The European Commission plans to disperse over €103 million from the European Union’s Solidarity Fund to four EU member-states that were hit by natural disasters in 2017, the Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu said on February 15.
“In Portugal, in Spain, and the Greek island of Lesvos far off in the Aegean Sea to the French outermost regions in the Caribbean, the EU leaves no one alone in the face of tragedy. Once again the Solidarity Fund shows the EU’s unfailing support for reconstruction works following natural disasters and for helping to rebuild people’s lives.”
Crețu’s statement comes a day after EU Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger suggested that drastic cuts needed to be made to the common agriculture and cohesion policies – 70 percent of the current budget – in order to guarantee a larger long-term budget for 2021-2027.
According to Crețu, the suggestions made by Oettinger were not the Commission’s official position, but rather ideas that have been debated on several occasions since the Commission’s 2017 White Paper on the budget.
“There are sets of concrete options and there are consequences,” warned Crețu, saying she remains hopeful that the leaders “will see the reality and will think about the possibility of increasing their contribution to the EU budget”.
Crețu indicated that the Commission is currently having an “internal debate” about the overall framework and targets of the budget, but she was, however, quick to support the idea that the EU needs to address new realities on the ground when it comes to citizens’ concerns over security, cross-border cooperation, and defence.
The EU Solidarity Fund’s money is to be earmarked for “reconstruction efforts and to cover some of the costs of emergency services, temporary accommodation, cleanup operations and protection of cultural heritage, in order to relieve the financial burden borne by national authorities,” according to the Commission.
Crețu pointed to the February 23 meeting of EU ministers as a key date for the Commission to “give Europeans what they want for the future”.
The Romanian-born Crețu steadfastly stands by the cohesion policy, saying its tangible results in every region of the EU cannot be ignored and are in line with the bloc’s core value that the EU “begins with the needs of every European citizen.”
Crețu backed Oettinger’s position from the day before, saying the European Parliament and the Council had to finish talks on time to avoid the type of delays that nearly dragged the last round negotiations into a crisis for the 2014-2020 budget.