Members of the European Parliament criticised the Commission’s ‘inertia’ in establishing a European force capable of reacting immediately to emergencies and called for “concrete proposals”. They also want financial assistance to be made more easily available in the light of the UK floods and Greek fires over the summer.
In a joint resolution adopted on 4 September, MEPs insisted that the EU must adapt its solidarity instruments in order to deal with increasingly common “extreme phenomena”, such as the violent floods in the UK and the devastating forest fires in Greece and elsewhere.
“Climate change is not just a slogan; it is a reality…We are confronted more and more often with such extreme phenomena and have to learn to deal with them properly,” stressed Italian liberal MEP Vittorio Prodi.
The Parliament called on the Commission to mobilise all possible financial resources “in the most flexible manner possible”, including its €1 billion solidarity fund for natural disasters, but also other Community Instruments such as the structural or rural development funds, or “any other possible financial means”, in order to support and restore the productive potential of regions having suffered heavy damages.
Financial aid for developing flood defences must also be increased and any administrative obstacles and time-consuming procedures for accessing emergency funds must be removed in order to avoid delays, they stressed.
Nevertheless, Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter stressed the importance of compulsory conditions for aid and the return of Community aid in case of improper use: “It is important that the EU should assist member states affected by these disasters, however it is equally important that those member states in receipt of EU aid ensure that the funds are used as intended. Member states must ensure that all burned forest land remains forest land (ie, that it is reforested) and does not fall victim to property developers.”
MEPs also insisted on the creation of a European disaster force, deploring the fact that the Commission had failed to follow-up on a proposal from former commissioner and French foreign minister Michel Barnier. They said that this had led to a lack of means and that “in some cases the EU as a whole failed to display sufficient solidarity”.
“The Community Civil Protection Mechanism was activated twelve times for the same kind of emergency over a two-month period and seven of the emergencies were simultaneous. As a result, the assistance was not sufficient…It is important to improve the response capacity of the EU in such cases,” pointed out Greek EPP-ED MEP Ioannis Varvitsiotis.
French ALDE MEP Jean-Marie Beaupuy added: “The Greek fires clearly demonstrated the need for a European civil protection force. The idea had already been flagged up by former commissioner Michel Barnier, but was never realised. If we had acted faster then, European solidarity at times of crisis would now be more efficient and effective.”