Thursday, 23 August 2007

UK Floods – Why Couldn’t we Have Our Money Back, Mr. Brown?

The UK was more than entitled to apply to the EU to help pay towards the costs of damage inflicted by recent floods. But rather than ask for our money back (after all, the UK contributes £10½ billion pounds gross to the EU budget every year to prop up hopeless causes), the Labour government delayed the application. In all the heated attention, we forgot to ask: why?
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was established in 2001 with the aim of facilitating mobilisation of support and assistance from Member States in case of major emergencies. It purports to pool the civil protection capabilities of the participating states to ensure better protection in the affected country. During July, the Commission's Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) received several requests for assistance to combat the forest fires raging across Southern Europe. Various Member States provided assistance through the Community Civil Protection Mechanism. And while Southern Countries were struggling with fires the UK was flooding. The MIC was also monitoring the situation in the UK and was ready to offer assistance however the UK has not requested any civil protection assistance to tackle floods consequences. The UK is contributing to the Civil Protection Mechanism therefore why did it not require assistance from it? Moreover, why has the Government taken so long in applying to the EU Solidarity Fund?
The EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was established in November 2002 to provide financial assistance to Member States and pre-accession countries in the face of major natural disasters. The EUSF assists in the event of major natural disaster which is considered as “major” if the estimated cost of the direct damage is over EUR 3 billion (2002 prices) or 0.6 per cent of the gross domestic product of the State concerned. The EUSF supplements public expenditure by the Member State in question, it is aiming at providing fast, effective and flexible emergency financial aid, limited in principle to non-insurable damage, for measures such as providing temporary accommodation or the provisional repair of vital infrastructures permitting the resumption of everyday life and funding rescue services to meet the immediate needs of the population concerned, immediate securing of prevention infrastructures and measures to protect the cultural heritage, cleaning up of disaster-stricken areas.
The State affected is required to submit an application to the Commission for assistance from the fund no later than ten weeks after the first damage caused by the disaster. Moreover, all information on the damage caused by the disaster and its impact on the population and the economy must be provided as well as the estimation cost of the foreseen assistance. John Healey announced on 1 August the government’s intention to apply for financial assistance from the EU Solidarity Fund (EUFS) to help recovery from the June-July floods in the UK. There was no excuse for the government not to apply for the fund. The government should have done so earlier since the floods in Britain had left thousands of people without homes or energy.
Since the beginning of July, the Conservative Party had asked the government to apply for the fund. According to the Financial Times, Peter Ainsworth, Shadow Environment Secretary, said “if the government had taken note the money might now be filtering through to people who need it most.” The UK’s taxpayers contribute extraordinary amounts to the EU Solidarity Fund – therefore it is about time to have same money back. In order for the UK to be entitled to the fund the total amount of damaged caused by the floods has to exceed £2.2billion. Finally, on 20 August, the government formally applied to the EU Solidarity Fund. According to BBC, the Communities Minister John Healey has said “the total cost of the flood damage was now estimated at £2.7bn.” Moreover, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government “if the UK’s total damage is £2.5bn, we might expect between £62.5 million and £125 million.” The Commission will not cover the costs of all damages.
The European Commission will decide the amount of grant and will propose its mobilisation to the European Parliament and Council (budgetary authority), according to the information provide by the UK. The grant is paid immediately and in a single installment after the Commission and the UK sign an agreement. The grant must be used within one year of the date on which it has been received.

No comments: