The European Union today said that will use an emergency fund to help large parts of Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria that have been flooded.
The European Commission said today (3 June) that it would draw on money from the European Solidarity Fund, which was established in 2002 when the same countries suffered severe flooding.
The fund is available for any member state after a major natural disaster, with ‘major’ being defined as €3 billion in damages or 0.6% of gross national income.
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So far, six people have lost their lives in the Czech Republic and another two in Austria.
The floods in 2002 killed 17 people and caused damage estimated at €20 billion.
Water levels in the Czech Republic are lower than in 2002, but comparable to 2002 in Hungary.
The flooding has occurred along many rivers, but principally along the Rhine, the Danube and the Vltava, which runs through Prague. In Prague, the through-flow of water was sometimes nearly twenty times the norm.
Parts of Slovakia, Hungary and Poland have also been affected.
The response to the floods may well be politically most sensitive in Germany, where voters will go to the voting booths in September for parliamentary elections.
The Solidarity Fund is the only pot of EU money available for use in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Member states have ten weeks to provide an assessment of their needs and, once the grant is given, they must spend the money within a year.
In 2008, the European Court of Auditors found that the fund had was “flexible” and “efficient”, but failed to meet its ambition of providing rapid assistance, finding that it had taken the Commission an average of 148 days to assess applications.