF (Regulation (EC) n° 2012/2002 of the Council of 11 November 2002, OJ L 311)
- The Future of the European Union Solidarity Fund, COM (2011) 613 final :
Proposal for a revised EUSF Regulation (not adopted)
- Proposal for a regulation establishing the European Union Solidarity Fund - Brussels, 6.4.2005 (COM(2005) 108 final)
- Impact Assessment SEC(2005) 447 - Annex to the Proposal for a Regulation (COM(2005) 108 final)