Documents considered by the Committee on 22 January 2014 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents


6 European Union Solidarity Fund

(35654)

17741/13

+ ADD 1

COM(13) 856

Commission Report: European Union Solidarity Fund: Annual Report 2012
Legal base
Document originated 4 December 2013
Deposited in Parliament 16 December 2013
Department HM Treasury
Basis of consideration EM of 8 January 2014
Previous Committee Report None
Discussion in Council None planned
Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decision Not cleared; further information requested

Background

6.1 Council Regulation (EC) No. 2012/2002 established the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF), which provides for the possibility of EU grants to Member States and third countries negotiating accession to the EU which have suffered major disasters. A major disaster is one where damage exceeds the lower of 0.6% of Gross National Income or €3 billion in 2002 prices. Applications for cases that do not meet this threshold may be accepted exceptionally from countries affected by the same disaster as in a qualifying country or for regions where a disaster affects a major part of the population with serious and lasting repercussions. Aid is normally limited to alleviating non-insurable damage and is repayable if assistance is received subsequently from third parties. Operations benefiting from the EUSF cannot benefit from other EU funds.

6.2 The EUSF Regulation requires the Commission to report annually on the Fund.

The document

6.3 In this Report the Commission considers EUSF applications received in 2012 as well as applications pending from 2011. It reports that:

·  it considered two applications pending from 2011 — that from Cyprus was rejected and Italy was granted €18.06 million (£15.06 million) for floods in Liguria;

·  it received seven new applications — four were rejected (three from Spain and one from Italy), one was withdrawn (Spain) and one remained pending and was being considered as part of the 2013 applications (Romania);

·  the seventh application was from Italy and concerned the earthquakes in Emilia-Romagna — a grant, notable for being the largest amount paid out since the creation of the EUSF, of €676.19 million (£563.74 million) was made; and

·  in total, €688.25 million (£573.79 million) of EUSF aid was granted in 2012, all of which went to Italy.

6.4 The Commission notes its view of the management of the EUSF in 2012 supports discussions in its 2011 Communication, The future of the European Union Solidarity Fund. The Communication set out the need for simplified criteria for "extraordinary regional disasters" and a clearer definition of the scope of the fund — suggested changes were intended to improve Member States' understanding of what requests might qualify for EUSF funding, thereby reducing the administrative burden and disappointment associated with submitting unsuccessful applications.[30] The Commission also recalls that it has presented a draft Regulation, currently under negotiation, to improve operation of the EUSF by, among other things, facilitating a swifter response to applications for aid.[31]

6.5 The Report is accompanied by three annexes which set out the 2012 thresholds for mobilisation of the Fund (for the five Member States, Germany, Spain, France, Italy and the UK, limited to €3 billion in 2002 prices the threshold was €3.606 billion), EUSF applications pending from 2011 and those received in 2012 and all applications to the Fund since 2002.

The Government's view

6.6 The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Nicky Morgan) says that:

·  the UK has not had cause to seek support from the EUSF in 2012 but supports efforts to clarify and simplify complex rules and legislation that affects access to or use of EUSF funds; and

·  the Report has no direct financial implications, but indirect budgetary implications are possible as it informs budgetary management practices and leads to improvements in the effectiveness, efficiency and economy of EU spending.

Conclusion

6.7 This Report gives useful support for the need to improve the EUSF.

6.8 However, in our view the Government should make an application for EUSF aid in connection with the recent severe flooding in the UK, if such an application complies with the relevant criteria. We ask the Minister whether this is the Government's intention, what information it is collecting in support of any such application to the fund, and if it is not intending to apply, why this is the case.

6.9 In the meantime the document remains under scrutiny.


30   See (33223) 12794/11: HC 428-xl (2010-12), chapter 13 (2 November 2011). Back

31   See (35239) 12883/13: HC 83-xiv (2013-14), chapter 15 (11 September 2013). Back


 
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