Solidarity Fund threshold a handicap in tackling aftermath of natural disasters
The recent earthquakes in Italy dominated the joint debate on the Solidarity Fund at the European Parliament in Brussels today, with GUE/NGL MEPs pleading with the Commission to expand its remit and lower the eligibility threshold.
Italian MEP Curzio Maltese, author of an oral question on the situation in Italy after the earthquakes, said:
“With more natural disasters - thanks to climate change - in 2014, just 126 million euros out of the 500 million available was spent. This was because the eligibility threshold for accessing such funds was too high."
“The simplest way to change this is to lower the threshold but member states have rejected that in the past,” he noted.
“So, here’s our complementary and alternative solution: calculate the threshold not on the basis of a single event but by accumulating the damages suffered by the same region within a year.
“There’s no point in evaluating individual events that are linked. We should not lose our solidarity with those in desperate need just because of a bureaucratic algorithm,” Curzio added.
Whilst Spanish MEP Ángela Vallina agreed that a lowering of the threshold is necessary, she cautioned:
"Regarding the threshold system, although it is true that the minimum has been lowered, it is the same for every region. It would be fairer that the poorest regions have an easier access to this funds."
“Similarly, we haven’t seen an increase in the 500-million-euros-per-year fund since 2002 even though there are more natural catastrophes than ever.
“Moreover, this would have been the perfect opportunity to expand the fund’s remit to include humanitarian catastrophes in light of the migrant crisis which has cost so many lives at our borders,” she said.
Italian MEP Eleonora Forenza, meanwhile, cited the situation on the ground in Italy as one of the reasons why the fund alone is not enough:
“Until now, many Italians are still waiting for the building inspectors to come to the affected areas and they have been waiting since the first earthquake on 24th August.
“Money helps but is it enough? This requires a radical rethink of how we manage a particular region and we must give up on building useless infrastructure.”
“Such resources are better off being used for reconstructing the region instead,” she argued.