The EU will be quick, flexible and will mobilize all available EU resources to support Greece after the disasters caused by Storm Daniel and wildfires, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday following her meeting in Strasbourg with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Describing the recent disasters that struck Greece and its people as “unspeakable”, von der Leyen said that Greece faced the most dramatic wildfires that the EU has ever seen.
The Commission’s president said: “Never before has such a vast area been destroyed by the wildfires. Then, floods have devastated large regions of Greece. For example, the plains of Thessaly. The pictures from Larissa are heartbreaking. Let me assure you that our thoughts are with all women, men and children who are courageously withstanding these disasters. And we mourn the lives lost.”
EU to mobilise unspent funds reaching €2.25 billion
After her meeting in Strasbourg with the Greek PM, the Commission’s president announced sources of funding for Greece that could total up to 2.25 billion euros.
According to von der Leyen, the Commission can support Greece with:
– unspent cohesion money from the last period, which would otherwise be lost, and frontload parts of the current cohesion funds.
– unused funds from the European Social Fund+ that would also be lost if not disbursed
– unused funds from the Common Agricultural Policy (unused from the previous Greek rural development programme).
“We also look into funds under the current Greek CAP strategic plan. And we will examine the agricultural reserve for next year. If we look at those funds, they could, for example, help restore forests or farming infrastructure,” she said.
“Altogether, this could allow Greece to mobilise up to 2.25 billion euros euros,” the Commission’s president said.
More resources from Solidarity Fund, NextGenerationEU
In addition, von der Leyen said the Commission stands ready to assess a Greek request for support under the Solidarity Fund, which could make available up to 400 million euros next year.
She added that Greece could consider using some of the resources of NextGenerationEU, the EU’s temporary recovery instrument that had launched to support the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. “Of course, in NextGenerationEU, we all have to show utmost flexibility because the revision was just submitted. So, we will work with it,” she said, adding that her services will work closely on all the aforementioned options with the Greek authorities.
The Commission’s president also announced the creation of a Task Force that will start its work immediately.
“Together we will find the best possible ways to help the Greek people. The Greek people can count on Europe for fast support, maximal flexibility. And we stand by your side not only in this acute moment but also to rebuild and reconstruct,” she said.
Mitsotakis: Our number one priority is the people
On his part, Mitsotakis thanked the Commission’s president for discussing the ways in which Europe can stand by the people of Greece during these extremely difficult times.
The Greek PM said: “Greece has over the past month endured two devastating natural disasters of historic proportions. The megafire in the region of Evros is the largest fire in Europe’s history. And if that was not enough, then we were hit by the massive storm Daniel, which hit the regions of Thessaly and Central Greece particularly hard. We’ve had the worst floods in our history. This is probably one of the most powerful storms to ever hit Europe.”
Mitsotakis stressed that the government’s number one priority is to make sure that those who have suffered from the disasters can actually return to their homes and that the businesses can start operating again.
“We count on Europe’s support to be able to achieve that,” he said.