Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The EU officially denies to compensate people affected by large wildfire in Greece

Photo from the large forest fire in northern Euboea, last August.
According to the portal, the European Union denied to use solidarity and regional funds in order to compensate the- affected by extensive forest fire- residents and retsina producers in northern Euboea, Greece. Replying to a question by the EU Parliament delegation of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the EU tries to downgrade the importance of the damage created by the wildfires. Additionally, from the answer of the EU becomes clear that the Greek government, which bares huge responsibilities for cuts in public spending including in firefighting equipment and personnel, didn't claim any compensation for the victims of the wildfire.

Below, you can read the question submitted by the KKE MEP Konstantinos Papadakis and the reply provided on behalf of the EU by commissioner Ms.Corina Crețu.

Subject:  Immediate compensation for fire damage in northern Euboea

A wildfire raging for four days has wreaked enormous damage in areas of northern Euboea endangering human lives, engulfing 2 500 hectares of pine forest of rare natural beauty and destroying the livelihood of retsina producers over the coming years.

The Syriza-ANEL Government bears criminal responsibility for extending public spending cuts to basic necessities such as firefighting equipment and personnel. This also applies to the EU for ruling that firefighting infrastructures are ineligible for funding, being more concerned with business profitability.

Local residents are now seeking full compensation for the damage sustained, calling for generous payments over the next five years at least, given that retsina producers have lost their livelihood. They are also seeking immediate flood protection and other infrastructures for forest regeneration purposes and to avoid the area being damaged when the first rainfalls occur.

In view of this:

What is the Commission’s position regarding rapid compensation in full for all those affected by the fire in northern Euboea, using appropriations from the EU Solidarity Fund and Regional Funds, with a view to assisting retsina producers and immediately offsetting the chronic lack of up-to-date firefighting equipment, shortages of manpower and absence of adequate infrastructures.

Answer given by Ms. Creţu on behalf of the Commission, 20 September 2016.


Answer given by Ms Creţu
on behalf of the Commission

The mobilisation of the EU Solidarity Fund for the disaster described by the Honourable Member essentially depends on two conditions being met. Firstly, total direct damage must exceed 1.5% of regional Gross Domestic Product. In the case of the North Aegean region, of which Chios is a part, this means that direct damage must exceed EUR 38.2 million. For Central Greece of which Euboea is a part the damage threshold is EUR 116 million. Secondly, the competent national authorities of Greece must present an application for Solidarity Fund assistance to the Commission within 12 weeks of the occurrence of the disaster. So far the Greek authorities have not submitted an application. Solidarity Fund assistance may be used for public emergency and recovery operations. Preventive measures or the compensation of private damage, including in agriculture, is not eligible under the Solidarity Fund.

Through their Rural Development Programmes, Member States may provide support to restore damage to forests and agricultural land and production potential damaged from forest fires, natural disasters and catastrophic events12. Measures may include support to restore damaged buildings and equipment and reconstitution of crop and animal production potential damaged but may not compensate the loss of income or the damages covered under the insurance measures of the Hellenic Organization of Agricultural Insurances.

Finally, EU rules on State aid applicable to the agricultural sector allow Member States to set up national aid schemes to compensate for damage caused by natural disasters. Greece has indeed established such aid schemes in the past.

1 Article 18 (agricultural and production potential) and Article 24 (forests) of Regulation (EU) 1305/2013.

2 For forests, support is conditional on the existence of a forest protection plan and a forest management plan or equivalent instruments for holdings above a certain size, to be determined by the Member States.