Graham Watson: UK government must claim EU aid for flood victims

Sir Graham Watson MEP

Sir Graham Watson, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South West, is calling on the UK government to urgently apply for aid from the EU’s Solidarity Fund to help rebuild communities devastated by flooding in recent weeks.

The fund, which has a budget of up to £414mn for 2014, was set up to provide financial assistance to EU countries struck by major natural disasters. The UK has applied once before for funding in 2008, when it received around £128m in aid to help repair damage caused by devastating floods the previous summer. Money from the fund can be used for clear-up work, infrastructure restoration, providing temporary accommodation, and funding rescue services.

However, under EU rules the Government must submit an application for assistance from the fund no more than 10 weeks after the disaster occurred, including an estimate of how much the damage cost. In a letter to Environment Minister Owen Paterson and Flooding Minister Brandon Lewis, Sir Watson is calling for urgent action to ensure the UK benefits from the fund.

He commented:

“It is crucial that we do everything we can to help those whose property and livelihoods have been damaged in the devastating recent floods. The EU Solidarity Fund is specifically intended to provide assistance for natural disasters like this, and could provide a valuable source of cash to help rebuild people’s homes and businesses and fund local clean-up efforts across the country.

“But the clock is ticking – any application for funding has to be received within the next 10 weeks. That is why I have written to the relevant government ministers urging them to make sure this opportunity isn’t missed. We can then work to ensure that the grant is approved by the European Parliament as quickly as possible.

“In the long-term, we also need to look into potential sources of European funding for infrastructure to help combat the problem at source including dredging and flood management schemes. EU structural funds, rural development funding and low-interest loans from the European Investment Bank are all possible sources of money. These increasingly frequent extreme weather events are a sign we are beginning to feel the impacts of a changing climate, and we have to invest in our defences to make sure this does not happen again.”

Notes to Editors

If an application for money from the European Solidarity Fund is accepted, the European Commission will propose a budget which must then be approved by the European Parliament and national governments in the EU Council.

More information about the European Solidarity Fund can be found here:

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