In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the scope of the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) has been extended as of 1 April 2020 to encompass major public health emergencies. Find here the dedicated page.
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 100 natural disasters covering a range of different catastrophic events including floods, forest fires, earthquakes, storms and drought. The Fund also have been mobilised for 20 interventions as a response to public health emergencies. 28 different European countries have been supported so far for an amount of over 7 billion €.
Any application has to be received by the Commission within 12 weeks of the date of the first damage caused by the disaster. In case of slowly unfolding disasters, such as droughts or health emergencies, this deadline is set at 12 weeks after the first official action against the emergency. For COVID-19 special conditions apply (See dedicated page).
It is strongly recommended that the body responsible for preparing an application establishes early direct contact with the service in charge in DG Regional and Urban Policy who can offer a range of advice that will help to speed up the application procedure as much as possible.
This page is updated regularly, please download the latest version of the application form for natural disasters. For health emergencies, please find here the dedicated forms.
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. Once the appropriations become available in the EU budget the Commission adopts a decision awarding the aid to the affected State, which receives it immediately and in a single instalment. Once the aid 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.
In May 2019 the Commission published a major evaluation of the work of the Fund since its creation in 2002 and providing recommendations for the future. The evaluation underlines the high added value of the Fund to support emergency and recovery efforts and to alleviate the financial burden on national and regional authorities. The Fund has provided €5.2 billion, including a record-high €1.2 billion for the 2016/2017 earthquakes in Central Italy.
The report has also identified room for improvement in terms of speed, coherence, effectiveness and public awareness of the interventions.
The EUSF can provide financial aid to Member States and countries engaged in accession negotiations
Solidarity Fund aid can be mobilised up to a maximum annual total of € 500 million (in 2011 prices) plus the unspent allocation from the preceding year 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 EUSF supplements Member States' public expenditure for the following essential emergency operations:
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 economic redevelopment and prevention – are not eligible for EUSF aid. However, this could qualify for aid under other instruments, most notably the Structural Funds and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
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:
Data on the Solidarity Fund action since 2002 is presented in EU Solidarity Fund: supporting disaster recovery 2002-2020