Europe’s Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu described the European Solidarity Fund and its impact on the EU and the accession countries that also fall under its scope as a concrete expression of solidarity.
The Fund has provided more than €2 billion of support since the beginning of Jean-Claude Juncker’s mandate, including a record-high €1.2 billion for earthquakes that occurred in Central Italy in 2016 and 2017.
A 2014 reform introduced a number of changes in the activity of the Fund, particularly when it came to the clarification of admissible criteria for applications concerning regional disasters, the extension of the regulatory deadline for applications, the extension of the implementation period, and the introduction of advance payments.
According to the report, the Commission is examining whether increasing those advance payments could help the Fund’s finances reach their targets faster.
While the Fund has specific goals in specific situations linked with natural disasters and short-to-medium-term time spans, the Cohesion Policy is complementary in the actions and takes a more long-term perspective for strategic planning and investments.
To make European Solidarity Fund interventions even more effective, the European Commission and the members of the bloc should work to improve the process for damage assessment and preparedness when dealing with disasters.
How the Fund responds to requests for assistance with large scale natural disasters was found to be effective with an approval rate of 100% on the national level. At the regional level, the Fund’s capacity to intervene also improved as a result of a clarification on the admissibility of criteria for the mobilisation of the Fund for regional disasters.
Since 2014, the approval rate of applications for regional disasters has increased from 31% to 85%, but the Fund still has room for improvement.
The Fund’s policy and political dimension have pointed to weaker links between its activities and changes in domestic policies for disaster management and the enhanced visibility of the EU, according to the Commission’s report. With respect to effective solidarity, the Fund has fulfilled its mission to countries in need, as witnessed by its interventions during numerous large-scale natural disasters.
However, the Fund cannot ensure that the member state receiving the financial aid will be able to make the most of it, as T
The success rate of post-disaster efforts still remains, however, in the hands of the country that has been affected is contingent on its overall preparedness to mobilise quickly and effectively.
An evaluation found that although 60% of the EU’s population may be broadly aware that there is a European Solidarity Fund to respond to disaster situations, only 15% are likely to have accurate knowledge about the activities of the Fund. Part of the lack of specific knowledge is due to the fact the Fund often reimburses projects already implemented by the time the full support is paid to the beneficiaries.