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European Law Monitor newsDanuta Hübner in Greece: "In view of the huge damage caused by the fires, the intervention of the European Solidarity Fund can help citizens and local economies"

European regional Policy Commissioner, Danuta Hübner is flying over the Peloponnese today by helicopter in order to start to evaluate the damage caused by the fires of the last few days. She meets Prime Minister Mr. Costas Karamanlis, the Minister of Economy and Finances Mr.George Alogoskoufis and the Deputy Minister Mr. Christos Folias. She also meets the President of the PASOK party, Mr. George Papandreou.

"I came today to express our European solidarity with all affected by unprecedented disaster. We all feel for the Greeks these days. The European Commission is determined to explore all possible means of support and assure the mobilisation of available funds in order to help the affected citizens and local economies as well as ensure the restoration of the natural landscape" Danuta Hübner declared.

She indicated that as soon as the assessment of the damage is completed and an action plan finalised by the authorities, the Commission will ensure funding of specific actions for the damaged regions and the environment so as to help these areas and sectors to recover. The Greek authorities have 10 weeks to present to the Commission, the application for support from the European solidarity fund. They have announced at the beginning of the week that they intend to ask for financial aid. The Commission services stand ready to offer any kind of guidance that may be required.

A threshold of intervention of the EU Solidarity Fund in case of major catastrophes has been fixed for each Member State: for Greece, the threshold is €1.066 billion euros of damage. Taking into account the scale announced by the authorities (around 4 billion euros), the prospect of help from the Solidarity Fund is real. The aid could then be used to help finance a series of the most urgent emergency operations, such as provisional housing, the repair of basic infrastructures such as electricity, water, roads and cleaning up of devastated land and villages. These measures will be agreed between the Commission and the Greek authorities before the payment of the grant.

Since the creation of the Solidarity Fund in 2002, the recent catastrophe in Greece would be one of the biggest where the aid of the Fund is needed.

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Reproduced with the permission of the European Commission REF IP/07/1268